Tag: genealogy
Ekwall's The Emigrants (date unknown), the art...
Ekwall’s The Emigrants (date unknown), the artist’s vision of 19th-century transatlantic emigration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The National Emigration Aid Society was conceived and founded for the express purpose of assisted emigration. It was founded by a substantial number of influential gentlemen, and was focused on moving the excess labour force to foreign states. They believed that their efforts were vital to a sound economy at home and productive, cultivated colonies abroad.

The Society devoted serious efforts to pressing Parliament into adopting their proposed “National Policy of Colonial Emigration.” They insisted that “Emigration is eminently good for, and available to all, in every class of society whose subsistence depends on the exercise of skill and labour, but who, unable at home to obtain employment, are reduced to want, and too frequently to a life of destitution and wretchedness.”

To that effect, the Society promoted the formation of “Emigration Clubs” in each city and township. The clubs would be chaired by committees of influential gentlemen, and each club would recruit members and solicit donations.

Any working man who wanted to become a member would be required to make a small payment for himself and each member of his family. The payment would go toward that family’s passage, and would be subsidized by donations. Each local club would in turn pay fees to the National Emigration Aid Society, who would arrange passage and outfit emigrants before travel.

The Society also offered a few free passages to select groups. Single women “of good character who are capable and willing to work as Domestic Servants” were granted free passage to certain cities in Australia and New Zealand. The cities of Victoria and Queensland also offered free passage to a few married farm labourers who met their specifications.

Eventually, the National Emigration Aid Society found itself in a gradually weakened state financially. In order to secure continued State aid, the Society’s committee decided to merge efforts with the Working Men’s Emigration Society.



English: Emigrants on a ship en route to Austr...
Emigrants on a ship en route to Australia, 1900-1910 Man and a young girl on board a ship travelling to Australia in the early 1900s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Working Men’s Emigration Society

The Working Men’s Emigration Society was focused on essentially the same goals; however, it worked almost exclusively with labourers connected to trade unions. Throughout the 1850s, the Society entered applicants into a monthly lottery. The winners of each drawing would be awarded a subsidized fare to Australia in return for a £20 loan.

In addition, the Working Men’s Emigration Society offered “working tickets”. Fare to Australia could be purchased for £15, and the prospective emigrant would make up the difference by working as a steward on the ship for the duration of the voyage.

Unfortunately, the Society was often poorly managed. Some emigrants were indeed sent abroad; however, many were let down.  Some folks who purchased working tickets would turn up dockside, only to be told that there was no record of the ticket purchase. A number of hopeful emigrants even took the cases to court, hoping to get their money back.

The National Emigration League

Once the two Societies joined efforts under the united title of the “National Emigration League”, they represented a combined 800,000+ souls. The League was led by the Duke of Manchester, and the members continued to actively promote the subject of emigration throughout the following years.


Finding Ancestors using Passenger Lists

In your hunt for elusive information, one brilliant resource that you have at your disposal is passenger lists. The excitement of finding your ancestor on a list of ship passengers brings an absolute thrill and can fill in details that were previously cloudy.

Findmypast.co.uk provides a wealth of information online. Their BT27 records are an invaluable resource with 24 million passengers accounted for on 164,000 passenger lists. This incredible resource was previously only available for viewing at the public search room in Kew; however, thanks to a dedicated data capture team, researchers around the world now have 24/7 access to these records – and never have to leave the comfort of their home!

Happy Canada Day
Happy Canada Day (Photo credit: Anirudh Koul)

Who can be found on the passenger lists?

The passenger lists primarily document mass migrations prior to WWI, when nearly all travel was via ships. A huge number of British citizens moved abroad between 1890 and 1914, with an estimated 125,000 moving to the USA, 50,000 to Canada, and 25,000 to Australia each year in that period. After WWI, emigration was increasingly controlled, and though it continued, destinations shifted somewhat. Australia, for example, became a very popular destination.

