1920s Outbound Passenger Lists released on TheGenealogist

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Departure of the RMS Campania from Liverpool
Departure of the RMS Campania from Liverpool


TheGenealogist keeps on adding records for its subscribers and this week it has just uploaded online another four and a half million BT27 records for the 1920s. This tranche of Outbound Passenger Lists are really quite fascinating for the variety of people that can be found departing by sea from British ports in the years between 1920 and 1929. TheGenealogist already boasts a strong Immigration, Emigration, Naturalisation and passenger list resource on its site and by adding this decade of records TheGenealogist have been significantly expanded its offering for those of us looking to find our ancestors’ travels.  

The fully searchable records that they have released will allow researchers to:

  • Identify potential family members travelling together by using their clever SmartSearch. TheGenealogist has a unique system that is able to recognise family members travelling together on the same voyage. In the case of several people with the same surname on the same boat journey then it will display a family icon which then allows you the researcher to view the entire family with just a single click.
  • Find people travelling to America, Canada, India, New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere in the Passenger lists of people leaving from the United Kingdom by sea.
  • See images of the original documents which were kept by the Board of Trade’s Commercial and Statistical Department and its successors.
  • Discover the ages, last address and where the passenger intended to make their permanent residence.
  • These fully indexed records enable family historians to search by name, year, country of departure, country of arrival, port of embarkation and port of destination.

Those family history researchers who have ancestors that may have travelled from the British Isles will welcome this terrific new release from TheGenealogist. It certainly adds an interesting decade, after the First World War, to their Immigration and Emigration collection. These records, which are already online, include passenger lists that go back as far as 1896 as well as the valuable Naturalisation and Denization records that researchers can use to find ancestors who came to this country and made their home here.



Below is an article that I wrote for TheGenealogist highlighting some of the well known names that can be found taking a passage on a liner in the 1920s


Ancestral voyages 

by Nick Thorne

The 1920s decade of Outbound Passenger Lists reveal our ancestors’ travels, as well as those of many famous individuals.

Records that chart our ancestors international journeys can be really useful for building the stories of their lives. The documents can help explain where an ancestor has gone when we can’t find them in the records at home, and it was certainly not just the top echelons of society that will appear in passenger lists. In the past all sorts of people booked passages on ships for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they were emigrating for a better life or travelling abroad on business? For this reason we can find the voyages of our ancestors ranging from Labourers to Lords and Artisans to Authors.

TheGenealogist has just added another decade of the always intriguing BT27 records to its growing number of Passenger Lists. These fully searchable records were originally kept by the Board of Trade and listed the details of outbound passengers from U.K. ports. With this release we can now find voyages going across the Atlantic to North America and to the countries of the Empire and beyond. A search of these records can reveal our forebears departing from this country and in amongst their numbers are also included a large number of famous names from the past.

This new release has the likes of Master Douglas Fairbanks Jr, aged 13, who became a famous film star, returning to the United States from a visit to England and travelling on the White Star Line’s ship the Celtic. He is travelling with James and Betty Sally Evans. This appears to be a misrecording of his mother’s name, Anna Beth Sully Evans and James is his stepfather. They were on a 21 day passage to New York departing from Liverpool on the 11th June 1921. We can glean from the passenger lists the ages of passengers, who they were travelling with, and the country of their intended permanent residence – all of which can be useful to our family history research when we find an ancestor in the results.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr in the passenger lists on TheGenealogist
Douglas Fairbanks Jr travelling with his mother and stepfather 11 June 1921

Researching in the passenger lists of this 1920s period of sea travel throws up many other famous names of the times. The 25 year old Harry G. Selfridge Jr, son of the founder of the London department store Selfridges, is one. We can also find the war poet Siegfried L. Sassoon and from the top ranks of the British Army there is Field Marshal Haig and Lt General Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts. Turning to the world of politics we come across David Lloyd George, the Liberal politician who became the wartime Prime Minister. Here he is travelling with his wife, Dame Margaret and their daughter Megan who would herself go on to become the first female M.P. for a Welsh constituency. By using TheGenealogist’s unique SmartSearch feature we can identify the family members travelling together on a voyage by clicking on the family icon.

On a voyage to Gibraltar in April 1927 we can find the 63 year old widow, Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst, the one time leader of the Suffragette movement. Without Mrs Pankhurst and her fellow suffragettes campaigning for the right for women to have the vote, then Megan Lloyd George would not have even been able to cast her ballot, let alone have had the right to stand for election to the House of Commons.

