Project update

We’ve just finished loading the first decade (1890-1899) of Ancestors on Board on to our “test environment” (which is where we complete final rounds of quality checking before the records are published on the web). What is amazing, and unique to this set of passenger lists, is its truly global reach. There are of course plenty of British and Irish people travelling to USA (and plenty of Americans on the return leg back home from Europe). But the world is bigger than baseball’s World Series suggests, and during the closing decade of the 19th Century ships were leaving the shores of the British Isles for every continent on the planet, and just about every remote oceanic island. The real surprise is the sheer number – tens of thousands – of passengers destined for ports in, for example, South America (especially Argentina and Chile) and the west coast of Africa from Cape Verde round to Gabon.

Such passengers (not all of whom were permanent emigrants) were of all stripes – engineers, merchants, miners, farmers and missionaries, for instance. When trying to break down “brick walls” in your family tree, therefore, it can be a mistake to restrict your vision to the more traditional English-speaking destinations popular with migrants from the British Isles and, hopefully, Ancestors on Board will be of great help to family historians in this respect.

The other startling fact is the number of ports of call on some regular routes (just one thing which separates long distance travel by sea from its modern equivalent by air) and the literally round-the-world journeys some ships made. For example, one scheduled voyage in the late 1890s, that of the appropriately-named Oceana, traces a route from London via Madeira, through the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, calling at Karachi, Colombo, Madras and Bombay in the Indian sub-Continent, then Penang and Singapore, Yokohama and Kobe in Japan, then at King George Sound, Adelaide, Melbourne and Hobart in Australia, on to Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Lyttleton, Christchurch and Auckland in New Zealand, and finally back to Sydney and Brisbane in Australia. Presumably, being a British-registered ship, it would then make the return trip…

As soon as the current round of testing has been completed, the decade from 1890 to 1899 will be launched here on the Ancestors on Board website and you will be able to discover for yourself the lengths to which our ancestors were prepared to go.

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