Ship and passenger records are found throughout the National Library in books, journals, newspapers, manuscripts, microform, pictures, maps and electronic media. Material includes information on ships, voyages, shipping companies, shipping and passenger lists and registers, shipwrecks, whaling, shipping arrivals and departures in Australian ports, logs, journals, diaries and voyage narratives, and ships' illustrations.

The majority of passenger records available at the National Library relate to the nineteenth century. Records for the early twentieth century can be found at various state archives and records offices. After 1922, immigration became a Commonwealth responsibility and these records are held in the National Archives of Australia.

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.

Catalogue Search Tips

To find information on ships and passenger records, select the Browse subjects option and enter your subject area.  Examples of Browse subjects searches are:

Examples of Browse subjects searches are:

Reference Collection

Items below with call numbers commencing with RX or mc are available in the Newspapers and Microforms Reading Room. Items commencing with RF are available in the Main Reading Room Reference Collection. All other items can be requested through the online Catalogue and are available via the Main Reading Room.

How to Find Shipping and Immigration Records in Australia. 2002.
Cora Num's invaluable guide to finding records in Australia. The indexes, arranged by state, include a diary index, place index, ship index and subject index. RXq 929.1072 N971-5.


Passenger Lists

Most passenger lists held at the National Library are on microfilm or microfiche and are located in the Newspapers and Microforms Reading Room. Indexes to passenger lists are mostly in electronic format bookmarked in eResources.  Some passenger lists and indexes are also accessible in, available in the National Library reading rooms via eResources. Further information on how to find these items can be found in Family History Sources in the Newspapers and Microforms Reading Room.


Lloyd's Register of Shipping. Lists names and details, in yearly volumes, of ships registered . This publication has changed title over the years and each new title has its own record in the catalogue. See the Former Title section of the catalogue record. CAC Sq 656.6 LLO. (Available for browsing in the Closed Access Collection). Also available on microfilm at mc 2143.
Log of Logs: a Catalogue of Logs, Journals, Shipboard Diaries, and all Forms of Voyage Narratives, 1788-1998, for Australia and New Zealand and Surrounding Oceans. 1990-1998. Comprehensive listing in three volumes. RX 387.5099 N625.
Shipping Arrivals and Departures, Sydney. 1964-1988. Listing compiled from contemporary sources. These three volumes relate to Sydney for the period 1788-1844, but the same is available for other ports. 
Australian Steamships: Past and Present. 1928. Covers steamships from the first arrival in 1831. Contains brief descriptions and many illustrations. 
Passenger Ships of Australia and New Zealand. 1981+ In two volumes covering the period 1876-1980. Contains details of 225 different passenger ships, ranging from small cargo ships to fully fledged passenger lines. 
Emigrant Ships to Luxury Liners: Passenger Ships to Australia and New Zealand 1945-1990 . 1992. Includes vessels ranging from migrant ships to liners. Also includes details of some cruise ships which visited the area. 
Australian Migrant Ships 1946-1977. 2006. Contains information drawn from newspapers and marine publications. Includes many photographs. 
Convict Ships, 1787-1868. 1983. Includes a complete list of all the ships which carried prisoners to Australia, with the names of their masters and surgeons, their departure and arrival dates and the number of prisoners each carried. RF 365.994 B329.
Fairplay. [Shipping Journal]. 1924+ Title varies. Contains volume index in the front of the journal. 
Lloyd's Maritime Atlas Including a Comprehensive List of Ports and Shipping Places of the World. 1951+ Title varies. Contents include maps, geographical list of ports and shipping places, and an index.
Marine Encyclopaedic Dictionary. 1996. An encyclopaedia of marine-related terms, abbreviations and organisations. Defines over 20,000 technical shipping expressions as well as Latin terms used in law and business. RF 387.503 S949-5.
Merchant Fleets in Profile. 1978+ Title varies. Each of the 14 volumes gives a concise history of a shipping line and details the construction and history of each ship in the fleet. RF 387.50942 MER.
Ships' Deserters, 1852-1900 Including Stragglers, Strays and Absentees from H.M. Ships. 1986. Contains approximately 10,000 notified desertations, and other absences by seamen, which occurred throughout the Australasian colonies. Records taken from the NSW Government Gazette and the NSW Police Gazette. RX 929.39 M528.


Encyclopedia of Australian shipwrecks : and other maritime incidents, including vessels lost overseas, merchant ships lost at war, and those lost on inland waters, together with a bibliography of vessel entries. 2006.  Encyclopedia and bibliography of Australian shipwrecks and other maritime incidents
Dictionary of Disasters at Sea During the Age of Steam, including Sailing Ships and Ships of War Lost in Action, 1824-1962. 1969. Two volumes dealing mainly with the loss of merchant ships in peace and war. A number of naval casualties are also described. RF 910.453 H685.
Shipping Losses and Casualties Concerning Australia and New Zealand. 2003. Covers wrecks or serious damage to ships owned in Australia or New Zealand, where ever they occurred. Extensive coverage from early colonial period to the 1970s and some up to present day. In two volumes.  


Ships' Pictures Index 1491-1991: An Index to Ships' Pictures in Print. 1995. mc N 1310.
Ships in Australian Waters: A Pictorial History from the Days of the Early Explorers to the Present Time. 1968. Includes photographs dating back to the middle of the 19th century as well as illustrations reproduced from engravings, woodcuts, lithographs and paintings.
Illustrated Sydney News. 1990. Index to illustrations of ships, ports, places and other items of general maritime interest for the period 1853-1889 inclusive. Series Title: Maritime Illustration Index 1.
Illustrated London News. 1990. Index to illustrations of ships, ports, places and other items of general interest to Australia and New Zealand for the period 1842-1891 inclusive. Series Title: Maritime Illustration Index 2. 
Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil. 1990. Index to illustrations of ships, ports, places and other items of general maritime interest for the period 1873-1889 inclusive. Series Title: Maritime Illustration Index 3. 


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