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

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Massachusetts, 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.
Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
United States flag.png
Flag of the United States of America
NARA seal300.jpg
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 the 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.

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 kept by Massachusetts at located at the state archives.

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1848-1891.

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. 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.

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.

What Can this Collection Tell Me?

The content of the passenger lists varies by time period. You may find any of the following information:

  • Name of passenger
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Birthplace or last residence
  • Intended final destination
  • Date of arrival
  • Port of departure
  • Port of entry
  • Name of Passenger
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Date and port of arrival
  • Name of Ship
  • Occupation
  • Country of citizenship
  • Previous residence
  • Destination

How Do I Search the Collection?

To begin your search 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 by Name by visiting the Collection Page:
Fill in the requested information on the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the ancestors in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person.

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page:
To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒Select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page
⇒Select the appropriate "Roll No. - Description" which takes you to the images.

Be aware that with either search you may need to compare the information about more than one person to make this determination. Keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names or variations of their name throughout their life.
  • If your ancestor used an alias or a nickname, be sure to check for those alternate names.
  • Even though these indexes are very accurate they may still contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.

What Do I Do Next?

When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. Make a photocopy of the record, or extract the genealogical information needed. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details. Add this new information to your records of each family. The information may also lead you to other records about your ancestors.

I Found Who I was Looking for, What Now?

  • Use the age listed to calculate a birth date.
  • Use the names and relationships as a basis for compiling family groups.
  • 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 Who 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.
  • Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals that may be your ancestor.

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.


Citing this Collection

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information; that is, cite your sources. This will help people find the record again and evaluate the reliability of the source. 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. Citations are available for the collection as a whole and each record or image individually.

Collection Citation:

"Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1891." Database with Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2016. Citing NARA microfilm publication M277. Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1891.

Image Citation:

The image citation is available by clicking on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen. You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1891.

Collection Citation:

"Massachusetts, Index to Boston Passenger Lists, 1848-1891." Database with images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2016. Citing NARA microfilm publication M265. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1969.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1848-1891.

Image Citation:

The image citation is available by clicking on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen. You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1848-1891.


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