III. U.S. Passenger Lists
Although passenger lists were not required until 1820, there are some pre-1820 passenger lists. These lists have virtually all been published. The major source for finding them are the Filby indexes:
Filby, P. William, with Mary K. Meyer, eds. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index: A Guide to Published Arrival Records of more than 2,225,000 Passengers Who Came to the New World between the Sixteenth and the Early Twentieth Centuries. (Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1981-Present) Originally 3 vols. Annual supplements.
These volumes are on CD and also online at ancestry.com. If you use the published volumes, you must check all of them. If you do not find your immigrant indexed in the above source, then check the Bibliography below for a list of other sources:
Filby, P. William. Passenger and Immigration Lists Bibliography 1538-1900: Being a Guide to Published Lists of Arrivals in the United States and Canada. 2nd ed. (Detroit: Gale Research Co, 1988).
Passenger lists were not required by Federal Law until 1820. The majority of passenger lists are extant for the time period from 1820 to about 1940. For records that have been destroyed, attempts have been made to fill in the gaps with substitute lists and copies or abstracts of originals. The images for the majority of U.S. passenger lists are available online at ancestry.com and ellisisland.org. If you can't find your ancestor in the online indexes, you may wish to use the microfilm. Microfilmed copies of U. S. passenger lists starting in 1820 can be found in the Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) and can be ordered through any Family History Center. The procedures below describe how to find your ancestor on a passenger list if you can't locate him online.
Depending on the time period, U. S. passenger lists can provide a wealth of information. At the least, they can be used as an additional census record. For example, if your ancestor is listed on a census record prior to 1850, the census will tell the name of the head of household and the number of people in the household by sex and age group. A U. S. passenger list during the same period will give the name of each person on the ship, age, relationship to the head of the family, occupation, and country of origin. Later lists will give the precise place of birth, a physical description, and many other genealogically significant details.
Passenger lists are filed by port of entry, by date, and then by ship. There were five major ports of entry into the United States: New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, and New Orleans. Check the index for the port where your ancestor arrived. The index will usually give you the name of the ship and the date of arrival.
If there is more than one index for a time period, you must check them all. If quarterly abstracts exist for the port, it may be necessary to check them also. For example, for the port of Baltimore there are several indexes. Many of the Federal lists were destroyed so they were supplemented with Baltimore city passenger lists and combined into one series. But the indexes were not combined. If you believe that your ancestor came to the port of Baltimore in 1851, search the Atlantic & Gulf Coasts index (M334), the Baltimore 1820-1897 index (M327), and the Baltimore 1833-1866 index (M326). If your ancestor is not found in any of these indexes, and you are still convinced that he came to the port of Baltimore, then search the Baltimore quarterly abstracts for 1820-1869 (M596) for the time when you believe your ancestor arrived. The quarterly abstracts are copies of the original lists and will contain names of passengers that are missing from the M277 series. Check quarterly abstracts only as a last resort. Never search page by page through an entire year of passenger lists. There are many more productive uses of your time.
New York was the number one port. But the second-most-likely port depends on the year. In 1826 it was Philadelphia; in 1836 it was Baltimore. In 1847 the second port was New Orleans and in 1871 it was Boston. If you do not know the port of entry, search the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts index first (M334). This index serves as a partial index to many of the major and minor ports, except New York. If your ancestor's name is not found in M334, then search the indexes for the five major ports.
Because New York was by far the most important port of entry for passengers from the British Isles during the post-1820 time period, I will describe the indexes in greater detail. There are three major periods for New York passenger lists:
1820-1846. These lists were indexed by the WPA. The index will give you the name of the ship and the date of arrival. Once you know these two items, go to film in the M237 series that contains the date you want. Roll through the film until you get to that date, then look through the passenger lists for that date until you find the one for the ship on which your ancestor arrived. When you find your ancestor's name, copy the entire passenger list. You will need it for future reference when you are looking for possible associates and family members.
1847-1897. There are no microfilmed indexes by surname. Many indexes have been compiled to assist with finding passengers who came to the Port of New York during this time period. If you know either the name of the ship or the date of arrival, check the Register of Vessels 1789-1919 [M1066.] One of the most useful indexes for Irish researchers is The Famine Immigrants: Lists of Irish Immigrants Arriving at the Port of New York 1846-1851.
Post-1897. These lists are soundexed and contain considerable genealogical information. The index, however, can be difficult to interpret. A typical entry reads as follows:
Leach, Archibald A 25m 6 65 9991
These entries are read backwards. "9991" is the volume number. The volume number corresponds to the arrival date. A complete list of volume numbers can be found in the Family History Library Catalog under UNITED STATES - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION. The entries in the catalog are arranged in alphabetical order by author under that category. The author is "United States. Immigration and Naturalization Service." Volumes 9991-9992 are Aug 26, 1929. The number "65" is the page number and "6" is the line number. "25m" means that he is a 25 year old male. So, Archibald A Leach will appear on page 65, line 6 of volume 9991 for August 26, 1929. The page number is found at the bottom left of the page. There are also page numbers at the top right, but these are not the ones that correspond with the index.
The indexes to U. S. Passenger Lists are available on microfilm and are in the LAFHL. BIFHS-USA completed the actual passenger lists to at least 1891 for the five major ports (New York, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New Orleans). If you do not know the port of arrival, check the Atlantic & Gulf Coasts Index first, then check indexes for individual ports listed in the table below.
Type of Record
|DATES||NATIONAL ARCHIVES SERIES||FHL COMPUTER NUMBER||LAFHL HOLDINGS|
|ATLANTIC & GULF COASTS|
|NEW YORK, NY|
|Register of Vessels||1789-1919||M1066||0132219||All|
|Boards of Inquiry||1893-1909||M500||0467455||Most|
|NEW ORLEANS, LA|
|MISCELLANEOUS PORTS (ATLANTIC, GULF COAST, GREAT LAKES)|
|SAN FRANCISCO, CA|
|From Insular Possessions||1907-1911||M1438||0423844||All|
|ALABAMA, FLORIDA, GEORGIA, SOUTH CAROLINA|
|KEY WEST, FL|
|NEW BEDFORD, MA|
|From CANADA through ST. ALBANS, VT|
U.S. Research Collection at the LAFHL has been compiled and annotated by Linda Jonas.
Copyright © 1998, 2008 Linda Jonas. All rights reserved.
Last edit: Sunday, 26-Sep-2010 19:40:37 MDT