Australian data can reflect on British questions, about the quality of immigrant labour, and the opportunities gained by migrating, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Three case studies are presented. The first uses quantitative methods and convict transportation records to argue that Ireland suffered a “brain drain” when Britain industrialized, siphoning off the cream of its workers to England and some, eventually, to Australia. Drawing on an entirely different type of data, the second study reaches strikingly similar positive conclusions about the qualities of Australia's early assisted immigrants: three splendidly visible immigrants stand for the tens of thousands of people who sailed out of urban and rural Britain to the distant colonies. A no less optimistic view of Australia's immigrants half a century later is demonstrated in the third case study on female domestic servants. Often referred to as the submerged stratum of the workforce, the most oppressed and the least skilled, the label “domestic servant” obscured a wide range of internal distinctions of rank and experience, and too often simply homogenized them into a sump of “surplus women”. This study helps to rescue the immigrant women from this fate and invests them with individuality and volition, offering the vision of the intercontinentally peripatetic domestic, piloting her way about the globe, taking advantage of colonial labour shortages to maximize her mobility and her family strategies. Best of all, these migrants emerge as individuals out of the mass, faces with names, people with agenda.