Group of miners at the Victoria Reef mine, Bendigo, Victoria, 1853.
Source: Museum Victoria
Question: My ancestor arrived in Australia in the early 1850s, settled in Ballarat and worked on the goldfields. I know he was there by 1854 as his first child was born there that year. But I can’t find any record of him arriving in the Public Record Office of Victoria passenger lists. Why is he missing?
Answer: There may be several reasons why people who settled in Victoria are missing from the Victorian passenger lists. The two most likely explanations are that they actually didn’t arrive in Victoria or that the records are not held by PROV because they arrived before 1852.
Many immigrants landed at other ports in Australia and then made their way to Victoria. You may be able to find out on from their death certificate, as these often list how long the deceased lived in Australia and in which states.
Until 1851 Victoria did not exist as a state and was part of the colony of New South Wales. Many immigration lists to Port Phillip Bay prior to 1852 are actually held by State Records New South Wales (SRNSW). So even if they definitely came to Victoria, but before 1852, the records will be with SRNSW.
Some of the other states' archives have passenger lists and other immigration records online, while for others you will need to contact them directly with your request. A link with contact details of all states archives can be found at right.
There are a variety of other reasons that people are hard to find:
- In some cases they were simply not recorded. This did happen with some unassisted passengers and those in steerage.
- They might have jumped ship. Stowaways are known of and as the immigration lists were recorded on arrival they would not have been listed.
- Were they crew members? Ships' crew usually weren’t recorded as incoming immigrant.
If you are having trouble finding your ancestor, some of these suggestions may be the reason and the links at right may help you in your search. The State Library of Victoria's research guide on immigration and emigration has particularly excellent information on passenger lists and where to go if you can't find someone on them.