The majority of passengers on the lists are, of course, British emigrants; however, many European trans-migrants are also included. During this time, trans-migration was hugely popular due to the cheap package deals made available by railroad and steamer companies. Many on the lists began their journeys in continental Europe, and only stopped in Britain on their way to their final destination.

Of course, scattered among the immigrants are a substantial number of business and leisure travelers. Businessmen, civil servants and diplomats often had cause to travel frequently, thus their names may appear often. Wealthier families traveled abroad on pleasure cruises or to visit family. Researchers will often find the names of these travelers appearing multiple times throughout the various records – one time for each journey.

Where were travelers headed?

The passenger lists on Findmypast.co.uk provide records of long-haul voyages. You’ll find coverage of voyages to all continents, including Asia, South America, West Africa, and the Caribbean. The most prominently featured destinations include Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

The lists document voyages setting out from all British ports, including those in Wales and Scotland, as well as those from Irish ports before partition in 1921. After 1921, only the Northern Irish ports are covered in the records.

The passenger lists  also provide a record of any port calls en route, including stops in Europe. If passengers disembarked at any port along the way, the passenger lists will show a record of it.


How are the passenger lists formatted?

Unfortunately, there was no industry standard for the recording of passenger lists. Different shipping lines had their own method of recording information, as well as their own pre-printed forms (which often changed over time as well). Thus, lists vary greatly in length and size. Some are typed out neatly, while others are handwritten. Some contain a surprising amount of information on passengers, including their exact home address as well as their ultimate overseas destination. Others contain only the very basics on each passenger.

How can I find specific passengers?

The online search feature makes finding specific passengers fairly easy. In many cases, you can simply put in your available information and quickly browse the results to find what you’re looking for.

At times, however, you might be unsure of the spelling of a name. The wildcard feature helps solve this problem. For example, if you’re searching for a Howard Greene and are unsure of the spelling, put in Howard Gr*, and you’ll get a list of results including names like Howard Grove, Howard Grady – and Howard Greene.

Why Genealogists Should Attend Family History Conferences

A family history conference is obviously a fascinating event for genealogists and ancestry buffs at all levels of expertise. Really, just about everyone will come away with something, whether a few tantalizing new tidbits, or a whole slew of new information. You’ll meet loads of people who share your interests, hear fascinating speakers, and you may even come away with some handy free perks.

There may be a lot going on at home or at work, and maybe it’s a struggle to get away. If you’re on the fence about whether or not to attend a family history conference, read on. Here are a few excellent reasons why genealogy conferences will do you a world of good and why it makes sense to attend Exodus: Movement of the People in 2013

Go Social

As much as we may like to stay holed up at home with our research, sometimes the best thing we can do for ourfamily tree is to get out there and network with others in our field. All genealogists can benefit enormously from the input of others, and the interaction can do wonders for your own research. Not only can you bounce ideas and theories off of other family historians but often professionals attending will give you advice for FREE!  In any case you will be able to feed off each other’s passion for the study of genealogy.

It’s a good idea to have a stack of business cards handy when you attend an event like this, as you’ll very likely run into like minded individuals who share common research and interests. Don’t discount the power of networking and socializing at conferences. Someone else might have just the key you’ve been searching for.

Solve Brick Walls

Maybe you’ve run into a wall, and despite your best research, you’ve been unable to get any further. Well, it’s been wisely said that two heads are better than one. Family history conferences are a fantastic way to get like-minded folks together to solve some of the most puzzling problems and conundrums.

Access Products and Services

At the Halsted Trust 2013 conference, there will be the opportunity to view a wealth of the latest products and services geared to the study of genealogy. You may have hesitated in purchasing some of these things like a findmypast subscription, but now’s your chance to try them all out for free. Often vendors will even offer special discounts or free samples to conference attendees.

Research Opportunities

Family history conferences are often strategically located near excellent research libraries and county record offices or other sources of excellent resource material related to the study of genealogy.

