Friday, July 15th, 2011

The historical Australian National Immigration Collection – the largest set of early Australian immigration records ever published online - includes NSW, QLD, Victoria, Tasmania and WA records

- Research reveals that almost one third of Aussies don’t know how their ancestors came to arrive in Australia
- Included are the ancestors of Heath Ledger (WA); Nicole Kidman (NSW) and Donald Bradman (NSW)
- Local Australian case studies available

Sydney, Australia, July 14, 2011 –, Australia’s number one family history website , today announced the launch of the Australian Immigration Collection, 1788-1923, which documents the names and journeys of more than 14.5 million people who travelled to the new colony, and later to the new country, during its first 135 years of European settlement.

From 1788, Australia was a land of refuge, sacrifice and new opportunities. With people coming from all over the world and for many different reasons, the millions of records now online provide a daily account of the growth of modern Australia, including information on the many ships and passengers from the First Fleet to the early 20th century who arrived in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia.

With almost a third (29 per cent) of Australians not knowing the details of their ancestors arrival in Australia, the release of the Australian Immigration Collection, 1788-1923, will assist millions of Aussies in uncovering information about how and when their family came to land on these shores.

The Australian Immigration Collection, 1788-1923 has been assembled from microfilm sourced from state record offices and archives. Individual records include a wealth of information including name, in some cases age and occupation, ship name, and date and port of arrival and departure.

Many early immigrants and their descendants went on to achieve fame and notoriety in Australia. Notable examples include:
• Heath Ledger’s great-grandfather, engineer Edson Ledger, arrived in Fremantle with his father, mother and sisters around 1881 (aboard the Fitzroy). Edson’s older brother Joseph had arrived earlier and together they created a successful engineering company, manufacturing many of the pipes used in the 550km long Goldfields Pipeline. They were also responsible for crafting the distinctive cast iron red post boxes which can be found scattered around Perth.

• Nicole Kidman is descended from assisted Irish settlers Bridget and James Callachar, who arrived in Sydney in January, 1842 (on board the Agnes Ewing). Listed as agricultural labourers, they settled in Port Macquarie where they had a son, Nicole’s 2x great-grandfather. Thousands of Irish refugees arrived on Australian soil during the 1840s, many coming over in ‘coffin ships’, fleeing the Irish potato famine. By 1871, Irish immigrants accounted for one quarter of all foreign born citizens.

• Donald Bradman’s grandfather Charles Bradman was an assisted immigrant, arriving in April 1855 (on board the Rose of Sharon). The records show that he was a labourer and came from Withersfield in Suffolk. Donald went on to become one of Australia’s most popular sporting heroes, widely acknowledged as the greatest batsman of all time with a career average of 99.94.

• Charles Edward Kingsford-Smith's great-grandfather John Eldridge was an assisted immigrant, arriving in April, 1839 (on board the Morayshire). The voyage took six months due to a ship wreck. 91 years later his great-grandson Charles broke the England to Australia speed record by making the 10,000 mile journey in just under 10 days.

- Peter Costello’s 2x great-grandfather Patrick Costello arrived as an assisted Immigrant in August, 1841 (on board the William Metcalf). His occupation was listed as a farm labourer, however just eight years later he owned two pubs and was working as a builder and contractor.

- Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens), the American author, known for his novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, arrived on September 15, 1895 for his Australian Tour (on board the Warrimoo). He spent two months touring the southern cities and New Zealand before returning to Sydney and setting sail for home.

- Michael Lyons – The grandfather of 10th Australian Prime Minister Joseph Lyons arrived in Launceston with his wife Bridget and child on January 10, 1843 (on board the Royal Sovereign). Lyons was one of a number of immigrants on board for whom bounty was initially refused. When finally paid, Michael was under engagement to manage the Van Diemen's Land Company's cattle and sheep run at Woolnorth on the far North West coast of Tasmania.

The personal stories of early immigrants continue to enrapture Australians looking back into their family tree. Interesting stories include:
• Gold Rush: News of the New South Wales gold rush spread around the world like wildfire. member Kevin Kerr discovered that his ancestor Jane Litherland was a servant girl who eschewed her familial roots and migrated from Leicestershire, England in 1854 with her husband in search of gold. Jane struck it rich in the gold fields then lost it all to a corrupt bank; dying a penniless widow at just 41, leaving behind her four young children to fend for themselves.

• Tragic end: Many migrants became self-made men and women of wealth and privilege in their newly adopted land. Kevin Leighton discovered that his ancestor David Leighton migrated with his wife, four children and his sister to escape poverty in Scotland, arriving in Sydney in 1838.

As a builder and stone mason, David became a considerably wealthy land owner and ran a number of inns at Running Stream. One night, a (troublesome) patron broke into the Leighton residence and David shot the man in self defense. Tragically, in 1886 David returned for a brief visit to collect the rent and during the early dawn he stood on the same spot where he shot Richard Donovan and committed suicide.

