External Migration

External Migration, 1800-

The probability of determining emigrant origins in the 19th century is very good if the pertinent sources listed below are combined with the nationwide indexes found under Internal Migration. However, the more common the emigrant’s names and any uncertainty about the county of origin increase the difficulty of finding that particular emigrant.

  • Passenger Lists Leaving UK 1890-1960 (BT 27). Go to Find My Past under "Travel & migration." This site is free to those accessing it through the computers at the FHL and in the family history section of the BYU library. Abstracts for 1890-91 only will be found at British Origins under Passenger Lists. (fee site)
  • Register of passport applications 1851-1903 (FO 611). Passports were not required until 1915. Go to Find My Past under "Travel". (See the note about access in the preceding paragraph.)
  • Marine births & deaths, 1837-1965. English Civil Registration required the recording of births and deaths on board British ships. The index is online as well as FHL fiche 6137268-6137322 for births and 6137189-6137266 for deaths. For the on-line service go to Find My Past under "Births 1761-" (or "Deaths 1796-") See the above two paragraphs for accessibility of this site.
  • Births, Marriages and Deaths of Passengers at Sea, 1854-1890. The indexes to BT 158 are online at Find My Past as above (plus "Marriages 1796-") The indexes and registry are also on FHL/BYU films 1419469-1419472. Also on film are the registers of deaths (BT 159) on FHL films 1483314-1483320 for 1875-1891 and births (BT 160) on FHL films 1483321-1483323 for 1875-1891. Duplication occurs between this (BT) series and the previous entry for marine births & deaths with the following important exceptions: you have access to the actual registers here, and both BT 159 and BT 160 include entries for Ireland and Scotland. BT 158-160 are also indexed on BMD Registers. There is a fee to go beyond the indexes.
  • Consular births, marriages and deaths, 1849-1965. British nationals abroad may have gone to the nearest consulate to have their vital records recorded. The indexes are online as well as FHL fiche 6137348-6137370 for births, 6137431-6137453 for marriages, and 6137127-6137179 for deaths. For the on-line indexes, use a similar approach to that outlined under Marine births & deaths above.
  • Army pensioners, 1772-1899. See Norman K. Crowder’s British Army Pensioners Abroad, 1772-1899 published in 1995 (FHL 942 M2cn).
  • Immigrant Ancestors Project (hereafter IAP), 18th-19th centuries. This is the ongoing project of the Center for Family History and Genealogy at Brigham Young University. The intent is to identify sources for migration throughout the world and produce a database. Go to Immigrant Ancestor Project. Currently, poor law and court records are being inputted from the county archives of Essex, Gloucester, Norfolk, Nottingham, Shropshire, Warwick, and Wiltshire. Also being employed from the National Archives are CO 23/3 for the Bahamas, CO 37/139-143 for Bermuda, and MH 12 for assisted migration in the poor law unions after 1833.
  • Ellis Island, 1892-1924. Ellis Island was the major clearing center for immigrants. Go to Ellis Island. Before 1892, try Castle Garden also in New York.
  • Castle Garden, 1830-1892. Go to Castle Garden.
  • U.S. Customs Passenger Lists, 1820 to mid-1900s. Records arranged by port. Philadelphia’s lists begin in 1800. Start with Ancestry.com by checking under “US Immigration Collection.” This fee site is open to the public when searching at the FHL or using the computers in the Family History Section of the BYU library. The indexes are connected to the actual ships’ lists. Much of this data (indexes and lists) is also available on film. For a guide to the microfilms, see FHL 973 W33u for the different ports except New York. For New York check FHL 974.71 W33r. An older version of this guide is at BYU on Table 4B in Binder 39 under the tab, “Immigration: Port of Arrival.”
  • British Aliens, 1790-1812. See below in the next section.

External Migration, 1700-

Finding the correct origins of a particular emigrant becomes increasingly difficult. It is helpful if you know whether the individual was a Free Emigrant or an Unfree Emigrant. The Free had the resources to come and to establish a new life in the Americas. The Unfree were indentured servants, convicts/prisoners, or slaves. Tracing slave origins is the most difficult task and requires specialized studies beyond the scope of this general outline for emigrants from England. Convicts/prisoners are the best documented emigrant group. Go to Columbia University for a table of the estimated number of all emigrant groups before 1819.

