Passenger Research Guides

P&O's ships steamed over thousands of
miles of ocean carrying a significant number
of people all around the globe

Passengers & Emigration

IntroductionPassengersPassengers onboard CEYLON © P&O Heritage Collection

Until 1960, all ships carrying passengers in or out of any British port were required by law to deposit an official passenger list with the relevant port authorities.  These lists were compiled for the Statistical Department of the Board of Trade (BT), a UK Government body responsible for a variety of tasks.  These lists record migrants, tourists, business travellers, men, women and children.  With no other immigration or emigration records required to be completed during this period, these represent the only way of identifying people leaving, entering or passing through British ports en route for overseas ports in Africa, Asia, North America, Australia and elsewhere. 

In general, British official passenger lists do not exist for the following:

  • Ships travelling between ports in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales
  • Ferries including those on the English Channel, North Sea and Irish Sea
  • Feeder ships carrying passengers across the North Sea for onward passage by transatlantic steamers
  • Ships sailing between Britain and European ports, those which lie on the eastern and southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, and all islands in the Mediterranean such as Malta, unless the ship’s voyage started or ended outside that area
  • Cruise ships
  • Troop ships – although there are some 20th century records for civilian passengers on troop transports
  • Ships bound for Britain but which sank before they reached the UK. (This means there is no arrival list for the Lusitania’s last voyage, nor for any other ships which did not reach their British destination for whatever reason)
  • Passengers travelling to or from the UK on ships bound to or from the UK who left or joined the ship outside the UK (e.g. to travel more quickly across Europe)
  • Passengers travelling between intermediate ports in a ship from or to the UK

Passenger lists may also exist for overseas ports served by a ship in which you are interested, but it is not possible to go into detail here.  Please contact the port authorities or national archives in question.

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