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Source Information

Ancestry.com. Baltimore, Passenger and Immigration Lists, 1820-1872 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.
Original data: Baltimore, Maryland. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Baltimore, 1820-1891. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. Micropublication M255, rolls # 1-19.

About Baltimore, Passenger and Immigration Lists, 1820-1872

This data set contains alphabetical listings of approximately 227,000 individuals who arrived at Baltimore from foreign ports between 1820 and 1872.

Partly in an effort to alleviate overcrowding of passenger ships, Congress enacted legislation (3 Stat. 489) on March 2, 1819 to regulate the transport of passengers in ships arriving from foreign ports. As a provision of this act, masters of such ships were required to submit a list of all passengers to the collector of customs in the district in which the ship arrived.

In addition to the federal law, a Maryland State law of March 22, 1833 (effective from September 1833 until October 1866) required that the masters of vessels submit lists of passengers who arrived at Baltimore to the mayor. The law required that these "city lists" report the age and occupation of passengers and that the lists be sworn to by the master of the vessel in the presence of the mayor. The passage of that state law resulted in a dramatic increase in compliance with the keeping of passenger lists. Between 1820 and 1833, fewer than 100 individuals were recorded in Baltimore passenger lists. Between 1833 and 1852, on the other hand, more than 89,000 individuals were recorded.

The legislation also provided that the collector of customs submit quarterly passenger list reports to the Secretary of State, who was, in turn, required to submit the information to Congress. The information was then published in the form of Congressional documents. A further Congressional act passed on May 7, 1874 repealed the legislative provision requiring collectors to send copies of passenger lists to the Secretary of State. Thereafter, collectors of customs were to send only statistical reports on passenger arrivals to the Department of Treasury.

Passenger lists such as these are important primary sources of arrival data for the vast majority of immigrants to the United States in the nineteenth century. With the single exception of federal census records they are the largest, the most continuous, and the most uniform body of records of the entire country. (Michael Tepper. "American Passenger Arrival Records." Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc. 1993. Page 64.)

The information collected in this data set was taken from the National Archives Microfilm Series M255, "Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Baltimore, 1820-1891". While the entire microfilm series spans 50 rolls, this information included here covers rolls 1 through 19 and includes individuals who arrived between September 2, 1820 and February 29, 1872. The information you can obtain from this data set can help you create a well-rounded picture of your ancestor's arrival in America.

Generally, you'll find the following information about an individual included in this data set:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Place of origin
  • Destination
  • Additional comments
  • Name of ship on which the individual traveled
  • Type of ship on which the individual traveled
  • Port of departure
  • Port of arrival
  • Date of arrival
  • National Archives series number
  • National Archives microfilm number
  • National Archives list number

As you know, it is often the little details that help bring your family history to life. Because of this, we included more than just the basic information available about a person on the actual microfilm. For example, you'll often learn the type of ship an individual sailed on.

Types of ships include:

  • Bark - A ship of three to five masts with the after mast fore-and-aft rigged.
  • Brig - A two-masted square-rigged sailing ship.
  • Galliot - A small galley propelled by sails and oars.
  • Ketch - A large fore-and-aft rigged boat with two masts.
  • Schooner - A fore-and-aft rigged sailing ship.
  • Steam Ship - A ship driven by steam.

1. Name -- You should note that names of immigrants were often recorded as they were heard and that many immigrants could not spell their own names. Thus, spelling variations of names occur and members of the same family arriving at different times or places may be found with different spellings.

You may have difficulty locating some names for the following reasons:

  • Some given names have been abbreviated. For example, "Robert" may appear as "Robt," and "Elizabeth" as "Eliz."
  • Some given names are misspelled, contain typos, or may be spelled unusually.
  • Some given and middle names are truncated. Specifically, this happens when the name, including the spaces between the given name, middle name, and last name, is longer than twenty-three characters. For example, "McCormack, Annabelle Margaret" would be listed as "McCormack, Annabelle Mar." If you are unable to locate a particular given name and surname, try switching the given name to an initial, abbreviation, or possible misspelling. If the surname is not common, you may want to search only on the surname.

2. Age -- The age listed is the individual's age at the time of immigration. With this information, you can determine the year in which your ancestor was born. Then, you may be able to track down their record of birth and, ultimately, determine more information about that person's family. Individuals whose ages were recorded as "newborn," "born on board," "baby," or "infant" are listed with the age "0" in this data set.

3. Port of Departure -- This is the port from which the individual departed (usually this is in their home country). Please note that occasionally, this information was recorded in the native language of the departure port.

4. Date of Arrival -- This is the date on which the individual arrived in Baltimore.

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