Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Immigration Records

Did some of your ancestors seemingly just appear or swim to get to their destination?  Or have you been able to locate the boat they arrived on?

Most of my relatives arrived at Port Phillip (Melbourne, Victoria,Australia) and the records held by the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) are very good.

My Tips:
  • Visit the Public Records Office to obtain a copy of the original records, which have more information than the online indexes (refer below for an example).
  • Search under similar or alternate spelling as the records are not always indexed correctly (eg I have found Gully recorded under Sully and Mottram under Mottrim)
The search result below shows that my Great Great Great Grandparents John and Sarah Walker arrived on the James Brown in January 1853.  It also shows their ages.  You will note that John junior (aged 3) is listed on page 24, while his family are listed on page 19.  This is because he died on the journey.
Immigration Search Result
The original record shows the following additional information;
  • Occupation - Agricultural Labourer
  • Native of Cumberland
  • Religion - Church of England
  • Both John and Sarah can read and write
  • John has 6 years employment with Mr Goldsmith of Trawalla, being paid £50 per annum
  • Their meals were provided on-board (as their passage was paid by the government)

Source: Public Record Office Victoria
Prior to 1852 (before Victoria became a colony) all immigration records are held by the NSW State Archives. 

There are many Australian immigration websites.  The following are the links that I have bookmarked:
Convict Records
Family History SA - South Australian Shipping & Migration Directory
Perth Dead Person's Society - includes Western Australian (and other states) shipping records
Public Record Office Victoria - Assisted passenger index
Public Record Office Victoria - Unassisted passenger index
State Records of NSW Immigration Records
State Records of NSW Shipping List
State Library of Queensland lists the links for immigration records for every Australian State
State Library of South Australia Passenger Lists
State Library of South Australia Immigration Records

Please feel free to include additional immigration links in the comments.  I am very interested in any websites that list emigrants from UK to Australia.

Click to see more posts


  1. Your bookmarks make a good point that immigration records can be found in a number of ways and in multiple places.

    1. I am only familiar with Australian sources but need to find out more about other countries records.

  2. I am enjoying your A-Z posts so far Sharon and look forward to reading the rest of them. You have certainly set yourself a huge goal this month!

    I was fascinated to see the disposal section of the shipping record filled in with details of pay as most of my ancestors are just noted as having "left on own accord".

    Records about assisted immigrants who arrived at Port Phillip before 1 July 1851 can be found in both PROV and NSW State Archives.

    1. Thank you Maureen.

      I agree it is very interesting. We didn't know that he had lived at Trawalla (although he didn't move far away - Maryborough). Mr Goldsmith was a large and well known farmer in the area so there was more to be found.

      When are you starting a blog for me to read?

  3. Oh yes, I have a paternal great-grandmother who seems to have appeared in Pennsylvania out of nowhere. I finally have been able to verify her age and that she came from someplace? in Poland, but beyond that, she is a ghost. What's worse is she seems to have four different last names. I look forward to more of your info.

    1. That sounds like a real challenge. I wish you luck.

      I have a brickwall from Pennsylvania (my only US connection). Samuel Drayton was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania according to several records. He arrived in Australia on a whaling boat out of Nantucket? Big distance between places?
      Not being familiar with US research, I am not sure where to look. I have been told that birth records in Philadelphia are pretty much non existent for the early 1800s

  4. Sharon, your wonderful list reminds me of a comment recently heard about indexes. The suggestion made was if you can't find someone and there are other databases, to always check them all. The reason given was the indexing is done by different people who, obviously, will have their own interpretation of the original record.
    Another great post, and I'm so happy to be online and commenting :)

    1. Good to have you back Fi. I had wondered if you were ok. I have missed your witty posts.

      Thank you for dropping by.

  5. Great blog. My cousin is our family historian, the information finds is always fascinating.


    1. Thank you for dropping by.

      There is always something new to find, which is what makes it so fascinating.

  6. has Britain: Outbound Passenger Lists 1890-1960.

    The passenger lists in BT27 include long-haul voyages to destinations outside Britain and Europe. While countries such as Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and USA feature strongly, all continents are covered and you will find passengers on ships sailing to all parts of Asia, the Caribbean, South America and West Africa, even to remotest oceanic islands such as South Georgia Island.

    These voyages often called en route at additional ports, including those in Europe, and any passengers disembarking at these stops are included. Voyages from all British (English, Welsh and Scottish) ports, and from all Irish ports before partition in 1921 and all Northern Irish ports after partition, are covered in BT27.

    1. Thank you very much for your reply Rosemary. I am a member of FindMyPast (Australia) but when the subscription expires I am planning to upgrade to the World wide version.