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Archives in Brief 121 - Russian migration and settlement in NSW

This Archives in Brief (AIB) provides an overview of record series which may be useful in tracing Russian settlement in New South Wales. Archives Investigator may help identify other records in our collection of use in researching the Russian presence in our State.

Searching for records relating to individuals

Records in our collection are generally kept in the original order in which they were created by the responsible government agency. It is useful to consider what involvement an individual may have had with a particular government agency before embarking on a search for information about the individual.
Where records have been indexed by persons’ names, the index is noted in this Archives In Brief.

Convict records

State Records holds various records of arrival, tickets of leave, pardons and certificates of freedom for convicts, together with related records which document the convict experience.
Archives in Brief 2Archives in Brief 34 and Archives in Brief 100 (PDF) are useful guides to convict research.


Constantin Milcow, born in Moscow in 1783, was convicted at the Old Bailey, London, on 10 May 1815 for stealing seventeen pounds weight of bacon, value 11s. He received a sentence of transportation for seven years. He arrived in Sydney per the transport Atlas III on 22 July 1816. In 1822 he was in the service of Archibald Bell and in 1825 he was free and employed by Mr. McArthur of Argyle.
For a comprehensive listing of convict records held by State Records, researchers should consult the Guide to Convicts and Convict Administration held in the reading room and also available for purchase.

Early Russian visitors to New South Wales

A number of Russian Ships visited Sydney in the first quarter of the 19th century. A Russian naturalist, Mr Stein and a Russian painter, Mr Karneyeff, attached to an expedition of two Russian naval vessels, made a tour of the Blue Mountains with Allan Cunningham in March 1820.
See the comprehensive Index to Colonial Secretary Papers, 1788–1825 for further references.

Passenger and crew records

Passenger and crew records can be found in the series Passengers arriving (or Shipping lists or Passenger lists), 1855–1922, NRS 13278.
These records are described in more detail in Archives in Brief 1.


Mrs Jakow and two Misses Jakow, saloon passengers, and Mr Bashikof, steerage, Russians, arrived in Sydney on board the ship Victoria on 7 May 1909.
NRS 13278, [X258], Reel 2045
Emelian Kordukoff, aged 33, a labourer, Vsevolod Sudakoff, aged 38, an engineer, and Mary Sudakoff, aged 27, a married woman, Russians, arrived in Sydney on the ship Carignano on 2 March 1922.
NRS 13278, [X462], Reel 2120
Joseph Blosenkoff, of Russia, aged 56, sailmaker, is listed as a crew member of the ship Carnatic arriving Sydney 29 November 1881.
NRS 13278, [X154], Reel 448
Vacily Smirnoff, AB seaman, of Russia, aged 25 is listed as a crew member for the ship Elisa Lihn arriving Sydney 8 September 1914.
NRS 13278, [X391], Reel 2081
Crew reported as deserters from their vessels can be found in the series NRS 10958 Police Gazettes. See Archives in Brief 20 and Archives in Brief 21.


William Cronen, aged 24, a Russian, appears on a list of seamen deserters from the British ship Thyatira in a notice dated 26 June 1872 in the New South Wales Police Gazette.
NRS 10958, [1/3207], Reel 3133
Some Russian-born mariners obtained certificates of competency as masters, mates or engineers issued from the NSW Navigation Department.


John Olije, born in Russia 18 June 1841 qualified as First Mate, Foreign-going ship, on 24 October 1876 and as Master, Foreign-going ship, on 15 January 1878.
NRS 10783, Reel 3718, COD 196
See Archives in Brief 21 for details of this register, and other series relating to mariners.

Post 1922 immigration records

The National Archives of Australia (NAA) hold post 1922 immigration records. Contact: telephone 1300 886 881.


Naturalization was the means by which persons who were not British subjects gained the privileges and rights of citizenship.
A person who was not a British subject and wished to vote or own land had to be naturalized.
Naturalization records are an important source as they can provide both the date of arrival and the name of the ship. Short Guide No. 9 and Archives in Brief 3 and Archives in Brief 103 (PDF) provide information about records relating to naturalization.


