It was envisaged that South Australia would be a self-supporting 'province'. Founded as an experiment in 'systematic colonisation' based on a plan devised by Edward Gibbon Wakefield and Robert Gouger, land in the colony was sold rather than given away and the money raised used to funded free immigration for 'worthy' labourers and their families.
The first land purchasers were either middle class families seeking religious freedom or simply better opportunities, or absentee speculators who quickly drove up land values.
The majority of those who came to South Australia in the 19th century were economic migrants - a situation which continued through the 20th century.
A small number were German and Polish religious and intellectual refugees from Prussia.
The most comprehensive 19th century shipping lists were published in newspapers.
These can be searched for free on the Trove website of digitised historic Australian newspapers, including the major South Australian newspapers of the time.
Newspapers such as the South Australian Register, Adelaide Times and South Australian Advertiser contain the most detailed shipping lists.
A simple keyword search such as 'shipping arrivals [surname]' is a good place to begin.
You can also add a year range to the search, e.g. 'shipping arrivals marshall 1850-1860'
It is helpful to begin with a rough idea of when your ancestor arrived.
It can be very difficult to find conclusive shipping arrival information. Lists may lack exact details, or quite often there are no lists at all.
State Library staff can suggest other possible sources. The Library has a good collection of ships' diaries written on the voyage, and has access to records such as crew desertion lists and other printed and online sources which may help pinpoint your ancestor's arrival.
Remember that photography did not begin until the 1850s but before this date a painting or drawing of the ship may exist.
You can search in the catalogue for photographs of the ship your family arrived in by the name of the ship. The best approach is to do a keyword search. For example, for images of the HMS Buffalo type: 'buffalo ship'.
It is estimated that only between 10 and 15% of 19th century South Australian shipping lists have survived.
Passengers in History is a database compiled by the South Australian Maritime Museum and probably the most comprehensive record for arrivals in SA. It contains 328,000 names for the years 1836-1964 and includes references from Log of Logs.
Original copies of official lists up to 1940 are held at State Records of South Australia and can be viewed online at: State Records of South Australia, passenger lists 1845-1940
(Copies of these, with name indexes for the period 1845-1886 can be viewed by visiting the State Library :Official Passenger Lists mainly of immigrants arriving in South Australia under United Kingdom Assisted Passenger Schemes 1845-1886)
The Bound for South Australia database 1836-1851 compiled by the late Diane Cummings contains information from a wide number of primary and secondary sources.
The Family History SA website contains links to a number of online shipping indexes.
Australian shipping arrivals for 1897-1966 can be searched on the National Archives of Australia website.
(For later arrivals up to 1989 contact National Archives of Australia (SA Office) or visit them in person at the State Library, Tuesday-Friday, 10-5.)
From the 1850s onwards, many immigrants for South Australia arrived via Melbourne, then journeyed to Adelaide by coastal vessels.
The Public Record Office of Victoria has Melbourne passenger lists searchable online.
See also the page: Travel between Australian colonies (Horner and Hodge indexes).