Much is made of immigration and while England has always had immigrants, it has also had emigrants.
Along with a great many others, since the 1600s the family has spread across the globe. We know of Bowdlers who have moved to Ireland, America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and France.
There was no systematic, official method of emigrating from England. The following types of emigrants account for most persons who left England:
Free emigrants People emigrated from England using more accessible sea routes and better land transport networks. Many left England to promote trade or set up military outposts and way stations for merchant ships.
Later free emigrants sought opportunities in a new land or fled poverty or oppression in England. They went to countries such as:
- United States – starting in 1606 a steady stream of people have moved to the US
- India – in the 17th and 18th centuries many British subjects went to East India to trade or settle. Many English went as military/administrative personnel from the mid 19th century onwards.
- Canada – From 1815 to 1850 Canada was the primary destination of English emigrants.
- Australia – Australia was founded as an English penal colony in 1788 and has since been a prime area for settlement.
- South Africa – The British took South Africa from the Dutch in 1795. The English settled in South Africa mostly after 1820 when a group of 3,675 British subjects settled in eastern Cape Province in that year.
- New Zealand – The English began colonizing New Zealand in 1840.
Notable Bowdler emigrants include:
- Thomas Bowdler (1623-1697) moved to America and married Johanna Loftus. Their children then dropped the ‘r’ and became the Bowdle family.
- William Bowdler (1858-1936) married Elizabeth Bigrigg and moved to Ohio.
Assisted emigrants From the 17th century there were child pauper emigration schemes, sending thousands of children to British colonies. From 1815 to 1900, qualified emigrants received passage money or land grants in the destination country as an alternative to receiving poor relief.
Transported prisoners From 1611 to 1870, more than 200,000 criminals were conditionally pardoned, exiled, and transported to penal colonies. Before 1775, more than 50,000 prisoners were sent to America—primarily to Virginia and Maryland. From 1788 to 1869, more than 160,000 prisoners were sent to Australia.
Military personnel Upon discharge, soldiers serving overseas were offered land or other inducements to settle in the colony where they were serving. This was common practice in Australia from 1791, Canada from 1815, and New Zealand from 1844.
World events Emigration increased in the first half of the 19th century due to famine and a general depression in agriculture. Emigration also increased during gold rushes in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States.
The modern world A new wave of modern emigration began in the 20th century.
In 1940, under the threat of bombardment in WW2, about 14,000 children were evacuated, privately or via the Children’s Overseas Reception Board, to Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Thousands of women married soldiers during World War II. When husbands returned to their own countries, many wives were left behind to wait to join them as War brides.
The mass movement of people in the years following the Second World War was exceptional. there was an exodus of young British emigrants desperate to depart Britain’s war-torn shores. In the years after the war more than 2 million people emigrated from the United Kingdom.
Canada was the most popular destination for post-war British emigrants, with over half a million emigrating there in the 25 years after the war. Other popular destinations were Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Rhodesia–Nyasaland and the USA.
In the 1950s and 1960s people left in great numbers for Australia – the ‘£10 Poms’ – attracted by subsidised travel and settlement to leave austerity Britain.
In the 21st century our freedom to study, work and live in other countries is unprecedented and this has resulted in an explosion of people movement.
For future genealogists, our modern relatives could be anywhere in the world!