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

Commonwealth of Australia1901-1970
State of South Australia1901 - 1970
Colony of South Australia1857 - 1901
Imperial Government - United Kingdom1834 - 1857

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. 

Passenger lists

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

Inward Passenger Lists  
GRG 56/68/5 - Index to passengers arriving at South Australia from overseas ports 1836 -1845See Special List (also available in Research Centre)
GRG 56/68/52 - Miscellaneous Passenger Lists 1837 - 1839 
GRG 41/8 - Manifest of incoming ships at Port Adelaide1838 - 1842 
GRG 56/68/7 - Index to Persons Arriving in SA from overseas as Recorded in the Newspapers1846 - 1887See Special List (also available in Research Centre)
GRG 35/48/1 - Official Passenger Lists of Emigrants Selected by the Colonization Commissioners1847 - 1886Available online
Source 1531 - Immigrants arriving from Hamburg1855 - 1886 
GRG 41/34 - Official List of Passengers Arriving in SA1888 - 1940 (with gaps)See Special List (also available in Research Centre)
Outward Passenger Lists  
GRG 41/10 - Manifest of Shipping Departing from Port Adelaide1841 - 1844See Special List (also available in Research Centre)
GRG 41/35 - Outgoing passengers Departing from Port Adelaide for Overseas Ports1888 - 1940 (with gaps) 

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:

This Fact Sheet can also be downloaded in PDF format - Immigration

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