Adding Roebuck Society volumes

Over the past year, we have been adding a TON of new content to ShipIndex. This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s looked at the blog – pretty much every entry has been just a listing of all the new content we’ve added since the last blog post about new content! Most of that has come from indexes to books, but some has been from online databases and websites.

Recently, we’ve started adding content from a special set of publications. If you’re interested in early Australian history, or Pacific exploration, these will be of particular interest. But they are challenging to search, and challenging to process and add to the ShipIndex database.

They’re published by the Roebuck Society, an Australia-based organization that has published many records about the arrival and departure of ships through Australia’s history. The books themselves are an amalgamation of entries from numerous sources. The content looks like this:

Title page from one of the Roebuck volumes.

A content page from the same Roebuck volume.

It’s tough reading! There’s a lot of information crammed on each of these pages. Luckily, there’s an index to all this madness, but it’s often not much easier to read. Consider this example of an index from the book above:

sample index page from a Roebuck volume

An index page from the above volume.


Processing these indexes has been very hard work, and has taken a lot of time and money to complete. Because of the complexity of the indexes and the associated text, understanding these indexes and how to use the information in them takes some work. If a ship of interest to you is mentioned in a Roebuck book, then your best bet is to track down the book itself. Unlike other titles, it just doesn’t make sense to ask for individual pages, based on the index citations.

Remember that you can almost always get almost any book through interlibrary loan from your local public library. It will take them some time, and it will cost them (and possibly you) some money – so be patient and don’t forget to thank them, and support them financially – but in most cases, other libraries will loan these books to your local library, and they’ll loan it to you.

Once you have the book in hand, find the ship on the index page shown, and then see where and how often the ship is mentioned within the body of the text. The entry in the text will give a summary of the ship’s movements, and provides information about the sources (usually newspapers) from which the data is drawn. Many ships are mentioned dozens and dozens of times. Many entries contain data from multiple sources, so – especially for tonnage – many data points may appear for each ship in the index. The printed index notes sources for some of this data, but we have not preserved those notations here.

The Roebuck society has published over sixty volumes, but not all of them relate to vessel information. We have identified about a dozen relevant volumes to add. Some have already been added, and others will soon join the database.

Here’s a list of what’s been added to the database, and what’s in process. Live, in the database, as of publication of this blog post:

In processing, but headed for the database:

  • Broxam, Graeme, and Ian Nicholson. Shipping Arrivals and Departures: Sydney. Vol III: 1841-1844 and Gazetteer.
  • Broxam, Graeme. Shipping Arrivals and Departures: Tasmania. Vol III: 1843-1850.
  • Cumpston, J.S. Shipping Arrivals and Departures: Sydney. Vol I: 1788-1825.
  • Jones, A.G.E. Ships Employed in the South Seas Trade: Vol I.
  • Jones, A.G.E. Ships Employed in the South Seas Trade: Vol II.
  • Nicholson, Ian. Shipping Arrivals and Departures: Sydney. Vol II: 1826-1840.
  • Sexton, R. T. Shipping Arrivals and Departures: South Australia, 1627-1850.
  • Syme, Marten A. Shipping Arrivals and Departures: Victorian Ports. Vol. III: 1856-1860.


If you have questions, or suggestions on additional Roebuck volumes to add, or other titles to add, or thoughts on how best to use Roebuck volumes, please don’t hesitate to share it here, or send to comments (at) shipindex dot org.

Happy searching!

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