Finding Passenger Arrival Records at the Port of Boston, Massachusetts 1820-1943
Compiled by Joe Beine
Boston Passenger Lists and Immigration RecordsThis page lists online and microfilmed ship passenger lists and their indexes for the port of Boston, Massachusetts from 1820 to 1943. Except where noted, the microfilm rolls listed here can be ordered from the LDS Family History Library (FHL) at many local Family History Centers for viewing and photocopying for a fee. You can also find the microfilm rolls (except the Massachusetts State Lists) at the US National Archives (NARA) and some of its branches. Some genealogy libraries may also carry them.
Online Index and Images 1820-1943Online Index: Boston Passenger Lists Online Index - September 1820-1943 (requires payment)
Ancestry has indexed and digitized images of the passenger lists from the National Archives microfilm. Note: 1855-1856 and 1875-1882 are not included in this database. For those years (and perhaps other missing ships) see the section on the Massachusetts State Lists below.
Index on Microfilm 1820-1847Boston has not been indexed by NARA from 1820-1847. The Online Index listed above can be used to help find passengers in this time frame. However, some Boston passenger lists are indexed here: Supplemental Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Atlantic and Gulf Coast Ports (Excluding New York), 1820-1874 (NARA & FHL Microfilm Numbers) (National Archives Publication M334, 188 rolls)
Index on Microfilm 1848-1891Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston, MA, 1848-1891 (NARA & FHL Microfilm Numbers) (National Archives Publication M265, 282 rolls)
Passenger Lists on Microfilm 1820-1891 (with gaps)Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston, MA; 1820 to July 29, 1891 (NARA & FHL Microfilm Numbers) (National Archives Publication M277, 115 rolls) See notes...
The original customs passenger lists for Boston prior to 1883 were destroyed in a fire. However, copies of the records (1820-1874 with gaps) survived. Original lists (1883-1891) also survived. These are available on microfilm from NARA (list at the above link) or can be ordered at some Family History Centers. The major exceptions are the periods from 1855-1856 and April 1874 - 1 Jan 1883. See the next section for where to get records for these gaps.
Massachusetts State Lists 1848-1891
(The "Missing" Passenger Lists 1855-1856 & 1874-1882)The state of Massachusetts kept separate State Lists, which cover 1848-1891 (including the missing NARA time frames of 1855-1856 & 1874-1882; as well as other gaps). These State Lists are available from the Massachusetts State Archives in Boston. They are also available on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. See: Registers of passengers arriving in Massachusetts ports, 1848-1891 (microfilm information). If you are unable to find the passenger list you are searching for in the federal records, and it is in the time frame of 1848-1891, then you might check the Massachusetts State Archives lists.
These missing NARA lists are still included in NARA's microfilmed 1848-1891 index for Boston (see above), which can be ordered from many Family History Centers. That index is actually an index to the State Lists and is fairly complete.
The Massachusetts State Archives is building an online database for this time frame. For more information see: Boston Passenger Lists Index 1848-1891 (not yet complete).
Indexes on Microfilm 1899-1940Note: Boston has not been indexed on microfilm from 1892 to 31 March 1899, or for 1901. See the online index listed above.
Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston, MA, Jan. 1, 1902--June 30, 1906 (NARA & FHL Microfilm Numbers) (National Archives Publication T521, 11 rolls)
Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston, MA, July 1, 1906--December 31, 1920 (NARA & FHL Microfilm Numbers) (National Archives Publication T617, 11 rolls) This index is arranged in rough alphabetical order.
Book Indexes to Boston Passenger Lists, 1899-1940 (NARA & FHL Microfilm Numbers, and a link to an online version) (National Archives Publication T790, 107 rolls) This index begins 1 April 1899 and ends 14 Sept 1940. It is arranged chronologically by date of ship arrival and then alphabetically by first initial of surname for each class of passenger. So you must know the approximate date of arrival for this index to be useful. There are no book indexes for the year 1901.
Passenger Lists on Microfilm 1891-1943Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston, MA; August 1, 1891 to 1943 (NARA & FHL Microfilm Numbers) (National Archives Publication T843, 454 rolls)