Proposal for naming a ship's voyage landing category for voyages to Australia [closed]

+14 votes

The Australia Project has reviewed its requirements for categories related to immigration and shipping and after extensive consultation has agreed to a proposal to revise the category structure.   Our preferred landing category is by arrival date. 

Eg:   [[Category:Pitt, arrived 14 Feb 1792]]

For the Australia Project, this choice means all existing categories will be progressively renamed, in conjunction with activities of the new Convicts, Assisted Immigrants and Categories teams of the Australia Project. All parent pages will also be amended to reflect this format.  This free space page outlines the changes proposed, specific to Australian voyages.

Edited so proposal as originally posted, applies to naming the voyage landing category for voyages that arrived in Australia.

closed with the note: Last call post:
in Policy and Style by Margaret Haining G2G6 Mach 2 (29k points)
closed by Margaret Haining

How the table mentioned in the question would look, couldn't fit it in the question.


Australian  Resource ‘Standard’


Ship from Archives Reference

Ship name, arrived on date

Ship name, sailed on date

NSW State Archives and Records


Hercules I, 1802

Hercules I, arrived 26 Jun 1802 (currently 1801)

NSW State Archives and Records


Roxburgh Castle, 1839

Roxburgh Castle, arrived 26 May 1839

State Archives of WA

Hi Margaret

I know that this suggested change has been a little controversial, but I would like to add my voice in support of the proposed change.  I think it makes sense in terms of how such information is recorded on primary sources here in Australia.

I also love the proposed table structure which will greatly assist through the transition and in maintaining the integrity of the ship categories over time.

Well done!

9 Answers

+10 votes
Arrival date makes sense, well done
by Rionne Brooks G2G6 Mach 5 (51.3k points)
+8 votes
Thank you Margaret!
by Natalie Trott G2G6 Pilot (558k points)
+4 votes

Why not just add new "arrived" categories, and leave the "sailed on" categories in place? (And, for that matter, let people add new "arrived" categories for any migrant ship sailing, not just to Australia.) That way, nobody needs to maintain a free-space profile (which would get pretty huge, I'm thinking), and people would be able to find a particular sailing easily, whether they have only the departure date, only the arrival date, or both.

by Greg Slade G2G6 Pilot (287k points)

Greg, having 2 landing categories for the one voyage would surely be counter-productive to the purpose of a category, ie. to group together profiles that share something in common, in this case, a voyage of a ship. Arrival dates (even just month and year) are readily available for ships coming to Australia from 1788 onwards. Other projects may have different landing categories, but it will be clear that voyages to Australia will be arrival date, once the renaming is under way.  

Au contraire. The more ways there are to drill down to a particular sailing, the easier it is for people to find it:

  • If somebody only knows the name of the ship, then they can look for ships with that name. If that's all the information they have, then we have already provided a way for people to drill down that way.
  • As you say, for many sailings, it's a lot easier to find the date of arrival than the date of departure, so probably lots of people will want to drill down that way.
  • But I have worked on several sailings where I knew the date of departure, but not the date of arrival. If that has happened to me, then it's bound to have happened to other people, so I don't see any point in depriving those people of the ability to drill down to find the sailing on the basis of the information they have. (Especially when it's the only information they have.)
We already have parallel ways to drill down to find ships (by name, country, company, or year of launch), and, for that matter, there are multiple ways to drill down within the occupations categories. It doesn't have to be "this way" or "that way". It can be "this way" and "that way". That way, the system benefits the maximum number of people.
Remember that there is no limit on the number of categories. We don't have to delete one category before we can add another.
Looking at the wider picture, I'm afraid that I have a hard time with any project saying, "Yes, we know that everybody else on WikiTree is doing things this way, but for our profiles, you have to do it that way." It just doesn't strike me as being in the spirit of collaboration. Nor helpful to newcomers, for that matter. WikiTree has a steep enough learning curve as it is. Expecting people to remember exceptions to general rules would just aggravate that problem.
And, as a footnote, I have to say that, for those sailings to Australia or New Zealand (or North America, for that matter) that I have worked on, I put in a lot of time finding departure dates (at least in some cases), and I would be exceedingly annoyed to have all that work thrown out just because somebody doesn't see any value in that particular bit of information.
Greg, the categorization structure for shipping that you created was never approved. This proposal is an attempt to get approval and clarification on a piece of that structure in a way that makes it easy for the majority of users to understand and use.

