Scotland Emigration and Immigration

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Online Databases[edit | edit source]

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Emigration and immigration records are records of people leaving (emigrating) or coming into (immigrating) Scotland. Records include:

  • passenger lists
  • permissions to emigrate
  • records of passports issued
  • list of transported prisoners
  • registers of assistance to emigrate

These records may contain:

  • name
  • age
  • occupation
  • destination
  • place of origin or birthplace
  • date and ship of arrival
  • names of fellow passengers, which may help construct family groups or provide hints on place of origin or destination
Moshulu ship.jpg

General Background[edit | edit source]

Beginning in the seventeenth century, Scottish people began emigrating to the United States, India, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and elsewhere in the British Isles. Emigration increased in the mid-eighteenth century as a result of political unrest and again after 1815 as a means of poor relief, particularly from the Highlands.

The British government did not bother to document emigrants leaving its shores until the Passenger Act of 1803. Even after that, the records were very incomplete.

The Colonial Land and Emigration Commission (1841 to 1872) and the Board of Trade (1873 on) kept records of departing emigrants, but the records have been destroyed up to the 1890s.

Emigration from Scotland[edit | edit source]

There was no systematic, official method of emigrating from Scotland. The following types of emigrants account for most persons who left Scotland.

  • Free emigrants. Beginning in 1630, emigrants left Scotland to promote trade or set up military outposts and way stations for merchant ships. Later, free emigrants sought opportunity in a new land or fled poverty or oppression in Scotland.
  • Assisted emigrants. From 1815 to 1900, qualified emigrants received passage money or land grants in the destination country as an alternative to receiving poor relief. Many Scots from the Highlands emigrated to Canada in this manner. After 1840, New Zealand and Australia offered money for land grants to skilled workers to encourage immigrants.
  • Latter-day Saints. Beginning in about 1840, many Scottish Latter-day Saints emigrated to the United States. Most settled in Utah. For more information, see Utah Emigration and Immigration and Latter-day Saint Online Genealogy Records:Emigration and Immigration.

Emigration from Scotland to Other Areas in the British Isles[edit | edit source]

Emigration from southern Scotland to England has always occurred, though in small numbers. Emigration from Scotland into Ireland occurred beginning in the early seventeenth century. No government records, such as lists of emigrants, were kept of these movements within the British Isles.

  • The Scottish Emigration Database currently contains the records of over 21,000 passengers who embarked at Glasgow and Greenock for non-European ports between 1 January and 30 April 1923, and at other Scottish ports between 1890 and 1960.

British Records of Emigration[edit | edit source]

To search emigration records effectively, it can help to know the approximate date of emigration, the name of the ship, the type of or reason for emigration, or the emigrant’s previous residence in Scotland. If you know the ship’s name, you might find additional details on the ship, including ports of embarkation and arrival in:

  • Lloyd’s Register of British and Foreign Shipping. Fiche ed. LaCrosse, Wisconsin: Brookhaven Press, 1981. (Family History Library fiche 6024581-6025295; does not circulate to Family History Centers.) Online at HathiTrust.
  • Passenger Lists. Port records listing the names of departing or arriving passengers are called passenger lists. Pre-1890 passenger departure lists are rare. Post-1890 lists are arranged chronologically by port of departure. These lists—which usually give the emigrant’s name, age, occupation, address, and sometimes destination—are kept at the Public Record Office, Kew (see Scotland Archives and Libraries).
  • Assisted Emigrants Registers. Persons who applied for assistance to emigrate were recorded in assisted emigrants registers, which often contain name, age, occupation, residence, destination, name of sponsor, address of relative, and size of family. Those available at the Family History Library appear in the Locality Search of the catalog under:
  • Probate Records. Probate records may mention relatives who emigrated. Probates of persons who died overseas who owned property in Scotland should have been proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (until 1858).

For lists of Scottish-American wills proved in England, see:

  • Coldham, Peter W. American Wills and Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1610-1857. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 1989. (Family History Library book 942 P27c.)
  • Testaments of some Scots dying in America were proven in Scotland. Probate would have taken place in the Commissary Court of Edinburgh (until 1830) or the Sheriff Court of Edinburgh (after 1830). For a listing of these probates, see:
  • Dobson, David. Scottish-American Wills, 1650-1900. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 1991. (Family HistoryLibrary book 973 P22d.)

Records of Scottish Emigrants in Their Destination Countries[edit | edit source]

Since so few British immigration sources exist, you may need to search the emigration records of the country your ancestor moved from to Scotland. Usually, it is easier to find information about your immigrant ancestor in the country he or she immigrated to. You may find the emigrant’s name, place of origin, occupation, and age. Knowing an approximate date and port of arrival or ship name will probably help you search immigration records.

Naturalization records in the destination country may be an excellent source for determining your ancestor’s place of origin. Search this Wiki for "Naturalization and Citizenship" and the name of the destination country.

