Why Did Ancestors Migrate

Usually we have to 'search' for answers to this question which means going back to study the time and place in which people lived and worked to understand the pressures impacting their lives. The Irish potato famine in the 1840's is a good example of why so many Irish left for the USA and Australia and why the Irish and Scots (living in Ireland) also went back to Scotland and England. BritishHistoryTimeline

Some migrants had no choice i.e. convicts were transported to America and the West Indies from 1597 onwards. The First Fleet of criminals to Australia from the UK began in 1787.

The majority of our ancestors did have a free choice and left the UK and Ireland voluntarily as settlers, military personnel, war refugees, gold miners or to provide domestic labour, to work the land or provide skills for the occupations needed in their 'new world'.

Some of the reasons as to why they emigrated, apart from wanting a new way of life for their families, were economic depression at home, the industrial revolution e.g. coal and iron mine pit closures, power looms replacing hand looms left thousands of men and women without work and after WW1 the colonies needed workers to replace their war casualties. Ancestors may have been 'nominated' to come e.g. by a family member already in their new country. They may also have been attracted by 'advertising' for Govt. Assisted Immigration Schemes or the promise of a job as a labourer or domestic servant.

New Zealand Immigration Highlights from 1839.

In 1769, Captain James Cook claimed NZ for Britain. Sealers and whalers settled in some coastal regions in the 1790's and in 1814 Rev. Samuel Marsden crossed the Tasman Sea to establish the first mission station. In 1839, Governor Hobson was instructed to establish British rule in NZ as a dependency of NSW (Australia). That year, the Second NZ Company was formed in London and a ship, the 'Tory' was sent with Colonel William Wakefield who bought land from the Maori. By Sept. 1839 the 'Oriental' and 'Aurora' sailed from London with Immigrants, some were wealthy and given land for every £100 paid while others got a free passage and worked for the colonials. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 with Maori chiefs and British protection given but interpretation of this NZ founding document still continues today. By 1847, the Royal NZ Fencible Corps, retired and pensioned British soldiers, were recruited and sent on 10 ships to help protect Aucklanders from Waikato Maori. Fencible Ships 1847 -1852

1843, Dunedin, Otago region, South Island, NZ. A settlement was planned by the Free Church of Scotland, land purchased and an office opened in Edinburgh to attract Scottish emigrants. In 1848, the 'John Wickliffe' and 'Phillip Laing' arrived at Port Chalmers with settlers. In 1848 the Canterbury Association was formed and supported by English Parliament In 1850 the First Four Ships to Canterbury arrived to begin this new agricultural settlement, See list of the Ships and further information.

1861, Gabriel Reid was the first European to discover Gold in the Tuapeka region, South Island. A major gold rush followed and diggers from Australia, Nth America, Europe, Ireland (Catholics), Wales, Canton China arrived. By 1870, Dunedin became NZ's largest and richest city. 'Female' Immigration Schemes followed and encouraged young women and families to come and the 'Jura' bought 1350 females to Port Chalmers, Dunedin. Other destitute immigrants arrived after the American Civil War created a cotton famine in Lancashire in 1861-65. The NZ Govt. offered them 'free passages' and others went on low price fares to New York and Australia.

1870's and Julius Vogel's Scheme. He borrowed money to create an economic boom to benefit all of NZ as only the Sth Island was prosperous due to the gold rush.  1871 - 1880 became NZ's largest Immigration period ever. 99,000 immigrants came to NZ. 51% from England, 25% Ireland, 17% Scotland, 7% rest of Europe. Assisted Immigrants: 1871 -1888, often recruited by agents were expected to pay £5/adult towards the cost of passage. From 1873 this became free for all! Over 30,000 came in 1871-1891 as settlers were nominated by a NZ resident. Unassisted immigrants (paid their own fare) were entitled to a Land Grant. The majority of settlers in the 1870's were family groups and individuals. Farming was on a downturn in Britain due to foreign wheat imports and the introduction of machinery. NZ needed agricultural labourers. Scotland was suffering and Lowland Scots and Shetland Islanders came to NZ as did large no's of Ulster, Northern Irish, for domestic servant jobs. In Europe many wanted a better life in NZ to escape the Prussian rule. As NZ needed more immigrants due to the Vogel scheme, large no's of Scandanavians, Germans, Swiss and Polish were sought by agents who came in the period 1870-1880. 

