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Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Jun 13, 2013

Finding Immigration Records
from England to Canada, the United States, or Australia

by J. P. Hancock

If you have been researching your family history very long chances are that you will need to retrace your family's footsteps not just in time, but across an ocean. The great news is that it has never been easier to discover immigration records. On the downside, there is such an array of information that it can sometimes seem daunting to find your particular needle in the haystack. However, as with all family history research, a little preparation and a methodical approach will pay dividends.

I live in England and, thanks to some of the websites I list below, I have managed to trace ancestors and living relatives to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA. This has been the one of the most rewarding part of my research, made all the more satisfying since I was working with an incredibly common surname. My discoveries did not happen all at once, but over a period of years. Here are some tips and suggested resources for tying up the transatlantic loose ends in your family tree.

  • 1. Gather all the information you have about your émigré ancestor in one place, whether on paper, in a software program or a hosted family tree site like MyTrees.com.

  • 2. Use a timeline to track your ancestor's movements. I find it easiest to use sticky notes so that they can be moved easily to accommodate new information. There are two new features at MyTrees.com. They are called the Family Timeline and the Family Map. In conjunction with your family tree these features will automate the tracking of your ancestors in time and space.

  • 3. Learn to love the "wildcard" option in the search bar at some of the immigration indexing sites. (A wildcard allows you to replace a letter, or group of letters, with an asterisk.) Many English regional accents would have been hard to recognize for busy ship’s pursers or immigration clerks, so they might have been scribbled down incorrectly. For instance, the name "Warren" might be written as "Warne" – you would miss it completely if you stuck to searching for the correct spelling, but try the "War*" and you might strike lucky.

    Similarly, names can be transcribed incorrectly. Copperplate handwriting is beautiful, but difficult to decipher, so again, a wildcard can help. It took me a lot of frustration to find one set of records for my "Brown" relatives. A "*rown" wildcard search allowed me to find them mis-transcribed as "Krown". Be aware that not all websites accept wildcard searching.

  • 4. Write down what you find, even if it is only a possibility. I put a wide margin down my notebook as I work. In the left hand side I write down information and in the right hand margin I write down the source. This makes it easier to keep tabs on which sites have already been visited.

  • 5. Revisit websites periodically. You may have drawn a blank previously, but the information on the web grows daily. Dedicated volunteers and commercial websites transcribe new collections and sources regularly, so make sure you check back. Be sure to revisit The MyTrees.com website. While you are there don't forget to search the Books and Records Search . A list of the Books and Records that have been extracted is provided when you click the link.

  • 6. Investigate both emigration and immigration records. Hopefully you will find records on at least one side of the Atlantic. If you are lucky, you will be able to marry up both departure and arrival records.

Canadian Immigration Records
Large-scale British emigration to Canada got underway in the early nineteenth century. Keen to avert a repeat of the War of 1812, the British Government encouraged British settlement of Canada with the hope of averting any threat of invasion from the United States. The Government's push for emigration came at an ideal time for the many rural poor who found themselves unemployed during the Industrial Revolution.

While the period from 1815-1850 was the period of greatest migration to Canada, it does not have a correspondingly great source of searchable records for the online researcher. Few early passenger lists for ships arriving in Canada survive. After 1865, there are more records, although many are not yet online. Below is a selection of the resources currently available online.

Passenger Lists Pre-1865
While there is no central collection of passenger lists for this period, there are several sites that offer transcriptions of some ship lists. The Ships' List is a wonderful site that has all sorts of gems for the family historian. Of special interest to those interested in Canadian immigration are the passenger lists.

One of the larger collections is the St Lawrence Steamboat Company Passenger Records 1819-1836.

If you manage to find an ancestor on the Kingston Immigration Records for 1862, you are in for a treat. This record not only records names but also gives comments about the immigrants' appearance and in some cases their plans for settlement. At present the site has only the 1862 list, but plans to transcribe more.

There are also a number of passenger lists for individual Canada-bound ships, ranging in date from 1700-1917. There are only a couple of eighteenth century lists, the bulk being nineteenth century. Scroll down the passenger list page to find the full lists for Canada; they are grouped under the headings 1700s, 1800s and 1900s.

