Finding Passenger Lists & Immigration Records 1820-1940s

arrivals at US ports from Europe

by Joe Beine

Introduction: This is a listing of indexes of passenger lists (also called immigration records or ship manifests) for ships that sailed to the United States from 1820 to the 1940s, including microfilm, books and online indexes. Microfilm records listed here are available from the National Archives (NARA) and some of its branches. Many of the microfilm rolls may also be available for ordering from some LDS Family History Centers. Some public libraries (especially genealogy libraries) may also carry these items.

Some of the online indexes listed below are linked to digitized images of the passenger lists from the National Archives microfilm, which can be viewed online at Ancestry. If you are only interested in the microfilmed passenger lists for offline research see: National Archives Passenger Lists on Microfilm.

A Note on Soundex: If any of the indexes below are designated as "Soundex" then you must convert the surname you are looking for to the soundex code. Visit the soundex webpage to learn the easiest way to do this.

Indexes for Passenger Lists by Port & Time Frame

New York was the most commonly used port for immigrants in the 19th & early 20th Centuries. The list below begins with New York, followed by Baltimore, Boston, Galveston, New Orleans, Philadelphia and smaller ports.

New York 1820-1957

  • Online Index: New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (requires payment) name index plus passenger list images from the National Archives microfilm - includes the Barge Office, Castle Garden and Ellis Island years

New York 1820-1846

New York 1847-1897 (includes Castle Garden, the Barge Office & Ellis Island)

New York passenger lists have not been indexed on microfilm from 1847 to mid 1897, but they are indexed online, and many other resources are also available...

New York 1897-1948

Note: The National Archives has microfilm of New York passenger records to 1957. However, they have only been indexed on microfilm to 1948. They have been indexed online to 1957 (see link below)

Baltimore 1820-1950s

  • BOOK: Passenger Arrivals at the Port of Baltimore 1820-1834 transcribed by Elizabeth P. Bentley, edited by by Michael H. Tepper; Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1982, reprinted 1999. (768 pages).
    This book contains the names of about 50,000 passengers (listed alphabetically) who arrived in Baltimore from 1820-1834, and indexes all of the available Baltimore lists for this period: the State Department Transcripts, Quarterly Abstracts and the surviving original lists. About 75% of the passengers were German, many of the rest were British or Irish.

Boston 1820-1954

A separate webpage has been set up for the port of Boston. This webpage lists Boston passenger records and indexes from 1820-1954, online and off. Included is a discussion of where to find the "missing" Boston passenger records from 1855-1856 & 1874-1883.

Galveston, Texas

A separate webpage has been set up for the port of Galveston...

New Orleans 1820-1952

Philadelphia 1800-1948

  • BOOK: Passenger Arrivals at the Port of Philadelphia 1800-1819; transcribed by Elizabeth P. Bentley, edited by Michael H. Tepper; Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986. (913 pages)
    This book contains the names of about 40,000 passengers (listed alphabetically) who arrived in Philadelphia from 1800-1819. Most of the passengers were from Great Britain (especially Northern Irleand) and Germany.

Other Ports

Don't Know Which Port?

If you don't know which port your ancestor arrived at try: Tips for Determining Your Ancestor's Port of Arrival in the US
 

Ancestry's Immigration Records Collection

  • ONLINE DATABASE: Ancestry's Immigration Records Collection (requires payment) Includes ship passenger indexes (many with online digitized images from the microfilm) for New York (1820-1957), Boston (1820-1943), Baltimore (1820-1948 and 1954-1957), Philadelphia (1800-1945), New Orleans (1820-1945), San Francisco (1893-1953), and many smaller ports, plus some Canadian passenger lists and border crossings, and some US naturalization records.

Other Resources

  • Supplementary Resource: Passenger and Immigration Lists Index (at Ancestry/requires payment) a Guide to Published Arrival Records of...Passengers Who Came to the United States and Canada in the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries; edited by P. William Filby; Published by Gale Research Co, Detroit, MI (1981-ongoing); Originally published as a book series in 3 volumes with annual supplements, this database indexes numerous sources of some passenger arrivals, naturalizations and other immigrant resources. You may be able to find the books at a library.
  • BOOK: Swedish Passenger Arrivals in the United States 1820-1850 by Nils William Olsson and Erik Wikén, published by Schmidts Boktryckeri AB, 1995; indexed
    This well researched book documents about 5000 Swedish immigrants who came to the US from 1820-1850. Information given for each person includes age, sex, name of ship, date of arrival, and ports of arrival & departure. A brief bio is also given for many of the passengers or families.
Where to Find Microfilm
  • The microfilm sources marked "FHL" that are listed on this webpage and the connecting pages can usually be ordered from many Latter-day Saints (LDS) Family History Centers for a fee. The books and microfilm can sometimes be found in large libraries -- some you may be able to order through inter-library loan. Any item marked NARA can be found at NARA's main branch and some of the regional branches. Once you have located your ancestor(s) in one of these indexes you may want to obtain a copy of the passenger list itself on microfilm. See... Microfilm Roll Numbers for Passenger Lists in the Family History Library Catalog and at the National Archives (NARA).
Basic Genealogy Research Tips & Using Census Records
  • If you don't know when or where your ancestor arrived you should first do some basic genealogy research. Use this website's Basic Research Outline. Talk to your relatives. Compile as much information as you can. Then research church, census and vital records. These kinds of records can give you clues as to when your immigrant ancestor arrived and sometimes where he or she came from. Post-1906 Naturalization Records almost always give arrival details for the person. You can usually find the year of immigration for someone in the 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 US Federal Census Records.



Finding Passenger Lists Before 1820

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What Passenger Lists Are Online?




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Finding Passenger Lists 1820-1940s
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