If you have any specific changes you would like to see to this proposal, please feel free to suggest them.

I'm afraid you misunderstand the situation, Steve. I never created the existing structure, I only documented what was in place. You can see the whole conversation laid out on the A guide to categories for emigrant-immigrant ships page. I also tried to make it very clear that the system was not official WikiTree policy, and that it was not from the Categorization Project. (In fact, when I left the Categorization Project some time back, I asked Natalie if the Project could work up an official version and put it up, so I could take my page down. But it's been quite a while since then, so I gather that working up an official system hasn't been on top of the priority list.)

And I started out this conversation with my specific suggestion for changing the proposal: 

  • add a new "arrived" category hierarchy
  • leave the "sailed on" category hierarchy in place

I think the confusion comes from the commentary on the page:

So, putting all of that together, adding in some ideas of my own, adding a pinch of cinnamon, and simmering gently for a couple of days, I have come up with the following system for recording research on emigrant/immigrant ships:

At the bottom level, and the category to which I link ancestors' profiles, is the category for the sailing. For example SS Polynesian, sailed April 20, 1882.

 In either case, I am sure this can be tweaked to allow some existing categories to remain; although it does hinder a swift implementation since all profiles will have to be moved manually:


Steve, can I clarify what you are suggesting?

1. If there is an existing "Sailed date" category (containing profiles), it be retained as a parent of the new "Arrived date" landing category, (which now contains the profiles)?

2. Instead of moving the profiles manually, would it work if the existing "sailed" category was renamed the "arrived" category, at the same time a new parent "sailed" category was created? 

3. If the "sailed" category didn't already exist, and the sailed date was unknown, then the "arrived" landing category would nest only under "Ship (Launch Year)", not  under "YYYY's Sailings"?  

Proposal pages updated to include "sailed" category as a parent category to the landing category.
Please - keep the departure date (if known).

And what happens to the ships that arrive Fremantle, then Albany, then Adelaide, then Melbourne, then go onto Sydney before heading to New Zealand ?

IF that same boat came via South Africa, is it only listed by arrival date there ? Auugh !
Good question Jenny,

In my family history I can see journeys from Altona (Hamburg), then Bremen, sailed to New Zealand, then Van Diemen's Land then South Australia.

I don't think that the category structure is a good place to explain this type of history. I'm reaching a view that Wikitree categories must have have a close link to existing record bases of migration and births, deaths marriages.

I suggest that the way forward is to describe a journey in a Wikitree free space and attach links to appropriate categories.
+6 votes
Thanks, Margaret.  Will make Aussie life much easier.
by Kenneth Evans G2G6 Pilot (106k points)
+7 votes
I would just like to thank Margaret and our new Australian Category Team members for all their great contributions in helping to make this proposal a reality!  We know its been a problem for some time and it's great to final have something that we can implement that suits both Australian Researchers and Wikitree!
by Veronica Williams G2G6 Pilot (125k points)
Margaret is awesome!
Thank you Natalie and Veronica, it will be great to eventually get this underway, and get some consistency in the categories.
I wanted to give you or Gillian 'best answer', Veronica. Gillian has less g2g points so it went that way.
No worries Ken!
+6 votes
Excellent work Margaret and the categories team! Thank you so much. I think this is a tremendous proposal, and will facilitate the important genealogical work of categorising shipping in Australia. Its user friendly in the Australian context and hopefully minimises ongoing maintainance. It will be so good to have clarity on these categories moving forward.
by Gillian Thomas G2G6 Pilot (117k points)
I wanted to give either you or Veronica 'best answer', Gillian. How to decide?  You have less g2g points.
Nothing against Gillian's answer, but since this is a Proposal thread, I have removed the BA star so collaboration can continue on this topic.
+5 votes
Thanks Margaret, you've my support. It would also cover post-WW2 bride ships from UK & Nth America

by Geoffrey Raebel G2G2 (2.8k points)
+5 votes
Thanks for the great work preparing this.

