Find My Past’s latest newsletter takes a special look at the company’s new collections of records from Australia and New Zealand – the first of many to come:
Find your Antipodean relatives
Captain Cook reached the coast of New Zealand in 1769. One year later, he reached Australia. His arrival marked the start of a long wave of British settlement within the two countries, which continued until the twentieth century.
It is estimated that as many as one in three British families have connections in either Australia or New Zealand, so it’s possible you may discover an antipodean line within your family tree.
The first clue that you may have to an ancestor’s emigration is their apparent disappearance. If you can simply find no further trace of them in records such as the census, or a death certificate, then it could be that they emigrated – either willingly or unwillingly.
Australian records: the early settlers
The British claimed Australia in 1770 and officially established New South Wales as a penal colony in 1788. The same year, the eleven ships of the first fleet landed with around 780 convicts at Botany Bay. The transportation of convicts continued until 1868.
But convicts were not the only emigrants. As the colony Australia was developed, an increasing number of people began to move to the colony willingly, with increased numbers travelling during the gold rush of 1851-71. The prolonged wave of emigration continued until well into the twentieth century, with a peak in the 1950s and 60s with the ‘Ten Pound Pom’ scheme, where Britons were encouraged to move to Australia for the fare of £10.
You can find details of all the people who travelled overseas from Britain between 1890 and 1960 in the UK Passenger Lists 1890-1960.
You may also find details of their passport application in the Register of Passport Applications (1851-1903), though you should bear in mind that passports were not made compulsory for British travellers until 1914.
However, the earliest travellers to Australia and New Zealand would not have had passports, and their departure won’t be included within the Passenger Lists, which only begin in 1890.
If they were one of the convicts shipped to Australia to help populate the new colony, you may be able to find details of their ‘crime’ in local court records. Your local family history society may be able to tell you what kinds of records were kept for the area you are searching and which have survived. They may have other valuable local information that could help in your search.
Find My Past has just added records for Convict Arrivals in New South Wales (1788-1842), which contains the details for almost 100,000 convicts. These arrival lists were not passenger lists but inventories used by the ship’s captain to record their human cargo. On arrival in New South Wales the inventory was checked against the disembarking passengers who were handed over to the New South Wales authorities. The index gives the name of the convict, the date of arrival in Australia, and name of the ship.
Other Australian records
In Australia there are no central records for births, marriages and deaths. Records are held at state level instead, so you will need to know which state your relative travelled to, and eventually settled in.
You may find it worthwhile to contact a family history society in Australia. The Genealogical Society of Victoria are a member of the Federation of Family History Societies. Like many other family history societies they are instrumental in the transcription of a number of valuable records. As well as transcribing the convict-arrivals records, they have also supplied Find My Past with the following collections:
Cemetery Burials and Memorial Inscriptions for Victoria (1835-1997)
This collection of over 185,000 records contains transcriptions of cemetery memorials and burial registers. It covers 197 cemeteries in Victoria, and some in other Australian states. It details the name and title of the deceased, the state or territory, whether the event was a death or burial, the year of the event, and the cemetery.
These records form part of our Parish Records Collection.
Victoria Funeral Notices (1981-1997)
These records [also in the Parish Records Collection] may be useful if you are searching for a more recent family link as they contain funeral notices from the Melbourne Herald Sun for the period 1981-1997. The name and title of the deceased is listed along with the year of the funeral, the state, and details of the cemetery or crematorium.
Names in Government Gazettes, Victoria (1858-1900)
This is an index of over 461,000 records gathered from notices printed in the Victorian Government Gazette between 1858 and 1900. They cover many subjects, including land leases (besides gold, probably the most significant factor in migration), law and order, licensing, and tenders and contracts. As such, they may contain information that could help flesh out the details of a relative’s life as they made their way in Australia. These records are in the Other Records collection.
This is just the first batch of our Australian record collection. Find My Past is now working closely with family history societies in Australia to bring you many more.
An introduction to records in New Zealand
The earliest European contact with New Zealand was through the trading, whaling and sealing ships that were able to reach the islands after Captain Cook mapped the coasts in 1769. However, the numbers who had settled by 1839 were relatively small: around 2,000 people.
The number of immigrants began to rise after 1840, when the first assisted immigrants arrived in New Zealand with the help of the New Zealand Company, and the Treaty of Waitangi gave British immigrants legal status as citizens. By 1852 there were 28,000 immigrants in New Zealand, most of them from the British Isles.
If you suspect a family member was among these then you may find the records of the New Zealand Company and the New Zealand Original Correspondence 1830-1922 helpful. These records are held at The National Archives, in Kew, London.
New Zealand’s birth, marriage and death records are held at state level and went online in January 2009, so they can be searched direct from the UK. You may also find the electoral rolls useful to track people between these events, as there are no census records.
If you’d like to find out more about researching your family in New Zealand you should contact the New Zealand Society of Genealogists:
We hope these new records are the beginning of great discoveries in your family tree: good luck finding relatives ‘down under’.