Find a passenger list

The Ask Us staff can help you locate primary records and family history documents across a range of archives and genealogical institutions.

Two men and a woman (a son with his mother and father) standing in front of a white railing. To the left of the picture is a life preserver ring with the words “London / Esperance Bay” printed on it.
A Scottish family greet their son Tony Scarth

Passenger lists contain the name of each person migrating to Australia and form a key part of family history research.

Passenger lists include information such as the age, occupation, nationality and marital status of a person. They also document important details such as births, deaths and serious illness during a voyage. The Immigration Museum and Museums Victoria do not have passenger lists as part of our collection. We can however direct you to the correct archive to locate these documents and provide some instructions and tips on how to search for them.

In Australia, passenger arrivals documents are divided between state and federal archives. This is because before federation in 1901, colonies (as states were then known) were responsible for their own immigration processes. By 1924, the Commonwealth Government assumed control of all immigration.

Some initial steps for locating passenger arrivals in Victoria are described below.

I am looking for the passenger list of a person who arrived in Victoria in or before 1923

The Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV) collection has records of passengers arriving in Victoria up until 1923. Passenger arrival records are divided into three categories, and you can search the indexes to locate digitised copies of original lists:


Assisted migration occurred in Victoria from 1839 to 1871. An assisted migrant had the cost of their voyage from the UK subsidised by the Victorian government for the purpose of being employed on their arrival.


Unassisted passengers funded the cost of their own voyage and the Victorian lists cover the period from 1852 to 1923.


Coastal passenger lists contain the names of passengers travelling to Victoria from other Australian ports and cover the period from 1852-1923.

I am looking for the passenger list of a person who arrived in Australia in or after 1923

The National Archives of Australia (NAA) holds records relating to Australian migration and their website has detailed information on how to search for passenger arrivals records.

There are a number of different ways to search for information using the NAA’s catalogue (called Record Search); the ‘Name search’ and ‘Passenger arrivals’ tabs are a good place to start searching for migration records.

Not all shipping lists have been digitised and indexed. If you are unable to find a person’s arrival using the ‘Name search’ and ‘Passenger arrivals’ tabs, it may be worthwhile trying a broad search using the ‘Basic Search’ tab. For example, search using a surname or ship name. The NAA also has detailed research guides on immigration and other topics.

No luck finding a record?

Even if you have irrefutable proof that a person arrived in Australia, such as a ticket or shipboard diary in your family archive, or you are the person who immigrated to Australia, there can still be instances where it is not possible to locate a passenger list. What can you do?

Firstly, you might like to contact staff at the archive where you are searching. PROV and the NAA both have staff dedicated to helping people navigate their collections.

Consider the person’s country or region of origin. There may be emigration records such as outgoing passenger lists from their county or port of departure. For example, The National Archives (UK) has records of outgoing passenger lists from 1890-1960, as do the Hamburg State Archives (Germany) for departures 1850-1934. Many of these records are available through fee-based family history databases such as and Find My Past. We recommend that you speak with your local library as many provide their members with free access to these databases.

Did your ancestor arrive in a different state or colony before travelling to Victoria? It is a good idea to check other state archives passenger arrivals lists to track down lost ancestors. You can do this for free by visiting the website of the state archives or through a family history subscription database.

Unfortunately, not all records have survived and you will need to get creative. Early Melbourne newspapers named the arrival of first-class passengers in their shipping reports. Digitised copies of The Argus, The Age and other Victorian newspapers are available to browse in Trove. Obituaries printed in newspapers are also an excellent source of information.

It is also worthwhile checking for accounts of voyages in diaries and letters. Museums Victoria has a number of these in our collection.

Lastly, is it possible your ancestor may have arrived as a convict? The National Library of Australia has a guide to researching convicts.

Further help

Ask Us staff can help you locate primary records and family history documents across a range of archives and genealogical institutions. We can also connect you with information collected by Museums Victoria about Australian immigration history and immigrant communities in Victoria. You can contact the team online or by email at [email protected].

The state libraries and National Library of Australia provide expert research help and access to family history resources.

Professional genealogists and historians provide research services for a fee. The National Library of Australia have compiled a page with links to professional services.

Find a local community history group using the Federation of Australian Historical Societies interactive map.

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