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Source Information

Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Passenger and Immigration Lists, 1800-1850 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2003.
Original data: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1800-1882. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. Micropublication M425, rolls # 1-71.

About Philadelphia, Passenger and Immigration Lists, 1800-1850

This data set contains alphabetical listings of approximately 180,000 individuals who arrived at Philadelphia from foreign ports between 1800 and 1850.

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.

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 A further Congressional act passed on May 7, 1874 repealed the legislative provision requiring collectors to send copies of passenger lists to the Secretary of State.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.

These passenger lists 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 Family Archive was extracted from the National Archives Microfilm Series M425, "Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1800-1882." This microfilm series consists of baggage lists from 1800 through 1819 and original passenger lists from 1820 through 1882. Some later baggage lists and copies of original lists have been inserted as substitutes for missing or unreadable originals. While the entire microfilm series spans 108 rolls, the information collected here covers rolls 1 through 71. It includes individuals who arrived between January 1, 1800 and December 23, 1850. The information that you can learn will help create a well-rounded picture of your ancestor's arrival in America.

You may be able to find the following information about an ancestor:

  • Gender
  • Birthplace
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Country of origin
  • Port of departure
  • Port of arrival
  • Date of arrival
  • Destination
  • National Archives list number
  • National Archives microfilm roll number
  • Name of ship (often the type of ship is noted as well)
  • Family identification number

Please note that information available about an ancestor in this data set is, in rare cases, incomplete and can be supplemented by research with a copy of the original record. Determining additional information or verifying the information listed here is easy since the National Archive microfilm roll number and list numbers are included in most records. With this information, you can contact or visit your local National Archive facility to do more research.

From this Family Archive, you can learn a great deal of valuable information about your immigrant ancestors. The primary fields are:

Name - In this field you will find the individual's given name and surname, as well as any titles that were included in the original index. 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.

Age - This field indicates the individual's age at the time of immigration. Please note that some of the ages are followed by letters. An age appended by "h" was recorded in hours, "d" was recorded in days, "w" was recorded in weeks, "m" was recorded in months, and "y" was recorded in years. You can assume that an age without a letter after it was recorded in years.

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

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.

You may also find additional information about your ancestor in this record, such as:

  • Gender
  • Birthplace
  • Occupation
  • Country of origin (occasionally this information was recorded in the country's native language)
  • Port of arrival
  • Destination
  • National Archives series number
  • National Archives microfilm roll number
  • National Archives list number
  • Name of ship (often the type of ship is noted as well)
  • Family identification number - Some records include a "family identification number." By searching on this number, you'll be able to quickly determine other family members included in this Family Archive.

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