There needs to be a sentence at the top of each voyage category giving information on that voyage eg Ship sailed from xxx on dd mmm yyyy and arrived at nnn on dd mmm yyyy.

That then helps people identify the correct voyage.  They may know only the arrival or departure year but knowing a voyage won’t be much more than 12 months means they can establish dates easier if they have this info.

My only concern is the date format.  dd mmm yyyy sorts the list of voyages by day of the month.  If the format were yyyy-mm-dd it would sort in chronological order.  I know this is not how Wikitree has done this in the past but I believe it would be a useful improvement.
by Deborah Talbot G2G6 Mach 4 (42.8k points)
Thanks for your thoughts on the date format. Definitely now is the time to consider this! I agree it would be much easier to have the categories listed chronologically so support the suggestion.

There is an alternate way to have them listed chronologically, see

I should have known there'd be a clever way!!
+4 votes

I appreciate the time and effort spent on this proposal. I have spent a lot of time reviewing the structure, as well as the proposal as it relates to Australia; however, there is one major issue with this implementation:

As Greg noted, there was a previous (although unapproved) guidance document that has since been used to populate and name all of the Ships/Shipping categories. Since this structure currently exists in a different [named] format, this proposal will cause issues in how to apply the correct naming of categories since they will be interlinked with each other in the same structure

So I believe the best way forward would to reformat this proposal to apply to all Ships/Shipping categories, not just those that are for Australia and NSW.

In the majority of cases, ships (most importantly immigrant ships) are classified and ordered by their date of arrival, not their sailing date. So the structure being proposed is in line with the research that would be happening for all relevant ships through common immigrant ship indexes (i.e., Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild, the National Library of Australia, the National Archives, the Polish Genealogical Society of America, Steamship Historical Society of America, Lloyd’s Register, Olive Tree Genealogy, University of Delaware Library Immigration & Ships Passenger Lists, etc.).

by Steve Harris G2G6 Pilot (315k points)
Hi Steve, thanks so much for this comment. We (ie members of the Australia Project) considered the whole issue of landing categories using arrival vs departure dates extensively before concluding that in the Australian context, using the arrival date was the only really practical option. I hadn't been aware that date of arrival was widely used for other immigrant databases as well, but if so, it absolutely makes sense to broaden the proposal to cover other geographical areas and have that consistency.
Thank you Steve H for your comment. Australian migration records are recorded by date of arrival. Considering the long time it took to sail to Australia in the 1800's I had thought this issue of ship category was a particularly Australian problem. I feel a bit surprised to hear that the date of arrival was common practice in other countries. Steve T.
Thanks Steve, as suggested, I've edited the proposal to apply to ships and voyage categories globally, at least I think that is what you meant? It would be prefereable to have that consistency, especially if arrival date is used in many global databases.
If you are working from the other side as you are when a sibling of an ancester emigrated then the local  documentation is likely to be for departure.i.e when someone was taken off the prison hulk to be transported to Australia , set off on a Mormon ship from Liverpool  to America,  was paid for by their parish  to go to New Foundland or Canada .
I specifically asked at the National Archives when I was in the UK earlier this year (in particular about Australian shipping departures eg Assisted and Bounty Immigrant records) in anticipation of the shipping categories being based on departure date. I was advised that any records they have are very patchy, with the possible exception of some Convict records. Maybe the librarian wasn't very competent but she and I were searching for quite a while. Or maybe the records are at County Record Offices??? I didn't ask there.

To be honest, without well indexed departure date records, we would have to manually calculate the departure date for each voyage, often by counting back through the calendar the number of days or months of the voyage (if we can find it), in order to create the category. It's an intimidating prospect. And it would be a nightmare to maintain.

Can I recommend the NSW Shipping records as one place to look for people who may have emigrated to the Colony of New South Wales including convicts? They are online, free, comprehensive, the index is great, and many records are fully digitized. They often include the names of the parents, age and the person's native place. Also Trove (which includes a newspaper archive) - also free and digitized and easy to search.

Thank you all for the comments and responses. With this change, I am 100% FOR this proposal.

Helen, this is partially true. Most of the immigrant ship databases (as noted above) are sorted and listed by the arrival date to the new place - but include many of the sailing dates when known. So with Greg's comment earlier (and my follow up), this should be no issue if implemented.

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