52 Documents in 52 Weeks #45: California Ship Passenger Lists

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Most people immediately think of Ellis Island when they think of ship passenger lists. Lists for ports other than New York do exist, although they are usually not as plentiful.

FamilySearch has a digitized collection of Los Angeles, California passenger lists that cover 1907-1948.

What information can be found on them? They were always lists of people immigrating to the United States. By the 20th century, there were more and more people traveling for business and pleasure.

This list is dated 1 December 1928 – it sailed from Havana, Cuba on 20 November 1928. What an exotic trip that must have been? It likely sailed through the Panama Canal, which opened on 15 August 1914, and only took eleven days to complete the voyage.


Havana to Los Angeles, 1914
Source: FamilySearch

The manifest gives the name of each passenger, age, sex, marital status, place of birth, date of birth, if naturalized – where and when, and address in the United States.

Notice that all of these passengers were native born Americans. All but two were California residents. Ralph and Minnie Adams were the exception, living in Chicago. I’d love to know their story because sailing through the canal to Los Angeles was an interesting path to travel on the way back to Chicago from Havana!

However, Ralph and Minnie must have liked what they found and decided to stay in California because in 1930, they were residents of Pasadena.

Maybe it was the balmy December weather in Los Angeles that drew them in!

The moral of this story is to remember that not all passenger lists were for immigrants. By the late 1800s, there were lots of people traveling for leisure or business. Your family members might well have been some of them.

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