One of my British ancestors came to eastern Canada as part of the large influx that historians like to call the Yorkshire Migration (1772-1776), and we know a surprising amount about this branch of the family, thanks to the research of distant cousins and others.

The other branch (on my mother’s side), however, has always been hard to track down.

An unsubstantiated family tradition says that “several” brothers sailed together from “somewhere in England” and arrived at a Maritime port — “possibly Halifax, but maybe Saint John” — on some unnamed ship, at some point in the 1890s… Not a lot to go on!

To complicate matters even more, the brothers split up within a couple of years and went their separate ways. One stayed in the Maritimes, one went to “the Boston states,” and one (or more?) went “out west” to seek adventure.

And that’s all we’ve ever been able to find out.

Then, this week, I heard on my beloved CBC radio about a new genealogy resource — a searchable database of the 3 million people who emigrated to other countries from Great Britain by ship in the years between 1890 and 1960!

Ship Passenger Lists for Family History Research, in association with The National Archives, is proud to present ancestorsonboard, a new database featuring BT27 Outward Passenger Lists for long-distance voyages leaving the British Isles from 1960 right back to 1890.With ancestorsonboard, you can search for records of individuals or groups of people leaving for destinations including Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and USA featuring ports such as Boston, Philadelphia and New York. Passengers include not only immigrants and emigrants, but also businessmen, diplomats and tourists. Images of the passenger lists are available to download, view, save and print…

So far, the website has only posted records from 1890 to 1899, but files up until the 1920s should be available by the end of the year…

At present, as they say, only those ships’ passenger lists for the years 1890-1899 are available online, but those were the years that interested me most. In under a minute, I searched for and found the immigration records for several of my ancestors.

Very cool — to fill in a missing branch from our family tree!

The search page for ships passengers leads to a great many other genealogical records, too. Without paying a cent for the more detailed records that are available online, I was able to confirm that my great-grandfather, six years old, was living in Coventry, England, at the time of the 1891 census!

I’ve hardly begun to tap the genealogy resources available on, but already I can see that this is going to be a great resource for people like me who want to trace their family roots in Great Britain.

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