Posts filed under ‘Immigration’
It’s a common experience for genealogists – tracking ancestors forward through the UK censuses – to find that suddenly the whole family seems to vanish from the records. Eventually it might occur to us to wonder, did they migrate somewhere? If so, where did they go?
This is where the collection ‘Passenger lists leaving the UK 1890–1960’ on findmypast.com.au can be so useful. These are the digitised and indexed lists of passengers embarking on long-distance voyages made from all British ports (England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales). If the ship stopped en route at additional ports, such as in Europe, passengers disembarking at those stops are also included. The original documents are held in The National Archives UK in series BT 27 (BT = Board of Trade). Findmypast has indexed together all departures from all British ports, allowing researchers to enter their ancestor’s name of interest and determine the destination.
The most common way of searching for immigrant ancestors is to search the archives of the destination country. But which government archives to check? In the case of passengers to Australia, the individual colonies (and then states) administered immigration separately until 1922, after which immigration control became a function of the Commonwealth Government. (A further complication when looking for immigration records is that, just as today, immigration is typically handled at the first port of call.)
Using findmypast.com.au, there is a better way. Look under ‘Travel & migration’ and select the record set ‘Passenger Lists Leaving the UK 1890-1960’. I was searching for the migration of my grandmother, Olwena KELLETT, who was born in Lancashire in 1901. I entered her name (with first name variants) and searched between 1901 and 1907. It is a free search – not even requiring a subscription to do the search.
I selected ‘name variants’ – which also allows for the fact that some passenger lists only identify people by an initial. I found her in 1905, where she travelled from Britain to South Africa.
The above information is as far as you can go with a free search. It requires a subscription or PayAsYouGo credits to see the transcription of the results or full image of the page. The amount of information available on the passenger lists varies widely over time. Some only have minimal information about the passengers, while others include their dates of birth, occupations, and addresses in Britain before departure as well as their ultimate destinations overseas.
I had already found the record of the family’s arrival in Australia, and had assumed they had travelled on that same ship from London to Sydney. But instead little Olwena travelled with her mother to South Africa first, and then 2 years later the family travelled on to Sydney.
As many of the passenger indexes available in Australia concentrate on ships that came from British ports, ancestors who travelled first to places like South Africa or North America might not be included in the indexes of arrivals in Australia. Looking instead at the departures from Britain might help us understand what happened.
Just as today, not every person travelling was an immigrant. Apart from the seamen, many of our ancestors (such as merchants) travelled for work and people travelled for holidays. Families who had already migrated travelled back to Britain to visit family and friends. In other words, a surprising number of our ancestors appear in passenger lists crossing the oceans. Using the indexes of passengers leaving Britain provides a very useful additional way of tracking their journeys.
I’ve written a new course on Australian Immigration (free settlers) for the National Institute for Genealogical Studies and have been reminded again about how much is explained by looking at background history.
People refer to the ‘push-pull’ of immigration. The Irish potato famine of the 1840s ‘pushed’ a large number of emigrants. In addition to 1 million dead, another 1 million people migrated from Ireland, causing the country’s population to fall by nearly 25%.
Likewise the pull of immigration: in the 7 years from the start of the Victorian gold rushes in 1851, the population of Victoria increased from 70,000 to nearly 500,000, overtaking the population of New South Wales. Ships arriving in Port Phillip were deserted as passengers and crew rushed off to the gold fields (often before immigration officials had time to record who had arrived).
Not all the numbers are so dramatic but looking at the numbers and considering the history helps understanding.
In 50 years from 1803, 75,000 convicts were sent to Tasmania (then known as Van Diemen’s Land). With convict labour and also emancipated convicts, there was no shortage of labour and indeed the problem was to ensure no unemployment, especially for assigned convicts.
The need was for wealthy settlers to develop employment – and single women. The gender balance was so unequal that for a while the government subsidised the migration of single women. But there was little need for more labourers. By 1860 about 80% of free immigrants to Tasmania had paid their own fares. The total number of free immigrants to that date was similar to the total number of transported convicts.
