Find your ancestors in Victoria coastal passenger lists 1852-1924

What can these records tell me?

Included in this collection are transcripts and images of the original coastal passenger lists, which are held by Public Record Office Victoria. Transcripts will generally be able to provide you with the following information about your ancestor and the journey to Australia:

  • First name(s)
  • Last name
  • Sex
  • Marital status
  • Occupation
  • Age
  • Birth year
  • Year
  • Ship name
  • Departure port
  • Departure date
  • Arrival port
  • Arrival date
  • State

Viewing the provided image of the original documents may offer you additional insight into your ancestor. On the images you may find other family members travelling with your ancestor and possibly details such as their declared Scottish, Welsh or Irish ancestry. These details give you more clues to find your ancestors in records prior to their sailing.

Discover more about these records

Public Record Office Victoria houses the original records as series VPRS 944 Inward Passenger Lists (Australian Ports). This collection includes both those travelling from overseas and those travelling locally (from coast to coast). These coastal passenger lists can provide a missing link in your ancestor’s journey if you’ve been unable to find out how they arrived at their known Australian residence. Across the decades covered in this collection, the occupation most frequently listed is either some version of tourist or gentleman / lady.

The years covered in this collection are significant as it includes the years of the gold rush period, which occurred between the 1850s and 1860s and saw a large spike in immigration into Victoria as a result. In the early 1850s, one of the top occupations listed was some version of gold digger. In 1852, there were 5,005 individuals who specified some version of gold digger as their occupation. This number grew in 1853, with 5,824 listed. In 1854, there were 1,824 and 1,134 in 1855. The numbers continued to decline through the latter years of the 1850s with only 88 in 1856 and 75 in 1857 specifying gold digging as their occupation. A slight uptick in 1858 saw 293 gold diggers in the passenger lists. In 1859, only three individuals specifically listed gold digging as their occupation and the following year saw 94 gold diggers arrive. However, miner and digger continued to be top occupations listed for arrivals throughout the decade.

Further highlighting the draw of the goldmine during this decade is the great disparity in numbers between male and female passengers arriving in Australia: in 1852, over 38,000 men arrived and only around 4,500 women. A decade later, with the end of the gold rush era, you can see the drastic change in the proportions of men and women arriving: the year 1862 saw around 5,000 men and 2,000 women.

Some of those rushing out to Victoria’s gold fields were those that had been working the gold fields in the United States. As such, these records may be particularly significant as they may be the only surviving documentation that links an ancestor from the United States to Australia. This collection is all the more valuable when the itinerant lifestyle of gold miners is taken into consideration.

The gold rush was a defining period of time for Victoria; Melbourne became a key boomtown of the era and subsequently became the center of Victoria, with train lines running through and out to other ports and areas. Melbourne has maintained its significance to Victoria, even after the end of the gold rush, and is now its capital.