Ship passenger archives go onlineRecords are tool for family historians

28 March 2008

24 million

Number of passengers listed in newly released records

The complete set of passenger records for Britons who travelled by long-distance ocean liner between 1890 and 1960 went online for the first time today.

Fascinating details of voyages made by famous stars including actors Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, film director Alfred Hitchcock and playwright Noel Coward feature in the archive, alongside records of ordinary people's departures for a new life in Australia in the 1940s and 50s.

The commercial venture by family history website www.findmypast.com, in association with the National Archives, has taken a team of 125 workers more than a year to complete, digitising 164,000 original passenger lists from long-distance voyages.

Millions of passengers

In all there are 1.1 million pages now on the internet which list 24 million passengers.

Highlights include:

  • a sailing by the Normandie from Southampton on November 5, 1938, which carried Vivian Leigh and Laurence Olivier, Leslie Howard, Anna Neagle and Noel Coward to New York
  • the Titanic's passenger list for its ill-fated maiden voyage in 1912
  • Elizabeth Taylor's journey to New York with her American parents in 1934, aged two
  • Alfred Hitchcock's passage to New York on January 11, 1955, on the Liberte
  • Kylie Minogue's mother, Carol Jones, emigrating from Wales as a child in the 1950s
  • voyages of famous Australians who were born in Britain, including singer and actress Olivia Newton John and pop stars the Bee Gees.

Tracing relatives

Parts of the archive have been online since last year but today's addition of records from the 1950s marks the end of the project.

Commercial director at findmypast.com, Elaine Collins, said: 'The availability of the passenger lists from ships that left British ports in the 1950s is an invaluable tool for people tracing relatives they believe may have left the UK during this period.

'The passenger records may very well provide a missing link for many family historians who have hit a brick wall in their research, as well as helping those outside of the UK to trace back to their British and European heritage.'

The National Archives' Dan Jones added: 'These records were previously only available on site at the National Archives and we hope that digitisation will open up a hugely valuable resource for genealogists and social historians all over the world.

'Digitising our records ensures that we can make our most popular holdings more widely accessible, whilst ensuring the preservation of the original documents for future generations.'

Emigrated

More than a million Britons emigrated to Australia under an assisted passage scheme introduced by the Australian government at the end of the Second World War.

Adult migrants were only charged £10 for the fare, giving rise to the nickname 'Ten Pound Pom'.

The online records cover an estimated 710,000 people who travelled from the UK to Australia between 1947 and 1960, although the scheme ran until 1972.

Occupations

A spokeswoman for findmypast.com said every ship passenger record contained the names of each traveller, the name of the ship and the date, as well as ports of departure and destination.

The UK address, year of birth, marital status, occupation and nationality of each passenger also feature in the typed or hand-written records.

The top ten most popular occupations among emigrants to Australia in the 1950s were clerk, typist or secretary (28,873 passengers), domestic staff (17,235), medical sector (14,953), farming (14,247), labourer (13,373), teacher or lecturer (9,292), factory worker (8,925), engineer (5,931), fitter (5,099) and carpenter (5,027).

The decade also saw 17,385 retired people emigrating from the UK, and 140,511 women described as 'housewives'.

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