The Olive Tree Genealogy has many links and amongst them you will find the Canadian Passenger Lists page. Here you can find links to passenger lists dating as far back as 1535!

There are many resources listed, including links to the Library and Archives Canada and The Ships' List above. Of particular interest is a more comprehensive list of the Kingston Immigration Records from 1861-1864. (The Olive Tree Genealogy does not seem to have transcribed the comments section, unlike The Ships' List site.)

Passenger Lists 1865-1922
The Library and Archives Canada website has a searchable database for passenger lists 1865 – 1922 which allows researchers to access the records for arrivals at the following ports:

  • Quebec (1865 – 1921)
  • Halifax (1881 – 1922)
  • Saint John (1900 – 1922)
  • Vancouver (1905 – 1922)
  • Victoria (1905 – 1922)
  • North Sydney (1906 – 1922)
  • USA: East Coast Ports (1905 – 1922) and New York (1906 – 1922)

The drawback for these lists is that they are not searchable by passenger name; you need to enter a ship name or line, arrival or departure port, or arrival or departure date. The Library and Archives Canada site includes a search facility for the "Home Children". These were orphaned or poor children sent from Britain to Canada between the 1860s and the 1930s.

Commercial sites like FindMyPast and Ancestry.com have acquired the Canadian passenger lists for 1865-1935 and indexed them by name. These sites require either membership or a pay-per-view fee for looking at records, although some public libraries offer free access.

United States Immigration Records
The War of Independence in 1776 did not discourage the British from emigrating to the United States. Although many emigrants favored the British Dominions, others were drawn to America. In 1894 my grandfather, his mother, brother, and sister travelled out to the States to join my great-grandfather. Unhappily, my grandfather's experience of the American dream was cut short; his mother, two sisters and two brothers died. By 1900 he and his surviving brother were sent back to England to be raised by their maternal grandparents, as presumably their seaman father was unable to look after them while away at sea. Thanks to online records I have been able to follow the family’s journeys across the Atlantic and back again. Here are some of the resources I used, plus a few more.

  • Early Passenger Lists
    In the early years of immigration there was no centralized method of recording immigration. Passenger lists represent the best method of finding immigrants' details. The Olive Tree Genealogy website has an index pointing to passenger lists from the seventeenth century up until the present. The The Ships' List index has passenger lists for a few ships out of Liverpool in the mid-nineteenth century.

  • Immigration Records
    America’s first immigration center was at Castle Garden. The Castle Garden website allows free access to its database of immigrants. The site gives the impression that the database covers the years 1820 to 1892, the year that Ellis Island took over. However, the search function includes dates up to 1913 and I did indeed find a record for my great-grandfather's arrival in 1893. A successful search will yield name, age, occupation, date of departure and arrival and ship name. The database includes around 11 million names.

    Ellis Island takes over where Castle Garden leaves off. Again, there is a huge database to search, and again, it is free, though unlike the Castle Garden site you need to complete a free registration to take full advantage of the search. If you find your ancestor you can purchase a certificate recording the information from the search.

Australian Immigration Records
Australia’s first British immigrants were largely unwilling: convicted criminals sentenced to transportation. Later immigrants were looking for new opportunities and a better life. Several members of my family left Britain between the 1880s and early 1900s and settled in Australia. I have found searching for Australian records an absolute pleasure; the government archives available online are extensive and free.

The National Archives of Australia provides advice and a searchable database. The "Making Australia Home project" is a useful starting point for family historians seeking immigration records. Once you have read the guide, use the Name Search facility to search for your ancestor. You can either register for free or search as a guest user. Once on the Name Search page, enter the name of your ancestor and use the drop down menu to filter for "Immigration and Naturalization" records.

Alternatively, you can use the site's Passenger Arrivals index for those entering the country via Fremantle and Western Australia. It is the index of the Inward passenger manifests for ships and aircraft arriving at Fremantle, Perth Airport and outports, 1898–1978.

