Canton Ticino (TI)

Ticino Migration to Australia and New Zealand

Contents -

The movement away from home
Travelling out
Long Term Results
Passenger Lists and other resources
A list of Ticinesi names in Australia and New Zealand
Bibliography on the Ticinesi (English and Italian)

The Movement Away From Home -

AUSTRALIA - The first two Ticinesi migrants (in 1851) paid their own way to Australia. Two more left in 1852 and it was perhaps the successful return of two of them in 1854 which caused the general exodus of 1855 when1073 arrived in Australia. A few of their Italian cousins who had lived in Ticino for many years were granted loans to leave and some of their relatives even joined them direct from Italy. So, the overall migration lasted for almost 100 years.

The Ticinesi who migrated to Australia were, mostly, from the south west of Canton TICINO (or TESSIN in German) in the villages in dead-end valleys.

From the two western regions - Valle Maggia and Locarno; and Lugano and Mendrisio in the south but in the 1851-1856 period 1661 of them emigrated to Australia. Records show that only 48 of these were Ticinesi women being only 1.8% of the total of 2660 migrants.

Amongst the migrants the most common given names were Giuseppi (254), Pietro (208), then Giovanni (172), Giacomo (135), Antonio (97), Carlo (88) and Battista (71).

NEW ZEALAND - Gentilli makes a little comment on the migration in, "Of special interest is the small flow of Ticinesi to the New Zealand gold fields. Very few were mentioned in Swiss records or in letters from Australia (CHEDA 1976), a few founded names families in New Zealand.  At least two enterprising ones organized groups to NZ together."

Travelling Out - In 1852-3 the ships to Australia were mostly British, and in 1854-55 German, Belgian and French ships leaving Europe commonly traveled via the Canary Islands and south (parallel to the Brazilian coast) swinging south east with the Roaring Forties trade winds passing some 500km south of Cape Town. From then on it was, very often, a fast and stormy passage across the Southern Ocean until they were south of Albany when sailing ships turned north towards their destinations of Adelaide, Geelong, Port Phillip (Melbourne) and Tasmania or Sydney.

From the early 1860s a block of farming land could be obtained in Victoria so easily that to the Ticinesi migrants it seemed like a dream.

By far the greatest number of Ticinesi disembarked in Port Phillip Bay (or at Williamstown a short distance across the bay) and, after obtaining provisions, made for the excitement and hardships of the Victorian gold fields around Bendigo and Ballarat 160km to the north west.

The Ticinesi were deeply religious and of the Victorian Ticinesi who married they tended to marry Irish or English Catholic girls who, as English-speakers, taught their husbands English and named their children according to their Swiss heritage but mothers brought them up to their standards and records show that the Ticinesi contributed a large number of well brought up children to Australia.

However, young deaths due to disease and a fair proportion of unmarried Ticinesi men kept the next generation well below replacement level.

A spate of naturalizations (nearly half of the total) occurred in the 1890s for the young men of the 1850s were now near to retirement and the British citizenship was a prerequisite for the pension. The Swiss Government had always accepted dual citizenship so with retirement and old age poverty was a real concern. So much so that the benevolent Swiss Society of Victoria and the more-affluent and culturally inclined Swiss Club of Melbourne were formed.

Long Term Results - A small number of Ticinesi migrants prospered but, ultimately, most just survived (and some families were not even able to pay back the loans to their Swiss community back home). Of the many who became publicans they still had credit problems due to their penchant for extending credit to family and friends.

The Ticinesi at home received some very unfavorable reports from the migrants in Australia. After 1856 those who left Ticino for Australia were more likely to join a relative established as a farmer, or seek a paid job in the mining industry, with the hope to be promoted to underground mining.

The first generation of immigrants lacked the means, and perhaps the experience and even the farsightedness, needed to encourage children to improve their social standing as soon as possible.

Passenger Lists and Other Resources -

Visit Victorian Government's Record Centres at

LONDON and LIVERPOOL lists are available, generally, in the repository in the port of arrival (e.g. the Public Records Office City Office in Melbourne, Australia).

