Internal Migration

Internal Migration, Post-1834

It is probable that both the amount of movement and distance covered increased with the railway boom of the 1840s. However, due to the nationwide indexes now on the web, tracing the migrant’s moves becomes increasingly easier.

  • Census, 1841-1901. Start with This is a subscription site but free to the public when searching at the FHL or using the computers in the Family History Section of the BYU library.
  • Civil Registration, 1837-. Go to FreeBMD. You can click on "here" in the second paragraph to determine the current coverage of the birth, marriage or death indexes. There are a variety of search options including all of England, a county or a registration district. See civil registration for more details.
  • Probate Index, 1858-1957. The initial film for this series is FHL 215221. See Probates.
  • Population Tables for the 1851 census. The printed tables give the population of each place from 1801 through 1851 with explanatory notes of why the population was increasing or decreasing. These notes often indicate the direction of internal migration. A facsimile of the original is found in 10 bound volumes under FHL 942 X2gb. See either the first typescript page in each volume or page v of the General Index to determine the volume for the county of interest. This material was also reprinted in the Irish University Press series for British parliamentary papers under “Population.” See FHL Q 942 N2bpo, volumes 6-7. The same volumes are at BYU in their compact shelving under JN 501 .G836x. The key material for the 10 parts or divisions starts in volume 6 on pages 361, 409, 513, 609, 691, and 805; and in volume 7 on pages 17, 125, 205, and 323.

Internal Migration, Pre-1835

People may have made 4-5 major moves in a lifetime, but typically ended up within 10 miles of their birthplace. The poor were uprooted and caused to change residence more than any other social group.

  • Poor Law Records, 1601-1834. These records may also be found in the courts known as Quarter Sessions. Some disputes even ended up in the Court of King’s Bench. See the abstracts for the latter court made by James Burrow for 1732-1776. Search the BYU catalog under his name for their electronic version of his 2 volumes covering 1732-1768 with 2 continuations for 1768-72 and 1772-76.
  • Estate Duty Index, 1796-1903. Start with Find My Past. And Scroll down to "Wills and Probate" This is a fee site but free to those using the computers at the FHL, and in the family history section of the BYU library. See London: Estate Duty for further details.
  • Apprentices of Great Britain, 1710-1774. Start with 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.
  • Army Regimental Registers: births, 1761-1924. Poor boys may have joined the army. Fortunately, this index exists that lists the births of soldiers’ children whether born in Great Britain or abroad. Start with Find My Past In the Column on the right, also click on "army marriages" for the Chaplains' returns for a soldier's possible marriage abroad. (access to this site is described above under Estate Duty Index.)
  • Strays. Family history societies often make indexes of names found in their county’s records that refer to other counties or countries. These indexes are released on microfiche and CD-ROM for purchase. To find those at the FHL, type in the name of the county in the Place Search of the FHLC and then check under the subjects of “Migration, Internal” and “Church records-Indexes.” To cast a broader net, try the Keyword Search with the name of the county plus strays. Also check England for "Migration Records" at Price and Associates
  • National Burial Index (NBI). This is an ongoing project. It is available online at It is also available on CD-ROM at the FHL.
  • Marriage Records. See “Search Routines For A Missing Marriage.”
  • Probates. Check the counties of interest for any on-line indexes and see London: PCC.
  • Church Records, 1660-1837. Do a 10 mile radius search. Map the results and keep track of what was searched so that gaps in the radius search can be easily determined. If needed, expand the radius to 25 miles. However, before attempting the larger radius search, consider the drawing power of market towns and the nearest large cities. Don’t rule out the attraction of London. Start by studying maps for topographical features that would have influenced the direction of travel. A useful approach to find nearby places where the migrant could practice his preferred occupation is to use Frank Smith’s “Occupations, Mineral Resources and Industries in England as of 1831 as Listed in Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary.” (FHL British Ref. 942 U2o and BYU Rel/Family History Ref. DA 110 .S55x)
  • London research. Start with Boyd’s Inhabitants of London and Boyd’s Family Units 1200-1946 at under “Surveys.” Also see the London collections at (fee site). Also try the index to the Middlesex deed registers, 1709-1837 on FHL films 989658-989676.
  • Protestant Oath Returns, 1641-1642. About 30% of the male population over 18 is listed by county and parish on FHL films 919501-919511. Not all counties are included. See the FHLC for the county coverage of each film.
  • Certificates of Residence, 1547-1685. These certificates were issued to those who had paid the tax known as a lay subsidy at one residence for property elsewhere or before moving to another residence in order to avoid being taxed twice. The certificates are found in the King’s Remembrancer rolls of the Exchequer (E 115). They are a useful tool for demographic studies and the indexes are available on FHL films 916579-916582.

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