Some states in Australia also hold searchable online indexes for different categories of immigrants:

Passenger Lists
The Ships' List has some passenger lists from 1825 to 1832 on which you can find names of British emigrants. The site is also making available a new project which is transcribing passenger lists for assisted immigrants to South Australia – currently available for the years 1847 to 1886. The site has various miscellaneous ships' passenger lists for England to Australia crossings.

Convicts and Transportees
The British National Archives website has a very useful page on tracing convicts and transportees. The guide also points to other sites some free, some commercial which have searchable indexes.

The State Library of Queensland has searchable indexes to the British Convict transportation registers 1787-1867 database. This database was compiled from the British Home Office (HO) records which are available on microfilm at all Australian State Libraries. You can find details for over 123,000 of the estimated 160,000 convicts transported to Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries - names, term of years, transport ships and more.

Emigration Records from England
If you draw a blank in the New World, or if you simply like to double check your facts, you might like to investigate emigration records from England. Outward bound passenger lists were kept for most ships leaving the UK between 1890 and 1960.

You can read the National Archives guide to emigration records, though the site has few searchable records. You can access some English outbound passenger lists at FindMyPast or Ancestry.com.

If you know of additional online resources that I have not mentioned, please send them to newsletter@mytrees.com and I will include the reference in an upcoming newsletter.

Copyright ©: 2013 Fficiency Software, Inc. All rights reserved.
No printed reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the copyright holder. Links to this article are encouraged.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Jun 13, 2013

Finding Immigration Records
from England to Canada, the United States, or Australia

by J. P. Hancock

If you have been researching your family history very long chances are that you will need to retrace your family's footsteps not just in time, but across an ocean. The great news is that it has never been easier to discover immigration records. On the downside, there is such an array of information that it can sometimes seem daunting to find your particular needle in the haystack. However, as with all family history research, a little preparation and a methodical approach will pay dividends.

I live in England and, thanks to some of the websites I list below, I have managed to trace ancestors and living relatives to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA. This has been the one of the most rewarding part of my research, made all the more satisfying since I was working with an incredibly common surname. My discoveries did not happen all at once, but over a period of years. Here are some tips and suggested resources for tying up the transatlantic loose ends in your family tree.

  • 1. Gather all the information you have about your émigré ancestor in one place, whether on paper, in a software program or a hosted family tree site like MyTrees.com.

  • 2. Use a timeline to track your ancestor's movements. I find it easiest to use sticky notes so that they can be moved easily to accommodate new information. There are two new features at MyTrees.com. They are called the Family Timeline and the Family Map. In conjunction with your family tree these features will automate the tracking of your ancestors in time and space.

  • 3. Learn to love the "wildcard" option in the search bar at some of the immigration indexing sites. (A wildcard allows you to replace a letter, or group of letters, with an asterisk.) Many English regional accents would have been hard to recognize for busy ship’s pursers or immigration clerks, so they might have been scribbled down incorrectly. For instance, the name "Warren" might be written as "Warne" – you would miss it completely if you stuck to searching for the correct spelling, but try the "War*" and you might strike lucky.

    Similarly, names can be transcribed incorrectly. Copperplate handwriting is beautiful, but difficult to decipher, so again, a wildcard can help. It took me a lot of frustration to find one set of records for my "Brown" relatives. A "*rown" wildcard search allowed me to find them mis-transcribed as "Krown". Be aware that not all websites accept wildcard searching.

  • 4. Write down what you find, even if it is only a possibility. I put a wide margin down my notebook as I work. In the left hand side I write down information and in the right hand margin I write down the source. This makes it easier to keep tabs on which sites have already been visited.

  • 5. Revisit websites periodically. You may have drawn a blank previously, but the information on the web grows daily. Dedicated volunteers and commercial websites transcribe new collections and sources regularly, so make sure you check back. Be sure to revisit The MyTrees.com website. While you are there don't forget to search the Books and Records Search . A list of the Books and Records that have been extracted is provided when you click the link.

  • 6. Investigate both emigration and immigration records. Hopefully you will find records on at least one side of the Atlantic. If you are lucky, you will be able to marry up both departure and arrival records.

