Emigration and passenger lists

Drawing a sailing ship from a poster
Anchor Line shipping poster.
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Many Scots have emigrated to countries such as North America or Australia. We hold a wealth of information relating to emigration, such as:

  • Published accounts
  • Unpublished diaries and letters of individuals
  • Emigrants' guides published to assist people emigrating abroad.

Please see the Scots Abroad databases section of our website for further information on this material.

Country of arrival

If you have an ancestor who emigrated to another country you could look for immigration records in the country of their arrival. These are usually held by the national archives or equivalent organisation in that country.

Passenger lists

Within the UK, the Board of Trade had responsibility for official ship passenger lists for outward journeys from 1890 and these are held by the National Archives (London). They also hold any existing passenger lists before this date.

There are also various published lists, many of which are held by the Library and available for consultation in the General Reading Room. These include:

  • 'Family tree maker: immigration records: Scottish immigrants to North America, 1600s-1800s'. (Novato, CA?: The Learning Company, 1999?)
  • 'Passenger and immigration lists index', by P W Filby and M K Meyer. This is a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who went to the United States and Canada in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. (Detroit. 1981-.)
  • 'Directory of Scottish settlers in North America, 1625-1825', by D Dobson. 6 volumes. (Baltimore, 1984-93.)
  • 'A Dictionary of Scottish emigrants to Canada before Confederation', by D Whyte. (Toronto, 1986-.)
  • 'A Dictionary of Scottish emigrants to the USA. Baltimore, 1972-', by D Whyte.

Immigration schemes

Some Scots took part in assisted immigration schemes such as the scheme organised by the Highland and Island Emigration Society (1851-1859) to Australia and the state-aided scheme from the 1880s to help emigrants to settle in Canada.

The records of these particular schemes are available in the National Archives of Scotland. At NLS we also hold on microfiche:

  • 'British immigration to Victoria: resource kit. Stage 1, Assisted immigrants from U.K., 1839-1871'. Melbourne: Public Record Office (1989).

Migration within the British Isles

For Scots who migrated within the British Isles, there are very few records in existence. Information about the movement of people within the UK usually has to be found from other sources, such as records of poor relief.

For Scotland, these records are held by the National Archives of Scotland. One published resource we hold covers emigration from Scotland to England and Wales from around the 19th century onwards:

  • 'A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants into England & Wales'. Volumes 1-5. Manchester: Anglo-Scottish Family History Society, 1984-.

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