David Lloyd George MP in the Passenger Lists on TheGenealogist
David Lloyd George MP travelling with his wife, Dame Margaret and daughter, Megan, to Rio De Janeiro 21st December 1927
Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst London to Gibraltar 8th April 1927 in the Passenger Lists on TheGenealogist.co.uk
Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst London to Gibraltar 8th April 1927 on the P&O ship Naldera

There are numerous authors to be found in these records. In February 1926 Hilaire Belloc, who was one of the most prolific writers in England during the early twentieth century, made the short hop across the channel from Southampton to Cherbourg. The 55 year old was onboard the Orduna, a vessel of The Royal Mail Steam Packet company on its way to New York. Belloc gave his address as The Reform Club SW1, but for others the passenger lists can reveal the details of an ancestor’s home address before they travelled – information which can be very useful when there is no census to consult for the time period in question. For example, the entry for the 21 year old Noel Coward, travelling on the Southampton to New York run of Cunard’s Aquitania that left on the 4th June 1921 – Coward gave his address as 111 Ebury Street London. This was the premises that his parents ran as a lodging house and it was where he kept a room while he travelled abroad. It was also the address where he wrote The Vortex, his first notable successful play. His occupation on the passenger list for June 1921 was that of an Actor. In later transatlantic crossings, however, he is sometimes recorded as a Dramatist, an Author and as a Playwright.

Noel Coward in the Outbound Passenger Lists on TheGenealogist
Noel Coward’s home address was 111 Elbury Street, London

Searching for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s sea voyages in this decade of BT27 Passenger Lists released by TheGenealogist, we see that the creator of Sherlock Holmes gives his address as 15 Buckingham Palace Mansions. This was actually the flat that the famous author and his second wife kept opposite the entrance to Victoria Station, although their main home was in Sussex and in other trips that address is recorded in the passenger lists.

Browsing the names of his fellow first class passengers we can see that the Literary agent Eric Seabrooke Pinker was also onboard and we can wonder if the two men mixed on the voyage. The arts were well represented on this trip as also travelling on the same ship was the artist Augustus John. John was a Welsh painter, draughtsman and etcher who had been an important exponent of Post-Impressionism in the United Kingdom for a short time around 1910 and by the 1920s Augustus John was Britain’s leading portrait painter.

Arthur Conan Doyle and family from TheGenealogist's Passenger List collection
Arthur Conan Doyle and family travelling on the Olympic to New York 28 March 1923

Passenger lists are certainly fascinating documents that can reveal our ancestors overseas voyages and so help add detail to the stories of their lives. They can also be used to clarify where people have gone when we can’t find them in the records at home, as it is all levels of society that can be found in these records. This particular decade seems also to be very rich in the names of the famous as they departed from U.K. ports on their overseas travels.

See these and many more engaging family history records at TheGenealogist.



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Welsh historic boundary maps online


This week I was reading Chris Paton’s blog: The GENES Blog and it neatly drew my attention to a great resource for those researching their Welsh ancestors (http://britishgenes.blogspot.com/2017/05/historic-welsh-boundary-maps-go-online.html ).


It seems that The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (https://rcahmw.gov.uk) has created two digital geospatial layered maps using late-medieval sources and historic parish boundaries to recreate the boundaries of the commotes (cymydau) and cantrefs (cantrefi) of medieval Wales.

They go on to say that ‘future developments will examine how these boundaries have changed over time and map them in further detail.’

What is great is that it is a free resource that they have made available to the public as an aid to encouraging research.

To view the maps visit https://rcahmw.gov.uk/mapping-the-historic-boundaries-of-wales-commotes-and-cantrefs/.

Earlier this month The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales also recently launched the The List of Historic Place Names of Wales.  This is, as they say ‘a ground-breaking website that provides a fascinating insight into the land use, archaeology and history of Wales. Over 300,000 place names are included in the List, reflecting the various forms and spellings used historically, and revealing the often forgotten or overlooked legacies of buildings, people, archaeological or topographical features in our landscapes.’
For more on this visit https://rcahmw.gov.uk/list-of-historic-place-names-now-live/.



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TheGenealogist launches the First World War issues of The Sphere newspaper and more War Memorials

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Press Release:

TheGenealogist has expanded its Newspaper and Magazine collection with the release of The Sphere that cover August 1914 to June 1919.

Using the Historical newspapers and magazines resource on TheGenealogist enables researchers to follow current affairs that may have affected or concerned our ancestors at the time. Because the articles were written as events were occurring, they provide contemporary accounts of the world that our ancestors lived in and can furnish us with great insights into opinions of the time. In the case of the First World War years, covered by this release of The Sphere, we can gain information about individuals or read about situations that are similar to ones that our ancestors may have found themselves in.

The Sphere on TheGenealogist

The Sphere was an illustrated paper founded by Clement Shorter (1857-1926) who was also responsible for establishing the Tatler and it covered general news stories from the UK and around the world.


War Memorials collection

Also being released at this time by TheGenealogist are another 116 War Memorials containing 10,795 names. Included in this batch are a number of Boer War memorials as well as those for the First World War. With this addition the total figure for memorials on

TheGenealogist has now reached 1,540 with 363,838 names.


To search these and many other records on TheGenealogist, go to: www.thegenealogist.co.uk



The Sphere, providing insights into your ancestor’s lives.

I wrote this piece for TheGenealogist to show how I used the Newspaper and Magazines collection to better understand conditions in World War I.

