Guides

Emigration and immigration

Detail from an emigration poster

Sources for emigration records in the National Records of Scotland (NRS)

Other sources for emigration records

Immigration records

Further reading on emigration records

Sources for emigration records in the National Records of Scotland (NRS)

Detail from settlers guide to New ZealandThe Highland and Island Emigration Society was set up by private subscription with the aim of alleviating destitution in the Highlands by promoting and assisting the emigration of Highlanders to Australia. Between 1852 and 1857 the Society assisted almost 5000 men, women and children to leave western Scotland for Australia. Their details were recorded in the Society's passenger lists, which are one of the few sources for emigration held by the National Records of Scotland (NRS catalogue reference, HD4/5). The passenger lists record the surname, forename, age, residence and estate of individuals whose emigration to Australia was assisted by the Society. The Highland and Island Emigration Society's passenger lists are available to search on ScotlandsPeople. Search Highland and Island Emigration Society records.

We also hold records relating to a state-aided scheme that was set up in the 1880s to assist emigrants from Harris and Lewis to settle in Manitoba, Canada. The names of these emigrants are listed in the files of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (NRS reference, AF51).

For information on sources for Scottish criminals transported to the Americas and Australia from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, see the NRS guide on crime and criminals.

Other references to individual emigrants, including correspondence, may be found in a wide variety of records searchable in the NRS online catalogue. You can enquire about viewing these items by contacting the Historical Search Room.

Other sources for emigration records

The National Archives, London (TNA)

Responsibility for emigration in the nineteenth century lay with the Colonial Office, based in London. Its records are held by The National Archives in Kew. You can search the outward passenger lists for the years 1890–1960 (TNA, BT27) online at Find My Past for lists of passengers leaving the UK and Irish ports and travelling to places such as the USA, Canada, India, New Zealand and Australia. For additional sources, please consult TNA's guide on emigration.

Merseyside Maritime Museum

Liverpool was the main port of departure in the nineteenth century for emigrants from Britain and Europe. The Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool acts as a clearing house for information on sources of emigration.

Scotland

The National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh also holds useful reference sources and some records relating to emigration.

Accounts of the Highland clearances and a searchable database can be found at 'The Clearances' website.

Ireland

The National Archives of Ireland's transportation database, 1791–1853, lists Irish criminals transported to Australia.

Immigration records

Immigration records such as arrival lists generally provide more comprehensive detail than the departure lists available in Britain.

The Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island website includes a searchable database of passengers entering the United States through Ellis Island and the Port of New York, 1892–1924, from which you can view the original ships' manifests.

A searchable database of passengers entering the United States through Castle Garden Immigration Centre, 1855–1890, can be found at the Castle Garden website.

Further reading on emigration records

Please see the NRS guide on emigration records for suggestions of further reading on this topic.