Nottinghamshire Emigration and Immigration


Introduction and History

From 1850 to 1900, the population of England, Scotland and Wales doubled, yet no fewer than five and a half million people emigrated. Three million went to the United States, most of the rest to different parts of the Empire. Great Britain has long been a haven for many immigrants, too, a multi-racial and multi-cultural place, home for those religiously persecuted and a welcome rest stop for the wanderer. Since 1900, many former "colonists" have come to the United Kingdom, bringing Indian food, Asian customs and African traditions to the heart of the old Empire.

That being stated, there are some records available of both types. But the best places to look for either are:

Migration - Internal

While several generations of a family might stay in one parish for 100 years or more, that was the exception. There was a great deal of internal migration, both within Nottinghamshire itself and to and from neighboring counties. Military service often accounted for a Nottinghamshire lad serving in Essex or Kent, perhaps marrying a local girl, then returning home.

Consider Liz Davies' account of her great grandfather: "My great grandfather, born in 1870's, used to speak of going to the hiring fairs in the nearest market town on Lady Day, which was the feast of Mary the Virgin, sometime in Spring (April?). His nearest market town was Louth, and he was employed at Ludborough, Louth itself, Hawerby cum Beesby, Tetney and Northcotes, before moving permanently to Cleethorpes in 1912 to work at the local bowling club as greensman. Apparently he was hired by the year - he was a coachman, groundsman - but often stayed in one job for longer, if both he and his employer were happy. He lived in tied cottages with his family - at Hawerby Hall they had one of the lodges. Generally the places he moved to were within a day's journey from the market town, in any direction. The family moved to Cleethorpes on the carrier's cart."

A bit more on Hiring Fairs from Martin Edwards: "A farm servant was hired at a local hiring fair. In order to be a farm servant you had to be single. The 'contract' stated this. If you married during the term of a contact then it was deemed broken. The difference between a farm servant and labourer was that a 'farm servant' lived in - that is, their board and lodging were found by their employer, they contracted for a wage which was usually above the norm but were expected to be 'on the spot'. A 'servant' could move across parish boundaries and live beyond that of their residence whereas a 'labourer' or 'worker' returned to their own parish at night. This is why 'single' persons seem to go missing in census as they could be up to 30 miles from their home parish."

During the 19th century there was a constant economic migration from Nottinghamshire to Hull and East Yorkshire. Wages in agriculture were better in East Yorkshire and of course the growth of industry in Hull created many new jobs. Of course, weaving, particularly lace, was an attraction around Nottinham.

Emigration - General

Many religious "non-conformist" groups (not members of the Anglican Church), raised funds to emigrate to where they felt there would be more religious freedom. The Pilgrims, who sailed from Lincolnshire and settled in America, are perhaps the classic example of such a group.

Quoting Lillian Dorsey of New Zealand, who researched the vessel HANOVER:

The folk on the 'Hanover' along with seven other ships were all part of the 'nonconformist' group of nearly 1,000 people. William Rawson BRAME of Birmingham advertised in the newspaper for likely candidates. The intended place to settle was called Albertland, named after the popular Prince Albert, who had recently died. The scheme was called the Albertland Colonisation Movement, which was the third and last church sponsored settlement in New Zealand. The other two being the Free Presbyterians from Scotland settling in Dunedin and the Anglicans settling in Christchurch. The main criteria for selection was that folk had to be from one of the nonconformist churches or of no denomination, therefore there would be none of the ties that they felt bound by in the traditional English church. The ships all arrived 1862-1865. People were from all over England, not just Nottinghamshire.

Some of our ancestors emigrated, but then returned home, sometimes bringing foreign wives back with them, or children born outside the UK.

After Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815, many blockades and embargos were dropped, and cheap goods and food flooded England in the period from 1815 to 1840. The Irish Potato Famine in the 1840's also affected Scotland and England as well. And the Industrial Revolution was pushing people off the farms and the small craft trades into factories. It was a tough time for our ancestors, and the lure of "freedom" and the offers of free land were hard to ignore. Many a soldier who had fought against the Americans in the Revolution or in the 1812-1814 War, found open arms when they emigrated to the States.

The repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 had considerable impact on Agriculture and farm labourers, as well as mill owners, bakers, etc..