The Sphere 1914 on TheGenealogist

The Sphere December 12 1914 



I have been looking a little closer into the war exploits of my step-grandfather. I knew that he had joined the Royal Engineers Special Reserve Motor Cyclist Division as a despatch rider but, like many of his generation that fought in the First World War, he didn’t talk much about his experiences. What I did know was that he had found it ‘quite exciting’ to ride his despatches from headquarters to the front and back on a motorbike. He never expanded on this and certainly didn’t tell us stories about his escapades, nor what it was like to be a soldier on two wheels.


With the recent release of copies of The Sphere, on TheGenealogist, I was thus fascinated to come across the December 12 1914 edition of the publication. Here was an article about motorcycle despatch riders from the early part of the war. This day’s publication featured a double page evocative image of a motor-cycle despatch rider on his machine fleeing with the enemy on his tail. As I knew that my step-grandfather was in his late twenties at the time and a keen motorcycle rider I could imagine him reading pieces such as this and wanting to join up to the R.E. Motor Cyclists to ‘do his bit’.


I know that Grandpa also served in the western theatre of war and so this image and the report that followed, resonated with me. I could now imagine him in similar situations as had been described and pictured in the newspaper. In this particular article from the newly released records, the rider telling his story suffers a whole lot of problems: ‘On returning I take the wrong road and my machine gives trouble, and whilst repairing same I suddenly find myself surrounded by Uhlans.’ This narrator is captured, has his hands bound behind his back and he feigns illness. When his guard goes to fetch a doctor the British Tommy escapes by rolling into a ditch. This episode makes me realise that when my step-grandfather said it was ‘quite exciting’ this was probably a bit of an understatement. Their duties were certainly not a simple ride in the countryside.

The Sphere 12 Dec 1914
The Sphere 12 Dec 1914



The British Army in World War I would often used Douglas or Triumph Motorcycles for despatch riding duties which only had between 2 and 5 hp engines. Some riders, however, brought their own machines along when they joined up. These motorbikes would have to be inspected by the military to make sure that they were suitable for the purpose; but in the early days, when many of the men were volunteers, this would have meant that this section of the Royal Engineers Signals would have been up and running quickly. In my step-grandfather’s case, however, looking at his attestation papers I can see that this part had been scored through –  indicating that he would have had to be issued with an army bike.


Later in the First World War Grandpa was wounded and by reading other articles, such as that published on the 9th January 1915 about the RAMC work at the front, I got an understanding for how injured men were transferred in motorised omnibuses and ambulances that were also subject to breakdowns of their own.


Resources such as The Sphere, The War Illustrated, The Great War, The Illustrated London News, plus the other historical newspapers and magazines already found on TheGenealogist are great for building a picture of situations that our ancestors may have found themselves in. In some cases we may be lucky enough to find an ancestor actually named in a report – but even when that doesn’t happen we can find write-ups that provide us with an understanding of the wider conditions in which our ancestors worked, played or went to war in.


Another use that we can make of this resource is where we have an ancestor who was unfortunate enough to have lost their lives, while serving as an officer in the First World War.  In many editions of The Sphere Rolls of Honour were published. In these we are able to find a picture along with a few lines recording their loss. The Newspaper and Magazine collection is available to all Diamond subscribers of TheGenealogist.

Click here to find out more:





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Farewell Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE

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Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE Olympia 2008
Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE – formally at Olympia in London


Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016 at the NEC
Who Do You Think You Are? Live – latterly at the NEC in Birmingham


I am going to miss the annual genealogy-fest that was the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show but it doesn’t come as a surprise. This year’s show was enjoyable but, as I and many other commentators across the web had noticed, the number of on-topic stands were down while the number of charity booths and other stands were now very noticeable in the hall.


Where do we go to now? Well…we could always check out the smaller family history fairs up and down the country and I am already looking forward to attending the Yorkshire Family History Fair at the York racecourse on June the 24th. See: www.yorkshirefamilyhistoryfair.com


Yorkshire Family History Fair


And then in September there is The Family History Show – London Event on the 24th September at Sandown Park Racecourse in Esher. See their website: www.thefamilyhistoryshow.com

This one is new, but like the York event which has been a regular in the calendar for some years, it is being run by my old friends Discover Your Ancestors Magazine, for whom I am a regular contributor of articles. Both shows are sponsored by TheGenealogist


Hope to see you there. Oh, and by the way, I’ve just seen that they have a special offer on the tickets at the moment: Early Bird offer: Buy your tickets early and when you buy one ticket, they will give you another ticket FREE!


Yorkshire Family History Fair
Saturday 24th June 2017

10am to 4.30pm

The Knavesmire Exhibition Centre, The Racecourse, York, YO23 1EX

Admission: Adults £4.80, Children under 14 FREE



Family History Show – London Event
Sunday 24th September 2017

10am to 4.30pm

Sandown Park Racecourse, Portsmouth Road, Esher, KT10 9AJ

Admission: Adults £4.80, Children under 14 FREE



Disclosure: As an article writer I have a commercial relationship with Discover Your Ancestors and TheGenealogist. Also, affiliate links to Discover Your Ancestors and TheGenealogist are used above.

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