The Immigration Discovery Centre can help you locate primary records and family history documents across a range of archives and genealogical institutions. Some initial steps for unearthing your family history online are described below.
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:
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.
For further information on tracing your ancestors on pre 1923 passenger lists see our article on Missing ancestors.
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:
Basic Search will search all records indexed.
Name Search to search specific types of records, including immigration and military records.
Passenger list index has lists of ships that arrived in 1921 to 1949 that passed through Fremantle. Even if the ship finished its journey in another state, it may have landed in Fremantle first.
Immigration Discovery CentreThe 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 CentreThe State Library's Genealogy Centre provides access to a variety of resources for family historians and genealogists.
Local Genealogical & Historical SocietiesThe Ballarat & District Genealogical Society website provides contact details for local societies located in Northern & Western Victoria.
Births, deaths & marriagesContacts for Victorian and interstate Births, deaths & marriages registrars are on this NAA Fact Sheet.
You can search for your mother's name on the National Archives of Australia (NAA) website - the NAA holds post-1923 passenger lists to Victoria.
You can also contact the NAA directly for further assistance in searching for your mother's records.
Hello, Keith. Is your medal something like this one? If so, it may have been awarded for any number of reasons, from "services to the exhibition" to acting as a jury member of some type. In any case, it's a lovely item. Further information about the exhibition itself can be found here.
Hi John. Before 1923 each Australian state had its own office for keeping government records, including immigration records. There's a great list of these various archival bodies available online. Try South Australia?
Mary - thanks for your enquiry and sorry about the delay. All records of shipping arrivals to Victoria before 1923 are held by the Public Records Office of Victoria. You can search their shipping arrival records using the indexes available at this part of their website. Hope this helps!
George and Mary: the information that you require is available from the National Archives of Australia. Their records can be searched at this part of their website. Hope this helps!
Hi Judy and thanks for your query. You can search for images of ships on the online image database Picture Australia. You can also visit The Immigration Discovery Centre to view the shipping resources.
Hi there, Mariann. See the section above about the National Archives of Australia for information about passenger lists to Australia in the 1960s. You will need to contact that organisation for access to these lists. Hope this helps!
Hi Kaye. PROV does hold some passenger lists prior to 1852. For this see their Index of Assisted British Immigration 1839-1871. For all other records prior to 1852 you'll need to search the State Records NSW online immigration and shipping indexes. As the state of Victoria didn't exist before 1852, records prior to this date were recorded by the colony of NSW and are still kept there.
Passenger lists are recorded on identical templates as the authorities were required to register people when they entered the country, as they are today. These were official forms that were then entered into the archives. Passenger lists in the Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV) are official state documents that were filled out on arrival. The ships themselves may have had separate passenger lists of their own. In the UK the National Archives holds Outgoing Passenger Lists.
If the ship left from the UK and the person’s name is not on there, it is likely they boarded along the way. The passengers were probably recorded when they came on board. These would be in the shipping company archives if they still exist. There is a set of books in the Discovery Centre at Immigration Museum called Log of Logs that list ships and any archival material that exists on them. Ships to Australia did go via South Africa and you may wish to try the South African archives to see what information they hold about outgoing passengers but usually the port of embarkation is indicated on the incoming passenger lists at PROV in any case and you should begin by searching them.
Hi Prue. Only 10% of the National Archives records are online. Your Uncle's records will be held there but you will need to contact them directly to request them.
Cathy, there are so many living immigrants in Australia that determining this for certain would be a near-impossible research task. Still, it's great to learn that your father and his brother are still alive after having migrated at such a young age, so long ago. Thanks for sharing this.
Hi Catherine, the full passenger lists, including information about which port the ship left from, can be found on microfiche at PROV in the Victorian Archives Centre in North Melbourne or the State Library of Victoria's Genealogy Centre.
We love receiving comments, but can’t always respond.
Please refer to the answer given on 22nd April 2009.
The SS Orontes arrived in Melbourne on the 28 December in 1958. Information on the ship and its service history can be found at Page 67 of Peter Plowman’s book, Australian Migrant Ships 1946-1977, ISBN:9781877058400 and online at Google Books. Click on Otranto and Orontes at the Contents page. You will need to contact the National Archives of Australia for a passenger list.
Hello Mary the information that you require is available from the National Archives of Australia.
Hi Denise, according to the Ancestry.com website, the records that have been accessed are those held by Public Records Office Victoria. There is an explanation here. We cannot explain why you are seeing differences in the records. Perhaps contact the Public Records Office Victoria for further clarification.
The National Archives of Australia (NAA) website - the NAA holds post-1923 passenger lists to Victoria.
You can also contact the NAA directly for further assistance in searching for your records.
Your daughter can search for your relatives' names on the National Archives of Australia (NAA) website - the NAA holds post-1923 passenger lists to Australia.
You can also contact the NAA directly for further assistance in searching for your relatives records if you can not find them online as currently only ten percent of records are avilable online.
Hi Abraham, thanks for the question. Before 1923, each state of Australia is responsible for their own immigration records. So, if the family you are searching for came to Victoria, you will need to search the Public Records Office Victoria website. If you can’t find them there, consider searching other state archives.
The National Archives of Australia is the central repository for Australian Commonwealth Government records and holds information on naturalisation, military service and immigration.
The National Archives website features online indexes to records in their collection, and can be searched by name, year and/or ship's name. It is important to note that only approximately 10% of the material archived by the National Archives is so far featured on the internet.
You can search for your grandparents arrival details on the National Archives of Australia (NAA) website - the NAA holds post-1923 passenger lists to Victoria.
You can also contact the NAA directly for further assistance in searching for your family records
Discovery Centres: Your Questions
Immigration Discovery Centre: Your Questions Archive
Station Pier: Gateway to a new life
Science work awesome
To read the latest tweets from @museumvictoria
Follow Museum Victoria on
My father (along with his parents and siblings) travelled to Australia from Southampton UK on the Fairsea arriving in Australia in October 1957. He recalls the...