  • Passenger and Immigration Lists Index (hereafter PILI). This multi-volume work edited by P. William Filby and Mary K. Meyer is the starting place for any emigrant research in the 17th and 18th centuries. It first appeared in 3 volumes in 1981 and is accompanied by annual supplements, all of which must be searched. The major printed works are indexed here. Fortunately, all volumes of PILI through the 2008 supplement can be searched online at Ancestry.com by checking under “US Immigration Collection.” This fee site is open to the public when searching at the FHL or using the computers in the Family History Section of the BYU library. The entire published work through the 2013 supplement is available as FHL 973 W32p and BYU Rel/Family History Ref. CS 68 .P36.
  • British Aliens in the United States During the War of 1812. Indexed in PILI, 1982 supplement. (FHL 973 W4s) This publication by Kenneth Scott identifies some 12,000 “immigrants who arrived…mainly between 1790 and 1812 and who had not yet been naturalized.”
  • Emigrants from England to the American Colonies, 1773-76. Indexed in PILI, 2002 supplement. (FHL 973 W3c and BYU E 49.2 .B7 C65 1988) This publication by Peter W. Coldham identifies 6000-7000 Free emigrants and indentured servants who left from English ports. The original records are found in the National Archives under T 47/9-12 and include emigrants from ports in Wales and Scotland as well. IAP is now in the process of adding all of T 47/9-12 to their index. The entire text of Coldham’s book is available online at Ancestry.com by checking under “US Immigration Collection” and the title of the book. For an historical interpretation using T 47/9-12, see Bernard Bailyn's Voyagers to the West: a passage in the peopling of America on the eve of the Revolution (FHL 973 W2ba and BYU JV 7618 .N7 B35 1986)
  • American Vital Records from the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731-1868. Not in PILI. (FHL 973 V22d and BYU CS 68 .D63 1987) This compilation by David Dobson contains some 6000 entries pertinent to Free emigrants. It would be well to also search the index to this magazine as well as the actual volumes of the magazine at the FHL. Start with FHL 942 B2g Index. Dobson’s book is also available online. Do a keyword search under the above title at Ancestry.com. Other possible sources for Free emigrants include marriage indexes and marriage licenses (see Marriage Records), county histories, and probates as outlined next.
  • American Wills & Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1610-1857. Not in PILI. (FHL 942 P27c and BYU CS 68 .C517 1989) This publication by Peter W. Coldham is also available electronically under FHL CD-ROM no. 9 pt. 364 and at BYU under CD 364 as part of the Family Tree Maker’s Family Archives. It would be well to search the on-line index for this court under not only the emigrant's name but the names of other kin, friends and neighbors, and business associates in America. See London: PCC.
  • American Wills Proved in London, 1611-1775. Not in PILI. (FHL 973 P27ca and BYU CS 436 .L7 A14 1992) Another publication of Peter W. Coldham which is available electronically as described in the previous entry. Also see probates under London.
  • North American Wills Registered in London, 1611-1857. Not in PILI. (FHL 942 P27c 2007) Coldham’s latest work on London probates. Also see London.
  • Apprentices of Great Britain, 1710-1774. Start with Find My Past. This refers to a tax (IR 1) levied from 1710-1810 on apprenticeships. They are indexed by the name of the apprentices (IR 17) through 1774. Unfortunately, not all apprentices are included. If a likely entry is found in the on-line index, then go to the filmed collection for this series that starts with FHL film 477624. This source will be useful for both Free emigrants and indentured servants when dealing with an uncommon surname or where you know the occupation and age of the emigrant.
  • The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607-1776. Volumes 1-4 are in PILI 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1996 supplements. (FHL 973 W2col) This work by Peter W. Coldham covers 1700-1750 in volume 3 and 1751-1776 in volume 4. All four volumes are available electronically under FHL CD-ROM no. 9 pt. 350 and at BYU under CD 350 as part of the Family Tree Maker’s Family Archives. Indentured servants are included.
  • Emigrants to America: Indentured Servants Recruited in London, 1718-1733. Indexed in PILI, 1995 supplement. (FHL 973 W2wa and BYU CS 59 .W37 1985) The compiler of this book is John Wareing. Indentured servants in the 18th century will also be found in the IAP index. See the above entry under External Migration, 1800- for the counties currently being indexed.
