Immigration History Database, online

The most comprehensive UK immigration collection goes online at 20 October 2008. The UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960, details the arrival of more than 18 million men, women and children to the UK, often after perilous sea voyages, during the twilight years of the British Empire.

Family histories in include those of Arsenal and England footballer Theo Walcott, F1 racing driver Lewis Hamilton and Labour MP Diane Abbott.

The UK Incoming Passenger Lists 1878-1960 included the "Windrush Generation" of immigrants from the West Indies.

Digitised in partnership with The National Archives, the list contains records of travellers who arrived in Britain in the age before commercial flights became commonplace.

The records show that:

● Davidson Hamilton, grandfather of Lewis Hamilton, migrated from Grenada, arriving in Southampton in 1960 on the Ascania.

● Wendell Walcott, grandfather to Theo, born in Jamaica, arrived in 1949 at Avonmouth on his way to Weston-Super-Mare as part of his RAF service.

● Julia McIymont, mother to Diane Abbott, the first black woman MP, sailed into Bristol from Jamaica in 1950 on the SS Ariguani.

● Arthur Wharton, the first black professional football player in the world, who played for Rotherham Town, arrived from Jamaica in 1882.

The listings also contain the arrival of Winston Churchill, then prime minister, returning to Southampton from the US in 1953 and other stars including Gloria Swanson, Noel Coward, Dorothy Parker and Norman Mailer. But says the database will be of most use helping ordinary Britons fill in the gaps in their own family stories.

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