Immigration and shipping - more than lists: ships and their journeys

Where can I find out about immigrant ships and their voyages?

Artemisia (ship)

John Oxley Library,
State Library of Queensland,
neg: 7384

Download the PDF version of Immigration and shipping - more than lists: ships and their journey info guide  (PDF 67.8 KB)

The shipping intelligence column of Australian newspapers for the relevant ports reported the following:

  • the arrival and departure of ships
  • captain's name
  • the names of some fare paying passengers
  • number of steerage passengers
  • the cargo
  • sometimes a report of the voyage and the condition and character of the immigrants.

The State Library of Queensland also holds the following sources of information about the immigrant ships and their journeys:

Indexes: Collinson index and Johnston index; green labeled subject card index and brown book subject catalogue, which include the subject ‘ships’ among the Queensland items on level 4. These lead to material that State Library holds.

Newspaper clippings in files organized by the ship’s name as well as items in cutting books held on level 4.

Maritime sources for historians and genealogists (PAM 929.1072 1988) by Vaughan Evans, outlines the scope of interest for different researchers and the information and sources available.

Early shipping in Moreton Bay Vol. 1. June 1846 - Dec. 1859 -- vol. 2. 1860-1863 (FAMHIS 387.2 1998-) by Davenport & Mottram, is an index to newspaper passenger lists and shipping news extracted from the Moreton Bay Courier. The Melbourne Argus has also been indexed. Check the paper local to your ancestors’ port of arrival.

Lloyd’s register of British and foreign shipping, produced annually, provides details about a ship’s features, when and where it was constructed, its destination, owner and captains' names. The State Library holds most issues from 1776. Check the online catalogue for locations.

Maritime Information: A Guide to Libraries and Sources of Information in the United Kingdom (FAMHIS 026.3875 1993) edited by Rita V. Bryon and Terence N. Bryon, outlines subject coverage, special collections and publications of 500 UK repositories. Appendices provide information about crew lists in the merchant navy, records of the Registrar-General of Shipping and Seamen as well as personnel records of the Royal Navy.

B.I. the British India Steam Navigation Company Limited (FAMHIS 387.5065) by Laxon and Perry, provides information on the ships of a company which had a contract with the Queensland government during the 1880s to bring passengers, mail and cargo through Torres Strait to Queensland ports. Information here has not been accessible before. It is the authoritative book on this line.

North Star to Southern Cross (FAMHIS 387.50994 1967) by John Maber, covers ships organised under shipping lines. Contains numerous relevant illustrations of ships.

Orient line guide chapters for travellers by sea and by land, illustrated [CD-ROM] (QCFS 910.202 2008) edited by W.F. Loftie, was originally published in 1889 for the purpose of providing useful information and travelling tips to passengers intending to sail to Australia and New Zealand aboard steam ships of The Orient Line. It contains descriptions and illustrations throughout of voyages from London to Australia, as well as including notes and description about places in cities and countries such as Palestine, Cairo, Italy, Athens and New Zealand.

Pageant of the Pacific : being the maritime history of Australasia (GR 994 1937) by F. Rhodes, provides maritime information for the Pacific region. Includes maritime economic ventures, convicts, missionary groups, gold seeking immigrants, and blackbirding.

Ships from Scotland to Australasia 1820-1860 (FAMHIS 387.209411 2005) by David Dobson is sourced, to a very large extent based on searches in Scottish newspapers of the period, with some material also sourced from government and archival records in Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. It is arranged alphabetically by the ship name.

Peter Plowman has at least 10 relevant titles in the State Library’s collection including:

He has also written about the Chandris and Sitmar lines as well as coastal vessels. Check the catalogue for details.

Ronald Parsons has written dozens of maritime books including:

Australian coastal passenger ships: the details and a brief outline of the career of every steam and motor ship that carried passengers on the Australian coast (G 387.243 1981)

Australian shipowners and their fleets (PAM 387.5240994 1972-), a 17 volume work that outlines the background of many shipowners with a brief history of their vessels and shipping activities.

Migrant sailing ships from Hamburg (PAM 325.94 1993) provides an overview of the history of Germans migrating to Australia in the 19th Century. It also lists the features, arrival places and dates of the ships involved.

Migrant ships to South Australia 1836-1866 (PAM 325.94 1993)

Ships of Australia and New Zealand before 1850: details of ships registered with the customs at ports in Australia (G 387.20994 1983)

Southern passages: a maritime history of South Australia (G 387.5099423 1986)

Steamers in the South (G 387.2209034 1975)

Where can I locate personal accounts of a particular voyage?

Ships’ pictures, diaries, letters and other accounts of journeys

Relevant material related to Queensland may be found in the John Oxley collection through the One Search catalogue. There is additional material for Queensland and other parts of Australia on microform and in books throughout the Library.

Log of logs (FAMHIS 016.3875099 1990-) 3 volumes by Ian Nicholson, collate items on ships including letters, shipboard diaries, books, ships' newspapers, illustrations and other accounts.