Late 1879 NZ went into a depression with huge public debt. In 1890, 'assistance' stopped and people began to leave, particularly for Australia. The Immigration Act in 1899 made NZ less tolerant of non Anglo - Saxons. Small farmers with Capital were offered assistance from Britain in 1886-1888 and in the 1890's large land blocks were cut up for dairy farming and many Australians came to escape drought and their own economic depression. There was much Trans-Tasman travel in the early 1900's, the fare was only £2.00 and due to Australian mining problems, many 'socialist' immigrants came to NZ west coast coal fields. This led to the formation of the Federation of Miners, then the Federation of Labour in 1909 and was the forerunner of the NZ Labour Party.

1900 -1915 were boom years for NZ and immigration prior to the outbreak of WW1. 66% of immigrants were from Britain, (over 20% of these from Scotland), 33% were from Australia who paid their own way. In 1904 'assisted fares' for British immigrants resumed as NZ was desperate for farm, domestic and skilled labour. They had to show proof of character and health and have some money! In 1907, NZ at last became a Dominion within the British Empire. During WW1, 1914-1918, no ships were available for long distance migration and it was also dangerous. After the war, NZ was very suspicious of aliens trying to enter and anyone other than the British or Irish had to have entry permits. NZ had lost over 18,000 men in WW1 and they needed replaced. The British Govt. between 1919-1922 introduced the 'Overseas Settlement Scheme' for ex service men which included a 'free third class passage' and many left for Canada, Australia, NZ and South Africa. This was replaced by the 'Empire Settlement Scheme' and encouraged married couples and young men to migrate. NZ did very well as Britain willingly lost surplus population.

In the 1920's many British immigrants came from northern Industrial counties, e.g. Yorkshire, Lancashire, 30% were from Scotland where farming and ship building were in decline. In 1927 world wide economic downturn hit NZ. No longer an attractive destination, more 'left' than arrived..

1935 the first Labour Govt. was elected: PM Michael Savage stated no 'fares to NZ' would be paid until the economic problems were solved.

1939-1945 WW2. In 1940 NZ accepted British children evacuees who were returned home after the war and in 1944 Polish refugee children came also.  

1947 Ten Pound Poms. NZ needed skilled people. These immigrants were mostly English, (some from Ireland and Europe) and under the Full Assistance Immigration Scheme, paid £10, were bonded for x2 years and given jobs on arrival. This scheme lasted 30 years with a large number of skilled people also coming from the Netherlands. During 1949-1954 NZ accepted people from the war under the International Refugee Organisation and Child migrants were also accepted from Britain and fostered with the hope of reuniting them with family eventually. 

In summary, ancestors came to NZ via many routes i.e. from Britain, Europe, via Australia as convicts, for the NZ gold rush, via the US after the California gold rush, as shipwrecked whalers, missionaries or via the Pacific Islands, Canada or South America.

Today anyone under the age of 55yrs, English speaking, in good health and of good character can apply for a Skilled Migrant category, SMC, visa. Eligibility is decided by NZ Immigration using a points system. 

Convicts to Australia from 1787 - 1868

The First Fleet, consisting of 11 ships, sailed from England to Australia in 1787 with 750-780 convicts on board. Criminals were often kept on disused prison ships, called 'hulks' along the Thames and in Plymouth and Portsmouth whilst awaiting transportation, often a seven year sentence for a 'stealing felony' or e.g. fourteen years for 'forgery'. Their destination Botany Bay, took x8 months but was rejected by Governor Arthur Phillip and Sydney Cove, Port Jackson to the north was chosen as the site for the new colony. They arrived on 26 January 1788. The Second Fleet of x6 ships, 4 transport and 2 store ships arrived in Sydney Cove, NSW in 1790. One of the transport ships carried only women, the Lady Juliana and the female population in Sydney more than doubled when it arrived!  The Third Fleet came in 1791 and criminals were more humanely treated than the second fleet but mortality was still excessive and medical aid inadequate.

