Find shipping lists or begin family history research

A quick guide to passenger lists on the Internet

The Immigration Discovery Centre 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

Some initial steps for unearthing your family history online are described below.

Pre 1923 passenger lists: Victoria

The Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) holds records from the beginnings of colonial Victoria in the mid-1830s until today, including pre-1923 passenger lists to Victoria.

To Access pre 1923 passenger list indexes:

  • Go to the PROV website
  • Scroll down the page, and under the Explore the Collection heading, select Passenger Records and Immigration.
  • Select from Unassisted Inward Passenger Lists to Victoria 1852–1923 or Assisted British Immigration 1939 –1871. (You may need to search both to find the person you are looking for)
  • Note the details of the record, including fiche or page number.
  • You can access the microfiche copies of the original records through PROV or in the State Library of Victoria Genealogy Centre. Some council libraries also have these microfiches.

Pre 1923 passenger lists: Other states

If your ancestor came to another state in Australia prior to 1923, you will need to access the records of that state. Other states have varying amounts of indexes and other records online. A list of these archives can found on this National Archives of Australia Fact sheet.

Post 1923 passenger lists

National Archives of Australia (NAA) is the central repository for Australian Commonwealth Government records and holds information on immigration, naturalisation and military service, as well as post 1923 passenger lists to Victoria.

It is important to note that only a small percentage of the material archived by the NAA can be found online. If you cannot find the records which you are seeking, please contact the NAA directly through their Making Australia Home project.

To Access National Archives Records Online:

  • Go to the NAA website.
  • Scroll down and click on Search the Collection.
  • Click onto Search now as a guest.
  • There are several search tabs to choose from.

Basic Search will search all records indexed.

  • Enter the first and surname of the person you are looking for.
  • Scroll down the records to see if they are there.
  • Digitised records display a symbol in the Digitised item column.
  • You can also search for just a passenger list by typing [name of ship] + passenger list in the keyword field.

Name Search to search specific types of records, including immigration and military records.

  • Enter the surname of the person you are looking for.
  • Choose the type of record from the drop down.
  • When the search is complete, click Refine search button to enter the first name.

Passenger arrivals index has lists of ships that arrived in 1898 to 1966 that passed through Fremantle. Even if the ship finished its journey in another state, it may have landed in Fremantle first.

Useful Contacts

Immigration Discovery Centre: The Immigration Discovery Centre (IDC) offers a range of information about immigration and immigrant communities in Victoria, immigrant travel and starting your family history research.

Victorian Archives Centre (PROV & NAA): Public Record Office Victoria and the National Archives of Australia share a reading room at the Victorian Archives Centre in North Melbourne.

State Library of Victoria Genealogy Centre: The State Library's Genealogy Centre provides access to a variety of resources for family historians and genealogists.

Local Genealogical & Historical Societies: The Ballarat & District Genealogical Society website provides contact details for local societies located in Northern & Western Victoria.

Births, deaths & marriages: Contacts for Victorian and interstate Births, deaths & marriages registrars are on this NAA Fact Sheet. 

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