Immigration terminology

If you have found the words free, remittance, assisted or unassisted listed on your ancestor’s immigration information, you may have wondered what the word or words signified. Other information also gives some clues as to how they travelled.

From Mackay Genie Gossip No 27: Attracting immigrants

Queensland was separated from New South Wales in 1859 and was certainly a Cinderella colony. Immigrants were needed to build up its population and to do the work. So immigrants were offered passages to Queensland free or almost free and any paying their passages were offered land almost free. Also persons in Queensland were helped to bring out relatives or needed workers. The government organised immigrant boats by contract for all these people and had Immigration Agents in Britain and Europe to fill the boats.

The QLD State Archives at Runcorn hold all surviving government records of immigrants to Queensland from Britain and Europe from 1848-1915. The National Archives at Cannon Hill hold the immigrant records for ships which came out under the auspices of the Queensland Immigration Society which was founded by Bishop Quinn. Between 1862 and 1864, the Society brought out (or organised) ten ships with about 6000 migrants, mainly Irish.

Immigrants were listed according to the class of accommodation they had on board. In descending order of cost, comfort and importance were Saloon, Intermediate, Cabin and Steerage. Later the classes were simply First, Second and Third. On the one boat there are separate lists for each class. The majority were in the lower class, Steerage, and these are divided up in different lists according to the government classification under which they emigrated.

Free: This had nothing to do with convicts. Even Free cont means simply Free list continued. Certain categories of workers were in short supply and applicatants were accepted and brought out once they paid a nominal fee (such as one pound). A times, the immgrant had to pay back his/her fare or part of it within two years of arrival.

Assisted: In this list, the immigrant had been recruited as a worker in the colony, such as FL (farm labourer) or DS (domestic servant). Assisted immigrants paid nothing.

Nominated or Remittance: Any Queenslander could, for a small fee, purchase a passage warrant from the government, forward it to a particular person in Europe or Great Britain (often a relative) who could present it to the government agent there and be put on a ship at no cost to himself or herself.

Indentured: Any Queensland employer who needed a certain type of worker could pay the government the full passage money and the government agent could recruit a suitable person.  There was a contract binding the immigrant to his employer in Queensland for a set time. Under these headings, families were listed first, then single males and then single females.  The exact meaning of the terms used and the exact conditions binding the immigrant, the government, the shipping contractor and the employer changed when legislation changed in Parliament.