Australia remained the major destination for transported criminals until 1868. Some did not see their friends or family ever again but life in Australia may have been far better and happier than a life lived in the home country at that time. Many became respectable citizens.

Further convict information and details of ships can be found in National Archives, books, Newpapers, Convict lists, ships diaries, health officer reports in the destination country e.g. Australia State LibraryCora Num's Australian gateway website,  London's Central Court 1674-1913: Convict Trial Records Proceedings of the Old Bailey                                                

Richard Seddon or 'King Dick'. He was NZ's longest serving Prime Minister, 1893 - 1906

Government Posters in the UK advertising for Domestic Servant Opportunities in New Zealand. Below are a selection of Google Images regarding Emigration to New Zealand. 'Agents' were often used to advertise in Britain for prospective immigrants/settlers.

Government Posters in the UK advertising for Domestic Servant Opportunities in New Zealand.

Below are a selection of Google Images regarding Emigration to New Zealand. 'Agents' were often used to advertise in Britain for prospective immigrants/settlers.

NominatedImmigration.jpg
Sydney Cove, now Circular Quay, Australia, a few months after the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 (Mary Evans Picture Library)

Sydney Cove, now Circular Quay, Australia, a few months after the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 (Mary Evans Picture Library)

Clipper Routes - the voyage of the convict ship, the Lady Julian to Sydney Cove, Australia arriving in 1790 via Tenerife, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Cape Town. (The Floating Brothel by Sian Rees)

Clipper Routes - the voyage of the convict ship, the Lady Julian to Sydney Cove, Australia arriving in 1790 via Tenerife, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Cape Town. (The Floating Brothel by Sian Rees)


The Barrowdale - storeship of the First Fleet to Australia in 1788. Between 1788 - 1868 over 168,000 men, women and children were transported as convicts from Britain on board over 1000 converted merchant ships. The Barrowdale is seen as a fully rigged ship, 270 tons, built in Sunderland in 1875. Artist Francis Holman.  

Sailing ships were a common site in 'early settler' times - Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand

The Nelson sailing ship carried 'early settlers' to New Zealand. A vessel of 1,247 tons, she was one of six clipper ships built in 1874 by Robert Duncan for Patrick Henderson. The Nelson was especially built to carry passengers and traded to the colony from 1874 - 1902. She ran in opposition to Shaw - Savill Company at first but after the amalgamation sailed under their flag. She made several very fast journeys to Dunedin, NZ of 75 and 77 days, Her first voyage of 75 days was in 1874 from Glasgow to Port Chalmers, Dunedin with 317 passengers. She made over 20 voyages and never but once exceeded 100 days. This was to Wellington in 1892 when she took 106 days. The Nelson did some remarkable sailing - when home bound from Dunedin in 1875 she ran the distance between the Otago Heads and Cape Horn in 19 days. She had many narrow escapes on the seas due to tremendous gales. mountainous seas and rocks. See White Wings Vol 1, White WIngs Vol 11  

The Nelson sailing ship carried 'early settlers' to New Zealand. A vessel of 1,247 tons, she was one of six clipper ships built in 1874 by Robert Duncan for Patrick Henderson. The Nelson was especially built to carry passengers and traded to the colony from 1874 - 1902. She ran in opposition to Shaw - Savill Company at first but after the amalgamation sailed under their flag. She made several very fast journeys to Dunedin, NZ of 75 and 77 days, Her first voyage of 75 days was in 1874 from Glasgow to Port Chalmers, Dunedin with 317 passengers. She made over 20 voyages and never but once exceeded 100 days. This was to Wellington in 1892 when she took 106 days. The Nelson did some remarkable sailing - when home bound from Dunedin in 1875 she ran the distance between the Otago Heads and Cape Horn in 19 days. She had many narrow escapes on the seas due to tremendous gales. mountainous seas and rocks. See White Wings Vol 1, White WIngs Vol 11

 

The Pakeha steam ship on route to New Zealand in 1922. A 7,899 tons ship, built by Harland and Wolff, Belfast in 1910 for Shaw Savill & Albion Line. Used on the UK - Wellington service. In 1939 it was sold to the Admiralty and converted into an imitation of the battleship HMS Revenge. In 1941 it reverted to a cargo ship for the Ministry of War Transport and renamed Empire Pakeha. In 1945 it was hired by the Ministry of Food as a meat store ship. In 1946 it was repurchased by Shaw Savill & Albion and reverted to Pakeha. In 1950 it was scrapped at Briton Ferry.  

