A new web site has appeared: AncestorsOnBoard.com. I suspect this is going to become one of the major sources of information about ancestors who traveled from UK ports to various cities around the world. The site will eventually list 30 million passengers who sailed on ships that departed from Southampton, Glasgow, Queenstown (Cobh of Cork), and other ports.
This site greatly complements the Ellis Island web site and even exceeds it in many ways. The new AncestorsOnBoard.com will list detailed information about travelers to many North American cities, not just New York. Yes, it even includes information about many who went to Canada. In fact, this new online resource includes passenger lists for many voyages to Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. You will also find some passenger lists for voyages to South America, the Caribbean, West Africa, and all parts of Asia. Many of these passengers were never documented upon arrival in their newly-adopted countries.
These passenger lists document more than just British emigrants. Many European trans-migrants are included. These people from the European continent, many of whom were economic migrants, began their journeys in continental Europe and came to Britain to catch a cheaper sailing to their final destination, such as the USA. As such, they were listed on British passenger lists of ships departing from UK ports. Italian, German, Dutch, and Belgian emigrants often left from Southampton. Scandinavians may have left from Southampton or from Glasgow.
These are records that have never before been available online or even on microfilm. The documents previously were only available to view at the public search room in Kew (at the National Archives of England). In fact, very few people ever knew about these records, and many of the pages have not been examined by anyone for seventy-five years or more.
The new web site has now appeared, but the records are not yet available. Records should be online within the next few weeks. According to the new web site at http://www.ancestorsonboard.com:
"Records of 30 million passengers on thousands of ships sailing to destinations worldwide launching soon.
"1837online, in association with The National Archives, is proud to present Ancestorsonboard, a new database featuring BT27 Outward Passenger Lists for long-distance voyages leaving the British Isles from 1960 right back to 1890. With Ancestorsonboard, you can search for records of individuals or groups of people leaving for destinations including Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and USA featuring ports such as Boston, Philadelphia and New York. Passengers include not only immigrants and emigrants, but also businessmen, diplomats and tourists. Images of the passenger lists will be available to download, view, save and print."
Another web page on the new site proclaims, "The BT27 outward-bound passenger lists are a fascinating and important set of records currently being digitised by 1837online.com for online publication for the very first time. The passenger lists cover long-distance voyages made from all British ports between 1890 and 1960 and include voyages such as that of the ill-fated Titanic, which sank in 1912. Records will be rolled out on the website over the next few months."
Notice the phrase "BT27 Outward Passenger Lists" in the announcement. "BT" refers to the Board of Trade (the precursor of the modern-day Department of Trade & Industry), which from 1786 to 1970 set policy and regulated trade with Britain colonies and the rest of the world. "27" refers to the series or shelf number at The National Archives (TNA) in Kew, London, where the original documents are held.
The records are indexed by UK port of departure and by date of departure, but not by name. This means that it is almost impossible to find a particular individual unless you already know exactly when they traveled and from which port. Current estimates say that there are approximately 30 million passengers in BT27, but the final figure will only be discovered when digitization and transcription of the records has been completed.
If you already know the date when an ancestor arrived at Ellis Island or some other port, you probably can find the matching and possibly more detailed information about that person if you look at English departures two or three weeks earlier. In many cases, the information in the English records is more detailed than the records from New York. Hometowns in "the old country" are often listed, as are relatives who accompanied your ancestor. Someone listed by first initials and last name upon arrival in the "New World" may have a full name listed in the BT27 Outward Passenger Lists. Spelling errors might exist in either the departure or arrival records; you probably need to check both to find your ancestors.
A large proportion of the passengers are, of course, British emigrants. Prior to World War 1, there was mass migration: this was before the modern era of immigration control and the arrival of air travel, so travel was by boat of necessity. Every year between 1890 and 1914, an estimated 125,000 British people emigrated to USA, 50,000 to Canada, and 25,000 to Australia. After World War 1, emigration continued but became increasingly controlled and often had a changed emphasis; for instance, Australia became a more and more popular destination.
Over and above the emigrants, there were also numerous business travelers (who may appear many times in BT27, once for each journey, if they made regular trips to and from, say, USA), civil servants, and diplomats traveling on official government business, and leisure travelers visiting family overseas or simply embarking on pleasure cruises.
This is an exciting new online resource. These are records that many people never knew existed. The few who did know often found it hard to travel to London and examine the unindexed records stored in boxes at Kew. Now you will be able to sit at home and view the records at your leisure, at any time. They remain unindexed at this time, but efforts are underway to add indexes before long.
AncestorsOnBoard.com is a commercial site: you will need to pay a fee to look at the records. The exact fees are not yet announced, but the site's owners say that the fees will be modest.
For more information, keep an eye on http://www.AncestorsOnBoard.com