The sources below, most of which are held in the museum library, will help answer all your questions about Australian and New Zealand built ships.
Australian shipowners and their fleets
Ronald Parsons. Magill S.A. Ronald Parsons, 1972-1982.
This seven part series is an excellent source.
Details of steamships registered at the port of Sydney NSW prior to 1900
Compiled by Ronald Parsons. Woodville S.A. World Ship Society, 1961.
Geelong customs register of ships: Vessels registered at the port of Geelong, Vic. before 1900
Ronald Parsons. Lobethal S.A. The Author, 1969.
Ships of Australia and New Zealand before 1850: Details of ships registered with the customs at ports in Australia and New Zealand
Ronald Parsons. Magill S.A. Ronald Parsons, 1983.
Ships registered at Fremantle before 1900
Compiled by Ronald Parsons. Magill S.A. R.H. Parsons, 1981.
Ships registered at Newcastle NSW before 1900
Compiled by Ronald Parsons. Magill S.A. R.H. Parsons, 1982.
Tasmanian ships registered 1826-1850
Ronald Parsons. Magill S.A. R.H. Parsons, 1980.
Find these books plus lots of other e-resources at a library near you in our Australian and New Zealand built ships list @Trove.
If you’re researching shipbuilders, boat builders and shipbuilding in Australia rather than individual ships this Trove search covering books, newspaper articles, photos at Trove will also be of assistance.
Buying books? Shop online at the museum store.
Registers of Shipping
We've broken these down into two sections – primary records and published registers.
Tips for using registers: It's often difficult to identify a vessel with a common name when searching registers, so information such as the approximate tonnage and the name of the master can be very useful, especially when using the British Register of Ships. Finding out the (approximate) year that the vessel was built will also help considerably. Searching two or three years after the build date will probably yield results if the approximate year search does not. Even searches five years on can be useful.
These are the official registers maintained under legislation and the originals are in manuscript form. The following indexes are vital tools to help you quickly locate the correct register entry and any subsequent entries.
The New Zealand index provides details of ships and changes of ownership. The Australian index provides an appropriation number which you can then use to track each ship through the Register of British Ships (accessible on microfilm). The le Maistre index includes additional information such as the year of build and a volume and folio number for each entry.
The British Register (Australian section) records details for each port, including appropriation registers, registers and continuation registers. We have created a guide to the microfilm which explains the range of information available from the British Register. The library also has an index to help you locate vessels by name and number. The originals of the British Register are held by the Australian Archives and copies can be accessed at regional offices.
The British Register microfilm is missing early Tasmanian registrations, however these records can be accessed using the Register of colonial vessels in the port of Hobart on microfilm, which covers the period 14 January 1830 to 30 April 1855.
Early registers for Launceston can be found on the Transcripts and transactions Series I, East India and Australia microfilm. This reel lists vessels registered at ports in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Prince of Wales Island for the period 1826 to 1837. Registrations are grouped by year and by port.
Index to the New Zealand Section of all British Register of Ships 1840-1950. Part 1 Ships. Part 2 Ownerships
REF 387.20993 WAT
Also available online at Ancestry.
Index to the Australian Section of the British Register of Ships 1840-1986. Part 1 Index by Ship Name. Part 2 Index by Official Number
Compiled by Andrew Elliason.
REF 387.20994 REG
Composite index to ships registered in Australian ports under British merchant shipping acts 1827 to 1980
Compiled by Robert R. Le Maistre. [Canberra?. National Archives of Australia?], 2002.
REF 387.20994 AUS
Also available online.
Register of British Ships. Australian Section. 1833-1981 (Microfilm)
REF 387.20994 REG
Register of colonial vessels in the port of Hobart
[CUS 38/1/1-CUS 38/1/6]
Archives Office of Tasmania. (microfilm).
Transcripts and transactions Series I, East India and Australia
Great Britain. Board of Trade. Australian Joint Copying Project. (microfilm)
MIC AJCP PRO 5703
Library holds reel 5703.
Australian Register of Ships (continues the British Register of Ships)
For a list of currently registered Australian ships visit the Shipping Registration website.
Lloyd's is the most common register of ships and it can be accessed at specialist maritime libraries and State Libraries. We recommend you try Lloyd's first, particularly for information on large vessels. The museum library holds 1776 – 1880 (on microfiche) and 1880 onwards in hardcopy on the reference shelves.
A yearly alphabetical listing of mainly British-owned vessels by name compiled by Lloyd's of London. Gives technical specifications of each vessel, dates and place of build, names of owners, masters and details of voyages made (up to the 1850s). Between 1890 and 1947 sailing vessels and steamers were listed separately.
REF 387.5 LLO
For a fee, Lloyd's Register's Historical Research Service will search ship histories and yacht plans/survey reports. Its website says: "We can provide information on Lloyd's Register classed ships from 1784 and on merchant ships of more than 100 gross tons, regardless of class dating from the mid-1870s."
PortCities Southampton has digitised pages from Lloyd's Register of Ships from 1930 to 1945. You can search the database and browse the original registers.
Maritime archives Books boxes and boats is a convenient place to find digitized copies of Lloyds Registers and other registers online.
Register of Australian and New Zealand Shipping
This register was published by the Marine Underwriters and Salvage Association from around 1870 to 1942.
The Library holds 1874, 1876-7, 1893-4, 1902-3, 1906-7, 1915, 1922-1923, 1924-25, 1925-26, 1927-28, 1928-29, 1933-34, 1937, 1941, 1946, 1949
REF 387.50994 REG
We've digitized our holdings from 1874 to 1925 and they can be viewed online.
Note that the information contained in the above register was not frequently updated in later years. The Register of British Ships for both Australia and New Zealand should be consulted in conjunction with this resource.
The museum library does not hold any official logs. To find out where different logs are held we recommend consulting the following book, which includes a section on shipping.
Finding families: The genealogists guide to the National Archives of Australia
Compiled By Margaret Chambers.
Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1998.
REF 929.934 NAT
For information on finding illustrations or photos, consult our research guide Pictures of ships in the Australian trade which lists useful websites and resources held in the museum library.
The Nautical Association website has links to a photograph service specializing in post World War II vessels on the Australian coast.
The following magazines also have useful historical articles about Australian built ships owners and fleet lists.
The Log: Quarterly journal of the Nautical Association of Australia Inc
Library has Vol.1, no.1(1954) – .
The Australasian Shipping Record: Journal of the Australasian Maritime Historical Society
Library has Vol.1, no.1(1970); missing Vols 6 and 17.
For more technical information or contemporary profiles of Australian vessels the following sources may be useful.
Shipbuilding, ship repair and services
This Australian title covers the period 1947-1967. We have indexed the lines plans in the journal – see library staff for access to this database.
Both of the titles below are good for locating information on overseas built vessels and large/significant ships built for the Australian trade are often profiled as well.
The shipbuilder (later Shipping world and shipbuilder)
Library holds 1913 – 1985
Shipbuilding and shipping record
Library holds 1921 – 1973.
For contemporary coverage of the Australian shipping industry and ship profiles see the following titles.
Australian coal, steel shipping and the Harbour
Library holds 1920 – 1970 (incomplete)
Issues from June 1, 1920 – Dec. 1, 1924 have been digitized and are available online
Australasian ships and ports
Library Holds : Vol. 2, no., 6– May 1990–Vol. 12, no. 10, Sept. 2000. (incomplete)
The National Archives
has several important collections relating to shipbuilding in Australia and Australian built vessels.
Trove’s Australian newspapers online which now has many regional newspaper titles as well as large dailies from each state is also a good source of information for news items relating to Australian built vessels their launchings, builders, careers and fate.