Passenger Lists and Other Records

Available records for research on emigrants:

The National Archives (Public Record Office "PRO") in Kew, England holds records on emigration particularly to Canada and the United States:

No official lists of passengers exist in any local repositories in the UK. However the Board of Trade passenger lists of vessels from 1890 to 1960 contain the names of the passengers departing to and as well as from English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish ports with final destinations outside Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. They are sorted by the departure port. Many of the lists prior to 1890 were destroyed in 1900. Only few lists were saved and they are included in this collection.

To search for emigrants prior to 1890 the following records will be of interest:

The former Colonial Office’s original records for the Canadian territories include information on land grants and applications as well as entry books of settlers roughly from 1662 to 1872. It also holds a collection of correspondence with settlers and prospective settlers from 1817 through 1851. Additionally, covering the period of 1816 through 1880 there are several registers on emigration and emigrants for the United States.

Other important sources include the records of the Treasury: They include written material on colonial business and often include references to individuals in the colonies or those planning to emigrate.

The Foreign Office issued passport registered from 1795 – 1898. The lists are in chronological order. The years 1851-1862 and 1874-1898 have been indexed.

Please note that no permission, passports or application forms were necessary in order to emigrate from any British or Irish port during the 19th century. Only when an emigrant obtained financial assistance for paying for the voyage records of these measures may still exist. They would be held at the National Archives or possible in various Commonwealth archives.

Research possibilities:

Here are some addresses and contact information of archives and website which hold respectively display documents and record relating to emigration and immigration respectively:

  • The National Archives (PRO)
    Ruskin Avenue,
    Kew, Richmond,
    Surrey TW9 4DU
    United Kingdom
    Tel: +41-020 8392 5200
    Fax: +41-020 8878 8905

    Please visit their online catalogue for a complete listing of the archives holdings.

  • The FamilyRecords.gov.uk consortium
    This website is run by the National Archives and provides guidance for family historians to relevant sites to help with their research:

  • Ancestry.co.uk
    On the online-platform of Ancestry several historic documents particularly pertaining to the early immigration can be found. These include British Slave Registers, many original lists of emigrants from England and Scotland in the 1600s and 1700s, settlers in the West Indies, UK census records as of 1801, to mention a few.

  • Find My Past
    This website was launched originally by the National Archives with millions of records online. It contains among other records the UK passenger departure lists from 1890 to 1960.

Canadian immigration records:
United States immigration records:
Australian & New Zealand immigration records:

Many of the emigrants to New Zealand first arrived in Australia and then sailed on from there. So for immigrants’ records in New Zealand also consult Australian arrival records. The official passenger arrival records of Australia and New Zealand are generally to be found in the appropriate archives in the receiving country, i.e. the National Archives in New Zealand, State Archives in Australia prior to 1901, afterwards in the National Archives.

South African immigration records:

The original records of the first British settlers in 1820 are located at:

  • Public Archives of the Cape Province
    Cape Town
    Republic of South Africa
    (Reference Vol. CO 6137 and CO 6138).

Others records of sailing for Natal around 1850 are documented in

  • Natal Archives
    Republic of South Africa

Other links:

  • Information on passenger lists, fleet lists and ship arrivals can be found at theshiplist.com

  • The Immigrant Transcribers Guild (USA) has transcribed a number of British ships' passenger lists. These include over 1,700 for ships departing from Liverpool, 1772-1929, held at the National Archives Records Administration, Washington D.C.

  • There is also a database of names of people who passed through Castle Garden and Ellis Island that is online and searchable.

  • Another great source with lots of original documents pertaining to emigration from Liverpool can be found here:

    Maritime Archives & Library
    Merseyside Maritime Museum
    Albert Dock
    L3 4AQ
    United Kingdom

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