How can I find information about a ship?

Passengers Database

The place to begin researching a vessel that visited South Australia is our Passengers Database. It includes 20,000 entries for ships and 250,000 entries for passengers who arrived between 1836 and 1961. The Database can be seen at the Maritime Museum or online at

You can search by the name of the ship or a passenger. The entry will give you information including the dates it visited South Australia the names of passengers, the owner of the ship and the ports it visited.

With that information you can research further. With the date that the vessel was working you can refer to Lloyd’s Register which was published annually since 1775.


Lloyd’s Register

Lloyds of London has published an alphabetical listing of mainly British owned vessels. It was first published in 1764 and has been published annually since 1775. It provides technical specifications for each vessel including dates and places they were built and the names of owners and masters.

That information can be very useful. With the names of the owners or builders of a ship you can search for company histories that may provide more information about the history of a ship. 

The SA Maritime Museum holds a collection of Lloyds Registers spanning from 1858 to 2004. You can consult the Register by calling the Museum on 8207 6255 and making an appointment to visit our library on Wednesdays.


Company histories

With the name of the shipowners you can research company histories. They include:

Migrant ships for South Australia 1836-1866
Ronald Parsons, Gould Books, Gumeracha SA, 1999

Fitted for the Voyage: the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited 1875-1975
Michael Page, Rigby, Adelaide, 1975

Fast passage to Australia: The history of the Black Ball, Eagle and White Star Lines
Dave Hollett, Fairplay, London, 1986

Blackwall frigates
Basil Lubbock, James Brown, Glasgow, 1922

The passage makers
Michael Stammers, Teredo Book, Brighton, 1978

Colonial clippers
Basil Lubbock, James Brown, Glasgow, 1924

Merchant sailing ships 1775-1815; 1815-1850; 1850-1875
David MacGregor, Conway Maritime Press, London, 1984-1985

North Star to Southern Cross: the Story of the Australasian Seaways
John Maber, T Stephenson and Sons, Lancashire, 1967

Ships that passed
Scott Baty, Reed, Sydney, 1984

Passenger ships of Australia and New Zealand Vols 1 (1876-1912) and 2 (1913-1980)
Peter Plowman, Doubleday, Sydney, 1981

Emigrant ship to luxury liner
Peter Plowman, University of New South Wales, Sydney, 1994

20th Century Passenger Ships of the P&O Line
Neil McCart, Patrick Stephens, Wellingborough, 1985

Passenger ships of the Orient line
Neil McCart, Patrick Stephens, Wellingborough, 1987


State Library of South Australia 

The State Library of South Australia holds one of the best shipping and maritime history collections in Australia. It includes books, periodicals, newspapers, shipping registers and several large picture collections. 

The Library is great source for shipping enthusiasts and family historians looking for information about a particular ship or photographs. You can visit their website at


National Library of Australia

The National Library’s website, Trove, provides the capacity to search Australian newspapers online. It is a powerful tool and will offer rich rewards if you search the name of your ship or shipping company. You can find Trove at