Ernest Krantz of Broken Hill, native of St. Petersburg, Russia, aged 24, a grocer who states he arrived in New South Wales in 1892 per ship Hohenzollern, was naturalized on 8 July 1901.
NRS 1040, [4/1214], Reel 139
Iwan de Casarowitsch, native of Odessa, Russian Empire, aged 28, states he arrived in New South Wales in 1855 per ship Marr and resides at 47 Pitt Street, Sydney. He was naturalized on 5 January 1857.
NRS 1040, [4/1200], Reel 129

Index to 1834 to 1903 naturalization records

An Index to people naturalized between 1834 and 1903 (including those receiving Letters of Denization) is available on the State Records website.

Post 1903 naturalization records

The National Archives of Australia holds post 1903 naturalisation records and information on alien registration in NSW. Contact: telephone: 1300 886 881.

Colonial Secretary’s records

The records of the Colonial Secretary are an important source as most contacts and/or correspondence between individuals and the Government, such as the applications from those wanting to become naturalized, went through the Colonial Secretary’s Office.
The main record series are described in the Guide to the Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence, available in the reading room and on our website. Archives in Brief 64, Archives in Brief 65, and Archives in Brief 104 provide summary information.

Crimean War

The outbreak of hostilities between Britain and Russia in the Crimea in 1854 brought a concern for the security of the Colony of New South Wales against a possible Russian invasion. The records of the Colonial Secretary show passing references in correspondence.
One result of this concern was the strengthening of the fortifications later known as Fort Denison. For further research of this topic, Archives in Brief 64, Archives in Brief 65 and Archives in Brief 104 may prove useful.

Nicholas Miklouho–Maclay (1846–1888)

Baron Nicholas de Miklouho-Maclay, was an ethnologist, anthropologist and biologist born in Russia who arrived in Sydney on the ship Somerset from Hong Kong on 18 July 1878. On 9 June 1879 he was appointed Trustee of land set apart for a Zoological Station at Watson’s Bay, having been instrumental in bringing the idea to the notice of government. He served as a Trustee of the establishment until 1886. He married Margaret-Emma, daughter of the New South Wales Premier, John Robertson, in 1884.
References to Baron Maclay’s involvement with the Zoological Station at Watson’s Bay may be found in the records of the Colonial Secretary (see Archives in Brief 64, Archives in Brief 65 and Archives in Brief 104 for assistance in using these records).

Population records

The published report of the Census of the Colony of NSW taken in 1891 shows total numbers of natives of Russia as 1,176 of whom 987 were male and 189 female (the total number of Russian-born in New South Wales in the previous census of 1881 was 322).
Collectors’ books for the 1891 and 1901 census, listing householders’ names, are available. See Short Guides No. 7 and Short Guide No. 12 for more information.

Business records

Registers of firms under the Registration of Firms Act of 1902, 1903–22 NRS 12961, [2/8526–53]

The registers record the name of the firm; nature of the business; packet number of papers; place of business; statement number; date of registration; and details of persons carrying on the business.
The Registers of firms are being indexed and the index is available on our website.


Karnofsky Brothers (Israel and Meyer Karnofsky), Commonwealth Stores, Barrengarry. Israel Karnofsky’s naturalization gives his native place as Russia.
NRS 12961, [2/8535 p.389]

Company records

The records of companies incorporated between 1875 and 1969, are arranged by a company number, which can be found in the Australian Securities Commission’s Dead Companies Index Pre-1969, available in the reading room.
More information on these records can be found in Archives Investigator, NRS 12951.
Other relevant records are listed in Archives Investigator under the agency title Corporate Affairs Commission.
Commercial directories such as Sands may also provide details of business names and addresses.

Insolvency and bankruptcy records

Insolvency and bankruptcy records include information about businesses and usually include a list of assets. See Archives in Brief 58.
Insolvency records 1842–1887 and Bankruptcy files 1888–1928 are indexed on our website.

Probate packets and records of death duties

Probate packets

The Supreme Court issues probate documents to certify that a will is valid, and authorising the executor named in the will to administer the estate.
Consult the Probate Index to locate the wills of those who died testate. Microfiche copies are available in the reading room. A partial listing of probate packets can be found in Archives Investigator.
We are progressively adding entries to Archives Investigator for those Probate Packets which have been transferred to State Records.
See Archives In Brief 84 for further information.

