State Records of South Australia holds many records relating to immigration to South Australia from 1836 onwards. Emigrants from the UK who travelled to South Australia often came out as selected or assisted or free passengers in a government scheme.
Who ran the immigration schemes? 1834-1970
South Australian schemes before 1901
From 1834 to about 1860, assisted emigration was mainly financed from the sale of Crown land and was administered by the Colonial Land and Emigration Commission (the Commission) in London. The records of the Commission (1831-1860) in London have been copied by the Australian Joint Copying Project (National Library) and microfilm copies of series relating to immigration to South Australia are available at State Records. Other emigrants under land grant or nominee schemes travelled on private ships.
When South Australia gained representative government under the SA Constitutional Act of 1855/56, the government became responsible for the administration of the land fund. The government also took over the immigrant selection and transport arrangements from the Commission.
South Australian state schemes 1901-1970
After 1901, the state of South Australia continued to administer its own immigration schemes, both independently and in conjunction with the Commonwealth.
Commonwealth immigration schemes from 1901
The first Commonwealth scheme ran jointly with the states, operated from 1921 to 1937 and was for British migrants. The Commonwealth scheme to settle European refugees and displaced persons after the war operated from 1947 to 1954.
Transportation arrangements for migrants generated records of ship passengers. Most family historians interested in the arrival of their ancestors in the colony start with passenger lists. Passenger lists are sometimes referred to as “manifests” or “ships” manifests”.
Overview of passenger lists - series held
See GRG56/68 for various immigration registers and indexes. GRG41 is a useful resource for interstate and overseas arrivals.
The main series of passenger lists for the 20th century, GRG41/34, ends in 1940. Passenger lists for arrivals in South Australia from 1941 are held by the National Archives of Australia. See also passenger lists held by the National Archives of Australia for all Australian ports from 1924.
Applications and nominations
While family historians interested in the arrival of their ancestors in the colony usually start with passenger lists, we do hold other records relating to immigration. Different types of records were created during the process of administering the different schemes regulated by immigration Acts. The schemes which these Acts controlled included:
Early assisted passenger schemes (land-sale funded) 1834-1886
Farm labourers 1911 onwards
Female domestic workers 1911 onwards
Barwell Boys and Big Brothers in the 1920s
Later schemes run by the South Australian government included those run in the 1950s and 1960s, targeting mostly British migrants. We also hold records of schemes run by the State on behalf of the Commonwealth.
See GRG35/39 and immigration related series within GRG7 for records relevant to applications and nominations.
The above is a limited selection of the most useful series only. Descriptions and access conditions for these and other series held, as well as agency descriptions and agency inventories, are available via our online catalogue, ArchivesSearch.
Need further assistance?
If you require any assistance with your research, please contact a Reference Officer by:
visiting the State Records’ Research Centre
completing our online enquiry form
Calling us on +61 8 8343 6800.
This Fact Sheet can also be downloaded in PDF format - Immigration