skip to content

Emigration Records (Including Scotland)

Nature of Source

Records generated from those leaving the UK for overseas territories. The majority of people who migrated did so either voluntarily or were forced against their will because of religious persecution or for economic reasons. Others were encouraged/assisted to move from their country of origin. In England many working class poor were encouraged or ‘assisted’ by charitable institutions such as the Salvation Army to leave the country, thus alleviating the financial burden of the poor on the authorities. Many of these emigrants were employed as indentured labourers or domestic servants in their host countries. In addition to the voluntary and involuntary migration of adults from Britain, many children ranging from as young as three years old up to the age of fourteen were sent overseas unaccompanied and without parental consent to the colonies. Canada was a much used destination in the later part of the 19th century, replaced by Australia from the 1930s. Charitable institutions such as Dr Barnados facilitated the sending of the so called ‘British Home Children’ away from Britain ostensibly as a means of bettering the life chances of the youngsters. The practise ended in 1967 when the last child was sent to Australia by Barnardo's.

In the 17th century many Scottish Covenanters (Presbyterians) fled overseas from persecution as did others following the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. Much emigration from Scotland took place during the 19th century. Pioneering Scots were attracted by the prospect of profiting from the many new business and trade opportunities offered in the burgeoning new economies of North America. Many Scots were also instrumental in establishing the new political and economic structures of the fledging nations of the United States and Canada. The highland clearances of the 1840s and 1850s resulted in many tenanted crofters who were unable to pay their rent, encouraged or ‘assisted’ to emigrate overseas to the colonies. Government funded schemes such as Highland and Island Emigration Society in operation between 1851 and 1859 was established to alleviate destitution in the Highlands by facilitating and promoting the emigration of some Highlanders to the colonies especially Australia.

Many prisoners in the UK were transported to America and other colonies. Most emigrant records can be found in outward passenger lists and in the archives of the destination country.

See also
Australia (Emigration)
Canada (Emigration)
Emigration Records (Ireland)
New Zealand (Emigration)
Passenger Lists
Transported Convicts

Where Found

The National Archives (Holdings include the records of the Board of Trade, Colonial Office, Home Office and Treasury and include passenger lists, 1890-1960, medical journals from emigrant ships, letters from intending emigrants and registers of troops shipped to all parts of the world, census records for New South Wales and Tasmania)
National Records of Scotland (Holdings include: Covenanters records from the registers of the Privy Council and the High Court of Justiciary plus a special collection, ref. JC39; Records of the Highland and Island Emigration Society, 1851-1859. The Society records include their passenger lists for the years 1852-1857 for which the index is available online at the Scottish Archive Network website. The National Records of Scotland was created on 1 April 2011 by the amalgamation of the National Archives of Scotland [NAS] and General Register Office for Scotland [GROS])
National Library of Scotland
LSE Library, also known as the British Library of Political & Economic Science (Emigrants Letters: Letters written by emigrants to the USA, Canada and Australia, 1745-1986)
Merseyside Maritime Museum (Maritime Archives and Library): Liverpool was one of the main gateways for emigration from the UK to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, USA and Canada during the 19th and 20th centuries. The library hold a number of sources for emigrant research including passenger tickets, correspondence and other ephemera, ship registers, diaries and letters and sailing information. A series of detailed information sheets dealing with emigration are available at the web site)

Period Covered

1500 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Names, ages, addresses, occupations, family relationships country and place of destination.

Further References

Bennett, Carol. The Lanark Society Settlers: Global Heritage Press. 2012

Brandow, James. Omitted Chapters from Hotten's Original Lists of Persons of Quality, 1600-1700: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2008

Brown, Kevin. Passage to the World: The Emigrant Experience 1807-1940: Seaforth Publishing, 2013

Coldham, Peter Wilson. The Complete Book of Emigrants: 1607-1776, 4 vols: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1987

Coldham, Peter Wilson. The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1988

Coldham, Peter Wilson. The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607-1660: A Comprehensive Listing Compiled from English Public Records of Those Who Took Ship to the Americas: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2009

Davis, Graham. In Search of a Better Life: British and Irish Migration: The History Press, 2011

Devine, Thomas Martin (ed.). Scottish Emigration and Scottish Society: John Donald, 1992

Devine, Thomas Martin. Scotland's Empire 1600-1815: Penguin, 2004

Dobson, David. Directory of Scots Banished to the American Plantations, 1650-1775: Genealogical Publishing Co, 1983

Dobson, David. Scottish Highlanders on the Eve of the Great Migration, 1725-1775: The People of Inverness-shire, Vol. 2: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2013 For other Dobson titles see

Foy, Karen. Ancestors On The Move: A History of Overseas Travel: The History Press, 2014

Foy, Karen. Family History For Beginners: The History Press, 2011

Harper, Marjory. Adventurers and Exiles. The Great Scottish Exodus: Profile Books, 2004

Harper, Marjory & Constantine, Stephen. Migration and Empire: Oxford University Press, 2010

Hotten, John. Original Lists of Persons of Quality Emigrating to America, 1600-1700: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007 (Available online here and here)

