Photograph of children being taken to New Zealand by boat, c.1940 (Catalogue reference: DO 131/15)

This is a brief guide to help you find records of someone who emigrated from Britain. The best place to look is in the archives of the destination country, as there are relatively few records of people leaving Britain.

There are many references in documents in The National Archives to people emigrating to other countries, but no single index of names. Most of our records are about emigration as a subject rather than about particular emigrants.

  • What do I need to know before I start?

    • Try to find out:

      • the name and date of birth of the person who emigrated
      • the name of the ship they travelled on
      • the ports of departure and/or arrival
  • What other resources will help me find information?

Did you know?

Large-scale emigration has taken place from Britain to the USA, the West Indies, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Around 25 million people are believed to have emigrated from Britain and Ireland between 1600 and 2000.

In June 1940 the Children's Overseas Reception Board (CORB) was set up to administer offers from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA to care for British children in private homes.

Evacuation stopped on 17 September 1940 when SS City of Benares was torpedoed with the loss of 77 children bound for Canada.