Five Useful Centres - ships' Passenger Lists are available in the Victorian PRO for ships arriving in Melbourne (where by far the greatest majority of Ticinesi landed in Australia).  One index list is for "Assisted" and one for "Unassisted" migrants into Australia. Unless you know which group your ancestor was in you will have to search both card indexes but most migrants appear to have been unassisted passengers for many Ticinesi had obtained local funding to make the trip. To see these indexes (and associated Passenger Lists on microfilm) visit the PRO, City Search Room, Level 2, Casselden Place, 2 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, 3000 (Phone 03 9285 7999).  It is on the corner of Spring Street and inside the Commonwealth Public Service building - in there look for the Melbourne Archive Centre (which also holds the Australian National Archives). If you are outside the Melbourne metropolitan area use Freecall 1800 657 452.

There is the Laverton Repository at 57 Cherry Tree Lane, Laverton North, 3026, 03 93693244. It is some 15km southwest of Melbourne city and holds the land/rates documentation from gold mining towns where most of the Ticinesi lived 1850+.

The Administration and Probate office is on the 1st Floor, 417 Little Bourke St, Melbourne, 3000 on Phone 03 9603 7222. Probate documents are held at the Laverton Repository and will be couriered into the city PRO, City Search Room, for you.

Births, Deaths and Marriages are at 295 Queen Street, Melbourne, 3000, on 03 9603 5800

The Victorian (La Trobe) State Library is at 328 Swanston Street which holds photos and drawings plus other details of SOME early migrant ships. Once there ask about seeing "The Argus" newspaper microfiche (in the buildings in Russell Street behind the library) where the shipping information gives lists of stores on board ships arriving - they are most interesting!

The Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies is situated at 6 Lavelle St, Blackburn, 3130 on Phone 03 9877 3789. The Genealogical Society of Victoria is at 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne, 3000, on Phone 03 9663 7033.

There is also the Italian Historical Society (which focuses on Italian-born migrants and descendants rather than people of Swiss-Italian origin) based at the Italian Resource Centre, 185 Faraday Street, Carlton, 3053 on Phone 03 9349 1144

A list of Ticinesi names in Australia and New Zealand - There is a wealth of information in the way of graphs and maps in The Settlement of Swiss Ticino Immigrants in Australia, (1988) by the late Doctor Joseph GENTILLI. This superb 134-page text is available from the School of Earth and Geographical Sciences, University of Western Australia, Entrance 1, Fairway, Crawley, Western Australia, 6009.

Cost AUST$16.50 (inc gst) plus $7.00 postage and handling within Australia (cheques made out to the University of Western Australia). For overseas researchers the cost would be AUST$16.50 (inc gst) plus postage and handling of $22.75 for airmail or alternatively $14.50 for surface mail. Payment (made out to the University of Western Australia) by Bank Draft ONLY (in Australian dollars). Obtain advice from Elaine Waters

Passenger Lists record some 45 Ticinesi returning home for good, others to marry and then return to Australia. Some, who returned in the 1880s, took small parties of young Ticinesi relatives and acquaintances back to Australia with them - for the attraction of cheap land was now more appealing than the lure of gold.

Migration to Australia practically ceased after 1876 but emigration to California continued.

Bibliography on the Ticinesi (Italian and English) - The book L'emigrazione Ticinesi in Australia (1976) by Giorgio CHEDA was published by Dado in Locarno with a second edition in 1979. There appears to be little real information useful to genealogists in this text and we understand that no English version has been published.

Two other references enthusiasts could look into are:- "The Ticinesi in Australia" by A. Pagliaro in Italians in Australia, Conference Proceedings, Vaccari Foundation, Melbourne, 1985 (2nd edition 1987) a copy of which is probably held by the La Trobe Library, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne; and,

The Caligari Papers which are held by the Genealogical Society of Victoria at 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne, VIC, 3000 on (03) 9663 7033.

Much of the credit for the information on these pages goes to Doctor Joseph Gentilli, the publication GEOWEST and the Department of Geography at the University of Western Australia under Professor John Dodson and is most gratefully acknowledged.

A.John Parker () is offering look-ups and further advice by email.

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