Even if a conference takes place in an area that you’re not currently researching, do take advantage of the excellent resources available, as mostrecord offices will have information well beyond a specific geographic region. You might just find something invaluable if you take the time to check out the available resources. The Leicestershire Record Office is just 14 miles from the hotel and with such excellent leisure facilities, the Hinckley Island hotel is a great base to extend your stay and spend some time with the local family history resources.

Join Societies

Joining a couple genealogical or family history societies is a great way to carry on connections you’ve made at the conference. This is especially true if you find one that specializes in your primary field or area of research.

Indentured Servants to the West Indies

English: Oliver Cromwell dissolving the Long P...

As the sugar and tobacco trade developed in the West Indies, English plantation owners were in dire need of manual laborers to work in the fields and harvest the crops. The native Caribbean people had been suppressed, thus, planters were forced to look further afield for the needed workers.

Thus began the (often forced) migration of Irish and English workers to the island plantations of the West Indies. In the brief period between 1652 and 1659, tens of thousands of men, women and children were transported to British colonies in Antigua, Montserrat, Barbados, and other locations throughout the Caribbean Islands.

Some of the migrants were willing participants in the process, and worked as indentured servants on the island plantations. They sold their labor for periods of five to ten years, and in return received ownership of a small plot of land.

These indentured workers signed unique legal contracts. Terms of agreement were written up in duplicate on a single sheet of paper, and then cut with a jagged edge (thus, the term “indenture”). One half was given to the laborer and the other was held by the owner. At the end of the agreed-upon term of service, the two parts of the contract would be brought together and matched to prove authenticity.

The practice of indentured servitude was widely used throughout the plantations in the West Indies, and many chose it of their own free will. However, while there were many “freewillers” who willingly sold their service for a chance at a new beginning, others were sadly exploited. “Redemptionists” were duped into signing a contract of indentured service; yet on arrival, they were sold into slavery. Still others were simply “spirited” to the Caribbean by gangs in Ireland. The kidnapped workers would be loaded onto slave ships in Bristol or Liverpool and shipped off to plantations on the islands.

Unfortunately, whether they served by choice or not, the conditions endured by the Irish workers were appalling. They were regarded as property, and were bought, sold, traded, and mistreated at the whims of their owners. In fact, throughout much of the 17th century, the white slaves were inexpensive compared to their black counterparts; thus, they were considered a practically disposable commodity, and were often subjected to inhumane working conditions and exceptional cruelty.

A chilling account was recorded by the governor of Barbados in 1695. He describes the labor of the slaves, “in the parching sun, without shirt, shoes or stocking,” detailing how they were, “domineered over and used like dogs.”

In many cases, white workers were supervised by black or mulatto overseers, who treated the slaves with particular cruelty. Overseers used their whips liberally to reinforce the “slave” status of the workers. Rape was common – and even encouraged by plantation owners, who saw the unwilling union as opportunity to breed future generations of slave labor free of charge. An estimated 50% of the Irish workers died before finishing their terms of servitude.

Many of the first workers were sent or sold to plantations in Antigua or Montserrat in 1632. By 1660, between 50,000-100,000 Irish workers had been sent to work on the islands. Most of those had not chosen a life of servitude, but had been forcibly sold into slavery.

At the same time, the British Civil War had just come to a close and Oliver Cromwell was in power. Cromwell saw the British sugar trade as a practical solution following his great land clearances in the 1640s. Cromwell deported many thousands of Irish slaves to Barbados, which was a hub of British sugar production at that time.

The Barbados Irish soon became known as “Red legs” – a racial slur resulting from the constantly sunburnt legs of the pale-skinned Irish workers. By the mid-1600s, Irish slave workers made up nearly 70% of the population. Eventually, however, black slave labor increased, and the white population of the islands began to dwindle due to high rates of Irish death and racial intermixing.

Today there remains a tiny population of approximately 400 souls descended from the Irish slaves. The modern Red Legs have vigorously rejected racial mixing, and carry the Celtic names of their ancestors. Unfortunately, this small community lives in deep poverty, scratching out a living from fishing and subsistence farming.


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