US Immigration Passenger Arrival Records
Portal:United States Emigration and Immigration ► Passenger Arrival Records
Passenger arrival records can help you determine when an ancestor arrived and the ports of departure and arrival. They can also be used to identify family and community members who arrived together as well as the country they came from.
Pre-1820 Passenger Arrival Records
To find passenger arrival records for immigrants arriving before 1820, you must rely on printed sources. These include published lists of immigrants' names taken from newspapers, naturalization oaths, indenture lists, headright grants, and other records. These types of records are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under one of the following:
- [STATE] - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
- [STATE], [COUNTY] - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
- [STATE], [COUNTY], [TOWN] - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
An excellent index of over 4,588,000 names found in more than 2,500 published sources is:
- Filby, P. William, and Mary Keysor Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 15 vols. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1981-. (Family History Library book 973 W32p.) This is an index of published passenger lists. The first three volumes are a combined alphabetical index printed in 1981. Supplemental volumes have been issued annually.
- To search the Internet Ancestry.com version of the Passenger and Immigration Lists Index for free at the Family History Library click here, enter the name of the immigrant, search, and click "View Record" to see the source information. You can also search the same index on a home computer if you click here, but you will be asked to subscribe to see the results list details.
- Filby does not index official U.S. arrival lists (see below) or manuscript sources, but it does index the names of many people who immigrated between 1538 and the 1900s and who are listed in post-1820 published sources.
Passenger Arrival Records Beginning in 1820
If your ancestor arrived after 1819, he may be listed in one or more of the following. These lists are in chronological order by the date of arrival, and the lists for one year may be on as many as twenty microfilms. Some of the lists are indexed.
Customs Passenger Lists, 1820 to 1902. These are lists that were submitted by the masters of ships to U.S. customs officials upon arrival in the United States. Customs passenger lists include each immigrant's name, age, gender, occupation, country of origin, and country or place of intended destination.
Immigration Passenger Lists, since 1883. These lists, also known as “ship manifests,” were submitted by the masters of ships to the Immigration and Naturalization Service and its predecessors. In addition to the same information found in the customs passenger lists, you may find the exact birthplace or last residence, marital status, previous U.S. residence, place of destination, and the names of relatives in the “old country” and in the United States.
The National Archives has the customs and immigration passenger lists and indexes from 1820 to the 1950s. These are described in Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives of the United States. You can request a search of the records at the National Archives with Passenger Arrival List form NATF 81.
- The Family History Library has copies of over 12,000 microfilms of passenger arrival records and indexes from the National Archives. The following is a list of the major ports and years for which National Archive microfilm records are available. The approximate number of immigrants admitted from 1820 to 1920 is in parentheses after the name of the city. The film numbers of these records are most easily found in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under [STATE], [COUNTY], [TOWN] - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION.
Following is a guide to the most significant collections at the Family History Library. Use the National Archives number when working at National Archives branches.
New York City (23,960,000)
New Orleans (710,000)
Other Ports (4,000,000). Lists and indexes for Charleston, Galveston, Key West, New Bedford, Passamaquoddy, Portland (Maine), Providence, San Francisco, Seattle, and other ports are also at the Family History Library and the National Archives.
A collection of the lists of over 60 smaller ports is found in:
- United States. Bureau of Customs. Copies of Lists of Passengers Arriving at Miscellaneous Ports on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. . . . Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1964. (FHL films 830231-46.) These lists range from 1820 to 1874, but most years are missing.
An index to the above lists is:
- United States. Bureau of Customs. Supplemental Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Atlantic and Gulf Coast Ports . . . .Washington, D.C.: National Archives Record Services, 1960. (FHL films 418161-348.) This also indexes lists for Baltimore (1820-1869), Boston (1820-1874), New Orleans (1820-1850), and Philadelphia (1820-1874).