Ship passenger lists can be invaluable in genealogy research. Many lists never survived past port arrival and, in centuries past, some lists were never maintained past passenger boarding.
The earliest surviving passenger lists for the United States date all the way back to the Mayflower and the information contained on most of them were just names. Occasionally, family relationships were mentioned.
By the late 1800s, when immigration to the United States was heavy, more and more details were recorded on the lists – name, age, where the person left, where their final destination was, contact person’s name and more.
It used to be somewhat difficult to access these lists because they were either not filmed at all or on microfilm with limited access.
Today, there are several online resources, some by subscription and some free sites.
Here are several to get you started:
1. Ellis Island – free site, but my experience has been that many images aren’t correctly lined up with links so I’ve often had to search pages before and after to try to find my person of interest.
2. MyHeritage – subscription site, but they have improved access to Ellis Island records by 1000% (my opinion), especially by adding the name of the receiving person at the immigrant’s destination to the search terms.
3. Olive Tree Genealogy – free site; Lorine McGinnis Schultz passed away a couple of years ago, but her husband has maintained her excellent website. Scroll down just a little on the home page and there is a link to all of her passenger lists, covering Canadian and American arrivals.
4. Ancestry – subscription site; choose Immigration Records for worldwide lists
5. Stephen P. Morse’s One-Step Webpages – free site with a lengthy list of links to American passenger arrivals and a handful of international links
6. FamilySearch – free site but you need to register for an account; check out the US Emigration & Immigration research wiki page for information and many links. There are also further links for other places, including Canada and New Zealand and more.
7. Packrat-Pro – free site; links to 290 Pilgrim ships that sailed to the colonies in the 1600s
8. The Ships List – free site; it hasn’t been updated since 2015, but links still work. It also includes information and photos of ships
9. Find My Past – subscription site; search Immigration & Travel for U.K., Ireland, Australia & New Zealand, Canada and the U.S.
10. Ship Passenger Lists and Records Online – free site; extensive list of links to lists to U.S. ports
11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission – free site; limited to Pennsylvania passenger records
12. Immigrant Ships Transcription Guild – free site; volunteers are transcribing and sharing passenger lists; 21,000+ passenger manifests in 22 volumes, plus more in special projects
13. Norway Heritage – free site; database of Norwegian emigrants from 1825-1925
14. Massachusetts Archives Passenger Manifest Lists (1848-1891) – free site; searchable by name for Port of Boston arrivals
15. Louisiana Passenger Manifests – free site; New Orleans arrivals, but limited details online
16. Cyndi’s List – free site; extensive list of links
17. U.S. Ports of Arrival and Their Available Passenger Lists 1820-1957 includes Canadian & Mexican Border Crossing Records – free site; extensive links for U.S. ports of arrival
If I’ve missed a website with online links, please leave a message and I’ll add it!