News & How-To
Formerly branded as GlobalGazette.ca
Articles, press releases,and how-to information for everyone interested in genealogy and history
Subscribe to our free newsletter
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
ENGLISH & WELSH ROOTS - Getting From Here to There
Article posted March 17, 1999
By: Fawne Stratford-Devai Biography & Archived Articles
When tracing the origins of a person from the United Kingdom you must first exhaust all information and sources that are available in the country they emigrated to if you are to locate just where in the British Isles they came from.
You are not ready to begin your research in England until you have established the paper trail back to the first immigrant using the sources in the country they emigrated to. It is always helpful if you can determine the immigrant's approximate birth-date, their religion, occupation, marriage date (was it here or there?), and the dates of birth of any children born in Britain before migration.
Many of our ancestors will have sailed from England on a ship. Passenger lists are the types of records we pray exist for our ancestor. Unfortunately no regular, comprehensive series of passenger lists for ships leaving England before the early 1800s exist. There are a few early lists scattered here and there but no consistent formal records were required to be kept. It is important to note that duplicate passenger lists deposited at English ports of departure before 1890 have been destroyed and most passenger lists do not give the place of origin in the United Kingdom - only the port of departure.
Here are a few general sources for passenger lists:
In Canada there are no comprehensive nominal lists of immigrants arriving prior to 1865. Until that year, shipping companies were not required by the government to retain their passenger manifests. Only a few lists have been found in the various collections of the National Archives of Canada. The National Archives Miscellaneous Immigration Index (a nominal card index to some of early passenger records) is now available online through inGeneas at: http://www.inGeneas.com [important note: the early passenger records database is free, however, this is also a commercial service]. The miscellaneous index relates mostly to immigrants from the British Isles to Quebec and Ontario between the years 1801 and 1849 and only cover the few lists that have turned up here and there in the National Archives.
The National Archives of Canada holds microfilm copies of the passenger manifests of ships arriving at various ports within Canada beginning in 1865. For more information on the records that do survive, visit the National Archives web site: http://www.archives.ca/www/svcs/english/ImmigrationRecords.html . Records of immigrants arriving at Canadian land and sea ports from 1 January 1936 onwards remain in the custody of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Requests for copies of landing records should be directed to : Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Public Rights Administration, 300 Slater Street, 3rd Floor, Section D, OTTAWA, Ontario, K1A 1L1
Online sources for Canada are as varied as the growing number of web pages. Many such lists are local or county based. For example:
Prince Edward Island Ships Information and databases can be found at: http://www.isn.net/~dhunter/shipindex.html
The Nova Scotia Genweb project includes a database of Cornwallis Ships to Halifax in 1749: http://www.rootsweb.com/~canns/cornwallis.html
Marj Kohli (host of the Waterloo county Genweb site and many other web pages) has compiled a number of interesting reports and lists of immigrants from Sessional papers and other sources. Marj's sessional papers site can be found at:
http://www.ist.uwaterloo.ca/~marj/genealogy/sessionalpapers.html. In addition Marj has a great site for those interested in the immigration of children and young people: http://dcs1.uwaterloo.ca/~marj/genealogy/homeadd.html .
A good starting point for provincial and county web sites is the Canada Genweb site:
http://www.rootsweb.com/~canwgw/ or Canadian Genealogy and History Links: http://www.islandnet.com/~jveinot/cghl/cghl.html . For Ontario, the Ontario Genweb pages: http://www.multiboard.com/~spettit/ongenweb/
Australian online indexes for passenger lists are growing everyday. For example: Immigration Indexes in Victoria Australia can be found on the Public Record Office - Victoria's Archives page at: http://home.vicnet.net.au/~provic/185259/5259.htm. Those researching in Australia will also know the importance of Convict lists. Lists of the First Fleet transported in 1787 from Portsmouth on 11 vessels can be found at: http://www.pcug.org.au/~pdownes/dps/1stflt.htm. A list of the Second (1790) and Third Fleets (1791) can also be found at: http://www.pcug.org.au/~pdownes/ . Cyndi's List has a page devoted to Australian and New Zealand passenger lists: http://www.CyndisList.com/austnz.htm#Ships.
