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HISTORICAL RECORDS REVEAL OZ ANCESTORS OF 16 MILLION BRITS assembles the most complete collection of Australian immigration records ever published online


  • Over 2.2 million British free settler names in total
  • One in four Brits have a free settler ancestor
  • Famous free settler descendants include Nicole Kidman and Donald Bradman
  • Living British case study descendents of free settlers available

In a world-first, today commenced the online launch of the most comprehensive collection of Australian free settler records - The Australian Free Settler Collection, starting with the NSW Free Settlers, 1826-1922, which documents the names and journeys of millions of people who traveled to the new colony, and later to the new country, in search of a better life in the 19th and early 20th centuries

The collection contains 8.9 million names, including those of three million free settlers, both assisted and unassisted , who arrived into New South Wales, which up until 1859 included what is now the state of Queensland. 2.2 million (73%) of these free settlers were British. Also included are international and domestic travellers and crew who journeyed to Australia over almost a century. estimates that over 16 million living Britons are related to free settlers , giving the average Brit a one in four chance of having a free settler ancestor.

Although Australia is perceived to be a ‘convict nation’, the vast majority of early settlers came of their own free will, encouraged either by the promise of a better life or at the behest of the colonial authorities whose aim it was to populate this vast expanse of land.

Immigration boomed, particularly in New South Wales and South Australia during the 1870s when foreigners descended not only from Britain, but also from around the world in pursuit of gold. For the next half century immigration to the country steadily grew, peaking in 1912 before Australia temporarily closed its doors at the onset of the Great Depression.

In 1826, Australia’s population was just 53,000 however with concentrated immigration and a booming economy, this figure had risen to 5.6 million by 1922.

The collection, the originals for which have been held in New South Wales Government archives, includes the New South Wales Unassisted Immigrants Passenger Lists, 1826-1922 and the New South Wales Assisted Immigrants Passenger Lists, 1828-1896.

When combined with the records of 160,000 transported convicts launched on the site in 2007, now has the most complete collection of early Australian family history records available online.

Information contained in the records includes name, date of arrival, port of departure, name and tonnage of ship, names of relations in the colony, passenger’s race and occupation, giving a valuable insight into social make-up and immigration patterns at the time.

Passenger lists enabled officials to track arrivals and departures, and shipping companies to ensure that all passengers paid their fare. The main ports of arrival that feature at launch are Sydney, Newcastle, and Moreton Bay (Brisbane).

It should be mentioned that despite the best efforts of immigration officials, the majority of ships’ records, and particularly early on during the period, indicate that stowaways had been found on board.

‘Assisted’ migrants were individuals whose travel was subsidised or paid for by the government or another benefactor. 454,665 assisted names were released today, 440,000 (97%) of which were British, most belonging to workers such as blacksmiths and shepherds who were encouraged to emigrate to provide essential services and promote commerce.

Another large group of assisted migrants were relatives of convicts already held in Australia, who petitioned the authorities to allow their families to join them before or on their release.

‘Unassisted’ migrants were individuals who paid their own way to the new colony. Of the 2.5 million unassisted names released today, 1.8 million (72%) were British, although unassisted migrants came from all over the world, including other parts of Europe, Russia, India, Japan and China.

The names of more than 1.6 million crew are also listed in the collection, which contains passenger lists for nearly 13,000 ships that arrived during this period.

Many free settlers and their descendants went on to achieve fame and notoriety in Australia – notable examples include:

  • Nicole Kidman is descended from assisted Irish settlers Bridget and James Callachar, who arrived in Sydney on board the ‘Agnes Ewing’ in January 1842. 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 aboard 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
  • Sir Redmond Barry, the judge who presided over the trial and execution of Australian folk hero Ned Kelly, left London aboard the Calcutta in April 1839, arriving in Sydney in early September. On becoming a judge, Barry developed a reputation for harshness in criminal trials, but no criticism was offered when he sentenced Kelly to hang for his crimes in 1880
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish novelist, poet and author of Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, arrived in Sydney in 1893 on the Mariposa, just a year before his death. Stevenson had earlier settled in Vailima, Samoa and it is thought his final journey to Sydney was for medical consultation* Managing Director Simon Harper comments: “This is the first time that these important early Australian records have been brought together in one place online, making them accessible to so many.

“Australia’s free settler heritage is often overlooked in favour of its more ‘colourful’ convict past, however it should be remembered that free settlers were brave and ambitious, making the choice to leave their homes and travel by ship for many months to the other side of the world for the chance of a new life.

“These records are of significance not only to the one in three Australians who are of free settler descent, but also to an estimated eleven million Brits, most of whom will be unaware of their links to early Australian pioneers.”

The Australian Free Settler Collection, 1826-1922 is available to World members and through a 14-day Free Trial.