”What can the outbound passenger lists tell me about my ancestor?’’
BeckyBayleylooks at the records our travelling ancestors left behind
We may find, during our research, that some of our ancestors left Britain by sea to emigrate abroad, while others took passage on a ship to travel on business or for pleasure. The resulting passenger lists can reveal many details of an ancestor that can help us in our research. For example, we can find their age, occupation, marital status and last address prior to travel – information that can be very useful when there is no census to consult for the time period in question.
The entry for the 21-year- old Noel Coward, travelling on the Southampton to New York voyage of Cunard’s Aquitania – which left on 4 June 1921 – records his profession as an actor, and his address as 111 Ebury Street, London (a misspelling of Ebury Street).
This property was where his parents ran their lodging house, and it was where he kept a room while he travelled abroad. It was also where he wrote The Vortex, his first notable play. Whilst, in the passenger list of June 1921, he is listed as an actor, in later transatlantic crossings he can be found recorded as a dramatist, author, or playwright.
Searching for another literary great in the 1920s records of the BT27 passenger lists category on TheGenealogist, we can find Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s sea voyages. The creator of Sherlock Holmes gives his address as 15 Buckingham Palace Mansions – which was actually the flat that Conan Doyle and his second wife kept opposite the entrance to Victoria Station. Their main home was in Sussex, and so, on other trips, it is that address that is recorded on passenger lists. In some cases, our ancestors may give the address of a hotel or a residential club in this country, and this can point to them not being full-time British residents. Passenger lists can also provide you with the country of intended future permanent residence, revealing if your ancestor was emigrating, or just making a visit abroad.
Passenger lists are certainly fascinating documents that can reveal our ancestors’ overseas voyages and so help add detail to the stories of their lives, and clarify where people have gone when we can’t find them in the records at home. All levels of society can be found within TheGenealogist’s passenger lists, which span from 1896 to the 1920s.
Noel Coward’s home address was recorded as 111 Elbury Street, London