Canadian Immigration Records
Large-scale British emigration to Canada got underway in the early nineteenth century. Keen to avert a repeat of the War of 1812, the British Government encouraged British settlement of Canada with the hope of averting any threat of invasion from the United States. The Government's push for emigration came at an ideal time for the many rural poor who found themselves unemployed during the Industrial Revolution.

While the period from 1815-1850 was the period of greatest migration to Canada, it does not have a correspondingly great source of searchable records for the online researcher. Few early passenger lists for ships arriving in Canada survive. After 1865, there are more records, although many are not yet online. Below is a selection of the resources currently available online.

Passenger Lists Pre-1865
While there is no central collection of passenger lists for this period, there are several sites that offer transcriptions of some ship lists. The Ships' List is a wonderful site that has all sorts of gems for the family historian. Of special interest to those interested in Canadian immigration are the passenger lists.

One of the larger collections is the St Lawrence Steamboat Company Passenger Records 1819-1836.

If you manage to find an ancestor on the Kingston Immigration Records for 1862, you are in for a treat. This record not only records names but also gives comments about the immigrants' appearance and in some cases their plans for settlement. At present the site has only the 1862 list, but plans to transcribe more.

There are also a number of passenger lists for individual Canada-bound ships, ranging in date from 1700-1917. There are only a couple of eighteenth century lists, the bulk being nineteenth century. Scroll down the passenger list page to find the full lists for Canada; they are grouped under the headings 1700s, 1800s and 1900s.

The Olive Tree Genealogy has many links and amongst them you will find the Canadian Passenger Lists page. Here you can find links to passenger lists dating as far back as 1535!

There are many resources listed, including links to the Library and Archives Canada and The Ships' List above. Of particular interest is a more comprehensive list of the Kingston Immigration Records from 1861-1864. (The Olive Tree Genealogy does not seem to have transcribed the comments section, unlike The Ships' List site.)

Passenger Lists 1865-1922
The Library and Archives Canada website has a searchable database for passenger lists 1865 – 1922 which allows researchers to access the records for arrivals at the following ports:

  • Quebec (1865 – 1921)
  • Halifax (1881 – 1922)
  • Saint John (1900 – 1922)
  • Vancouver (1905 – 1922)
  • Victoria (1905 – 1922)
  • North Sydney (1906 – 1922)
  • USA: East Coast Ports (1905 – 1922) and New York (1906 – 1922)

The drawback for these lists is that they are not searchable by passenger name; you need to enter a ship name or line, arrival or departure port, or arrival or departure date. The Library and Archives Canada site includes a search facility for the "Home Children". These were orphaned or poor children sent from Britain to Canada between the 1860s and the 1930s.

Commercial sites like FindMyPast and Ancestry.com have acquired the Canadian passenger lists for 1865-1935 and indexed them by name. These sites require either membership or a pay-per-view fee for looking at records, although some public libraries offer free access.

United States Immigration Records
The War of Independence in 1776 did not discourage the British from emigrating to the United States. Although many emigrants favored the British Dominions, others were drawn to America. In 1894 my grandfather, his mother, brother, and sister travelled out to the States to join my great-grandfather. Unhappily, my grandfather's experience of the American dream was cut short; his mother, two sisters and two brothers died. By 1900 he and his surviving brother were sent back to England to be raised by their maternal grandparents, as presumably their seaman father was unable to look after them while away at sea. Thanks to online records I have been able to follow the family’s journeys across the Atlantic and back again. Here are some of the resources I used, plus a few more.

  • Early Passenger Lists
    In the early years of immigration there was no centralized method of recording immigration. Passenger lists represent the best method of finding immigrants' details. The Olive Tree Genealogy website has an index pointing to passenger lists from the seventeenth century up until the present. The The Ships' List index has passenger lists for a few ships out of Liverpool in the mid-nineteenth century.

  • Immigration Records
    America’s first immigration center was at Castle Garden. The Castle Garden website allows free access to its database of immigrants. The site gives the impression that the database covers the years 1820 to 1892, the year that Ellis Island took over. However, the search function includes dates up to 1913 and I did indeed find a record for my great-grandfather's arrival in 1893. A successful search will yield name, age, occupation, date of departure and arrival and ship name. The database includes around 11 million names.

