Emigration records

Over the course of history, people have left the UK for many reasons. The most common destinations for emigrants are America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Emigration records can be important for learning about your family history.

What records are available?

There are a number of emigration records available, depending on the destination and which part of the UK the emigrant travelled from. Below is a list of emigration records available:

Records relating to general destinations:

  • Records containing information on emigrants going to destinations all over the world.
  • The Society of Genealogists holds a good collection of printed material.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints also have lists compiled British and American sources.

Foreign Office Passport Registers:

  • Records containing the entries of passport details.
  • Records give details such as passport number, full name, destination and the names of referees.
  • Records are available from 1795 to 1898.
  • It was uncommon for emigrants to apply for a passport, so finding records may be difficult.

Plantation books:

  • Records of commissions, instructions, orders and letters to governors and officials.
  • Records of warrants for selection of Colonial councillors.
  • Records of grants and surrenders of offices.

Chancery Patent Roll:

  • Records relating to grants of land and offices in America and elsewhere.
  • The indexes to these records are available at the National Archives in Kew.

Admiralty Medical Journals:

  • Medical records of emigrant ships.
  • Records are available from 1815 to 1853.

Audit Office Declared Accounts:

  • Records of pensions and allowances paid to emigrants.
  • Records are available from 1779 to 1827.

Assize Records:

  • Records relating to criminal trials.
  • The records give information about sentences and those who were transported to other countries.

Transport Department records:

  • Records relating to the transport of military forces to various parts of the world by sea.
  • Records are available from 1773 to 1917.

Visit www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=292 for further information about emigration records.

Where can I find them?

There are a number of places that emigration records can be obtained, depending on the destination and which part of the UK the emigrant travelled from.

The National Archives gives helpful advice about emigration records. It would be useful to contact the National Archives of the destination country or the country that the emigrant was travelling from.

Contact The Nation Archives:

The Society of Genealogists holds a good collection of records relating to general destinations.

Contact the Society of Genealogists:

  • Society of Genealogists
  • 14 Charterhouse Buildings
  • Goswell Road
  • London
  • EC1M 7BA
  • Telephone: 020 8876 3444
  • Website: www.sog.org.uk