Orphan Database Key

Information in the Orphan database

Much of the material in the database, particularly for the girls who arrived to Sydney, NSW, is provided by the Board of Immigration in State Archives of New South Wales [SANSW] and appears on the ‘shipping lists’. This includes name, age, native place, parents’ names and whether alive and where living, orphan’s religion, whether they had relatives in the colony and if they had any complaints about the voyage. Religion, domestic skills and literacy is not usually available for those into Port Phillip. Other information, such as first employee, applied to those who came on the Earl Grey, Lady Peel, William and Mary, Lismoyne, Panama, Thomas Arbuthnot, Diadem, Derwent, Lady Kennaway, Eliza Caroline, Pemberton and New Liverpool is from enclosures in the Governor’s Despatches available on microfilm from the Mitchell Library and some from Public Record Office of Vitoria. This informaiton is slowly being added to the individual orphans’ entries on the website.

BG numbers relate to the Poor Law Union records held in National Archives of Ireland in Dublin [NAI], the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast [PRONI] in Ireland or sometimes Poor Law Guardian Minute Books or Registers held in County Libraries throughout the Republic. These mainly appear here as extracts from workhouse indoor admission and discharge registers where these survive, which regrettably is few. On rare occasions there are details about the workhouse orphan immigrants extracted from the Poor Law Union Guardian Minute books. Thus for Jane McAllister per Earl Grey, we know from the Armagh workhouse register BG2/G/2 Entry 868 that she was from Charlemont, Kinego near Amagh and was thinly clothed and destitute when she entered the workhouse.

Im Cor refers to a letter in one of the five bundles at SRNSW 4/4635-4/4641 which is Immigration Correspondence, usually with the Immigration Agent’s office between 1844 and 1852. Often these are merely notes of the orphan being distributed throughout the colony such as to Maitland, Bathurst or Moreton Bay. On rarer occasions, the correspondence is extensive. For example see Margaret Devlin per Earl Grey in the database.

Register 1, 2, 3 held in SANSW 4/4715 – 4/4717 is the ‘Register and applications for orphans’ and gives information about their early days in the colony.

Appendix J, K or L are appendices to the ‘Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committee on Irish Female Immigration’, Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, 1858-59, vol.2, pp.372-450 and reproduced in Trevor McClaughlin’s Barefoot and Pregnant? Irish Famine Orphans in Australia, Volume 2, published by the Genealogical Society of Victoria, Melbourne, 2001.

SANSW also contains much information relating to the early lives of the girls in the colony and some of this can be accessed from indexes produced by Mrs Joan Reese and available at the archives and some libraries and genealogical societies in Australia on microfiche or in 2018 now available on CD ROM or USB. General immigration correspondence for 1846-53 [9/6189 – 9/6198] and Immigration Deposits [4/850 – 4/851] and other material is also available at SANSW some of which may now be available on Ancestry. Some information for those to Port Phillip is also available at Public Record Office of Victoria [PRO Vic] and to a lesser extent for those to Adelaide at State Records of South Australia.

Orphan Wages indicates references taken from ‘Wages Paid to Orphans Index 1849-1851’. This was indexed by Pastkeys, available on CD-ROM and extracted data on 612 Irish orphan girls, their employers and other relevant persons mentioned in the records held at State Records of NSW. It shows name, ship, and often employer, money paid on their behalf, for example to purchase shoes or clothes and often supports other data, such as disposal lists, which names employers. Extracts from this for the individual girls is ongoing.

Most of these young women were employed as apprentices and an example of an apprentice’s indenture can be see in ‘Barefoot & Pregnant?’: Irish Famine Orphans in Australia’ by Trevor McClaughlin, vol.2, p.32.

Much of the detail of their individual lives has been contributed by descendants and we welcome your contributions and encourage you to share your findings with us and with others through the website. We would like to see documents where possible to authenticate the life stories of these women. In a few instances we have found this information to be incorrect and have updated it. Our ongoing grateful thanks to Dr Trevor McClaughlin whose initial research still forms the basis of the data captured here.


PRONI – Public Record of Northern Ireland, Belfast
SANSW – State Archives of New South Wales, Kingswood
NAI – National Archives Ireland, Dublin
WPO – Water Police Office
Im Cor – Immigration Correspondence – see above for explanation