    Ellis Island takes over where Castle Garden leaves off. Again, there is a huge database to search, and again, it is free, though unlike the Castle Garden site you need to complete a free registration to take full advantage of the search. If you find your ancestor you can purchase a certificate recording the information from the search.

Australian Immigration Records
Australia’s first British immigrants were largely unwilling: convicted criminals sentenced to transportation. Later immigrants were looking for new opportunities and a better life. Several members of my family left Britain between the 1880s and early 1900s and settled in Australia. I have found searching for Australian records an absolute pleasure; the government archives available online are extensive and free.

The National Archives of Australia provides advice and a searchable database. The "Making Australia Home project" is a useful starting point for family historians seeking immigration records. Once you have read the guide, use the Name Search facility to search for your ancestor. You can either register for free or search as a guest user. Once on the Name Search page, enter the name of your ancestor and use the drop down menu to filter for "Immigration and Naturalization" records.

Alternatively, you can use the site's Passenger Arrivals index for those entering the country via Fremantle and Western Australia. It is the index of the Inward passenger manifests for ships and aircraft arriving at Fremantle, Perth Airport and outports, 1898–1978.

Some states in Australia also hold searchable online indexes for different categories of immigrants:

Passenger Lists
The Ships' List has some passenger lists from 1825 to 1832 on which you can find names of British emigrants. The site is also making available a new project which is transcribing passenger lists for assisted immigrants to South Australia – currently available for the years 1847 to 1886. The site has various miscellaneous ships' passenger lists for England to Australia crossings.

Convicts and Transportees
The British National Archives website has a very useful page on tracing convicts and transportees. The guide also points to other sites some free, some commercial which have searchable indexes.

The State Library of Queensland has searchable indexes to the British Convict transportation registers 1787-1867 database. This database was compiled from the British Home Office (HO) records which are available on microfilm at all Australian State Libraries. You can find details for over 123,000 of the estimated 160,000 convicts transported to Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries - names, term of years, transport ships and more.

Emigration Records from England
If you draw a blank in the New World, or if you simply like to double check your facts, you might like to investigate emigration records from England. Outward bound passenger lists were kept for most ships leaving the UK between 1890 and 1960.

You can read the National Archives guide to emigration records, though the site has few searchable records. You can access some English outbound passenger lists at FindMyPast or Ancestry.com.

If you know of additional online resources that I have not mentioned, please send them to newsletter@mytrees.com and I will include the reference in an upcoming newsletter.

Copyright ©: 2013 Fficiency Software, Inc. All rights reserved.
No printed reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the copyright holder. Links to this article are encouraged.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Jun 13, 2013

Finding Immigration Records
from England to Canada, the United States, or Australia

by J. P. Hancock

If you have been researching your family history very long chances are that you will need to retrace your family's footsteps not just in time, but across an ocean. The great news is that it has never been easier to discover immigration records. On the downside, there is such an array of information that it can sometimes seem daunting to find your particular needle in the haystack. However, as with all family history research, a little preparation and a methodical approach will pay dividends.

I live in England and, thanks to some of the websites I list below, I have managed to trace ancestors and living relatives to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA. This has been the one of the most rewarding part of my research, made all the more satisfying since I was working with an incredibly common surname. My discoveries did not happen all at once, but over a period of years. Here are some tips and suggested resources for tying up the transatlantic loose ends in your family tree.

  • 1. Gather all the information you have about your émigré ancestor in one place, whether on paper, in a software program or a hosted family tree site like MyTrees.com.

  • 2. Use a timeline to track your ancestor's movements. I find it easiest to use sticky notes so that they can be moved easily to accommodate new information. There are two new features at MyTrees.com. They are called the Family Timeline and the Family Map. In conjunction with your family tree these features will automate the tracking of your ancestors in time and space.