  • English Adventurers & Emigrants, 1661-1733: abstracts of examinations in the High Court of Admiralty with reference to Colonial America. Not in PILI. (FHL 942 P2cw and BYU E 184 .B7 C63 1985) This is volume 2 of another publication by Peter W. Coldham. The full text is available online at Ancestry.com by checking under “US Immigration Collection” and the title of the book.
  • More English Adventurers & Emigrants, 1625-1777: abstracts of examinations in the High Court of Admiralty with reference to Colonial America. Not in PILI. (FHL 942 P2cw) This is a supplement to volume 2 listed above.
  • The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775. Indexed in PILI, 1999 supplement. (FHL 973 W2c 1988 and BYU Rel/Family History Ref. CS 61 .C62 1988) Peter W. Coldham used as one of his sources for this work the payments made by the Treasury classified as T 53 by the National Archives. Both this work and its supplement listed below are also on CD-ROM 350 as described above for The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607-1776. All three volumes concerning emigrants in bondage are also on another CD produced by the Genealogical Publishing Company in 2004. See FHL CD-ROM no. 2150 which has the additional advantage of being accessible on the in-house computer system of the FHL.
  • Supplement to the Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775. Indexed in PILI, 2000 supplement. Coldham’s supplement published in 1992 is available electronically at the FHL. See the preceding entry.
  • More Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775. Indexed in PILI, 2007 supplement. (FHL 973 W2c 2002-see the preceding 2 entries for an electronic version) With this third volume, Coldham has identified almost all of the convicts and prisoners sent to Colonial America. The full text of the third volume is available online at Ancestry.com by checking under “US Immigration Collection” and the title of the book. Many of the convicts listed in the 3 volumes were tried in the London court known as Old Bailey. Checking that court’s proceedings online from 1674 might reveal further information about the emigrant’s origins. Go to Old Bailey Online.
  • National Archives. There are numerous records at the National Archives, Kew, that contain the names of persons in or on the way to the American Colonies. Many of these persons are listed in the many volumes of descriptive calendars/indexes published for the National Archives. This published data may be sufficient to trace an emigrant’s origins. The problem concerns finding said persons in the index found in the appropriate volume. Each of the following volumes has good but incomplete indexes as far as the names of all individuals mentioned therein. Typically, the preface or introduction is not included in the index. A further problem is that the older volumes provide references to item numbers rather than page numbers, unless the number is preceded by p. for page.
    Start by looking for the emigrant’s name and then subjects such as America, name of the Colony/City, Criminals, Indentured Servants, Plantations, and Ships.
    • Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, America and West Indies, 1574-1739. 46 volumes. (FHL 942 N23gcs and BYU DA 25 .H5) The 18th century is found in volumes 18-44. All volumes are on line at British History (Click on Sources>Guides and calendars.) The FHL lacks volume 45 and BYU lacks volumes 44-45. Volumes 43-44 include appendices that give the names of those who received land grants in South Carolina in 1737-1738. This entire series draws from the records classified as CO, particularly CO 1 and CO 5. It also contains material from CO 391 through 1704 for the Board of Trade that is continued in the next entry.
    • Journal of the Board of Trade and Plantations, 1704-1782. 14 volumes. (BYU DA 25 .H55) This series is indexed by page number. Online as described above
    • Acts of the Privy Council of England, Colonial Series, 1613 to 1783. 6 volumes. (BYU DA 25 .C17) This series is to the records classified as PC 1, PC 2, and part of PC 5.
    • Calendar of Home Office Papers, George III, 1760-1775. 4 volumes. (BYU DA 25 .C45) Some of the most useful information in this series is summarized in tables to be found at the end of each year. The names of criminals appear in these tables but usually not in the index to the volume. The tables show among other things the court and date of the trial. This series draws on records classified as SP. Online as described above
    • Calendar of Treasury Books, 1660-1718. 32 volumes. (BYU DA 25 .C285) Some volumes have more than one part so that the total number of bound books exceeds 32. This series is based on T 1, 27, 29, 52-54, 60, and 99; and continues in 2 other publications only one of which is at BYU:
    • Calendar of Treasury Books and Papers, 1729-1745. 5 volumes. (BYU DA 25 .C82)

