Ship and passenger records
The arrival of an ancestor in Australia is a key point in a family's history. This may be as a convict, military personnel, free settler or under one of the many assisted immigration schemes. The National Library holds many records to help you find your ancestor's arrival in this country.
The majority of passenger records available at the National Library relate to the nineteenth and early twentieth century. After 1922, immigration became a Commonwealth responsibility and records of immigration and naturalisation are held in the National Archives of Australia.
Convict and military arrivals do not generally appear in passenger lists. There are separate sets of records for these arrivals. Please see the side panel for guides to convict and colonial military arrivals.
What do I need before I start research?
- An estimate of the arrival date. The earliest family event found occurring in Australia is generally a a good clue. Death certificates from some states may also tell you how long a person has been in Australia.
- An idea of the state of arrival. Early events for the family in this country are a guide to a starting point for research, but bear in mind that the traveller may have arrived in another state or colony and travelled overland to his final residence.
An idea of your ancestor's occupation may give you a help you determine whether he might have paid his own fare.
Searching the passenger indexes
Names can be listed on passenger lists in varying forms. Some passenger's names are listed in full, whilst on other lists, first names appear only as an initial or as a title such as Mr or Mrs etc. Children's names may be listed in full or merely as a number of persons accompanying their parents. Some passengers are only listed as a number of people in steerage.
Once you have found a possible immigrant on a passeneger index, note down all the details given and the title of the material indexed. Use the guide Family History Sources in the Newspapers and Microforms Reading Room to find the appropriate passenger list.
What information will I find?
Passenger lists contain varying amounts of information depending on the type of travel and the time period. Early passenger lists may have scant detail recorded.
Information on unassisted passenger lists can vary from just a name, to name, age, occupation and nationality. Port of embarkation and disembarkation are also sometimes noted.
Information on assisted passenger lists is more comprehensive and may, in addition to the above, contain native place, parents' names and relations in the colony.
Information about ship's arrivals and departures, lists of passengers, ship's cargo and descriptions of voyages can often be found in the digitised Australian historic newspapers in TROVE.