Emigration records: an introduction

Emigration records: an introduction

November 30, 2019 0 By Kailee Schamberger


Hello. My name’s Roger Kershaw, and I
work at the National Archives. And today, I’m going to give a
webinar on immigration records held by the National Archives. I’ll be talking for
about 20 to 30 minutes and really just giving
you an introduction to some of those name series
relating to the probably 15 to 20 million
individuals who left the British Isles
between the 1700s and the late 20th century. So what I’m going
to cover, I’m going to cover records related
to passports and licences to travel beyond the sea. These records were issued
to enable and give people the authority to
actually travel. Secondly, we’re going to
look at passenger lists because these physically
record the exit of people leaving one country to another. I’m then going to talk to
you about the various schemes that the UK government offered
emigrants or free migrants. So they would provide
incentives for people to leave the British
Isles to move to the colonies and dominions
to help develop those lands. And finally, I’ll talk
to you a little bit about child migration, something
very unique to Britain, where the authorities promoted
the migration of pauper children from the 1870s
right through to the 1970s. I think one of the
important things to note is that these records
relate very much to records held by the National Archives. So they’re records
created by government. And what I can do is
just emphasise this point by just telling you exactly
who the National Archives are. We all the archives for England,
Wales, and the United Kingdom. So we hold records
created by government. An awful lot of records
relating to immigrants were created by private
bodies and we simply do not hold those. Again, we only
hold those records created by government
which were then selected to be
permanent archives, so preserved permanently. And I’m sure, as you’ll discover
later on in this webinar, an awful lot of records
created by government were destroyed under
statute when they became no longer the business of purpose. So we’re located here at Kew. We’re open between
Tuesdays and Saturdays from 9 to 5 o’clock and
late evening to 7 o’clock on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Some of the records I talk
about will not be online, so they won’t have
been digitised and you will need to consider
coming here to view them. And you can go to
our website and that explains whether
you need to bring with you some forms
of identification in order to get a
reader’s ticket. So it’s really important you
plan your visit very carefully. We also offer paid
research for people who might find it
difficult to come to Kew. And there’s the front
page of our website. I’m going to be talking to you
about our catalogue, Discovery, but also about using
our research guides. Research guides tend to help
jump start people’s research. So they take you
from research guides, we may talk about
collections of records into the catalogue,
which will then help you identify the
records you need to look at, and in some cases
it will then allow you to download those records
if they’ve been digitised. This is an example of one of the
300 research guides we’ve got. This is on the
subject of emigration. We have other research guides on
passports and ships’ passenger lists and researching British
colonies and dominions. But the emigration
research guide is probably a really good
one to start off with. And if you want to
take it further, The National Archives have
produced a number of books on various subjects,
but we have three to do with migration
records, one of which relates to the child
migration I mentioned earlier. So let’s start off with
looking at those government records which were
created to enable people to travel overseas. So I’m sure we’re all
familiar with passports. So the earliest passport
registers start at around 1795. We have passport
records going right up to the end of the
Second World War. So we’ll talk about
those in a moment. But prior to passports,
you had a mixture of records known as
warrants and passes or licences to pass
beyond the sea. And these were issued
mainly for Europe, but also for the Americas. And what the government
really wanted was people to give their
oath of allegiance to the UK to enable them to
travel beyond the seas. So there are various
forms of documentation that we’ll have a look at which
come under this broad banner. There are also some case
papers, so some applications, but these are a
relatively small number. They probably represent
a few hundred cases from the hundreds of
thousands of passports which were issued before the
start of the 20th century. So this is an example of
a pretty early register of people intending to travel. So what we have here
is that these people are signing their oath of
allegiance to the Crown. This particular
one are registers of passports leaving
the Port of London for New England
and other colonies and it’s around about the
early part of the 17th century. These records haven’t
been digitised, they’re in the series E157. E stands for the Exchequer. But a lot of the information
has been transcribed and put in published works. So there are published
works by J.C. Hotten listing all those
persons who register for licences to travel beyond
the seas from 1600 to 1700. This particular
one is from 1634. And here you’ve got
a later example. This is actually a
register of passports. Now, these passports, I
think this particular one is from 1876. It’s important to note that
passports weren’t compulsory until the First World War,
in 1915, when espionage was at fairly high levels. It’s also important to recognise
that the information within the passport registers and also
the indexes to them is fairly limited. So as this example shows
you, it indicates the date the passport was issued with
the number of the passport and then the name
of the individual. Sometimes you’ll
get their full name, but here we’ve got an example
where only the initial of the forename is mentioned. And then you’ll
get a destination. Continent will indicate
Europe, but sometimes you’ll have a specific place. As the example on the screen
shows, we have one from Rome. And then you’ll