To see some examples of advertisements used to entice emigration, please see Emigrant Advertisements.

"Agents" were sometimes employed to entice emigration, like Mr. White, who encouraged people to leave for New Zealand.

A common mistake by researchers is to assume that people departed from ports close to their homes, and this would be the exception rather than the "norm". Liverpool appeared to handle most of the emigration from all over England and Wales, but people might leave from Hull, London, Portsmouth, Boston - any town with a harbour big and deep enough to handle a small merchant ship. Many had "assisted passage," meaning that some religious group or even the local parish had raised funds to "export" them, often finding the cheapest charter they could at whichever port the ship called at next. Advertisements in newspapers at the time suggest that by 1850, nearly all departures to Australia were from Liverpool.

According to the Greenwich Maritime Museum section on emigration, around 1900 it cost £400 1st class return to USA, and one way in steerage (3rd class) was £6.

Emigrants were encouraged to go to the British dependencies, i.e. Australia and Canada, and in 1849 the Poor Law Commissioners would not allow parish rates to be used to pay part of a pauper's passage to the USA.

Extract from Charles K. Rawding's, 'The Lincolnshire Wolds In The Nineteenth Century' (ISBN 0 902668 20 X) from the series: Studies in the History of Lincolnshire:

The Labourer's Unions sought actively to influence the labour market in other ways than by simple wage demands. Labourers were encouraged to emigrate. In April 1872 the 'Lincolnshire Labour Emigration League' was established. Large numbers emigrated during the second half of the 1870's. For instance, between 1874 and 1879 the Laceby agent, John H. WHITE, recruited more than 2,000 men from the Wolds and Marsh of north Lincolnshire for emigration to New Zealand. In May 1874, WHITE began recruiting for a ship to make the trip in the autumn. By mid-August, 50 people had enlisted from Laceby, 20 or 30 from Keelby, 20 or 30 from Ulceby, 20 or 30 from Binbrook, and about 100 from around Caistor. The Stamford Mercury commented: 'Emigration mania continues to grow and spread in this neighbourhood.'

Rawding goes on to comment on the effects of emigration. Farmers were strongly opposed to it fearing a shortage of labour. Active union members were blacklisted and thus forced to look for work elsewhere. By the end of the century empty houses in Lincolnshire was 27 percent above the national average.


  • Start with a search of the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild site.
  • The Public Records Office in London has passenger lists of ship departing from ports in the UK and bound for places outside of Europe, between 1890-1960. They are among the records of Board of Trade filed by year, by port. PRO ref: BT27
  • If it's Passenger Lists you want, visit Cyndi's List of Passenger Lists.
  • Consider purchasing a copy of "Emigration Atlas, 1852" on CD-ROM (Reference #0298) from Archive CD Books.
  • Consider, too, looking at the resources at Heritage Quest, the largest publisher of genealogical material in the world, located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Contact them via Heritage Quest Online. They have a World Immigration Series CD, Great Britain, ACD-0104
  • If you think your ancestor was charged as a criminal (many were sent to Australia), check out "Criminal Ancestors - A Guide to Historical Criminal Records in England and Wales" by David T. Hawkings, Sutton Publishing Limited, 1992 reprinted with corrections 1996, ISBN 0-7509-1084-4. 462 pages, and about 2,000 names in the index. It covers crime and criminal records through the 18th and 19th Centuries.
  • Rosemary Oram has transcribed the passenger lists of the three ships Agincourt, Fairlie and Harpley, which sailed to Australia in 1848, carrying a number of lacemakers from the Nottingham area.

Emigration - Africa & India


  • The book: "Aided Immigration from Britain to South Africa 1857-1867" by Esme Bull, 1991, (no longer in print).
  • The book: "The Emigrant's Guide to South Africa", 1880, (no longer in print, but available on CD at Rod Neep's Books on CD site).
  • For India, check the LDS Family History Library site, click on Library and search under "East India Company".
  • The British Library, Oriental and India Office Collections (formerly India Office Library and Records (IOLR)) holds very large collections of material relating to the British in India. They also hold 1,000 volumes of birth, marriages and deaths returns between c. 1683 and 1947. There are indexes to these records.