The Pakeha steam ship on route to New Zealand in 1922. A 7,899 tons ship, built by Harland and Wolff, Belfast in 1910 for Shaw Savill & Albion Line. Used on the UK - Wellington service. In 1939 it was sold to the Admiralty and converted into an imitation of the battleship HMS Revenge. In 1941 it reverted to a cargo ship for the Ministry of War Transport and renamed Empire Pakeha. In 1945 it was hired by the Ministry of Food as a meat store ship. In 1946 it was repurchased by Shaw Savill & Albion and reverted to Pakeha. In 1950 it was scrapped at Briton Ferry.  

The Athenic steam ship was built by Harland and Wolff, Belfast, Ireland, 15,187 tons. Operated by Shaw - Savill & Albion Co. Ltd.

The Athenic steam ship was built by Harland and Wolff, Belfast, Ireland, 15,187 tons. Operated by Shaw - Savill & Albion Co. Ltd.

The Remuera, operated by the New Zealand Shipping Company, was the first passenger steam ship to pass through the Panama Canal from New Zealand to London.

The Remuera, operated by the New Zealand Shipping Company, was the first passenger steam ship to pass through the Panama Canal from New Zealand to London.

The Incredible Journeys to NZ, Australia

Those who came from the UK, Ireland to NZ began the longest journey of migration in human history!  Early immigrants had amazing courage as the longer the journey, the more likely the ship could run out of food and fresh water.

What the Journey was like 18th Century Convict ships e.g. the First and Second Fleet in 1787,1790 had high mortality rates and survivors often arrived in an emaciated state. The 'Active' part of the Third Fleet in 1791 had a 183 day journey!, 21 died and 576 needed medical treatment on arrival.

19th Century Immigrant Sailing Ships. To seek a better life in NZ or Australia it was sometimes a long and dangerous voyage. Often people preferred to emigrate to the US or Canada as a shorter route and cheaper passage. Wealthier people travelled in 'cabin class' where there was more space and better food than those in 'steerage' under the deck. They were squashed together in miserable conditions, slept in tiered bunks, (single men and women were separated), ate starchy food e.g. potatoes, dry biscuits, salted meats and had limited water and no fresh fruit or vegetables.

Journey Time to NZ and Costs. In 1850 to cross the Atlantic to Nth America from Europe took 10 days and cost £4. whereas to journey to NZ took 75-120 days and cost at least £15. The NZ passage was better regulated however.

Ships - between 1829-1890 hundreds of sailing ships brought thousands of immigrants from Europe to NZ. In the 1840's, ships were @500-600 tons and carried 100-250 passengers. By the 1880's they could be over 2,000 tons and carry up to 500. e.g. the Fencibles, x10 ships in 1847, continuing until 1852. The first sailing ships to Otago came in 1843 and in 1850 the first x4 sailing ships to Canterbury.

More Ship information, pictures, shipping lines, passenger lists, see ShipsList, Trove, White Wings Vol. 1, White Wings Vol. 11

The Route. By 1840, ships followed a similar route developed for convict transportation to Australia. They travelled SW down the Nth Atlantic, towards Brazil (although seldom reaching Brazil) then SE to Cape Town (swinging wide round the Cape of Good Hope) into the roaring forties (westerly winds that moved ships along at great speed) to Australia. The Suez Canal opened in 1869 and was used by Peninsular & Oriental Navigation Co. (P&O) to India and Australia but the NZ Shipping Co. and Shaw Savill & Co. Ltd went via Cape Town and Hobart. Passengers experienced a variety of sailing conditions, including storms in the Bay of Biscay or Southern Ocean making ships roll and tumble, pleasant sailing in trade winds, incessant heat in the equatorial doldrums.

