Researching your multicultural ancestors

A guide to researching ancestors who emigrated to Australia from countries other than the United Kingdom

Introduction

Before you start exploring overseas genealogy collections we recommend that you try and locate the immigration and naturalisation records for each ancestor who emigrated to Australia. As well as providing information on when they arrived in Australia, these records often include such important details as their country of origin, date and place of birth, employment history and names of parents. Knowing their birthplace and parents' names will be incredibly valuable when it comes to researching the previous branch of your family tree.

Hans Peter Larsen naturalisation certificate, National Archives of Australia

Immigration records - 1924 onwards

Records of migration to and from Victoria after 1923 are held by the National Archives of Australia (Melbourne & other offices). Some earlier records are also held by the Archives.

Passenger lists

  • Record Search
    Once in Record Search select Passenger arrivals index. This index covers passenger arrivals into Fremantle from 1921-1950. Many ships bound for the eastern Australian states passed through Fremantle. This index includes all passengers who disembarked in Fremantle and other passengers who travelled further on the same ship and disembarked in other Australian or overseas ports. From 1944, the passenger lists include aircrafts arriving at Perth airport. The lists for Qantas flights usually include brief details for those en-route to other Australian airports. 

    Passenger records usually included name, place and date of embarkation, occupation or profession, sex, age, marital status, country of last permanent residence, nationality, and country of intended future residence. Details of the ship (or aircraft) are also given, including name, port of registry, shipping line, master’s name and date and place of arrival.
  • Name Search
    Further records for immigration and naturalization may also be discovered by searching Name Search. Select Immigration and naturalisation records from the drop down box.
     
  • Fremantle, Western Australia, Passenger Lists, 1897-1963 (via Ancestry Library Edition)
    Digital copies of the Archives' Fremantle passenger lists are available to search on Ancestry Library Edition, available onsite to Library users. Most European ships stopped at Fremantle before continuing on to other ports, making this a useful database to search, even if your ancestor disembarked at another Australian port.

Inwards passenger lists for the port of Melbourne for 1924–64 are available on microfilm at the National Archives. For inwards lists later than 1964 and outwards passenger lists, you will need to search the original records. From the 1960s, cards filled in by the passengers increasingly replaced lists, especially for those arriving by air. Contact the National Archives for more information about accessing these records.

Migrant selection documents

Migrant selection documents are the documents completed by or for migrants applying to migrate to Australia under one of the many assisted passage schemes that came into place after World War II, including those for resettlement of refugees and displaced persons. Records for assisted migrants who arrived in Australia before World War II may be held by the State Government archives for the state of arrival.

Migrant selection documents vary in the amount of detail they provide, but they usually include name, address, place and date of birth, gender, marital status and nationality. Other details may include physical description, occupation, education, proposed employment and names of other family members, as well as health checks and photographs.

Making Australia Home is the National Archives fee-based service, that provides migrants and their descendants with copies of records that document their family’s arrival and settlement in Australia. Records over 30 years of age are available for public access.

Destination Australia lists features more than 20,000 photographs of migrants who arrived in Australia from all over the world after World War II. You, or someone you know, could be among them.

Resources at the State Library of Victoria

Listing of ships carrying passengers to Victoria 1924-1962
Lists ships arrivals in chronological order, referring to microfilm copies of passenger lists held at the National Archives (Melbourne office).

How did they get here? Arrivals after 1924
This book provides step by step advice for finding passenger records, both for arrivals in Australia, and departures from overseas. It refers to both free and pay-per-view online sources, and to original records.

Immigration records - pre 1923

Australian immigration and shipping records were state based until 1923 when the Australian Government assumed responsibility for passenger arrivals and departures.

For detailed information on researching people arriving in and departing from Victoria please go to the Victorian immigration and emigration research guide.

Other states and territories:

National

National Archives of Australia migration and citizenship records

New South Wales

State Records of NSW immigration records

South Australia

State Library of South Australia immigration to South Australia guide       

Tasmania

LINC Tasmania arrivals

Queensland

Queensland State Archives immigration indexes

Western Australia         

State Library of Western Australia immigration records
State Records Office of Western Australia passenger lists & immigration records

Naturalisation - Victoria

Non-British persons who were residents of Australia for more than 5 years could become citizens on application to the authorities. With naturalisation they would acquire the rights and privileges of citizens to own land, vote in elections etc. Few females applied. Chinese migrants could not be naturalised until the 1880s.

Naturalisation records can provide a great deal of information on your ancestors who migrated to Australia. They may include, in the handwritten application, the place of birth, former place of residence, birthplace and name of the ship and the date of arrival in the colony/country of the applicant.

1848-1903   

The National Archives of Australia in Canberra holds naturalisation records for the Colony of Victoria for the period from 1848 to 1903.

1847-1852

Register of patents (from 19 Feb. 1851) Register of certificates of naturalization: volume of enrolled certificates with index, 1847-1852
Colony of New South Wales to 1851 then Colony of Victoria (CRS A 725).
A surname index appears at the end of the register.

1852-1880

Registers of certificates of naturalization: volumes of enrolled certificates with index, 1852-1880
Colony of Victoria, Supreme Court of the Colony of Victoria (CRS A 726).
Nominal index for pre-1904 Victorian naturalization 1852 – 1903 (CRS A7796) and note A726 reference if listed

1852-1903

Nominal index for pre-1904 Victorian naturalization 1852-1903 (CRS A7796)
Also use indexes to microfilm series of naturalisation certificates for 1852-1880 and 1863-1903

1863-1903

Volumes of enrolled letters of naturalization 1863 – 1903: Colony of Victoria to 1901, then State of Victoria.
(CRS A 727).
Nominal index for pre-1904 Victorian naturalization 1852 – 1903 (CRS A7796) and note A727 reference if listed

1904 onwards

The National Archives in Canberra holds many of the naturalisation records for the Commonwealth of Australia from 1904 onwards. Details of relevant record series are listed on their Naturalisation Fact Sheet.

 

Naturalisation - other states

Pre 1904

Naturalisation records for the Province of South Australia are held in the National Archives Adelaide Office.

Naturalisation records for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania before 1904 are held by the appropriate State government archive office.

1904 onwards

The National Archives of Australia in Canberra holds many of the naturalisation records for the Commonwealth of Australia from 1904 onwards.

Alien registration

During both world wars, in the interests of national security, 'aliens' (meaning residents who were not native-born or naturalised) had restrictions placed on them.

All aliens entering or residing in Australia had to be registered and report all changes of name, address, job or marital status.

Alien registration forms may include information on the ship and date of arrival, date and place of birth, occupation, marital status, a physical description or photograph, and addresses in Australia.

See the National Archives of Australia Alien fact sheet for further information.

Ships information

If you are looking for information on a specific ship, please consult the Library's Ships and Shipping research guide.

The Liguria



[Three men standing on deck of the ship Liguria, enroute to Australia], H2001.326/6