About the New South Wales, Australia, Immigration Records 1840-1902
General collection information
This collection contains a variety of immigration records from New South Wales, Australia. Types of records available include:
This collection provides a wealth of information for researching your family member's immigration history. Most records provide a date of arrival, but if that information isn't available, records will also contain clues about their point of origin or vessel that can help pin down an arrival date.
Using the collection
Records in the collection may include the following information:
You may be able to find multiple listings for the same person, as some vessels created "Inwards" and "Outwards" lists that detailed departures and arrivals. Records also list whether a person was a passenger or a crew member. Your ancestor may have appeared on multiple manifests, especially if they were a crew member.
Many immigrants secured their passage by agreeing to work as a household servant or other form of employment. These immigrants are usually called "assisted passengers". If your family member is listed on an assisted passenger manifest, they may have more documents in the collection. If you can find a servant's agreement for them, it can also tell you:
If your family member arrived in New South Wales prior to 1854, you may have trouble finding their record. Many unassisted passengers were not individually listed on a passenger's list. Local newspapers often listed new arrivals by name. They can be an excellent tool if you can't find an individual record.
If your ancestors immigrated after 1922, their records will not appear in this collection. Beginning in 1923, immigration fell under national jurisdiction rather than that of the state. Those records may be found in separate collections held by the national archive.
Collection in context
When Europeans first arrived in Kamay (Botany Bay, New South Wales), it was inhabited by the Gadigal and Bidegal peoples. The first immigrants would later arrive in 1788 as part of a British convict transport. Transportation to the newly formed penal colony was a sentence that could be given for crimes as slight as voicing protest. Living conditions in the penal colonies were notoriously brutal. While some sentences were for life, most transportation sentences carried a finite term; however, the majority of people sentenced to transportation opted to stay in New South Wales for life. Approximately 80,000 convicts were sent to New South Wales between 1788 and 1842. Once their sentence ended, the British government offered the former convicts the option to become colonists. They were given land, tools, food and their families were allowed to join them.
As the colony grew, more free settlers began to emigrate to New South Wales, especially women. The British government used immigration schemes, such as offering passage in exchange for indentured servitude, to build the new colony.
In 1851, gold was discovered and immigrants from all over the world flocked to New South Wales. Workers became a necessity and the government recruited labourers from the Pacific Islands. While most immigrants traveled voluntarily, many Pacific Islanders were subjected to a practice called "blackbirding." This practice involved kidnapping people and forcing them into slavery or indentured servitude.
In 1901, the Australian states joined together to form the Commonwealth of Australia and within a year, enacted the Immigration Restriction Act 1901– a cornerstone of what was known as the White Australia policy. The policy was a discriminatory and racist practice passed to "keep Australia British." More than 7,000 immigrants were deported due to this unjust policy.
Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection. "A History of the Department of Immigration." Last Modified June 2017. https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/about-us-subsite/files/immigration-history.pdf.
Migration Heritage Centre. "Australia's Migration History." Last Modified 2010. https://www.migrationheritage.nsw.gov.au/belongings-home/about-belongings/australias-migration-history/index.html.
National Archives of Australia. "The Immigration Restriction Act 1901." Last modified April 22, 2020. https://www.naa.gov.au/explore-collection/immigration-and-citizenship/immigration-restriction-act-1901.
National Library of Australia. "Australian Shipping and Passenger Records." Last Modified May 16, 2021. https://www.nla.gov.au/research-guides/finding-ship-and-passenger-records.
New South Wales Government. "Immigration/Shipping Guide." Last Modified May 3, 2019. https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/archives/collections-and-research/guides-and-indexes/immigration-shipping-guide.