Journeys through time webinar Q&A | The British Newspaper Archive Blog


Journeys Through Time webinar Q&A

The British Newspaper Archive travel and migration webinar

On 20 July 2017, many of you joined us for our webinar, Journeys Through Time: Discovering Travel & Migration in Old Newspapers.  In the webinar, we reviewed how to find passenger lists, emigration notices, letters from abroad, and so much more.  If you were not able to attend the live webinar, you can watch it on demand through our You Tube channel.


The theme of this month’s webinar was travel, thus we received many questions about early passport requirements.

When did passports become necessary for travel from UK?

Passports were not compulsory for British travellers until 1914, though passports/certificates were issued for some time before.  They were issued and signed by the monarch and then by the Secretary of State from 1794 onwards.  Our modern passports, with photographic identification, came into effect at the outbreak of the First World War.  You can search the index to register of passport applications, 1851-1903 on Findmypast.

Were there passenger lists published for journeys between England and Southern Ireland in 1907?

Passenger lists between England and Ireland at that time are unlikely as the two countries were considered one jurisdiction.  The same goes for travel between Scotland, England, and Wales.  At the time passports were introduced, Great Britain and Ireland were united.  Therefore, there was no requirement for passports while travelling from Ireland to England as it was considered domestic travel.

Where would you find records of babies born on ships?

Many of the newspapers did report if there was a birth at sea; however, they may not have always printed the name of the child or parents.  However, in some cases you can find the names of the parents if not the child’s names.  Here are a couple samples we found.   First, an account of life on an emigrant ship mentioned the birth of one child.

East London Observer 17 Dec 1859
East London Observer | 17 December 1859


Also, in this list of birth announcements, you can see that the wife of Captain Burt gave birth to a son aboard a ship from Singapore to Foo-chow.

Liverpool Daily Post 25 March 1869
Liverpool Daily Post | Thursday 25 March 1869



During the webinar, we discussed the reasons people would emigrate and the various advertisements you could find in the newspapers.

Did people respond to advertisements for labour in other countries?  Did these offer subsidised passage?

Absolutely people responded to advertisements.  The advertisements usually provided a location for a person to write to or visit in order to volunteer for emigration to another country.  In some cases, the trips were completely subsidised, for others, only a portion of the travel was paid and the individual was responsible for either paying before the journey or after arrival when the person began a new job.

A search tip, leading from this question, is if you know the name of the ship your ancestor sailed on, search the newspapers for advertisements for that ship.  It is possible you will discover an advertisement which explains whether the fares were subsidised or not.

Gloucester Citizen 16 January 1885
Gloucester Citizen | Friday 16 January 1885


We spent time during the webinar discussing the merits of the Homeward Mail for India, China and the East.

Are Ceylon and Turkey covered within the Homeward Mail?

For both countries, we found thousands of results in this particular title.  You can search just this title from the title page or narrow your search using the search filters on the left side of the results page.  Also, it is important to know the name of the country during the time period you are searching.  For example, until 1922, Turkey would have been known as the Ottoman or Turkish empire.


Finally, we had some questions about the coverage of newspapers found in the British Newspaper Archive.

How good is the coverage before 1850?

The best way to see our full coverage is through a blank search.  From the homepage, select the search button without inputting any keywords.

On the left side of the results, you can see all the filter options.  The numbers to the right of each option demonstrate the number of pages for that option.  For example, you can see the BNA holds 415,777 pages between the years 1800 and 1849.


Do you have Welsh newspapers between 1830s-1890s?

To find coverage for Welsh papers, you can do a blank search and then use the country filter option for Wales.  Then your results will include only Welsh titles.   Once this is completed, the year ranges and the number of pages will refresh to reflect the new filter.


We also have the option to view all the titles by country through our titles list.


For more hints and tips about searching The British Newspaper Archive explore our blog.

Hints & Tips

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