Records of ship and aircraft passengers

Through a porthole – a woman on a ship holding the hand of a man ashore
Many Italians migranted to North Queensland and worked on the sugar cane fields, 1956 (J25, 1956/4159)

Passenger records document the movement of people into and out of Australia. These records are well known and well used sources of genealogical information.

  • Before 1948, the captain or master of all passenger ships and aircrafts was required to provide Custom authorities with a list of passengers arriving in or leaving from a port.
  • From 1948, cards filled in by the passengers were introduced.
  • From the 1960s cards increasingly replaced lists, especially for those arriving by air.

What passenger records do we have?

The National Archives holds comprehensive passenger records for ship and aircraft arrivals and departures for all Australian ports from 1924, when passenger arrivals became an Australian Government responsibility. For general information about passenger records held in the National Archives see:

Fremantle lists

Most passenger vessels from Europe made Fremantle, Western Australia their first port. Passenger lists for Fremantle include all passengers on board (including people disembarking in other Australian ports), so they are a particularly rich resource for family historians.

Fremantle passenger lists date from 1898. These records are being indexed.

Searching passenger records

Unfortunately, there are no comprehensive name indexes for passenger records. To effectively search for family members you need to know how and when they arrived.

  • For arrivals by sea betwen 1926 and 1947, first search the passenger index database. Click the Passenger index button at the top of the RecordSearch search screen.
  • For other arrivals, you need to know the port or airport of arrival, the name of the vessel or aircraft number, as well as the month and year the vessel arrived. If you are unable to identify the date of arrival within two months, your search could be very time-consuming.
  • For most arrivals earlier than 1924, you will need to contact state government archives.

Sample passenger records

You can see examples of passenger records in our postwar migration records showcase. The showcase highlights the records of the Wlochowitz family who arrived in Australia in 1953.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2014