Rare Early Travel & Migration Records Published Online at Findmypast

The following announcement was written by the folks at Findmypast:

  • New online records reveal the details of pioneering overseas travellers at the dawn of the age of sail
  • Over 27,000 “Licences to Pass beyond the Seas” spanning 1573 to 1677
  • Collection includes rare early records of passengers bound for the Americas

Findmypast_logoToday, 07th October 2016, over 27,000 early travel and migration records have been published online for the first time at Findmypast.

Released in association with The National Archives, the new “Britain, Registers of Licences to Pass beyond the Seas 1573 – 1677” collection records the details of pioneering early travellers who left Britain for Ireland, continental Europe, New England, Virginal, Barbados, Bermuda and other overseas colonies at the dawn of the age of sail.

The collection is comprised of fully searchable transcripts and scanned colour images of original documents from the TNA series E 157. It includes lists of soldiers who signed a statutory oath of allegiance before serving in the “Low Countries” between 1613 and 1633, licences for individuals travelling to Europe between 1573 and 1677, and registers pertaining to individuals travelling to the Americas between 1634 and 1639.


The records showing passengers licensed to embark to the Americas are tremendously rare early survivals. They record parties bound for colonies in New England, Maryland, Virginia, Barbados, Bermuda, St Kitt’s and the Providence Island colony during the 1630s. Very few original records from this early period of American history are available online and the registers record the details of some of earliest English settlers to arrive on the continent.

A good proportion of those listed are soldiers and mercenaries departing English shores to fight for the Protestant side in the Dutch Revolt. There are also significant numbers of unemployed or under-employed artisans looking for work (for example, weavers), people visiting family and friends, those travelling for the pleasures of touring itself, and Protestant refugees returning to their homeland.

After 1609, all travellers over the age of 18 had to swear an oath of allegiance to the monarch before the Clerk of the Passes could issue them with a licence to leave the country. There was an expectation that the licence would be used quickly and some were even issued with a time-limit that required the holder to return to England within a specific period of time. The dates shown in the records relate to the date the oath was taken or the date the licence was issued – not the date of actual departure.

These new records have been released to coincide with Family History Month 2016, an initiative to promote and celebrate family history research that was introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch, of Utah, in 2001. Findmypast will be celebrating all month long with a series of helpful tips and how-to guides, a selection new US collections that will be released each week and a special prize giveaway.

Steve Rigden, records expert at Findmypast says: “Registers of Licences to Pass beyond the Seas is a collection of rare survivals from the late 16th and early 17th centuries, of value to everyone from military historians and genealogists to academic historians. These documents show official permissions granted to individuals to leave England for various purposes – a majority being to the Low Countries, for instance to find work, to visit kin or to fight in the Dutch Revolt.

Over and above these, there are also some precious lists of what are presumably settlers on the Irish plantations and, of fundamental interest to North American researchers, plenty of records relating to immigrant ancestors preparing to leave the Old World for the New, swearing the oath of allegiance. Images for all of these are available for the first time, and in high quality colour that brings out the beauty of secretary hand, a real sense of the texture of the original document, and almost a feeling of the clerk at work compiling the registers 400 years ago.”

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