get another column which indicates the
person who had recommended the individual for a passport,
usually someone respected in the local community. So it could be a parish
priest or a teacher or a justice of the
peace, et cetera. And the number at the
far right-hand column just indicates the
cost of that passport. For this period
of time, passports were issued for single journeys. It wasn’t until 1968
that the 10-year passport that we’re all familiar
with now was introduced. I’m sure you can
appreciate there were hundreds and
thousands of these issued from the 18th century right up
to 1948, which is the latest passport information we have. Here is a later one. This one goes to 1930. The information was typed,
but there’s actually less information. They’ve got rid of
the column where the person who recommended
the applicant was, so that disappeared. So the information
is even less rich. So it’s purely the name
and the destination. Continent has been replaced
by the word Europe. And you see the price
increased to seven shillings and sixpence. So attempting to use these
records, the indexes to them have been digitised so
you can search by name. The indexes actually provide
very similar information to the registers
that we’ve just seen. Unfortunately, the indexes don’t
survive for the whole period. So there is no name
index for the period 1795 to 1850, 1857, 1863 to 1873,
and 1904 right up to 1948. For that period, you really
have to plough yourselves through the registers
themselves in FO 611. FO indicates the
Foreign Office series. So it’s quite hard
work, but it’s useful to know that
the registers are arranged chronologically
by date of issue. And this is an example of an
application for a passport. These are
representative samples, they’re in the series FO 737. Probably around
about 100, maybe 200. But that’s a very,
very small sample. But they’re quite illustrative. So here we have an
early photograph of a passport issued in 1920. And obviously, on
the record there’s indications about where the
person intended to travel, a physical description of
them, and also a photograph. It’s just a shame that
very few have survived, but those that have survived
can be searched by name. So moving onto
departure records, we have some very
early departure records in an Exchequer series E 190. These were compiled as a
result of an Exchequer order in 1564 requiring
all custom officials in ports of England and Wales
to make their entries describing good and duties payable. Then we have early
registers of passengers in Colonial Office series CO 1. These primarily relate to
early voyages to America and they’re very similar to the
oath of allegiance documents we saw earlier. And then towards the end
of British rule in America, between 1773 and 1776, there
were Treasury registers of passengers created,
which we can look at. And then you’ve got
a couple of series of Board of Trade series. So one relates to see
births, marriages, and death at sea of those
on board, so that could be crew or passengers. And then from 1890, we have the
more standard passenger lists running right through to 1960. So we’ll look at some
of these examples. Here’s a very early Exchequer
court book entry in E 190. So you really do have a list of
the goods that have been traded and where customs is payable. But they do include the names
of merchants travelling with the goods and some of these
people would be emigrants, either short-term or long-term. There are no name
indexes, so again, they’re arranged chronologically. But they do contain some
detail of the early emigrants we talked about before. And here’s an example of the
Colonial Office series one. This relates to some of those
early emigrants travelling to America. So this is a group of people
travelling to New England, so very similar to the
oath of allegiance records. You tend to get names, the ship
they’re travelling on, where they were travelling
from and to, the date– so these are 1634– and the ages of the passengers. So they would include children,
as well, as this example shows. I mentioned a series
of records, T 47, which relate to those emigrants
travelling to America between 1773 and 1776, just before the
American War of Independence. These are very rich
in terms of detail. They will include
age, occupation, the last place of residence in
the UK, the date of departure, destination, ships’ names,
the reason for leaving. So they are quite detailed, but
a very short-lived register, only four years. This collection, along
with some of the ones I’ve just mentioned, are
due to be digitised fully and name searchable over
the next year or so. So do watch this space on
the National Archives website to learn more about that. Until then, the
records by and large are available in the
original format here at Kew, and there are some traditional
ways of entry to them, such as a card index, which
you can see in front of you. So the card index will take
you straight to the register and there’s now a
sample in front of you, one for William Sibery, who
was a 17-year-old weaver who migrated to the
Americas in the 1770s. I talked to you about
the Board of Trade. Now, their records
began around about 1854. They really start off with
a collection of births, marriages, and deaths of people
on board merchant vessels, many of whom would be emigrants
travelling to their new destination, new life. Before the age of
steam, it is quite dangerous to travel by ship,
particularly long voyages to America and also Australasia. Disease was rife, particularly
in the more cramped accommodations, such as
steerage and third class. So quite a number would
actually die on those journeys. So you can find out details of
those people who unfortunately didn’t make the journey. This is one of the notable
examples of the Titanic, of course which didn’t reach
its final destination, having collided with an
iceberg in 1912. So we do have a list of all
those people who perished. All these records are now
available to search by name online through
bmdregisters.co.uk, with which the National
Archives have teamed together to make the records available. So you can search by name from
1854 right up to the 1970s. The Board of Trade rules are
responsible for collating records for people migrating