  • 3. Learn to love the "wildcard" option in the search bar at some of the immigration indexing sites. (A wildcard allows you to replace a letter, or group of letters, with an asterisk.) Many English regional accents would have been hard to recognize for busy ship’s pursers or immigration clerks, so they might have been scribbled down incorrectly. For instance, the name "Warren" might be written as "Warne" – you would miss it completely if you stuck to searching for the correct spelling, but try the "War*" and you might strike lucky.

    Similarly, names can be transcribed incorrectly. Copperplate handwriting is beautiful, but difficult to decipher, so again, a wildcard can help. It took me a lot of frustration to find one set of records for my "Brown" relatives. A "*rown" wildcard search allowed me to find them mis-transcribed as "Krown". Be aware that not all websites accept wildcard searching.

  • 4. Write down what you find, even if it is only a possibility. I put a wide margin down my notebook as I work. In the left hand side I write down information and in the right hand margin I write down the source. This makes it easier to keep tabs on which sites have already been visited.

  • 5. Revisit websites periodically. You may have drawn a blank previously, but the information on the web grows daily. Dedicated volunteers and commercial websites transcribe new collections and sources regularly, so make sure you check back. Be sure to revisit The MyTrees.com website. While you are there don't forget to search the Books and Records Search . A list of the Books and Records that have been extracted is provided when you click the link.

  • 6. Investigate both emigration and immigration records. Hopefully you will find records on at least one side of the Atlantic. If you are lucky, you will be able to marry up both departure and arrival records.

Canadian Immigration Records
Large-scale British emigration to Canada got underway in the early nineteenth century. Keen to avert a repeat of the War of 1812, the British Government encouraged British settlement of Canada with the hope of averting any threat of invasion from the United States. The Government's push for emigration came at an ideal time for the many rural poor who found themselves unemployed during the Industrial Revolution.

While the period from 1815-1850 was the period of greatest migration to Canada, it does not have a correspondingly great source of searchable records for the online researcher. Few early passenger lists for ships arriving in Canada survive. After 1865, there are more records, although many are not yet online. Below is a selection of the resources currently available online.

Passenger Lists Pre-1865
While there is no central collection of passenger lists for this period, there are several sites that offer transcriptions of some ship lists. The Ships' List is a wonderful site that has all sorts of gems for the family historian. Of special interest to those interested in Canadian immigration are the passenger lists.

One of the larger collections is the St Lawrence Steamboat Company Passenger Records 1819-1836.

If you manage to find an ancestor on the Kingston Immigration Records for 1862, you are in for a treat. This record not only records names but also gives comments about the immigrants' appearance and in some cases their plans for settlement. At present the site has only the 1862 list, but plans to transcribe more.

There are also a number of passenger lists for individual Canada-bound ships, ranging in date from 1700-1917. There are only a couple of eighteenth century lists, the bulk being nineteenth century. Scroll down the passenger list page to find the full lists for Canada; they are grouped under the headings 1700s, 1800s and 1900s.

The Olive Tree Genealogy has many links and amongst them you will find the Canadian Passenger Lists page. Here you can find links to passenger lists dating as far back as 1535!

There are many resources listed, including links to the Library and Archives Canada and The Ships' List above. Of particular interest is a more comprehensive list of the Kingston Immigration Records from 1861-1864. (The Olive Tree Genealogy does not seem to have transcribed the comments section, unlike The Ships' List site.)

Passenger Lists 1865-1922
The Library and Archives Canada website has a searchable database for passenger lists 1865 – 1922 which allows researchers to access the records for arrivals at the following ports:

  • Quebec (1865 – 1921)
  • Halifax (1881 – 1922)
  • Saint John (1900 – 1922)
  • Vancouver (1905 – 1922)
  • Victoria (1905 – 1922)
  • North Sydney (1906 – 1922)
  • USA: East Coast Ports (1905 – 1922) and New York (1906 – 1922)

The drawback for these lists is that they are not searchable by passenger name; you need to enter a ship name or line, arrival or departure port, or arrival or departure date. The Library and Archives Canada site includes a search facility for the "Home Children". These were orphaned or poor children sent from Britain to Canada between the 1860s and the 1930s.