It was a different story in Queensland. Because of labour shortages, Queensland was a colony founded on assisted immigration (subsidised passages). In the 40 years leading up to Federation (1901), more assisted migrants arrived in Queensland than any other colony and few records remain in Queensland of the arrival of those who paid their own way.
I’ve been looking at Australian immigration records, and in particular the various indexes that sound as though they are indexing the same records but actually yield very different results.
Some years ago I searched through multiple microfilms until I found the records of John Hoadley and his family, who set out from England as ‘bounty immigrants’ in 1838. Colonists selected suitable immigrants to sponsor, and paid for their fares, in exchange for a ‘bounty’ from the government, which reimbursed part or all of the costs. The new immigrant would then be contracted to work for their sponsor for a time.
Immigration to New South Wales was the responsibility of the NSW government until 1922, and the records are now held by NSW State Records. (Immigration records after 1922 are now held by the National Archives of Australia.)
Anyway back to John Hoadley – he was aged 26, a farm labourer from Chittington Sussex. His wife Mary Ann was a 22-year-old housemaid. They had 2 small children, George aged 1 and Mary Ann aged 2. According to the references supplied, John Hoadley was the son of Amelia Hoadley, a laundress of Blumton, Sussex. His health was good and the local curate attested to his good character.
As I say, I had found their ship and date of arrival by searching through microfilms. When NSW State Records added an online index to their website, that index started from 1844, so did not include the Hoadley family.
When the subscription site Ancestry.com.au released a ‘Bounty Immigrants Index for 1828-1842’, the Hoadley family was missing. (Or were they just wrongly indexed? The original writing is difficult to read.)
Recently I checked a newer Ancestry collection, ‘Assisted Immigrant Passenger Lists 1828-1896’ and this time it DID include the Hoadley family. (Why was an 1838 record missing from the 1828-1842 collection but found in the 1828-1896 collection?)
According to the record in the Ancestry collection, John Hoadley “jumped overboard in a fit of delirium … at midnight … Left a widow and 2 children”. I had not known that!
More recently, NSW State Records released ‘digital copies of the Bounty Immigrants lists, 1838-96’ – copies of the original passenger lists, freely available online. Note that these start 6 years earlier than the NSW State Records Assisted Immigrants index. I was pleased to find that the ship ‘Amelia Thompson’ was included – however the digitised images online only include the single men and women, not the families and married couples, so the Hoadleys were left out – again.
Most recently FamilySearch released an ‘Index to bounty immigrants arriving in NSW, Australia, 1828-1842’ – including digital images. Having seen the other records, I expected the FamilySearch image would be a copy of one of those – it wasn’t.
The image on the FamilySearch site is a filmed copy of a card index, including a transcription of all available information – including some I did not know. Poor Mary Ann Hoadley did not only lose her husband on the voyage, her youngest child died at the Quarantine Station 2 weeks after their arrival.
The above was a lesson to me that the indexes and images might sound as if they are all the same, but – for whatever reason – the ancestor you are looking for might be included in one index and missing from another. Or one record might include more information than another. Taken together, all the information tells much more of a story, that I would not have learned if I had stopped looking when I found the name of the vessel and a date.
I was preparing to teach a class about Ancestry.com & this prompted me to look at some collections added recently. I was most excited to find the arrival into England of my 3g.grandfather, Samuel SHUTER, from what is now Poland. I have probably looked for that record, on and off, for about 15 years, but had eventually decided that I was unlikely to find a shipping record from continental Europe to England.
Anyway, I found him – amongst the UK Aliens Entry Books, 1794-1926. The first document was his Certificate of Arrival, 14 Feb 1846, from HO2, certificate 95. The second document was his subsequent arrival on 25 Sep 1854. (HO3 piece 75) This latter was in a book of correspondence, and now I will try to determine if I can obtain a copy of the correspondence referred to in this index.
Anyway, it’s a reminder to me of the new collections being added to sites like Ancestry, and the value of trying to keep checking new collections added.