Your Guide to Finding and Using
Passenger Records & Ship Information


*Pre-1820 (pre Federal) lists * 1820-1890's (Customs Lists) *1890's-1954
* Ports * Locating lists * The Ships* Further Links* Books *

What is a passenger list? Why would I want to see it?

pre 1820 (pre-federal ) lists :

Bad news: these lists are not in the National Archives, but must be located in scattered repositories.
Good news: most extant lists have been published and indexed.


Immigration and Ships Passenger List Research Guide Section 3: Research in the years before 1820

Beine. Finding Passenger Lists before 1820: a list of books, CD Roms and online databases.

Almost all, if not all, of these lists have been transcribed and published and are searchable in the index put out by Filby & Meyers (see below)

Customs passenger lists (1820-1893)

Information on the lists:name of ship, name of master, port of embarkation, age, sex, occupation and nationality.

example 1837 list

example: 1847 passenger list

example: 1851 passenger list (scroll down)

l847 Canadian list

1891-1954 immigration passenger lists:

1893-1902 above + marital status, last residence, final destination in U.S., prior visits to U.S., if going to join a relative, name and addrss of that relative, literacy, if has train ticke to final destination, who paid passage, if ever institutionalized or a polygamist, and state of health.

Problems in researching are nothing new, but perhaps highlighted by two languages. They include difficult to read handwriting, indexing errors, inaccurate information, deliberate avoidance or mis-information lack of uniformity in collection of data.

How to locate the list that contains your ancestor:

Before you begin your research, you should know at least the approximate

Most earlier passenger lists have been published... in books, articles, newspapers...a variety of places. A listing of most (not all) published lists is Filby. Passenger and Immigration Lists Bibliography1583-1900 (find in a library) Earlier bibliographies include

  • Lancour. Passenger Lists of Ships Coming to North America 1607-1825: a Bibliography. (find in a library)
  • Wolfe. Bibliography of Ship Passenger Lists 1538-1825 (an updated edition of Lancour, but only includes publications through 1963, when it was published) (find in a library)

For almost all pre 1820 and many post 1820 lists, you can consult Filby and Meyers. Passenger and Immigrations List Index: a Guide to Published Arrival Records.. came to America in Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth century. (find in a library )

The five major ports of entry include

Emigration lists

But don't forget that the ports of emigration might also create lists.

The Ships

Books (on Ships, not passenger lists)

Ships of Our Ancestors. You can see part (not all) of an older edition of this at the Google Books project.

Further Information and More Links


Colletta. They Came in Ships: A Guide to Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor's Arrival Record. (find in a library)

Stolarik. Forgotten Doors: The Other Ports of Entry to the United States. (table of contents and index available online.) (find in a library)

Tepper. American Passenger Arrival Records (find in a library)

Ellis Island: Tracing Your Family History Through America's Gateway. (find in a library)

Family Tree Guide to Finding Your Ellis Island Ancestors. ( find in a library)

This page last updated September 29, 2013
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