12 February, 2009

I am writing in the hope that you can help me search for information about my grandfather. He was born in Blenheim, New Zealand. Sometime between 1890 and 1894, when he was 11-15 years old, he stowed away on a boat and came out to Australia. Upon landing in Victoria, he was discovered and spent a period of time in the lock-up. He was subsequently visited by the Salvation Army and released into their care. I have searched all the records I can find to no avail. I am therefore hoping that you can shed some light on this matter.

Unfortunately, stowaways are difficult to trace as they are rarely included in the official records. However some preliminary research may provide you with some further leads.


Sailing ships ar Sandridge Pier
Creator: Nettleton C. Studio, Source: Museum Victoria

Since you know that your grandfather landed in Victoria, and you have a date range for his landing, the first step would be to look for his name in the database of the Public Records Office of Victoria (PROV). The PROV stores incoming passenger information between 1852 and 1923.
As your grandfather was held in the lock-up, you might like to contact the PROV directly and ask if they have any juvenile prison records or specific records of stowaways from the period you are interested in. In particular, you could request a collection of documents known as Series 515 prison registers. However, as stowing away was considered to be only a petty crime, it is unlikely that any substantial personal information could be retrieved.

You could then chase up the court records of the Court of Petty Sessions (now known as the Magistrates Court), to see if your grandfather is mentioned there.  You might also like to consult the PROV and/or the State Library of Victoria for census records for a few years after your grandfather arrived in Victoria.

Finally, since your grandfather was eventually released into the care of the Salvation Army, you could contact their Melbourne Heritage Centre in the hope that any records or documents pertaining to stowaways were retained. Formal records were usually only kept for a maximum of 7 years, but there is a slim chance that your grandfather’s name or photograph may have appeared in a one-off Salvation Army promotional or advertising publication. 
Please do not hesitate to contact us at the Discovery Centre at the Immigration Museum if you have any further questions. We wish you all the best in your research.

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