Monday, February 22, 2016

SA passenger lists: the Bottom Line

If you're looking for an ancestor's arrival by ship in South Africa, this is the Bottom Line:

If your ancestor was part of organised emigration schemes such as the Byrne Settlers to Natal, there is a good chance that his arrival is well-documented.

If he was a Lone Ranger, travelling on his own or with wife and family, having paid for the passage out and under no obligation to settle in any particular location, it is more difficult to identify him on passenger lists - the original registers are not complete, press columns may not give initials, neither do they generally give children's names. See the example left.

In many instances, first class or 'cabin' passengers only are named, while hundreds of steerage passengers may be ignored. Rank and file of the military are not individually named.

The British BT passenger lists begin at 1890 which cuts out several decades of arrivals in South Africa. So while the online facility provided by findmypast etc is useful for finding ancestors destined for SA, this only applies after 1890. Earlier records were destroyed by the Board of Trade.

No cohesive effort has been made to index all passenger arrivals in South Africa. It is perhaps an impossible task to contemplate. EGGSA provides a welcome selection of arrivals at but it is only the tip of the iceberg. Mole's Blog gives some Natal passenger lists. Local newspapers do have shipping columns but these are randomly offered and time-consuming to find.

Conclusion, it may not be the best place to start looking for an ancestor. Instead, try searching NAAIRS for a deceased estate which would contain the Death Notice.

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