An important new resource has been released by the UK’s National Archives and findmypast.com. Ancestors on Board is a record of everyone who sailed out of a British port (including all Ireland to 1921) on long-distance voyages from 1890 to 1960, taken from the records of the Board of Trade. The first tranche of data released covers 1890-1899, and there is obviously material there of interest to those interested in the movement of the first filmmakers. For example, it is possible to trace the trans-Atlantic travels of film businessmen, and cameramen setting out to film the Anglo-Boer War in 1899. The name search is free, but there is a charge for viewing images of the ships’ lists or transcripts (it can be a bit pricey unless the person you are searching for had a distinctive surname).
The growing number of online family history resources offer great opportunities for the film historian seeking out data on individuals. Other importance sources include FreeBMD (UK births, marriages and deaths, largely complete for 1837-1900, all freely available) , Ancestry.com (the world’s leading geneaology source, a paid for service but with free trial periods available), FamilyHistory.com (another form of Ancestry.com, with emphasis on American states), FamilySearch.com (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ vast geneaological database, to be used with caution), and Ellis Island Records (a free service with records of all those arriving at New York’s Ellis Island 1892-1924).