Find your ancestors in Travel & Migration

The Travel & Migration section of findmypast contains, among other records, the exclusive Passenger Lists, which cover all ships leaving the UK from 1890-1960. Find your ancestors emigrating, or travelling for work or pleasure.

What do Passenger Lists look like?

There is no single, standard format. Passenger lists vary in size and in length, they changed over time, and different shipping lines had their own pre-printed forms. Some are typed, others are handwritten; some record only a minimum of detail about the passengers, others include a wealth of information down to exact address and ultimate destination overseas.

What type of voyages are included in the Passenger Lists?

BT27 passenger lists include long-haul voyages to destinations outside Britain and Europe. Destinations which feature strongly include

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • India
  • New Zealand
  • South Africa

All continents are covered and you can find passengers on ships sailing to all parts of Asia, the Caribbean, South America and West Africa.

These voyages often called en route at additional ports, including those in Europe, and any passengers disembarking at these stops are included.

Voyages from all British (English, Welsh and Scottish) ports, and from all Irish ports before partition in 1921 and all Northern Irish ports after partition, are covered in the passenger lists.

Who was travelling on the Passenger Lists?

Firstly, a large proportion of the passengers are of course British emigrants.

Prior to WW1, there was mass migration: this was before the modern era of immigration control and the arrival of air travel, so of necessity travel was by boat. An estimated 125,000 British people emigrated to USA, 50,000 to Canada and 25,000 to Australia every year between 1890 and 1914.

After WW1, emigration continued but became increasingly controlled and often had a changed emphasis: for instance, Australia became a more and more popular destination.

However, it is a mistake to think of these records as covering just British emigrants. In addition, many European trans-migrants are included.

These people, many of whom were economic migrants, began their journeys in continental Europe and came to Britain to catch a cheaper sailing to their final destination such as USA.

Over and above the emigrants, there were also numerous business travellers (who may appear many times in BT27, once for each journey, if they made regular trips to and from, say, USA), civil servants and diplomats travelling on official government business, and leisure travellers visiting family overseas or simply embarking on pleasure cruises.