• Imperial Arcade owners: Robyn Smith’s great-grandfather Reuben Uther was born in England in 1791. He arrived in Sydney a free settler aged 16 and was an indentured clerk to Simeon Lord. In 1812, he was granted 400 acres of land by Governor Macquarie, a property which became known as the ‘Gilead Estate’.

In 1815, he established a hat factory and subsequently commanded an effective monopoly in this particular trade. He also acquired a retail business in George Street, Sydney in 1833, and by the time of his death in 1880 at the advanced age of 89, his estate also included the Imperial Arcade.

• Different continents, different families: West Australian member Cheryle Dennis was determined to uncover the truth about her great-grandfather Henry Carter, a returned soldier and father to three young children who disappeared following the death of his wife. Through her searches, she discovered a whole other family in the UK of whom neither she nor her grandfather was aware of.

It appears that after his first wife died in the UK in 1912, the shop they owned passed back into the hands of her family, leaving Henry without work and an income. He left his four children behind to come to Australia to start a new life, arriving on February 24, 1913 (aboard the Friedrich der Grosse).

In 1920, Henry went missing when his second wife Annie Driscoll passed away from blood poisoning, leaving behind three children, including Cheryle’s grandfather (age 4). Research proves that he went to work in Northam, WA but was not paid by his employer which resulted in him being sentenced to prison for six months in 1921/1922 for not paying child maintenance. He died of tuberculosis in 1928.

• Founder of the Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club: For West Australian member Teresa Norman, the reason her ancestors left Norfolk is unknown, however in 1853 seven of her ancestors arrived on the Anne Milne, making their home at Portland in Victoria where some descendants still live today.

Norman’s great-grandfather George Bond had a brother, Major John Bond, who served in the Boer War and helped start the Lifesaving movement in Australia. During his life, he built the first full size lifesaving reel and has a Memorial Plate dedicated to him at Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club. Continuing their love of the water, the Bond family ran the Bronte Baths in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs for many years.

• Among the first free settlers: Queensland member Marilyn Anderson’s 3xgreat-grandfather William Green married Mary Ann Rose, daughter of Thomas Rose 4xgreat –grandfather, who was sent in 1792 by the British Government to assist in establishing the colony.

Upon arrival, Thomas Rose was greeted by Lieutenant-Governor Grose, and went on to settle 200 acres of free land at 'Liberty Plains' (Strathfield/Homebush area of Sydney).

After it was discovered that the land was unsuitable for crops, the family moved to more a more fertile area along the Hawkesbury River (Wilberforce), with their home, ‘Rose Cottage’, now standing as part of the Pioneer Village. Sadly, William Green drowned in the Hawkesbury on 1836.

• Running away from religion: Victorian member Ron Lutton’s discovered that his Irish ancestors sailed into Sydney Harbour on January 10, 1844 as Bounty immigrants (on board the Herald).

Running away from religious oppression in Northern Ireland, Charles and Margaret Lutton and their three young children left behind family and friends, hoping to start a new life in the far flung British colony of Sydney. The reason for their departure was simply that Charles, a protestant, had dared to marry a Roman Catholic.

Brad Argent, Content Director for Australia and New Zealand, comments: “Although Australia has strong convict roots, many early European settlers made their way here of their own free will to join convict relatives, to own land for the first time, find gold or simply to escape life back home.

As a nation of immigrants, these vital records will assist many in discovering how their ancestors came to arrive in Australia, and even how and when they came to live where they do today.”

Cathrin Cassarchis, State Archivist and Executive Director State Records, comments: “The digitisation of the State Records Office of Western Australia’s historic passenger lists by is an exciting opportunity for family historians as they contain information about almost three million immigrants to Australia.”

Ross Latham, Manager, Tasmanian Information Project, Tasmanian Archive + Heritage Office, comments: “The release of these records on will make it easier for people to find that elusive ancestor, piecing together further information about their family history and discovering if their ancestor arrived as a convict, free settler or as part of an immigration scheme.”

To search the Australia, National Immigration Collection, please visit:

Contact Profile

Australia’s leading family history website, contains more than 940 million records in its Australian and UK collections, including the Australia Birth, Marriage and Death Index, Australian Convict Transportation Registers, Australian Free Settlers, Australian Electoral Rolls, New South Wales SANDS Directories, as well as the most complete online collection of England, Wales and Scotland Censuses and the England and Wales Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes. was launched in May 2006 and belongs to the global network of Ancestry websites (wholly owned by Operations Inc.), which contains six billion records. To date more than 25 million family trees have been created and 2.5 billion profiles and 60 million photographs and stories uploaded. (Figures current as of June 1, 2011)

The Ancestry global network of family history websites: in the US, in the UK, in Canada, in Australia, in Germany, in Italy, in France, in Sweden and in China.
Christine Law
P: 02 8281 3256
M: 0414 810 894

Keywords, immigration collection, historical records



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