Historic passenger lists of ships go online

This announcement was posted on Reuters. This will be a major resource for many genealogists whose ancestors came to the U.S. via British ports. I’ve subscribed to Findmypast (formerly 1837online) for quite sometime and cab’t wait to start searching these lists.

LONDON (Reuters) – People looking to track ancestors who emigrated from British ports will from Wednesday be able to search online passenger lists of the ships that carried them to new lands.

Released by Britain’s National Archives, the passenger manifests give an insight into all long-distance trips made by 30 million travelers from the country’s ports between 1890 and 1960, including that of the Titanic which sank in 1912.

“We hope the digitization will open up a hugely valuable resource for genealogists and social historians all over the world,” said Dan Jones, National Archives’ head of business development.
The records, available via commercial Web site findmypast.com which was licensed by The National Archives, also show the passages of trans-European migrants.

Many were Jews fleeing persecution, who began their journeys in continental Europe and travelled to British ports like Southampton and Liverpool to catch cheap sailings.

During this period, thousands of Britons were propelled by economic reasons to seek new beginnings abroad. Between 1890 and 1914 an estimated 125,000 Britons emigrated every year to the United States, with 50,000 going to Canada and 25,000 to Australia.

Trips to all continents are covered with sailings to South America, the Caribbean, West Africa and all parts of Asia.

Initially only the period from 1890-1900 will be available but subsequent decades will be put online over the next few months.

The lists provide an intriguing glimpse of individual voyages. What, for example, did 40-year-old Glaswegian spinster dairy maid Elizabeth Barr make of New Zealand when she arrived in 1923 on the steamship Remuera?

Did she perhaps strike up an onboard friendship with John Woodrow, 21, a rabbit-catcher from Warwickshire or maybe she built a new life with another fellow passenger, 33-year-old London fireman Rufus Workman?

Although the passenger lists have been available at the archives’ offices in Kew, southwest London, for some time they are indexed by port of departure only and not name, making it difficult to find a particular individual.

The passenger lists, which are available online in their original form vary. Some are typed, others are handwritten. Some record tantalizingly little detail while others give occupations, address and ultimate destination overseas.