Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1891 (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Massachusetts, Index to Boston Passenger Lists, 1848-1891  and Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1891
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CID1860873
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
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Flag of the United States of America
Flag of the United States (1819-1820).png
US Flag 1819-1820 (21 stars)
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Seal of the National Archives
Record Description
Record Type Passenger Arrivals
Record Group RG 36: Records of the U.S. Customs Service
Collection years 1820-1891
Microfilm Publication M277. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston,Massachusetts,1820-1892. 115 rolls.
  M265. Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston,Massachusetts,1848-1891. 282 rolls.
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
Archive
National Archives and Records Administration


What is in This Collection?

Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston, 1820-1891 corresponds to NARA microfilm publication M277 part of Record Group 36 Records of the U.S. Customs Service. The passenger lists are arranged by the arrival date of the ship and cover arrivals from September 2, 1820 to March 31, 1874 and January 1, 1883 to July 29, 1891. Missing years include 1855 to 1856 and April 1, 1875-Dec 31, 1882.

To Browse This Collection

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1891.

Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston, Massachusetts, 1848-1891, corresponds to NARA publication M265 part of Record Group 36 Records of the U.S. Customs Service. The index was created by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s from passenger lists located at the Massachusetts State Archives.

What Can These Records Tell Me?

The following information may be found in these records:

  • Name of passenger
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Birthplace or last residence
  • Country of citizenship

  • Intended final destination
  • Date and port of departure
  • Date and port of arrival
  • Name of Ship

Collection Content

Sample Images

The lists consist of large sheets of paper divided into columns and rows. Earlier lists are handwritten, while most after 1917 are typewritten. Lists after 1906 usually occupy two pages.

Passenger arrival lists, known as customs manifests, date back to 1820. The Immigration Act of 1882 mandated the creation of ship manifests. The Immigration Act of 1891 specified ship's captain was to submit a list of passengers for examination by officials and required medical examination of all persons on board.

The passenger arrival list was used by legal inspectors to question each immigrant during a legal inspection prior to the person being allowed to live in America. Only two percent of the prospective immigrants were denied entry.

The information was supplied by the immigrant or a traveling companion (usually a family member). Incorrect information was occasionally given, or mistakes may have been made when the clerk recorded the name.

Digital Folder Number List

This collection was published as a DGS browse collection. The list does not contain any description of the DGS folder's content. A table listing each DGS number and its contents can be found at Massachusetts, Index to Boston Passenger Lists Digital Folder Number List.


How Do I Search This Collection?

Before searching this collection, it is helpful to know:

  • The full name of your ancestor
  • Some other identifying information such as the birth place or birth date

If you do not know this information, check the census records after 1900.

Search the Indexes

Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1891

Search by name by visiting the Collection Page.
  1. Fill in the search boxes on the Collection Page with the information you have
  2. Click Search to show possible matches

Massachusetts, Index to Boston Passenger Lists, 1848-1891

Search by name by visiting the Collection Page.
  1. Fill in the search boxes on the Collection Page with the information you have
  2. Click Search to show possible matches


View the Images

Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1891

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page:

  1. Select the Roll No. - Description to view the images.

Massachusetts, Index to Boston Passenger Lists, 1848-1891

To view images in this collection:
  1. Look at the Massachusetts, Index to Boston Passenger Lists Digital Folder Number List article to determine the folder/film number for the images you want to see
  2. Go to the Browse Page
  3. Select the Film number to view the images



How Do I Analyze the Results?

Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images. Keep track of your research in a research log.

What Do I Do Next?

I Found the Person I Was Looking For, What Now?

  • Use the age listed to calculate a birth date
  • Use the last residence or port of departure to find records in his or her country of origin such as emigrations, port records, or ship’s manifests
  • Use the occupation to search for employment and guild records
  • Use the intended destination to search for church, census, and land records
  • Search the passenger lists to identify siblings, parents, and other relatives in the same or other generations who may have immigrated at the same time
  • If your ancestor had a common name, be sure to look at all the entries for that date before you decide which is correct
  • If your ancestor has an uncommon surname, you may want to obtain the passenger list of every person who shares your ancestor’s surname if they lived in the same county or nearby. You may not know how or if they are related, but the information could lead you to more information about your own ancestors

I Can't Find the Person I'm Looking For, What Now?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for alias names, nicknames and abbreviated names
  • Look for an index. Records are often indexed by local historical and genealogical societies. There may also be another collection which is an index to the records
  • Search the indexes of other port cities

Record Finder

Consult the Massachusetts Research Tips and Strategies and its Record Finder to search other records

Citing This Collection

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

Collection Citation
"Massachusetts, Index to Boston Passenger Lists, 1848-1891." Database with images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : 8 November 2016. Citing NARA microfilm publication M265. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1969.
Collection Citation
"Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1891." Database with images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : 1 September 2016. Citing NARA microfilm publication M277. Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.
Record Citation:
When looking at a record, the citation is found below the record.
Image Citation:
When looking at an image, the citation is found on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen.

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