Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1891-1943 (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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Access the records: Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1891-1943 .
Collection Time Period
This information pertains to ships’ passenger lists created from 1891 to 1943.
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.
- Name of immigrant
- Close relatives
- Birthplace or last residence
- Intended destination
- Marital status
- Nationality and race
- Date of arrival
- Port of departure
How to Use the Record
Begin your search by finding your ancestors in the index. Name indexes make it possible to access a specific record quickly. Check the index for the surname and then the given name. You may need to look at many entries to find the one you are seeking. Remember that these indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.
When searching the index it is helpful to know the full name of your ancestor and the approximate date of immigration. If you do not know this information, check the census records after 1900.
Use the locator information found in the index (such as name of the ship, page, or entry number) to locate your ancestors in the records. Compare the information in the record to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct person. You may need to compare the information of more than one person to make this determination.
When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family. For example:
Use passenger lists to:
- Learn an immigrant’s place of origin
- Confirm their date of arrival
- Learn foreign and “Americanized” names
- Find records in his or her country of origin such as emigrations, port records, or ship’s manifests.
You may also find these tips helpful:
- If your ancestor had a common name, be sure to look at all the entries for a name before you decide which is correct.
- Continue to 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 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.
If you do not find the name you are looking for, try the following:
- Check for variant spellings. Realize that the indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings and misinterpretations.
- Try a different index if there is one for the years needed. You may also need to search the passenger lists year by year.
- Search the indexes of other port cities.
Please note that when you select an image to view, sometimes the manifest includes more than one page, and when you use the "click to enlarge manifest" link, the image that appears is not always the first page of the record. You may need to click on the "previous" or "next" links to view the remaining pages of the full manifest.
Passenger arrival lists known as customs manifests date back to 1820. In 1883, the federal government mandated the creation of ship manifests and in 1891, Congressional action resulted in federal immigration officials recording the immigrants’ arrival.
Why this Record Was Created
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 guessed at the spelling of foreign names.
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Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
When you copy information from a record, you should also list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.
A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the Wiki Article: How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.
Examples of Source Citations for a Record in This Collection
"Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1891." index and images, FamilySearach (https://www.familysearch.org: accessed 21 April 2011.) entry for Francis Edmonds, age 20; citing Passenger Lists, 011-Apr 1, 1837-Aut 31, 1838, Image 6; National Archives and Records Center.
Sources of Information for This Collection
“Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1891-1943,” database, FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org/); from National Archives and Record Center. NARA T843 and NARA M277. FHL microfilm, 454 rolls, Family History Library Salt Lake City, Utah.
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