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Time Team's Tony Robinson unveils ship passenger list history

PUBLISHED: 18:41 27 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:43 05 October 2010

Tony Robinson... thumbing through ship passenger lists

Tony Robinson... thumbing through ship passenger lists

Carmen Valino

ACTOR and broadcaster Tony Robinson has been in London's East End—the first port of call for immigrants to Britain down the ages—to unveil an online database tracing the arrival of millions of newcomers. The Time Team presenter was at the Museum in the Docklands to launch an ancestry' website

Else Kvist

ACTOR and broadcaster Tony Robinson has been in London's East End-the first port of call for immigrants to Britain down the ages-to unveil an online database tracing the arrival of millions of newcomers.

The family history enthusiast who presents Channel 4's Time Team series was at the Museum in the Docklands to launch an 'ancestry' website.

"It is in a nutshell the story of immigration," he said.

It is also the story of those journeys by tourists, by business people, and by ex-pats.

"The first-class list looks like something out of Agatha Christie. They are absolutely wonderful!"

The launch is the first online databank of the UK's incoming passenger lists, from 1878 to 1960.

The complete and fully-indexed collection from the National Archives has some 18 million names of men, women and children who came to Britain from around the world-some to visit, many to start new lives.

Famous descendents from passengers on the lists include footballer Theo Walcott, whose Jamaican grandfather Joe Walcott arrived in 1949 on the SS Cavina and went on to become a local councillor and got the MBE. Another is Diane Abbott, first black female MP, whose mother Julia McIymont sailed into Bristol from Jamaica in 1950 on the SS Ariguani.

Digitising and indexing the passenger lists took 25,500 hours, the equivalent of one person working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for three years.

Genealogists and family history enthusiasts can research an ancestor's name, age, occupation, port of departure, origin and intended address in the UK through the website:

ancestry.co.uk

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