to and from the British Isles, and we have these records from
1890 right through to 1960. These have been digitised, but
there’s just a few examples of them in front of you. So the records are arranged
by port of departure and you have lists
of British passengers and then you have separate lists
of alien passengers and later Commonwealth passengers. So some of the early
records from the 1890s will have fairly scant. So we’ll have the names,
we’ll have the nationality, and we’ll have whether
they’re an adult or whether they are a minor. Here we have a list of some
of those early acting troupes going to America when
Hollywood was being set up. This I think is from 1910. And there is Charlie
Chaplin and we’ve also got Stanley Jefferson, who
became known as Stan Laurel. And then you also have other
people in that acting troupe. The later passenger lists, this
one is from around about 1920. Here’s actually 16-year-old Cary
Grant, or then as he was known, Archibald Leach, going from
Bristol, again, to Hollywood, to begin his Hollywood career. So a little bit more details. You tend to get an age field
and you get an indication of who else he was travelling with. And in the 1930s, you
get an address field. The address field is
the address in the UK, so it’s the last known
address that they were staying if moving back to the UK. And there’s Stan Laurel. Of course, not all
these records relate to migrants because
they relate also to merchants carrying out and
dealing with their merchandise, setting up business
overseas, et cetera. And from the 1920s, an awful
lot will relate to tourists. So we think between 1890
and 1960 was probably around records relating to
30 to 35 million people. Many of these people would be
recorded on many occasions, depending on what their job was. As I said, there are separate
lists for alien passengers. Some of the lists have
been scored through, the names have been
scored through, and that could be an indication
that they never actually travelled but they
were due to travel. That particular
list was from 1939, just before the outbreak of war. As I said, the lists
go right up to 1960. All of these lists are
now available to download through Findmypast
in collaboration with the National Archives. And you can search by
name, by name of ship, by name of port of
departure from 1890 to 1960. The collection
does stop at 1960. Travel by air became
much more common and the National Archives
has not accessioned records of passengers by air. So the collection does
come to an end in 1960. Moving on to free
migration records, as I mentioned
earlier, the government was active in fostering
and encouraging people to migrate
to the colonies and dominions in the 19th
and early 20th century. And there are two
reasons for this, they’re known as the
push and pull reasons. So there was a reason to
push people away from the UK, and this tended to be because of
the dire economic circumstances during the mid part of the
19th century, particularly in rural areas. Rural employment
declined rapidly as industrialisation took pace. There were also other
reasons, such as the potato famine in Ireland. The potato famine occurred
in a number of years, but particularly in the
1820s and 1830s and 1840s so people were thrown into
poverty and destitution. On the other hand, there
was a need for these people to provide manpower and work
in the colonies and dominions which were being set up. So we have movements from
Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England, particularly
from rural areas, to Canada and later to
Australia and New Zealand. So the commission tried to
pull this information together and they tried to encourage
people as much as possible to start a new life overseas. And they did that by offering
incentives, so things like free passages, land
grants or a reduced rate. So this is one
example where somebody migrated to upper Canada,
in Ramsay, from 1824. And he came from Ireland
and he’s really writing back to his family, his
friends, to say that he made a
really good decision, life is better for
him in the hope that his friends and his
family will come and join him. These records are
in series CO 386. They aren’t, unfortunately,
arranged by name, so you can’t easily search
for these immigrants. And it’s a
representative sample, so there’s probably
a few thousand, and that’s fairly small. Probably tens of
thousands of people who would have migrated
with these things schemes. But they’re useful
records, they’re colourful. Many are written in the
hands of the emigrants, putting forward their
case to be selected. So here we have one,
a farmer, I think, who wants to migrate
with his four daughters. And they can provide
support and employment and help develop the
land in Canada which they’re applying to go to. And then you got
another one, as well. As I say, these are from
across the British Isles, so you’ll get cases
from Ireland, but also from Scotland,
England, and Wales. So a lot of these people
were coming from rural parts of the British Isles. But we have similar records in
the Ministry of Health series MH 12. These are records created by
the Poor Law Act, the Poor Law commissioners. So these people have been
selected to leave the parish, this particular
parish is in Suffolk, in the parish of Hockering. And they’re leaving for
new lives in Canada. So no doubt, they
were finding it quite tough in Hockering as
the rural decline took place. And they’re going to go
for what will hopefully be for them a better
life in Canada. Now, these records
aren’t indexed by name, so again, it’s really difficult
to find this information. You really have to plough
your way through the records chronologically, in
the series MH 12. That said, a small
number of these records have been catalogued in some
detail as part of a big project a few years ago called
Living the Poor. But it’s a fairly small
sample of records, but the catalogue
Discovery will indicate which ones are searchable by
name and which ones are not. But if they’re not, it
is a case of accessing the original
records here at Kew. And then you’ve
got another entry from a [INAUDIBLE] record
indicating the lists, names, ages, and details of the
people migrating to Canada. The records go around
