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About British & Irish Passenger Lists 1890 & 1891

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Abstracts of all 1890 & 1891 passenger lists from British and Irish ports with US and Canadian destinations are available on

About the Passenger Lists
These abstracts have been compiled by Peter Coldham directly from the original lists held at The National Archives, London, augmented by Canadian and US data. The names of 194,000 passengers are included. The original lists are often very difficult to read but we believe these abstracts are the most accurate available anywhere.

Please note also that in the case of some sailings where there were large groups of foreign passengers (ie not British or Irish), the names of all such foreign passengers are not necessarily included.

The data provided includes:

Ship information:
  • date of sailing
  • ship's name
  • line (where mentioned)
  • tonnage
  • name of master
  • departure port, destination ports (there is often more than one destination port in North America)
  • full list of passengers.
For each passenger:
  • full name
  • occupation
  • nationality (English, Scottish, Irish or "foreign"; some lists provide the county of origin of the passenger)
  • age (in most cases)
  • marital status.
See Example of passenger list below

Departure ports
The 1890 lists cover a total of 921 sailings, from the ports all over the British Isles; the 1891 lists include 501 sailings from Irish ports. A breakdown is shown in the table below.
Departure Port No. of sailings
1890 1891
Bristol 12  
Hull 22  
Liverpool 539  
London 59  
Southampton 90  
Galway 48 15
Londonderry 183 186
Queenstown (Cork) 325 300
Dundee 19  
Glasgow 160  
Swansea 38  
NB Many sailings, particularly from Glasgow, called at Irish ports (Londonderry and Galway) en route; there are usually separate passenger lists for those embarking at the different ports.

Destination ports
Destination ports are shown in the table below.
Destination Port No. of sailings
1890 1891
Baltimore 71 20
Boston 216 59
Galveston 1 0
Halifax, Nova Scotia 94 56
Montreal 89 29
New Orleans 7 0
New York 821 303
Philadelphia 157 64
Portland, Maine 51 23
Quebec 85 32
San Francisco 1 0
St Johns. Newfoundland 45 20
Vancouver 1 0
plus one 1890 sailing which continued to the West Indies.

In many cases there are clearly multiple members of the same family present on the list, making these records much more valuable than simply records of individuals. When you search on a person, you can display the passenger list for that sailing, making it easy to detect family groups.

Between 1890 and 1920, a particularly high tonnage of ships left British and Irish ports bound for North America. Many passengers were emigrants from Britain, Ireland and Europe. European emigrants went via the UK because it was cheaper to sail from a British port than a European one. The shipping companies required passengers to have British residency of six weeks, but many passengers too impatient to qualify for residency changed their names to avoid detection.

Passenger nationalities
About 30% of the 1890 passengers (57,000) were Irish, primarily departing from the Irish ports, but with several thousand sailing from Liverpool. There were about 100,000 English passengers and 14,000 Scots, with 24,000 "foreign". In the 1891 Irish sailings, over 99% of the 49,000 passengers listed are Irish.

The Source Records
The source records are passenger lists of people leaving the United Kingdom (and up to 1923, ports now in the Republic of Ireland) by sea, which were completed by the ship's purser and kept by the Board of Trade's Commercial and Statistical Department and its successors. They exist for the years 1890 to 1960 and are now held at The National Archives, London (class BT27). The abstracts here were augmented by Canadian records.

Peter Coldham, who started work on the present indexes prior to TNA embarking on its indexing project, Ancestors on Board, has found numerous flaws in the latter and has continued his work on 1890 sailings to include 1891 sailings from Irish ports. The Ellis Island website contains immigrant records which complement those of Ancestors on Board, but these records start only from 1892.

A summary of the areas in which Ancestors on Board (AOB) appears to fall short of complete adequacy follows:
  • Access to the original manifests is hampered by the omission from the AOB images of TNA references which have to be sought (where available) within the transcripts themselves.
  • Also missing from the AOB indexes are titles such as Sir, Maj., Lieut., Rev., Fr., Sister, Mr., Mrs., Miss, Master, etc; occupations (often valuable clues in identification); deletions from the manifests of any who failed to sail because of sickness, arrest on shore or just failure to turn up (an essential detail for an accurate transcript); sailings listed under the wrong ship name or as setting out from the wrong port (not a great help to the genealogist who is directed to Liverpool rather than Queenstown/Cork).
  • There are, of course, going to be errors and omissions in any project as large as AOB or in others of similar scope but the unduly disproportionate number have persuaded Peter Wilson Coldham to spend the best part of three years in transcribing the present list. He is happy to admit that the result is unlikely to prove perfect.
A fuller review of the principal sources for transatlantic passenger lists and of their content, accuracy, value and deficiencies, will be found in the article Emigrant Passenger Lists to the USA in Volume 29 No. 8. of The Genealogists’ Magazine.

Example of Passenger List

Sailing Date: 03/Jan/1890
Vessel: Parisian, Allan Line, 3440 tons
Master: J. Ritchie
Route: Londonderry-Halifax-Portland
TNA Reference: BT 27/30
Comments: Only names of passengers to Portland abstracted

 First name   Last name   Occupation   Nationality   Age   Marital status 
Margaret McGuigan matron Irish 40 m
Rose McGuigan family Irish 18 s
Margaret A. McGuigan family Irish 11  
Catherine McGuigan family Irish 11  
Harry McGuigan family Irish 10  
John McGuigan family Irish 7  
Andrew McGuigan family Irish 4  
Teresa McGuigan family Irish 1  
William Lowry clerk Irish 22 s

See also:  Help searching Passenger Lists
  About Peter Coldham
  Source Record Archives - England
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