British Records

The century up to Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1837 saw Britain use its naval might, and an adventurous commercial spirit, to build up the largest empire the world has ever seen. By Victorian times, the builders of this empire were very interested in applying scientific thinking in areas including industry, agriculture, trade, taxation and the legal system. Record keeping was highly valued and the introduction of a national census every decade plus birth, marriage and death registers provide evidence of this.

During this imperial period, records were kept by British administrations at home and abroad. If your ancestors travelled to the colonies, whether they settled overseas or not, you might be able to track them down. Once you’re familiar with searching things like the UK censuses and the vast array of BMD records, why not explore further afield?

UK Incoming Passenger Lists 1878-1960 is a good first port of call, and is available to anyone with a Premium or Worldwide membership. If someone you’re researching travelled abroad they may well appear here. These records show arrivals at UK ports from territories all around the world. If your ancestors sailed back from Durban, Sydney, Auckland, Bombay, Quebec or an array of other colonial ports, you might find them here.

Canada and Australia both had British-style administration and we offer our Worldwide members a wide range of resources, including electoral rolls, censuses and military records. For Australia, there’s not only the Australian Convict Collection but also a huge resource listing millions of people who travelled there by choice. The Australian Electoral Rolls include the names of any British subjects who settled there and registered to vote between 1903 and 1954.

For Canada, there are arrivals lists for Canadian ports both on the east and west coast, as well as annual censuses dating between 1851 and 1911. And if your ancestors settled in Canada, why not search the many record sets that cover birth, marriages and deaths in Ontario, Quebec and the other provinces?

Ireland was part of the United Kingdom until independence in 1922. Sadly, many Irish records were burned during the Civil War, but Premium members have access to our growing Irish collection, which includes an index to the Griffiths Valuation that lists over one million Irish landowners between 1848 and 1864.

The abolition of slavery saw Slave Registers being kept in dependencies around the world between 1812 and 1834 while the system was wound down under laws passed in London. And don’t forget that if your ancestors took up life in one of the colonies, they may still have joined the British Army to fight in World War I, so check our vast array of military records covering this conflict. There are also listings of Boer War casualties from 1899 to 1901; the Waterloo Medal Roll from 1815; and a list of members of the Army serving in India in 1912.
Our UK ancestors had the world before them in many ways, and millions took to the seas to find their fortunes or start new lives in the colonies. Make sure you use all of the resources available to find your ancestors abroad.

Useful Links

More about WWI army service records 

UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960

Australian Convict Collection

Australian Electoral Rolls, 1903-1954 

Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935

Canadian Census Collection

Ireland, Index to Griffith’s Valuation, 1848-1864 

Slave Registers of former British Colonial Dependencies, 1812-1834 

Military Records