Passenger Lists Online. Check periodically the following web sites to stay up to date.

External Migration, 1607-

The most difficult problem in English Family History Research is to determine the correct origins of a 17th century emigrant. See the opening paragraph under External Migration, 1700-. There is a certain amount of general searches that can be tried as outlined below, and more that can be done in local records if one is fairly certain of the likely county in England from which the emigrant came.

  • Passenger and Immigration Lists Index (hereafter PILI). This multi-volume work edited by P. William Filby and Mary K. Meyer is the starting place for any emigrant research in the 17th and 18th centuries. It first appeared in 3 volumes in 1981 and is accompanied by annual supplements, all of which must be searched. The major printed works are indexed here. Fortunately, all volumes of PILI through the 2008 supplement can be searched online at Ancestry.com by checking under “US Immigration Collection.” This fee site is open to the public searching at the FHL or using the computers in the Family History Section of the BYU library. This site also includes the full texts of many of the published works for the 17th century to which PILI refers. The entire PILI through the 2013 supplement is available as FHL 973 W32p and BYU Rel/Family History Ref. CS 68 .P36.
  • The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633. Indexed in PILI, 2000 supplement. (FHL 974 W2a and CD-ROM no. 1279; BYU F 3 .A53 1995) This impressive, documented work was started by Robert Charles Anderson and published in 1995 in 3 volumes. This is the beginning of an exhaustive study of what is known about the earliest settlers. It is valuable for historical and demographical studies as well as immigration studies and genealogy. An index and full text of the 3 volumes are also online at Ancestry.com by checking for the title under “US Immigration Collection.” (Do a keyword search.)
  • The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635. Volume 1 is indexed in PILI, 2003 supplement. (FHL 974 W2aa and BYU F 7 .A54 1999) Continuation of Anderson’s work described above in 7 volumes.
  • Free Emigrants. Other possible sources to be searched from the English side include marriage indexes and marriage licenses (see Marriage Records), county histories, and probates as outlined next.
  • American Wills & Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1610-1857. Not in PILI. (FHL 942 P27c and BYU CS 68 .C517 1989) This publication by Peter W. Coldham is also available electronically under FHL CD-ROM no. 9 pt. 364 and at BYU under CD 364 as part of the Family Tree Maker’s Family Archives. It would be well to search the on-line index for this court under not only the emigrant’s name but the names of other kin, friends and neighbors, and business associates in America. See London: PCC.
  • American Wills Proved in London, 1611-1775. Not in PILI. (FHL 973 P27ca and BYU CS 436 .L7 A14 1992) Another publication of Peter W. Coldham which is available electronically as described in the previous entry. Also see probates under London.
  • North American Wills Registered in London, 1611-1857. Not in PILI. (FHL 942 P27c 2007) Coldham’s latest work on London probates.
  • The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607-1776. Volumes 1-4 are in PILI 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1996 supplements. (FHL 973 W2col and vols. 1-2 are at BYU Rel/Family History Ref. CS 68 .C64x) This work by Peter W. Coldham covers 1607-1660 in volume 1 and 1661-1699 in volume 2. All four volumes are available electronically under FHL CD-ROM no. 9 pt. 350 and at BYU under CD 350 as part of the Family Tree Maker’s Family Archives. Indentured servants are included.
  • Indentured Servants Database. Go to Price & Associates
  • Lord Mayor’s Court of London Depositions Relating to Americans, 1641-1736. Indexed in PILI. (FHL 942.1/L1 P28Lm and BYU CS 42 .N43 no. 44) This work by Peter W. Coldham was published by the National Genealogical Society in 1980.
  • English Adventurers & Emigrants, 1609-1660: abstracts of examinations in the High Court of Admiralty with reference to Colonial America. Not in PILI. (FHL 942 P2cw and BYU E 184 .B7 C6 1984) This is volume 1 of another publication by Peter W. Coldham. The full text is available online at Ancestry.com by checking under “US Immigration Collection” and the title of the book.
  • English Adventurers & Emigrants, 1661-1733: abstracts of examinations in the High Court of Admiralty with reference to Colonial America. Not in PILI. (FHL 942 P2cw and BYU E 184 .B7 C63 1985) This is volume 2 of the above entry. The full text is available online at Ancestry.com by checking under “US Immigration Collection” and the title of the book.