about the 1830s right through to about 1911, but
a lot of the later ones don’t survive in great detail. So finally, I was going to talk
to you about child migration. So this was something fairly
unique to Britain in the sense that the government
actively encouraged the migration of pauper
children to Canada, initially in the 1870s through
to about 1920 and then later to Rhodesia, but
also Australia and New Zealand, from about 1910 and
right up until 1970. And they were
encouraged primarily by evangelists, such as Maria
Rye, Annie MacPherson, ad later you had Dr. Barnado. And the reason these
people got involved is because children
didn’t particularly have a great time during the
mid part of 19th century. Child mortality rates
were incredibly high and a lot of children were
abandoned by their parents, so they fell into destitution,
they lived on the street. A lot of them got
involved in crime and there was no compulsory
education of all children till 1870. So these individuals got
together and thought, could we do something
better for them? And they identified that
life would be better for them in Canada, where the air
was cleaner, particularly outside the urban cities
where a lot of these children were destitute. And the government initially
would support them in this. Here you have children migrating
from the “Poplar Union.” So again, this is another
record from the series MH 12. Unfortunately, you can’t search
these names on the catalogue. You just have to plough your
way through the Poor Law records at the time. This one is for the parish
of Poplar in London. I think it’s from about
the 1870s, probably, and it’s just a list
of all those children who are destined for
migration to Canada. Once in Canada,
they would be sent to work on farms or as domestic
servants with families. The government supported this. I mean, they did send out
an inspector in the 1870s to have a look at how the
children were being treated. And this report, which did
actually get published, is available in an
MH series, MH 19. And it goes into a great deal
of detail about some of those early children who migrated out
with some of the institutions, such as Barnado’s. The report was quite
damning in the sense that there was evidence that
the children were abused, either physically or
mentally, and they didn’t believe the
welfare of the child was taken into account. So the authorities
had to change the way that they managed the
migration of children in order for the government to
continue to support it. But eventually, it did continue
to support it, and as I say, the records did go
right up to 1970. Of course, this is very much in
the public eye at the moment, as a lot of these
records are being used to help inquiry, which
is actually being carried out into the welfare
of children records in the 19th and 20th century. This is a rare case
study that survives. These are two sisters who
were found destitute in London in 1907. So they were
destitute and begging, so the children were
taken into care. And subsequently,
it was identified that they were neglected
by their father, who was in and out of prison,
as his record tells. The children went to Barkingside
at Dr. Barnado’s and then the father was written
to and it was explained quite clearly that the
children were being prepared to be sent to Canada. He wrote back to the
authorities explaining that he wasn’t happy with this
and that it would be unlikely that he would see
his children again. I’m afraid that
fell on deaf ears and the children
did actually leave and their details are
included on this passenger list I mentioned earlier,
between 1890 and 1960. And in fact, there’s a very good
site from the National Archives of Canada website where
they’ve pulled together records of child migrants
and what happened to them once they reached Canada. So if you’re interested
in learning more about child migration,
you can combine using records such as this one,
which is the outward passenger list where their names were
records, to the library and archives in Canada,
who put together a database of what
happened to those children when they arrived. It is highly unlikely that
they saw their father again. I think the evidence shows
that they remained in Canada for the rest of their lives. Finally, there’s a very
other unique period in British history, where
the government supported the evacuation of children
in the Second World War. So most children were evacuated
on the 1st of September in 1939 from urban cities in the UK
to rural parts of the UK. And this was under
Operation Pied Piper. Many of those children
would stay there until the threat of invasion,
the threat of bombing in British cities, waned
from about 1944 onwards. But there was a
second plan, and that was to send children overseas
to the dominions, particularly Canada, Australia, New
Zealand, and South Africa. And this was at a time
when the enemy invasion risks were at their highest,
in May and June of 1940. So these were known
as seavacuees. And here we have a party
of school children starting their new life in New Zealand. They’re in a series
of records DO 131, and these records can
be search by name. And this is a
particular document which provides some photograph
evidence of those journeys. Unfortunately, it
was very short-lived. Over 1,000 children were
migrated as part of this scheme and each of them
have history cards. Some of them would go to
nominated households, where perhaps they were relations
of the individuals, or some would go to
un-nominated ones. And some would have
good times and others would have difficult times, as
this particular cards shows us. But you can search these
records by name of discovery. The policy came to
an abrupt end when, unfortunately, one of
the vessels carrying the children in
1940 was torpedoed and most of the children died. So there are only
about 15 to 20 journeys between June and September, and
then the policy was abandoned. That particular
tragedy we’ve got records of relating to
the individuals who died and also correspondence
between their parents and the authorities about how to
deal with the losses, as well. So that concludes the webinar. So obviously, I’m very
happy to take any questions that anyone may have.