Kershaw, Roger. Emigrants and Expats: A Guide to Sources on UK Emigration and Residents Overseas: Public Record Office, 2002

Kershaw, Roger. Migration Records: A Guide for Family Historians: The National Archives, 2009

Kershaw, Roger & Pearsall, Mark. Family History on the Move: Where your Ancestors Went and Why: The National Archives, 2006

McCarthy, Angela (ed.). A Global Clan. Scottish Migrant Networks and Identities Since the Eighteenth Century: Tauris, 2006

Minert, Roger P. Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents: Analyzing German, Latin, and French in Vital Records Written in Germany: Family Roots Publishing, 2001

Minert, Roger P. Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents: Analyzing German, Latin, and French in Vital Records Written in Germany: Family Roots Publishing, 2001

Minert, Roger P. Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents: Analyzing German, Latin, and French in Vital Records Written in Germany: Family Roots Publishing, 2001

National Archives of Scotland. The Emigrants: Why they left, the journey, and life in the new country

National Archives of Scotland. The Scots in America: Economic and social links over three centuries

National Archives of Scotland .The Scots in Canada: Emigration and settlement

National Archives of Scotland. The Scots in New Zealand: Emigrants and settlers

National Archives of Scotland. A Jacobite Source List: A list of documents to be found in the holdings of the NAS relating to the Jacobites

Quillen, Daniel. Mastering Immigration & Naturalization Records: Cold Spring Press, 2011

Richards, Eric. Britannia's Children: Emigration from England, Scotland, Wales & Ireland Since 1660: Hambledon & London, 2004

Titford, John. My Ancestor Settled in the British West Indies: Society of Genealogists, 2011

Weaver, Jack & Dee Lester (eds). Immigrants from Great Britain and Ireland: Guide to Archival and Manuscript Sources in North America: Greenwood Press, 1986

Whyte, Donald. A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to the USA, 2 vols: Magna Carta Book Company, 1972 and 1986

Whyte, Donald. A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada Before Confederation, 2 vols: Ontario Genealogical Society, 1986 and 1995

A number of Place Name Indexes (with reverse alphabetical indexes) by Roger P. Minert covering Switzerland and Germany are available from Family Roots Publishing

NAS Research Guide: Emigration records
TNA Research Guides:
Colonies and Dependencies
Colonies and Dependencies: Further Research
Empire And Commonwealth Records held in the UK and Overseas

Websites (TNA Guide: Looking for records of an emigrant) (Links to sources relevant to emigration) (Knowledge Base guide to passenger lists and Scottish emigration) (Scots Abroad - Stories of Scottish Emigration)
(Education Scotland: Migration and Empire, 1830-1939) (Education Scotland: Emigration and Scottish society) (Crossing borders: Scottish emigration to Canada, by Marjory Harper)
(Scottish Covenanter Memorials Association) (
(Historic UK: The Highland Clearances, by Terry Stewart) (The Highland Clearances and the Effects on Scotland Today)
(Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors at Steps to Discovering Your Immigrant Ancestor in the U.S. and the Homeland) (Mary's Genealogy Treasures: Immigration, Naturalization, Passenger Lists and Ships) (Merseyside Maritime Museum. Site includes information sheets, and an extensive library of emigration sources and documents) (Scots Abroad: Databases giving details of material relating to the lives of Scots and their experiences overseas) (Links to online genealogy records including passenger lists)
(Lloyd's Register Infosheet: Useful sources for information on immigration and emigration) (U.S. National Archives: Immigration Records and Ship Passenger Arrival Records, Introduction and Links to Resources) (Catalogue specialising in locating repositories in the UK, Ireland and continental Europe holding records and material on Australia and New Zealand) (National Library of New Zealand) (Archives New Zealand) (National Library of Australia) (National Archives of Australia)

