Set sail to the States alongside your Yorkshire ancestors today

Ever wondered if your ancestors left the motherland during their lives? Migration to the United States is littered throughout British history, often with the promise of better economic prospects and brighter futures. There is an abundance of records available to you if you’re researching your ancestor’s life in Yorkshire, including:

However, if you’re struggling to find English records to pinpoint your ancestor, it’s time to broaden your horizons, and passenger lists are the first port of call. Findmypast’s extensive Passenger Lists Leaving UK collection is the perfect place to start.

This expansive collection details those leaving UK ports to either visit or emigrate between 1890 and 1960. Using Findmypast’s advanced search page, you’ll be able to narrow down your results. First, add in the country of arrival – in this case, it will be the United States. You can then narrow your search based on departure ports. The two main Yorkshire departures would have been Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire, or Middlesborough for North Yorkshire. From here, you can prune your search once again by adding in a name, a birth year, or a departure year.

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Of course, not all Yorkshire-born migrants would have been privy to Hull or Middlesborough – many of our Northern ancestors gravitated towards Liverpool, which was one of the biggest and most widely used ports of the 19th and 20th centuries, or southern ports such as Southampton if they could afford the travel.

If you’re struggling still to pinpoint your ancestor, reverse the way you search – add in your ancestor’s details first, and see if they appear at a departure port in another area of the country.

Don’t stop here, though – this isn’t the only collection of passenger records that could be useful for your search. Findmypast also have an extensive United States, Passenger and Crew Lists collection, which documents much of the inbound and outbound travel in America from the 16th century onwards. If you know where your ancestor settled, you can filter by collection and state. Otherwise – and those goes for both of these collections – Findmypast’s intuitive ‘Optional keywords’ search field becomes crucial here. This searches all non-numerical data on the record, meaning if you’re looking for a particular detail, such as past residence or birthplace listed as Yorkshire, you can add this in. You could also be more specific – did your ancestor live in Leeds, Sheffield, or Barnsley? Check to see if these produce any results.

It’s easy to get lost in these searches, especially when there are thousands of records to journey through, so make sure to experiment with the ways you broaden and filter your search. As time passed and records changed, often the information they required changed as well. To this end, though, it’s not just the details of migration you could uncover. Most records in the Passenger Lists Leaving UK collection include an occupation or trade, giving you an extra detail about your ancestor’s life to explore. Some records in the United States, Passenger and Crew Lists – particularly for the staff of the ships – will also show the signature of your ancestor, and in some cases, even a fingerprint. Seeing your ancestor’s handwriting and fingerprint can help bring you closer to your heritage in a more poignant way.

Why stop at passenger records? Once your ancestor settled in their new home, it’s worth perusing US Census records to glean more information. Censuses were taken by the government as a means of reporting on the population, helping inform government policy, healthcare reform and more, on both a local and national scale. From a family history perspective, they are invaluable snapshots of your ancestors lives and vital for discovering where your ancestor resided, if they had family or property, their trade or occupation, and how their situation changed as the decades went by. Findmypast offer all 16 US Censuses from 1790 all the way to 1940, and though details vary, this could help you discover their marital status, literacy level, whether they worked, and how many people lived in their household.

Unearthing the names of your ancestor’s close relatives could lead you to discover entirely new branches of your family tree to follow, and fields such as the value of their estate could help you gather information on their financial situation. Perhaps you could then compare to what you know of their life in Yorkshire – did they become more well-off, or was the move detrimental to their finances? Did they travel with their spouse and children, or did they build a new family on US soil? By piecing together the jigsaw of their life, you could paint a bold and bright picture of your ancestor’s life, bringing you closer to your own personal history.

You’re now just a step or two away from discovering all there is to know about your adventuring ancestor’s journey from Yorkshire across the globe. Explore Findmypast’s extensive passenger list collections, peruse the census records, and implement these search tips – you’ll be sailing in no time.

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