FAQs about Australian Family Tree Research

What birth, death and marriages indexes are available for Australia?
Birth, death and marriages indexes in Australia are organised by state. So you need to know which state you are interested in. Once you know that, have a look at the list of available BDM Indexes for each state of Australia.

If an index has not been published for the state and date range of interest, you can apply to the appropriate Registry for them to search. Some charge extra for searches of more than 5 years, so check with the Registry concerned how much it will cost. Also check you are not asking for something that is restricted due to their privacy policy. You may find this list of Australian Registries useful.

What a shipping list? What is a passenger list?
The answer to that probably depends on who is using the term, as it means slightly different things to different people. However shipping list and passenger list are generally used to refer to any type of list of passengers (and often crew) arriving in an Australian port on a ship.

Many of the things commonly referred to in this way are technically not lists of passengers. For example, there are immigration agents lists which list immigrants that the agent handled. For the purposes of family history, the correct name for a given list may seem unimportant, however knowing that there are different types can help you find the information you want. For example, some voyages for some ships may have two or more different types of lists, each with different types of information about your ancestor. Knowing that you shouldn't automatically give up when you find one list can be useful. It is also useful when checking the catalogues of different Archives - they may hold one type of list, but not another.

Where do I find shipping lists?
The best place to look is usually the Archives for the state where you ancestors arrived. This list of Australian Archives may be useful.

Also take time to learn a little about the history of the state of interest. That may suggest a different state archives you should check. For example, prior to 1852 Victoria was not a separate state but was part of New South Wales. If you can't find what you want for this period in Victoria, it may be worth checking New South Wales.

For arrivals during the 1900s, you should also investigate the National Archives of Australia, though you will probably have more success there with non-British immigrants.


If you have a question that is likely to be of interest to many people, send it to afhc@cohsoft.com.au. If we receive the same question from several people, we will endeavour to add the question and its answer to this page. We are sorry we do not have the resources to answer all questions. We recommend you join and utilise the resources of your local family history society.

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