Life on Board. Catching sight of dolphins, flying fish, albatrosses and whales as well as passing ships, helped to prevent boredom on long voyages. Quoits were played on deck and there were church services, debates, concerts or even fights due to confinement 'cabin fever'. There was always the threat of shipwreck or fire on every voyage.

Conditions. Vermin infested the early ships and it could be smelly and damp due to storms. Food rations could be reduced and water often became undrinkable, cabin and steerage class attempted to catch 'rainwater' for washing and drinking. 

Child Mortality Those who died were mainly children. In the 1860's and 1870's one in five infants below the age of one died on the voyage. Children were particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases i.e. scarlet fever, measles, diphtheria, whooping cough due to inadequate medical attention and supplies, ventilation and preserved milk. Careless medical inspections of embarking passengers were also blamed for outbreaks e.g. in 1873 passengers boarded the Scimitar and Mongol from disease-ridden barracks and 26 died from scarlet fever or measles on the Scimitar, a 'floating pest house'.

Immigrant Steam Ships

Emigrants to Nth America went by early steamers in the 1830's and by 1875 steamers took mail and passengers on International routes but not Australia or NZ! The long distance between 'coaling stations' gave sail a competitive edge over steam until the 1880's. In the 1850's and 1860's steamers 'which also had 'sails' brought some immigrants to NZ and came most of the way by sail, to save on coal. The first 'full powered' steamer to bring immigrants to Port Chalmers, NZ from Plymouth was the Mongol in 1874, taking 51 days. The Scimitar, a sailing ship took 70 days and left at the same time. In 1879, the NZ Shipping Co. and Shaw Savill chartered a large steamship, the Stad Haarlem, to bring 700 immigrants to NZ which took 59 days via St Vincent and Cape Town for coaling stops. In 1883 there was also a monthly 'Mail service' from Britain to NZ and the steamers also carried masts and sails when winds were favourable to save on coal. By the early 1890's, steamers carried most immigrants to NZ with passages about 40 days. The term 'steerage' fell out of use and was replaced by 'Third-class'.  The journey by steamer was more comfortable than by sailing ship. Third-class was still basic but they enjoyed fresh bread and meat occasionally. Cabins were lit by electricity and heated by steam.

Steamer Routes

The Suez Canal opened in 1869 linking the Mediterranean and Red Sea but did not become a common route to NZ at first as 'sail-assisted' and full steamers preferred the 'traditional sailing route' via the Cape of Good Hope.

The steam ships had different routes to NZ or Australia depending on 'who owned them'. Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation (P&O) used the Suez Canal to India and Australia then NZ passengers were shipped on Union Steam Ship Co. of NZ steamers to their NZ port.

The NZ Shipping Company operated the Ruahine, Rotorua, Remuera and other ships and came via Tenerife, Cape Town, Hobart, then on to NZ ports.  Shaw Savill & Albion Co. Ltd operated a jointservice with White Star Line from 1884-1933. Their route was also Tenerife, Cape Town and Hobart, their ships included the Athenic, Corinthic, Ionic.

The Panama Canal opened in 1914 connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the NZ Shipping Company's Remuera was the first passenger steam ship from NZ to pass through the canal on it's way to London, journey time of 44 days. From 1916 Shaw Savill & Albion Co. Ltd used this route also.

Steam Ship Voyages in the 1920's became faster and more comfortable, when assisted immigration resumed, as steamships were converted from coal to oil, then diesel replaced the steam engines. The Rangitiki was the first passenger motor ship to NZ in 1929, carrying 600 passengers.

After WW2, many assisted immigrants flooded into NZ and the first arrived in 1947 on commercial steamers. Most went through the Suez or Panama canal. The NZ govt. contracted the Atlantis which carried 900 people and other ships, the Captain Hobson and Captain Cook were used before scheduled vessels took over.

NZ by AirShip! After the 1960's most immigrants flew to NZ but the journey by ship continued intothe late 1970's. The flight time was measured in days not hours due to the many stops. Air traveltoday has transformed this 'longest migration journey'.