Exploring Travel and Migration in Old Newspapers | The British Newspaper Archive Blog


Using the Archive for Travel and Migration Research

Old newspapers regularly featured passenger lists, news from abroad, foreign destination guides and other travel-related musings, making the British Newspaper Archive the perfect research companion for anyone interested in how people moved around the world in days gone by.

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Whether you’re a genealogist having trouble pinpointing your family’s voyage to another country or a student doing a thesis on historical migration patterns, the Archive may hold a key piece of information for your research. We’ve even got specialty titles dedicated to travel and migration.

Homeward Mail
Homeward Mail

What you can expect to find

There are no limits to what you can uncover in the Archive and everyone’s research will be unique, however, here are some typical travel-related themes you will see crop up again and again as you search.

  • Vivid descriptions of what life was like on board emigrant ships
  • Articles on free and assisted emigration
  • Reasons people chose to emigrate
  • Passenger lists
  • Articles on shipwrecks and other travel disasters
  • Notices of births, marriages and deaths at sea
  • News, events and messages from abroad
  • Travel history – land, sea and air
  • Holiday destination guides

5 search tips

1. There’s no guarantee that you’ll find a passenger list for every ship in the newspapers. They weren’t always listed.

2. If you can’t find the name of a ship’s passenger, try searching by surname and a distinguishing keyword. Passengers were often only listed by their title and surname.

3. To find images of what life was like on board an emigrant ship, use the ‘exact phrase’ search option in our advanced search. Enter a ship name, destination, departure port or some other piece of information you already know and click ‘Search’. On the search results page, use the ‘type’ filter and select ‘Illustrated’ to narrow your results.

Article type search filter
Article type search filter


Illustrated London News, 20 January 1849
Illustrated London News, 20 January 1849 | Image © Illustrated London News Group

4. If you want to learn more about one of our specialist shipping titles (or any newspaper in the Archive), go to it’s title page by clicking the search icon on the top menu of the site and then choosing ‘Browse by title’. From there, click on any newspaper title to be taken to it’s dedicated page, which includes more information about that publication, our current holdings and year coverage available. You can even take a sneak peak into the newspaper by clicking the featured page.

Lloyd's List
Lloyd’s List Title Page

5. Don’t limit yourself to just specialist titles. Most local and regional newspapers would have given some coverage to shipping and travel.

Discover our travel and migration newspapers

The Tatler - Wednesday 22 September 1965
The Tatler, Wednesday 22 September 1965, Image © Illustrated London News Group. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

How else can we help you?

Start searching the Archive straight away

Learn more useful hints & tips

Using the Archive for sports research

Watch our travel & migration webinar: Journeys Through Time: Discovering Travel & Migration in Old Newspapers


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