Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
An emigrant is a person who leaves one country or region to make his or her home in another. Examples include Europeans leaving their homeland to go to America, Acadians being forced out of Nova Scotia, and pioneers making their way West in the United States. The terms emigrant and immigrant are easily confused, owing somewhat to their similar sounds and because they both relate to the migration of people. However, there is a distinction to be made. An emigrant refers to a one leaving a country or region, whereas an immigrant refers to one coming into a country or region, so the term used may depend upon which shore you stand.
Emigration can be voluntary or forced, and can be driven by a number of factors from economics and war to ethnic cleansing or greater opportunity. Studying the history of a region is the best way to understand what forces may have affected your ancestors. Understanding the historical context of an area may also help you understand more about where to look for an elusive ancestor, as people often moved along established routes.