The primary records for arrivals in New South Wales (NSW) up to 1922 are held by the State Records Authority of NSW (formerly known as the Archives Authority/Archives Office/State archives). Records relating to both convicts and assisted immigrants have been published in microform by the Authority and are marketed as part of the Authority's Genealogical Research Kit (GRK). The GRK has been bought by libraries, societies and other such organisations throughout Australia and other countries. The State Library of NSW (which includes the Mitchell Library) holds quite a few of the microfilms published by State Records and these are available in their Family History section.
If you are researching a convict to Australia, the first record you need to get is the Convict indent (remember, convicts were not regarded as passengers, they were simply seen as cargo - hence the record is called an indent). Indents are arranged primarily by ship and serve as really passenger lists of convicts. There is an index to all passengers arriving in NSW (1788-1842 and 1849) available on microfiche. I believe it was compiled by a Genealogical society in Victoria and is available in State Records' searchrooms and probably in other places as well. The index will give you the name of the ship the convict arrived on and the reference number of the microform. Once researchers have recorded the complete details from the indent, there are many other convict records which will give you further information.
Assisted immigrants to Australia arrived courtesy of a variety of immigration schemes between 1828 and 1896. State Records has all of these records and these have all been indexed. They are all part of the GRK. They give a great deal of personal information, some even giving the names of parents.
Immigrants who paid their own passage (unassisted passengers) can also be located in the records held by State Records - they are simply called the Shipping Lists. These were records kept by the Harbour Master. Shipping lists are only indexed by passenger's name up to 1855 (records of unassisted arrivals seem to be kept regularly beginning in 1826). After that, only the names of the ships are indexed.They give very few details, often only the passenger's name.
It is important to note with many shipping records (standard passenger lists) in Australia and other places that some lists only include a count of the number of steerage passengers. For this reason, the names you are seeking may not have been recorded on the arrival record.
The State Records website can be found at: http://www.records.nsw.gov.au. They offer a variety of research services, including a convict research service and similar services if you are unable to consult the records in person.
United States of America
American records: Until January 1, 1820, the U.S. Federal Government did not require require captains or masters of vessels to present a passenger list to U.S. officials. Thus, as a general rule, The National Archives and Records Administration (US National Archives [NARA]) does not have passenger lists of vessels arriving before January 1, 1820. There are, however, two exceptions to this general rule: arrivals at New Orleans, Louisiana, 1813-1819 and arrivals at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1800-1819 - both have been reproduced on microfilm for researchers. For more information visit the immigration records website of NARA: http://www.nara.gov/genealogy/immigration/immigrat.html.
Therefore, the earliest regular series of passenger lists to North America start in 1820 (with a few lists from 1798) and are available through the US National Archives at Washington. They are arranged by port of entry and do not usually give the emigrants place of origin. In the 20th century, over 17 million immigrant Americans passed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1952. It is believed that at least 40 % of living US nationals can trace their ancestry back to these stalwarts. The Immigrant Arrival Records, are currently held on microfilm at the US National Archives and Records Administration, are being digitised and entered into an electronic database that will be made available at the American Family Immigration Centre to be located on Ellis Island. This $15 million project is expected to be completed in late 2000. For a nominal fee, visitors will be able to obtain a printout of their ancestors' data and a scanned reproduction of the original ship's manifest. Further plans call for making the Immigrant Arrival Records accessible on the Internet. For more information and to find out what you can do to support the project, contact:: Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Foundation, 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017-3898. Visit their website at: http://www.ellisisland.org/
Other Online US resources include such web sites as: The NARA website is really your best starting point for additional information on US immigrant records: http://www.nara.gov/genealogy/immigration/immigrat.html.