Commercial sites like FindMyPast and Ancestry.com have acquired the Canadian passenger lists for 1865-1935 and indexed them by name. These sites require either membership or a pay-per-view fee for looking at records, although some public libraries offer free access.

United States Immigration Records
The War of Independence in 1776 did not discourage the British from emigrating to the United States. Although many emigrants favored the British Dominions, others were drawn to America. In 1894 my grandfather, his mother, brother, and sister travelled out to the States to join my great-grandfather. Unhappily, my grandfather's experience of the American dream was cut short; his mother, two sisters and two brothers died. By 1900 he and his surviving brother were sent back to England to be raised by their maternal grandparents, as presumably their seaman father was unable to look after them while away at sea. Thanks to online records I have been able to follow the family’s journeys across the Atlantic and back again. Here are some of the resources I used, plus a few more.

  • Early Passenger Lists
    In the early years of immigration there was no centralized method of recording immigration. Passenger lists represent the best method of finding immigrants' details. The Olive Tree Genealogy website has an index pointing to passenger lists from the seventeenth century up until the present. The The Ships' List index has passenger lists for a few ships out of Liverpool in the mid-nineteenth century.

  • Immigration Records
    America’s first immigration center was at Castle Garden. The Castle Garden website allows free access to its database of immigrants. The site gives the impression that the database covers the years 1820 to 1892, the year that Ellis Island took over. However, the search function includes dates up to 1913 and I did indeed find a record for my great-grandfather's arrival in 1893. A successful search will yield name, age, occupation, date of departure and arrival and ship name. The database includes around 11 million names.

    Ellis Island takes over where Castle Garden leaves off. Again, there is a huge database to search, and again, it is free, though unlike the Castle Garden site you need to complete a free registration to take full advantage of the search. If you find your ancestor you can purchase a certificate recording the information from the search.

Australian Immigration Records
Australia’s first British immigrants were largely unwilling: convicted criminals sentenced to transportation. Later immigrants were looking for new opportunities and a better life. Several members of my family left Britain between the 1880s and early 1900s and settled in Australia. I have found searching for Australian records an absolute pleasure; the government archives available online are extensive and free.

The National Archives of Australia provides advice and a searchable database. The "Making Australia Home project" is a useful starting point for family historians seeking immigration records. Once you have read the guide, use the Name Search facility to search for your ancestor. You can either register for free or search as a guest user. Once on the Name Search page, enter the name of your ancestor and use the drop down menu to filter for "Immigration and Naturalization" records.

Alternatively, you can use the site's Passenger Arrivals index for those entering the country via Fremantle and Western Australia. It is the index of the Inward passenger manifests for ships and aircraft arriving at Fremantle, Perth Airport and outports, 1898–1978.

Some states in Australia also hold searchable online indexes for different categories of immigrants:

Passenger Lists
The Ships' List has some passenger lists from 1825 to 1832 on which you can find names of British emigrants. The site is also making available a new project which is transcribing passenger lists for assisted immigrants to South Australia – currently available for the years 1847 to 1886. The site has various miscellaneous ships' passenger lists for England to Australia crossings.

Convicts and Transportees
The British National Archives website has a very useful page on tracing convicts and transportees. The guide also points to other sites some free, some commercial which have searchable indexes.

The State Library of Queensland has searchable indexes to the British Convict transportation registers 1787-1867 database. This database was compiled from the British Home Office (HO) records which are available on microfilm at all Australian State Libraries. You can find details for over 123,000 of the estimated 160,000 convicts transported to Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries - names, term of years, transport ships and more.

Emigration Records from England
If you draw a blank in the New World, or if you simply like to double check your facts, you might like to investigate emigration records from England. Outward bound passenger lists were kept for most ships leaving the UK between 1890 and 1960.

You can read the National Archives guide to emigration records, though the site has few searchable records. You can access some English outbound passenger lists at FindMyPast or Ancestry.com.

If you know of additional online resources that I have not mentioned, please send them to newsletter@mytrees.com and I will include the reference in an upcoming newsletter.

Copyright ©: 2013 Fficiency Software, Inc. All rights reserved.
No printed reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the copyright holder. Links to this article are encouraged.

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