    Further information about their holdings of use to the genealogist may be found in Ian A. Baxter's, "A Brief Guide to Biographical Sources", produced by the IOLR in 1979.
British Library Oriental and India Office Collections 96 Euston Road St. Pancras, London, NW1 2BD United Kingdom Phone: +(44) (0) 207 412 7111.

Emigration - Australia, New Zealand, Oceana


  • Australia has a number of records available, some online, some on CD. South Australia was the only state in Australia not to be settled by convicts. Many wealthy English bought up land and some never even saw it. There was a huge influx of "Ag Labs" in the 1850's. Give these Australian sites a look-see:
  • There is a CD available with the title "Passenger Arrivals in Western Australia - 1898 to 1925", available from the Western Australian Genealogical Society Inc. at around $A33.
  • Try the links provided at Blaxland for Australian Shipping passenger lists.
  • The book "The Fartherest Promised Land," by Professor Rollo Arnold is about migrants to New Zealand. Around 1870 NZ had an assisted immigration scheme.
  • Flockhouse was a farming scheme set up by the New Zealand government as an immigration scheme to assist children of parents {father} killed in World War 1.
  • At the end of World War II, many children who were in orphanages in the UK were shipped to Australia. They were sent to orphanages in Western Australia. A lot were put into orphanages because their mothers or parents could not afford to keep them.[Denise Minette]

Emigration - North America

Here's a typical time-line for travel to the New World, from Joyce NORTH (via Ivan Dominikovich):

Robert FELL b abt 1808 and Mary Ann COOT b abt 1809 and the three children, Henry, Robert, Sarah Ann, left North Somercotes near Louth, Lincolnshire, on the 17th of April, 1844. They then sailed from Liverpool on April 27th 1844. They arrived at Boston (Massachusetts) on the 31st of May 1844. They left Boston June 3rd, arriving at Albany (NY) June 5th. June 6th they left Albany, arriving at Buffalo (NY) June 13th. They probably left the next day as they arrived at Racine, Wisconsin on the 17th of June; they arrived in Rochester (where they settled) on June 21, 1844.

That's a little over two months of continuous travel!

Another example of the length of a sea voyage is the ship Chimborazo, which made two trips to America in 1856. And see Robert Bartlett's By Hand Cart to Utah.

Obviously, not every one enjoyed the trip. Here is a heartfelt letter home from the vessel Polynesia (or "Polynesian"), complaining about passage. Another letter there gives a brighter viewpoint.


  • The LDS Church and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum officially announced the History Center project on Oct. 28, 1998. The online database of 25 million entries is now available. Remember, though, that Ellis Island only opened in 1892. Once you've browsed the site, an easier lookup interface can be found at Steve Morse's Ellis Island One Step Search Engine.
  • Before Ellis Island, between 1855 and 1890, Castle Garden welcomed over eight million immigrants to New York City. During the 1880s approximately 70% of the total immigration to the USA was through Castle Garden. Microfilms for passenger manifests ("Customs Passenger Lists") are available through the US National Archives and/or the LDS Family History Library.
  • A good book source is "The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607-1776", ISBN# 080639703-9, a comprehensive list of emigrants from England to colonial America, based on English records. Available on CD from Genealogical.Com and probably other sources as well.
  • Canadian Naturalization records are online at Archives Canada, but the Canadian Citizenship Act didn't come into force until 1 January 1947. From 1763 to that date, persons born in the provinces and colonies of British North America were all British subjects. Being of equal status, immigrants from Great Britain and the Commonwealth were not required to be naturalized.
  • Archives Canada have a booklet called "Tracing Your Ancestors in Canada" that has a good overview of the Records available in Canadian repositories. It is available at Archives Canada Publications in a PDF format (667KB) for downloading.
  • Don't forget that Archives Canada also has resources for looking up British Home Children who were sent to Canada.


If your relative entered Nottinghamshire:

  • Many non-British subjects entered through Grimsby, Lincs, often to take a train across country to Liverpool if they were enroute to some other country.

If your relative became a Naturalized British Citizen:

  • Naturalization prior to 1844 was by Act of Parliament. See: House of Lords Record Office, indexed in Part XIII of the "Index to Local and Personal Acts".
  • From 1844, naturalization could be granted by certificate from the Home Secretary. See the records at the PRO, under classes HO 1, 2, 3 and 5.