New York State Library: Tracing Your Immigrant Ancestors http://unix2.nysed.gov/genealogy/tracimmi.htm
Steamship Historical Society of America Collection, University of Baltimore Library, http://www.sshsa.org/ . Photos of ships can be ordered from the Library for a nominal fee.
Texas Seaport Museum, Galveston TX, http://www.tsm-elissa.org/
Immigration History Research Center. For an overview of genealogical resources visit their website at: http://www1.umn.edu/ihrc/genealog.htm
The Balch Institute is dedicated to documenting and interpreting America's multicultural heritage, and is the home of a unique collection relating to more than one hundred ethnic groups. Its web site provides a guide a wealth of online information: http://www.libertynet.org/balch/
For Canadians, it is important to keep in mind that many early Canadian settlers came to Canada through US ports!
Mailing lists for those interested in the ships our ancestors migrated on, The Ships List through Rootsweb is very popular: http://www.rootsweb.com/~maillist/misc/index.html. The Rootsweb page will tell you how to subscribe. Be warned, this is a very active list generating some 60-80 messages a day.
Other On Line Resources
Other Online resources for ships passenger lists are growing daily. For example, an indexed list of Ship Arrivals and Passenger Lists from Britain to Victoria, Australia 1852 - 59 can be found at http://www.shipping.cohsoft.com.au/
The Dead Persons Society web site (Perth Australia) includes lists of convicts as well as their stories, shipping and passenger lists, military lists and many other links around Australia. Their web site can be found at: http://carmen.murdoch.edu.au/community/dps/default.html
Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild are a group of dedicated volunteers who are striving to make the search for immigrant ancestors easier by finding and placing online ships' passenger lists, their website can be found at: >http://istg.rootsweb.com/. More than 300 passenger lists are now posted at the Web site and new passenger lists are posted weekly. I encourage everyone to visit this important site on a regular basis to see what is being added. If you have time, offer to transcribe a ships list you have found. The guild accepts new volunteers on a quarterly basis. The next group will be accepted in April, 1999, so if you are interested in joining at that time, please read the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) under Guild Information.
CD-ROMS and other computerized indexes to immigration records are being created every day. A few interesting and worthwhile CD-ROMS include:
Perhaps the most well known passenger and immigration lists index is that compiled by P. William Filby (1600s-1800s). This incredible resource is now available on CD-ROM.
Other CD-ROMS can be found in the Global Genealogy Ships List Section: http://www.globalgenealogy.com/cdships.htm
Do not rule out any local records when searching for the origin of your English migrants. Even more modern pension applications are helpful in providing a place of origin. For example, an index to Queensland Australia Pension Applications for the years 1908-1909 are now available online at: http://www.st.net.au/~judyweb/pension.html. The majority of applicants gave their birthplace as somewhere in Great Britain, Germany or Scandinavia, but others were born elsewhere, including Australia. It appears that some Welsh-born people may be listed in the records as English (a common problem for those with Welsh roots). The index has been published on microfiche, and a search and copying service is available for mail enquiries. For Australian researchers there is also a web site for information on the Central Register of Indexing Projects in Australia at http://www.st.net.au/~judyweb/register.html.
Cyndi's list includes a page for ships, passenger lists and immigration records online - a great resource for web surfers: http://www.CyndisList.com/ships.htm.
The sources used to locate the origins of your United Kingdom ancestor are as varied as the imagination of the individual researcher. In my own genealogical quest, a land record told me the place of origin of one great-great-great grandparent, the 1901 census for Canada provided the place of origin and birth date for my great-grandfather, an 1865 obituary told me the English origins of another ancestor and a will provided the information for still another.
Next issue: Getting to know the important resources of your local Family History Centre of the Church of Latter Day Saints - perhaps your best source for both primary and secondary sources of English records.
About Fawne Stratford-Devai
Fawne Stratford-Devai's work on Land Records and early Ontario records is well known in the genealogy community. A published author of several Canadian and UK research books, she has also contributed articles to the Ontario Genealogical Society's newsletter "Families" as well as writing for the online family history newsletter the "Global Gazette". Biography