The majority of inward passenger lists from 1878 to 1960 and outward passenger lists from 1890 to 1960 have survived (see below). There are very few records in The National Archives of passengers before 1878.
What do I need to know before I start?
UK passenger lists do not record travel within Europe unless a ship called at more than one European port before travelling further afield.
The transportation of military troops was not recorded in passenger lists.
Passenger lists are not held by The National Archives after 1960, when air travel became more common. No air passenger lists have survived. For records of passengers after 1960 it may be worth contacting the relevant shipping line.
Your search will be made easier if you can find out:
- the name and year of birth of the passenger
- the name of the ship they travelled on
- the ports of departure and/or arrival
Incoming passenger lists (1878-1960)
Search and download lists of passengers arriving in the UK from ports outside Europe and the Mediterranean between 1878 and 1960 (BT 26) on the Ancestry.co.uk (£) website.
Outgoing passenger lists (1890-1960)
Search and download (£) lists of passengers leaving from UK and Irish ports and travelling to places such as America, Canada, India, New Zealand and Australia between 1890 and 1960 (BT 27) on the findmypast.co.uk website.
Certificates of alien arrivals and returns and papers (1810-1869)
Search and download certificates of alien arrivals (HO 2) and returns and papers (HO 3) on ancestry.co.uk (£). The records can be searched by name of alien, date and port of arrival and country/place of origin.
Aliens’ entry books (1794-1921)
Browse aliens’ entry books, 1794-1921, including indexes to certificates of alien arrivals (HO 5/25-28) on ancestry.co.uk (£).
Hamburg passenger lists 1850-1934
Search and browse passenger lists of ships leaving Hamburg in Germany on Ancestry.com (£). Although most passengers travelled beyond Europe, a significant number sailed to the UK. The records are in German.
Records available only at The National Archives in Kew
To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).
Records of the Children’s Overseas Reception Board (1940-1959)
Search Discovery, our catalogue, in DO 131 by name for case histories of all the CORB children evacuated overseas during the Second World War.
Records in other archives and organisations
Passenger lists and records in overseas libraries and archives
Contact libraries, archives and other organisations in the country where the person travelled to or from – many have copies of original material. Major ones to try are the Library of Congress, Washington, the US National Archives and Records Administration, the Ellis Island Foundation, New York, Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, the National Library of Australia, Canberra, the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, Archives New Zealand, and the National Archives of Ireland.
Look at the Ships List website for information about passenger lists to Canada, USA, Australia and even some for South Africa, as well as immigration reports and newspaper records.