The FamilySearch Catalog lists most of its immigration records in the Locality Search under:


United States[edit | edit source]

  • Immigrant lists are the main source of information about an immigrant’s arrival in the United States. More than 1,000 published lists are indexed in an ongoing series:
Filby, P. William. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1981. (Family History Library book Ref 973 W32p.)
Argyll Patent - New York[edit | edit source]

In the mid 18th century, the governor of New York colony sought settlers from Britain.  Captain Lauchlin Campbell, from Islay, Argyllshire, Scotland, transported over 470 individuals in 1738, 1739, and 1740 from Islay on his ship Happy Return. The records of the land they finally received are found in the documents of the Argyll Patent. On the Washington County, New York, United States, US GenWeb site is a map of the Argyll Patent. The land was located along the Hudson River.

A list of the emigrants may be accessed on the NYGenWeb website. More information about this colony can be found:

  • James MacNaughton, Jr. The Argyle Patent And Its Early Settlers. Hopkinsville, KY: The Sleeper Co., 1999. FHL974.749.R2. Contains history of the patent, list of those who were awarded land, and a lot by lot description of 18th and 19th century transactions of each lot.
  • Jennie M. Patten.The Argyle Patent And Accompanying Documents. Excerpted from History of the Somonauk Presbyterian Church. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1965.  FHL  974.749 R2 or FHL Film #1033649 Item 2
  • Margaret C. Storrie.ISLAY: Biography of an Island. Islay [Argyll] : The Oa Press, c1981 FHL 941.38 H2
Argyll Colony - North Carolina[edit | edit source]

A group of individuals from Argyllshire settled in the Cape Fear area of North Carolina. Information about these emigrants can be found on NCPedia.

Canada[edit | edit source]

Scottish people settled in Canada during the early 1800s, but few pre-1865 passenger lists exist. Before 1900, most immigrants arrived at Quebec City and Halifax. The Family History Library has copies of passenger lists from 1865 to 1900. See the Canada Research Outline for more information.

  • Whyte, Donald. Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada Before Confederation. Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society, 1986. (Family History Library book 971 F2wd.)
Online Passenger Lists[edit | edit source]

These websites contain online passenger lists from Scotland to Canada:

North America[edit | edit source]

Many books have been published about Scottish emigrants to North America. Some of these are:

  • Dobson, David. Directory of Scottish Settlers in North America 1625-1825. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1984. (Family History Library book 970 W2d.) This author has published several other books on Scottish emigrants to America.
  • Tepper, Michael. New World Immigrants: A Consolidation of Ship Passenger Lists and Associated Data from Periodical Literature. 2 vols. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1979. (Family History Library book 973 W3tn.)
  • Whyte, Donald. Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to the U.S.A. 2nd ed. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1981. (Family History Library book 973 W2w.)

You can find bibliographies of published passenger lists in:

  • Whyte, Donald. Scottish Emigration: A Select Bibliography, Scottish Genealogist 21, no. 3 (1974): 65-86. (Family History Library book 941 B2g vol. 21 no. 3.)
  • Filby, P. William. Passenger and Immigration Lists Bibliography 1538-1900. 2nd ed. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Co, 1988. (Family History Library book 973 W33p.)

Australia[edit | edit source]

Australia was founded as an English penal colony in 1788, but many free people also emigrated to Australia. Immigration records vary by state in content and coverage. Some list the immigrant’s birthplace, residence in Scotland, and education; his or her mother’s maiden name; and his or her father’s name, occupation, and residence. Some records are indexed. You might find the ship and arrival date in death certificates or published sources.

The Family History Library has many pre-1900 records. To find them, use the Locality Search of the catalog under:


See also:

New Zealand[edit | edit source]

The British began colonizing New Zealand in 1840. Immigration records usually give settlement details and the wife’s and children’s names and ages. Most immigrants received assistance from either the New Zealand Company or from a government or church association formed to encourage immigration.

The Family History Library has many of these records. You can find them by looking in the Locality Search of the catalog under:


Immigration to Scotland[edit | edit source]

Immigration into Scotland has included people from elsewhere in the British Isles and from Continental Europe. Specific immigrant groups include:

  • refugees from wars (such as the French Revolution)
  • refugees from religious persecution (such as Huguenots and Jews).
  • job seekers influenced of industrial development (particularly in the nineteenth century)
  • refugees from the Irish Potato Famine

Available records[edit | edit source]

No regular series of arrival records survives prior to 1836. The few surviving pre-1836 immigration records are not indexed. The following types of records may help you find information about an ancestor who immigrated into Scotland:

  • British denization and naturalization records. If your ancestor immigrated to Scotland before 1836, check British denization and naturalization. Denization granted limited subject’s rights, and naturalization granted full subject’s rights. However, most foreign settlers did not bother to go through the legal formality and do not appear in these records. Denizations are indexed for the years 1509 to 1873 and naturalizations for 1509 to 1935. The indexes are included in the "Kew Lists," class HO1 (Family History Library book Ref. 942 A3gp; fiche 6092334-5).
  • Certificates of aliens. The British government began registering foreign-born aliens living in the British Isles in 1793, but the records to 1836 do not survive. Beginning in 1836, certificates of aliens are arranged by port and list the name, nationality, profession, date arrived, country last visited, and signature of each passenger.
  • Passenger lists. Starting in 1878, lists of incoming passengers give name, birthplace, last residence, and sometimes address of relative in country of origin. However, passengers from Europe or the Mediterranean did not have to be listed. You can find the above records at the Public Record Office, Kew.

The Family History Library has very few records of immigration into Scotland. To find microfilm numbers for the records that are available, look in the Locality Search of the catalog under: