The BT27 outward-bound passenger lists are a fascinating and important set of records currently being digitised by findmypast.co.uk for online publication for the very first time. The passenger lists cover long-distance voyages made from all British ports between 1890 and 1960 and include voyages such as that of the ill-fated Titanic which sank in 1912.
- What does BT27 stand for?
- Putting the data online.
- What do passenger lists look like?
- What type of voyages are included?
- Who was travelling?
- Find out more.
What does BT27 stand for?
Before ancestorsonboard.com was launched, passenger list documents were only available to view at the public search room in Kew. They were indexed by UK port of departure and by date of departure, but not by name. This meant that it was almost impossible to find a particular individual unless you already knew exactly when they travelled and from which port. There are over 24 million passengers in the BT27 records, covering 164,000 passenger lists.
Putting the data online.
Researchers around the world are now able to access this passenger list data 24/7 from the comfort of their own homes. Researchers can search for a particular person known to have travelled, or search speculatively for family members, in a fraction of the time, with access to high quality images to view, download and print out.
What do passenger lists look like?
There is no single, standard format. Passenger lists vary in size and in length, they changed over time, and different shipping lines had their own pre-printed forms. Some are typed, others are handwritten; some record only a minimum of detail about the passengers, others include a wealth of information down to exact address and ultimate destination overseas.
What type of voyages are included?
BT27 passenger lists include long-haul voyages to destinations outside Britain and Europe. While countries such as Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and USA feature strongly, all continents are covered and you can find passengers on ships sailing to all parts of Asia, the Caribbean, South America and West Africa.
These voyages often called en route at additional ports, including those in Europe, and any passengers disembarking at these stops are included.
Voyages from all British (English, Welsh and Scottish) ports, and from all Irish ports before partition in 1921 and all Northern Irish ports after partition, are covered in the passenger lists.
Who was travelling?
Firstly, a large proportion of the passengers are of course British emigrants. Prior to WW1, there was mass migration: this was before the modern era of immigration control and the arrival of air travel, so of necessity travel was by boat. An estimated 125,000 British people emigrated to USA, 50,000 to Canada and 25,000 to Australia every year between 1890 and 1914. After WW1, emigration continued but became increasingly controlled and often had a changed emphasis: for instance, Australia became a more and more popular destination.
However, it is a mistake to think of these records as covering just British emigrants. In addition, many European trans-migrants are included. These people, many of whom were economic migrants, began their journeys in continental Europe and came to Britain to catch a cheaper sailing to their final destination such as USA.
Over and above the emigrants, there were also numerous business travellers (who may appear many times in BT27, once for each journey, if they made regular trips to and from, say, USA), civil servants and diplomats travelling on official government business, and leisure travellers visiting family overseas or simply embarking on pleasure cruises.
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