Deceased estate and Intestate records

Under the Stamp Duties Act 1880 and subsequent legislation no probate (wills) or letters of administration could be granted until a duty was paid or security given. The partial Index to Deceased Estates files is on our website.  
The Act also extended to the estate of people who died intestate (without a will), including those handled by the Supreme Court Curator of Intestate Estates. The Index to Intestate Estate Case Papers is on our website. Death duties were abolished in 1981.
See Archives in Brief 29 for more information.

Other sources

Birth, Deaths and Marriages

See the NSW Registry Births, Deaths and Marriages website .

Coroners’ records

Registers of coronial enquiries can establish basic details such as cause of death, age and birthplace.
Detailed reports have not survived for the years 1828 to 1916. See Archives in Brief 4.


The Register of Coroners Inquests for the year 1929 shows that on 12 August 1929 an enquiry was held into the death in Pyrmont of Frederick Oscar Widen aged 34, born in Russia. The enquiry recorded that he died from the effects of injuries but that no evidence had been found to determine how he had received them.
NRS 343, Reel 2767

Court records

The records from the various court jurisdictions can be found in Archives Investigator under the agencies Courts of Petty Sessions, Clerk of the Peace and Supreme Court.

Divorce Records

See Archives in Brief 77 and Index to Divorce Case Papers, 1873–1930 on our website. New entries are being progressively added to this index.

We are progressively adding entries to Archives Investigator for those Divorce and matrimonial cause case papers which have been transferred to State Records.

Prison records

See Archives Investigator under the name of the gaol for details.
The Index to gaol photographs, which is being regularly updated, is on our website. The index can be searched by birthplace, for example ‘Russia’.


The Bathurst Gaol photograph description sheet for John Burtovich native of Russia, born 15 September 1892 records that he was convicted at Broken Hill Police Court on 3 September 1917 for being a member of an unlawful association and sentenced to 6 months hard labour. His description notes that he arrived in New South Wales per the ship Eliza in 1915 and was a labourer by trade.
NRS 1998, [3/5966], Reel 5087

Railway Passes

NRS 5283, Registers of Free Railway Passes, 1880–92, [4/4678–85] include information on nationality.
They have been indexed by Pastkeys Fiche 6118–6126 and on CD (see the reading room computers).


Joseph Pacholkoff, aged 39, a labourer, single, born in Russia received a pass on 5 August 1881 to travel to Dubbo. The register indicates that he arrived from New Zealand and had been one day in the Colony of New South Wales.
NRS 5283, [4/4678]

Professions and Occupations

Short Guide No. 10 lists a selection or records relating to particular professions and occupations.


Records relating to the alienation of land from the Crown may be found in Archives Investigator. For further information see Archives in Brief 23, Archives in Brief 93, Archives in Brief 94 and Archives in Brief 108 and Short Guide No. 8.
Records relating to land ownership (titles and deeds) and the transfer of land between individuals are available from:

Land and Property Management Authority of NSW
1 Prince Albert Road
Queen’s Square
Sydney NSW 2000

School records

NRS 3829 School files, c.1876 to 1979, include administrative documents relating to government schools and may be useful for areas where Russians resided. See Archives in Brief 26 and the Index to Schools and related records, 1876-1979 available on our website.
In addition, there are related records such as admission rolls, for some schools.
A list of these records, arranged alphabetically by the name of the school, is available in our reading room and as part of the online Index to schools and related records, 1876-1979.

Theatres and Public Halls

Files relating to licences for theatres and public halls, c.1895–1976
NRS 15318
Search Archives Investigator by name of theatre, club or hall.


Russian Social Club, Sydney 1940–76, NRS 15318, [17/3620.1]

Police Gazettes

NRS 10958, Police Gazettes, 1862–1982, may contain entries and possibly photographs of Russian people. See Archives Investigator for a description of the Gazettes.
The years 1862–99 are copied onto Reels 3129–3143 and 1900–1930 are on reels 3594–3606 in the reading room.


Charles Arount, native place Russia, a chef by trade, discharged from Maitland Gaol 9 January 1922 on a return of prisoners discharged.
NRS 10958, [1/3257 p.51], Reel 3601

Seminar papers

On 31 May 2010 State Records and the Royal Australian Historical Society co-hosted a seminar exploring the history Russian migration and settlement from colonial times to the present through a range of record sources. The seminar was presented as part of Information Awareness Month, an annual event held each May, which aims to increase public awareness of the breadth of the information industry.

State Records has published a selection of the papers from the seminar which we will be progressively adding to this page: