Vanuatu Emigration and Immigration

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From 1774-1980, Vanuatu was called New Hebrides. Search records prior to 1980 using the location New Hebrides.

Online Records[edit | edit source]

British Overseas Subjects[edit | edit source]

Polynesian Immigrants Records[edit | edit source]

Polynesian Immigrants Records, 1876-1914, are available at the National Archives of Fiji. These are records of Pacific Islanders who were brought to Fiji as laborers. Although the first ship arrived in 1864, records were not kept until 1876. Laborers came from New Hebrides (Vanuatu), Solomon Islands, Banks and Torres Straits Islands, Gilbert Islands (Kiribati), and Papua New Guinea. There were about 23,000 who went to Fiji. Others were taken to Queensland, Samoa, and New Caledonia. This movement of people is often referred to as "black-birding". These records include general shipping records, agents, and recruiters' journals, plantation records, and personnel documents.

  • To search the records, contact the National Archives by e-mail at They will advise you of information they need to conduct a search and any fees involved.

Finding the Town of Origin in Vanuatu[edit | edit source]

If you are using emigration/immigration records to find the name of your ancestors' town in Vanuatu, see Vanuatu Finding Town of Origin for additional research strategies.

Vanuatu Emigration and Immigration[edit | edit source]

"Emigration" means moving out of a country. "Immigration" means moving into a country.
Emigration and immigration sources list the names of people leaving (emigrating) or arriving (immigrating) in the country. These sources may be passenger lists, permissions to emigrate, or records of passports issued. The information in these records may include the emigrants’ names, ages, occupations, destinations, and places of origin or birthplaces. Sometimes they also show family groups.

Immigration to Vanuatu[edit | edit source]

The Vanuatu islands were first explored 1606 by the Portuguese. The Spanish established a short-lived settlement named Nueva Jerusalem at Big Bay on the north side of the island. The settlement was abandoned after a month and Europeans did not return until 1768.

  • Whaleships were among the first regular visitors to this group of islands, visiting from 1804-1887.
  • In 1825, the discovery of sandalwood, highly valued as an incense in China where it could be traded for tea, resulted in rush of incomers. Aftr a series of boom and busts supplies were essentially exhausted by the mid-1860s, and the trade largely ceased.
  • From 1839 onwards, Roman Catholic and Protestant missionaries arrived on the islands. The Anglican Melanesian Mission also took promising young converts for further training in New Zealand and Norfolk Island. Presbyterian missionaries' proved particularly successful on Aneityum, though less so on Tanna, with missionaries being repeatedly chased off the island by locals throughout the 1840s–60s. The hostile response may have been partly to blame with the waves of illnesses and deaths the missionaries inadvertently brought with them.
  • Other European settlers also came, looking for land for cotton plantations. When international cotton prices collapsed after the ending of the American Civil War, they switched to coffee, cocoa, bananas, and, most successfully, coconuts. Initially British subjects from Australia made up the majority of settlers, however with little support from the British government they frequently struggled to make a success of their settlements.
  • French planters also began arriving in 1880, and later in larger numbers following the creation of the Compagnie Caledonienne des Nouvelles-Hébrides (CCNH) in 1882 , which soon tipped the balance in favor of French subjects. The French government took over the CCNH in 1894 and actively encouraged French settlement. By 1906 French settlers (at 401) outnumbered the British (228) almost two to one.[1]

Emigration From Vanuatu[edit | edit source]

  • During the 1860s, planters in Australia, Fiji, New Caledonia, and the Samoan islands, in need of laborers, encouraged a long-term indentured labour trade called "blackbirding". At the height of the labour trade, more than one-half the adult male population of several of the islands worked abroad. Because of this, and the poor conditions and abuse often faced by workers, as well the introduction of common diseases to which native Ni-Vanuatu had no immunity, the population of Vanuatu declined severely, with the current population being greatly reduced compared to pre-contact times. Greater oversight of the trade saw it gradually wind down, with Australia barring any further 'blackbird' labourers in 1906, followed by Fiji and Samoa in 1910 and 1913 respectively.[1]"

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.01.1 "Vanuatu", in Wikipedia,, accessed 20 Juy 2021.