  • More English Adventurers & Emigrants, 1625-1777: abstracts of examinations in the High Court of Admiralty with reference to Colonial America. Not in PILI. (FHL 942 P2cw) This is a supplement to volume 2 listed above.
  • The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775. Indexed in PILI, 1999 supplement. (FHL 973 W2c 1988 and BYU Rel/Family History Ref. CS 61 .C62 1988) Peter W. Coldham used as one of his sources for this work the payments made by the Treasury classified as T 53 by the National Archives. Both this work and its supplement listed below are also on CD-ROM 350 as described above for The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607-1776. All three volumes concerning emigrants in bondage are also on another CD produced by the Genealogical Publishing Company in 2004. See FHL CD-ROM no. 2150 which has the additional advantage of being accessible on the in-house computer system of the FHL.
  • Supplement to the Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775. Indexed in PILI, 2000 supplement. Coldham’s supplement published in 1992 is available electronically at the FHL. See the preceding entry.
  • More Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775. Indexed in PILI, 2007 supplement. (FHL 973 W2c 2002-see the preceding 2 entries for an electronic version) With this third volume, Coldham has identified almost all of the convicts and prisoners sent to Colonial America. The full text of the third volume is available online at Ancestry.com by checking under “US Immigration Collection” and the title of the book. Many of the convicts listed in the 3 volumes were tried in the London court known as Old Bailey. Checking that court’s proceedings online from 1674 might reveal further information about the emigrant’s origins. Go to Old Bailey Online.
  • The National Archives. There are numerous records at the National Archives, Kew, that contain the names of persons in or on the way to the American Colonies. Many of these persons are listed in the many volumes of descriptive calendars/indexes published for the National Archives. This published data may be sufficient to trace an emigrant’s origins. The problem concerns finding said persons in the index found in the appropriate volume. Each of the following volumes has good but incomplete indexes as far as the names of all individuals mentioned therein. Typically, the preface or introduction is not included in the index. A further problem is that the older volumes provide references to item numbers rather than page numbers, unless the number is preceded by p. for page.
    Start by looking for the emigrant’s name and then subjects such as America, name of the Colony/City, Criminals, Indentured Servants, Plantations, and Ships.
    • Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, America and West Indies, 1574-1739. 46 volumes. (FHL 942 N23gcs and BYU DA 25 .H5) The 17th century is found in volumes 1, 5, 7, 9-17, 46. All volumes are on line at British History (Click on Sources>Guides and calendars.) This entire series draws from the records classified as CO, particularly CO 1 and CO 5. It also contains material from CO 391 through 1699 for the Board of Trade.
    • Acts of the Privy Council of England, Colonial Series, 1613 to 1783. 6 volumes. (BYU DA 25 .C17) This series is to the records classified as PC 1, PC 2, and part of PC 5.
    • Calendar of Treasury Books, 1660-1718. 32 volumes. (BYU DA 25 .C285) Some volumes have more than one part so that the total number of bound books exceeds 32. This series is based on T 1, 27, 29, 52-54, 60, and 99.

Passenger Lists Online. Check periodically the following web sites to stay up to date.

Surname Pattern and DNA Studies. Mapping the distribution of all spelling variants of a surname in England between 1600 and modern times enables the researcher to determine the most likely counties of origin for a 17th century emigrant of that surname. DNA studies of the male descendants of the emigrant and people by that same surname still living in England could narrow down precisely the list of probable county origins. At that point the researcher could investigate the records of said county(s) for documented proof. Such an approach is time consuming and could be expensive, but could be an effective way of resolving that difficult problem of 17th century emigration. For an introduction to the history of surname patterns and a possible approach for constructing a surname pattern, see David H. Pratt’s article, “Signposts and Surname Patterns,” Genealogical Journal, Vol. 25, No. 1(1997):15-18. (FHL 973 D25gj and BYU CS 1 .G382) For a more recent explanation of surname patterns and available sources to conduct such research as well as how to go about making a DNA study, go to


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