140 Years Of US Immigration Records From British Isles Go Online

By Graham Spicer | 09 November 2006
black and white vintage photo of a ships crew with a life ring in front of them

Millions left the British Isles in search of a better life in America. Photo courtesy Ancestry.co.uk

A huge online resource has been launched, detailing 140 years of English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish immigration to the US.

The digitised passenger lists detail records from the British Isles to America between 1820 and 1960, during which time the US welcomed some 100 million immigrants, vacationers and travellers.

Of these, 45 million were immigrants, 9.25 million hailing from the British Isles. In fact most people who travelled by boat from the British Isles to America during these years were immigrants, a result of the 1825 repeal of the law prohibiting emigration.

A total of 60 million people, one fifth of the population of the United States, claim British ancestry, and many are the descendents of passengers detailed in these lists.

black and white vintage photo of a passenger ship at dock

A fifth of Americans claim English, Irish, Welsh or Scottish descent. Photo courtesy Ancestry.co.uk

The lists have been put online by Ancestry.co.uk, a website that specialises in family history resources and although visitors will eventually have to pay to search the archive, access to it will be free until November 30 2006.

Records can be individually searched to reveal date, departure port and destination of travel, age, nationality, occupation, accompanying family members, name of ship, purpose of travel and even who funded the trip.

“Without question, the millions of names in the Ancestry passenger lists represent brave and colourful individuals who played a significant role in shaping what has become modern America,” said Simon Harper, Managing Director of Ancestry.co.uk.

photo of an old doument with a list of names and details on it

The lists include date, departure port, nationality, name of ship, and many other details. Photo courtesy Ancestry.co.uk

“The fact that one in five Americans alive today is descendent of the English, Irish, Scots or Welsh, is testament to the survival and success of many of these passengers,” said Harper.

People emigrated from all parts of the British Isles with the most common reason being to escape poverty. Many settled in large migrant communities and by 1860 New York had become the largest Irish city in the world, with more than 200,000 of the city’s 800,000 residents Irish-born.

“For those of us whose ancestors stayed in the British Isles, the launch of the Ancestry passenger lists means we can now discover when and where their direct family members resettled, and in solving this piece of the family history puzzle, also discover their descendants – our living US relatives,” added Simon Harper of Ancestry.co.uk

Follow your ancestor's epic journey on Ancestry.co.uk

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