No privacy for writing : shipboard diaries 1852-1879 (G 994.03 1995) and Sailing to Australia : shipboard diaries by nineteenth-century British emigrants (G 304.894 1994) by Andrew Hassam.

Immigrant diaries (1822-1895) held in the Manuscript Collection of the National Library of Australia

Australian Joint Copying Project(AJCP) Admiralty and Colonial Office Records are copies of records from The National Archives in London relevant to Australia. These contain, at ADM101, medical registers of convict ships 1816-1856 and emigrant journeys 1825-1853. There are also reports of Emigration Societies and applications for free passage in the Colonial Office material. The Miscellaneous Series holds some shipboard diaries. These records are on microform, and the AJCP handbooks to find the material are located on the Reference shelves on Levels 3 and 4.

What resources can I use to find a ship’s picture?

Pictorial indexes include:

Maritime illustration indexes Vols 1-3 (FAMHIS 387.50994 1990) by Vaughan Evans, covering maritime illustrations in the Illustrated Sydney news : 1853 to 1889, the Illustrated London news, 1842 to 1891 and the Australasian sketcher: 1873 to 1889.

B.I. the British India Steam Navigation Company Limited (FAMHIS 387.5065) by Laxon and Perry has images not found elsewhere of vessels coming to Queensland in the 1880s. Index located at the Family History desk on level 3.

Australian ships' pictures can be found in Trove: Pictures, Photos, Objects, which includes photos from Picture Queensland.

Australian National Maritime Museum's Pictures of ships in the Australian trade. An Index to ship pictures that lists ship images is also held in the Museum's collection. The State Library holds many of the books indexed, and a copy of this index is available at the family history desk on level 3.

Shipping - Pictures and images on Cora Num's website.

Royal Museums Greenwich includes the National Maritime Museum. Search for images of vessels.

Great passenger ships of the world (G 387.243 1975-) by Arnold Kludas, a 6 volume work, is an illustrated series containing details on the world’s passenger ships from 1852 to 1956.

Norway heritage: hands across the sea covers historical detail and images.

Ships' pictures index (MFC 387.2 1995) by Nick Vine Hall is an index to illustrations in books and periodicals.

Sail in the South: a selection from the A D Edwardes Collection of Shipping Photographs in the State Library of South Australia (G 387.2209034 1975) by Ronald Parsons, provides a wealth of well-captioned illustrations of ships and life associated with them.

Where can I find information on the immigration experience?

The long farewell (G 304.894041 1981) by Don Charlwood, and Rights of passage (FAMHIS 325.94 1986) by Helen Woolcock, provide information from a variety of sources about particular ships' journeys and on some individuals. Rights of passage is particularly relevant for those investigating the Queensland and German emigrant in the 19th Century.

Henry Brett's White wings Volumes 1 & 2 (G 387.09931 1976), contains accounts of ships’ journeys and passengers to New Zealand.

Nineteenth century government assisted immigrants from the United Kingdom to Australia : schemes, regulations and arrivals, 1831-1900 and some vital statistics 1834-1860 (G 325.94 1995) by Robin Haines, provides an overview of schemes of assisted immigration and provides profiles of those who came to Australia under the various systems which differed widely over time and among the Australian colonies.

Robin Haines' Life and death in the age of sail: the passage to Australia (G 304.894041 2003) extends the work of Don Charlwood and Helen Woolcock by exploring the health issues of government assisted immigration in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Fast passage to Australia: the history of the Black Ball, Eagle and White Star Lines of Australian packets (G 387.542 1986) by Dave Hollett, covers a range of 19th century sea journeys to Australia on these shipping lines.

Good Food, Bright Fires and Civility: British emigrant depots of the 19th century (G 361.650941 2001) by Keith Pescod, details the process of emigration from Britain to Australia under the organisation of the British Colonial Office in the mid-nineteenth century. Includes extracts from emigrants’ diaries and official correspondence revealing British government attitudes of the time.

Keith Pescod's A place to lay my head : immigrant shelters of nineteenth century Victoria (G 362.80945 2003) explores the nature of the austere immigration depots in Victoria where immigrants found temporary shelter.

The passage makers (G 387.506542753 1978) by Michael K Stammers, provides an account of James Baines and his Black Ball Line, which brought many people to Australia from 1852. Includes a chapter on ‘The Queensland Venture’, an agreement to bring passengers to Queensland in the 1860s and the land order system.

Shipboard newspapers charted the journey and recorded immigrant hopes, regrets and anticipations. Emigrant handbooks had practical hints on clothes and life in colony at the time. Both may be found at the State Library and are located mostly on level 4.

There are other publications that provide information on seamen and shipwrecks. For more information see Immigration and shipping: seamen and shipwrecks.

Download the PDF version of Immigration: ships and their journey info guide  (PDF 67.8 KB)

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