Findmypast has secured the rights to publish original petty session records and passenger lists from Victoria. In partnership with Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) and FamilySearch, the original images of these extensive collections will be scanned and transcribed for the first time.

Never before microfilmed or indexed, the collection of Victoria's Inward and Outward Coastal Passenger Lists 1852-1923 will be brought to Findmypast later this year. Comprising both original images and transcripts of an estimated 118,000 records, these passenger lists provide a vivid snapshot of immigrants and travellers alike arriving in Victoria's coastal ports.

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These invaluable records will help you uncover details of your ancestors' passage to Australia, as well as biographical information. Covering the 1850s onwards, these records capture the mass immigration into Victoria in the historic gold rush era, which fuelled one of the most dramatic population booms in Australian history.

Over one million Victoria Petty Sessions records, dating from 1851 to the 1970s, will also be brought to Findmypast as part of the partnership in an ambitious project expected to span several years. The collection includes approximately 1.7 million original images and transcripts, covering numerous record sets from dozens of central and regional courts throughout Victoria – from Prahran to Port Fairy to Mildura.

Capturing details of each case, those involved, and the trial outcome, the Victoria Petty Sessions will help family historians to investigate their ancestors' criminal history.

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Director of Public Record Office Victoria Justine Heazlewood commented: “These informative historical records will become available to online researchers much sooner than would have been possible otherwise, both on our digital catalogue within two years as well as via Findmypast.com.au"

These invaluable records capture not only infamous figures of the Melbourne underworld – such as 1930s gangster Squizzy Taylor [pictured above]– but the more mundane misdemeanours from the 19th and 20th centuries, like 'drunk and disorderly' behaviour, 'cattle wandering', and 'obscene language'. Much like today, fines were issued for traffic offences - a court in Northcote in 1888 charged Samuel McKee with 'negligent driving', while another gentleman was sentenced for 'driving without lights'!

“This is an exciting coup for Findmypast and Australian family historians alike, as both these coastal passenger lists and petty sessions records are informative yet largely untapped resources," said Findmypast.com.au Country Manager Vicki Dawson. “The Coastal Passenger Lists 1852-1924 that will soon arrive on Findmypast provide a snapshot of how unprecedented mass immigration during the ground-breaking gold rush era shaped the state of Victoria."

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“The colony's population multiplied by sevenfold during the 1850s alone. These records uncover the voyages of many of those who flocked to Victoria to take a gamble on the goldfields – along with hundreds of thousands of immigrants right through to the 1920s."

During this period, mass immigration saw the colony's population multiply seven-fold within a decade, swelling from 77,345 in 1851 to over 538,000 10 years later. About 65 per cent of the total population growth in Australia in the 1850s took place in Victoria alone.

“The Victorian Court Petty Sessions feature several notorious cases in Victorian history (Squizzy Taylor, I'm looking at you)," says Ms Dawson. “But beyond the infamous crims and miscreants, they capture the details of offences committed by thousands of ordinary people from all walks of life. Using these records, family historians will have the chance to investigate their ancestors' brushes with the law in greater detail – and perhaps even coax some skeletons out of the family's closet, so to speak."

Read more about Australia's fascinating criminal past...