Online Databases (Immigration & Travel Records: Records include passenger arrival records, naturalisation records, border crossings, emigration records, passports, convict transportation records) (U.S. Naturalization Records Indexes, 1794-1995. This database contains indexes to naturalization records, primarily Declarations and Petitions, for various courts) (Selected U.S. Naturalization Records - Original Documents, 1790-1974. This database contains images of original naturalization records, primarily Declarations and Petitions, from U.S. District and Circuit courts) (New York Naturalization Records, 1882-1944) (New York, Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1989. This database contains an index to petitions for naturalization from 1792-1989 filed in various federal, state, and local courts in New York City) ( New York, Naturalization Petitions, 1794-1906. This database contains petitions for naturalization from 1794-1906 filed in various federal, state, and local courts in New York) (New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. This database is an index to the passenger lists of ships arriving from foreign ports at the port of New York from 1820-1957. In addition, the names found in the index are linked to actual images of the passenger lists) (Travel & Migration Records: Datasets include Outbound Passenger Lists,1890-1960. The dataset includes passenger lists in extracted from TNA series BT 27 and includes long-haul voyages to destinations outside Britain, Europe and the Mediterranean. Countries that feature strongly include Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. Irish ports before partition in 1921 and all Northern Irish ports after partition are covered. The lists also include those travelling onwards from British ports)
(New England Petitions for Naturalization Index, 1791-1906. This is an index to photocopies of naturalization documents filed in courts in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont from 1791 to 1906)
(United States, Transatlantic Migration Indexes. The collection consists of 46 assorted indexes covering ancestors who crossed the Atlantic from England, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, or France between the late 1500s and early 1900s)
(Early Emigration From Britain 1636-1815. The dataset contains over 21,000 records that will allow you to find out if your ancestors left Britain for North America or the West Indies between 1636-1815) (Britain, Early Emigration to Barbados, 1678-1715. Find out if your British ancestors left for a settlement in Barbados with over 20,000 assorted documents including baptisms, burials, censuses, landowner lists, and other more) (Britain, Early Emigration to Barbados, 1678-1715. Find out if your British ancestors left for a settlement in Barbados with over 20,000 assorted documents including baptisms, burials, censuses, landowner lists, and other more) (Home Children 1869-1930: Lists of juvenile migrants sent to Canada from Great Britain) (Library and Archives Canada: Immigrants Before 1865. A number of lists have been identified and indexed by name in this database, formerly known as our Miscellaneous Immigration Index. Many of the records relate to immigrants from the British Isles to Quebec and Ontario) (Immigration Center: Database of information on 11 million immigrants entering New York through Castle Garden between 1820 and 1892 extracted from original ship manifests. Castle Garden, now known as the Castle Clinton National Monument, is located in Battery Park, a waterfront park at the tip of Manhattan. The park, monuments and website is operated by the educational corporation called the Battery Conservancy. Following the closure of Castle Garden in 1890, immigrants were processed at Ellis Island. Enhanced browsing and searching of the database can be carried out at Stephen Morse's ' One Step' Search Pages) (Ellis Island Passenger Search, 1892-1924: Free access to transcripts and original images of ship's passenger lists covering some 22 million people who entered America through Ellis Island/Port of New York. Some passengers were only visitors and some failed to settle. New legislation in the 1920s reduced immigration and Ellis Island shut in 1954. Enhanced browsing and searching of the database can be carried out at Stephen Morse's ' One Step' Search Pages) (Migration & Naturalization: Various passenger lists including: New York Book Indexes to Passenger Lists, 1906-1942; New York Passenger Arrival Lists [Ellis Island], 1892-1924; New York Passenger Lists [Castle Garden], 1820-1891; New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1909, 1925-1957; New York, New York, Index to Passenger Lists, 1820-1846; Germans to America Index, 1850-1897; Italians to America Index, 1855-1900; Russians to America Index, 1834-1897)
Ulster Historical Foundation (Emigration Records)
Ulster Ancestry Free Genealogy Pages (Transcribed lists of emigrants) (Immigrant Servants Database: Details of individuals who travelled to colonial America between 1607 and 1820 as indentured servants, redemptioners [a person who worked as a servant to pay for the cost of the voyage] and transported convicts. About 50 per cent of the individuals listed do not appear in Filby's Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, which is considered one of the best sources of immigrant lists. Those only suspected of being servant are excluded. Slaves and poor orphans have been filtered out. Expect to find the name, date of birth, address and occupation of servant; the colony and date of servitude; the port of departure, place of arrival, year of immigration, name of ship and length of indenture) (Irish Immigrants to New York, 1846-1851) (A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to the USA, 2 vols by Donald Whyte) (National Library of Scotland: Scots Abroad databases: Datasets include Includes Scots in North America, Emigrants' Guides to North America, Scots in Australasia, Emigrants' Guides to Australia and New Zealand and Emigration from Scotland: Emigrants' Correspondence) (Highland and Island Emigration Society Passenger Lists, 1852-1857. Society assisted 4919 men, women and children to leave western Scotland for Australia. Their details were recorded in the Society's passenger lists) (University of Aberdeen: Scottish Emigration Database: Details of passengers who embarked at Glasgow and Greenock for non-European ports between 1 January and 30 April 1923, and at other Scottish ports between 1890 and 1960. The information has been extracted from passenger manifests held at TNA in series BT 27. It contains the records of 21,090 passengers) (Mormon Migration, 1840-1890: Database of Mormon emigrants to the US extracted from a variety of sources) (The National Archives: Africa Through a Lens: Colonial Office Photographic Collection: View thousands of images taken from a broader photographic collection of Foreign and Commonwealth Office images) (Overseas birth, marriage and death records)

CD Roms

S & N Genealogy Supplies (Persons of Quality by John Hotten; A List of Persons Concerned in the Rebellion - 1745-46, Scotland)
Genealogical Publishing Company (Immigration/Passenger Lists/Naturalizations. Various titles including The Complete Book of Emigrants by Peter Wilson Coldham and The Collected Works of David Dobson)
TWR Computing (Scottish Immigrants to North America) (Scanned historical and genealogical county book collections on DVD including parish registers, marriage allegations/licenses, directories, paupers in workhouses in 1861, lists of emigrants from England to the USA and Caribbean 1773-76, visitations, poll books. See web site for county coverage and source material)