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Source Information

Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Immigration Lists, 1820-1850 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2003.
Original data: Registers of Vessels Arriving at the Port of New York from Foreign Ports, 1789-1919. Microfilm Publication M237, rolls 1-95. National Archives at Washington, D.C.

About New York, Passenger and Immigration Lists, 1820-1850

This data set contains alphabetical listings of approximately 1.6 million individuals who arrived at New York from foreign ports between 1820 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 A further Congressional act passed on May 7, 1874 repealed the legislative provision requiring collectors to send copies of passenger lists to the Secretary of State.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.")

The information collected in this data set was taken from the National Archives Microfilm Series M237, rolls 1 through 95 ("Registers of Vessels Arriving at the Port of New York from Foreign Ports, 1789-1919"). It includes individuals who arrived in New York between January 7, 1820 and December 31, 1850. While the volumes vary in dates covered and information recorded, the information you can obtain from this data set can help you create a well-rounded picture of your ancestor's arrival in America. The following types of information are included here:

  • Gender
  • Birthplace
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Country of origin
  • Port of departure
  • Port of arrival
  • Date 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

It is important to remember that there may be additional information on the original record. The microfilm roll number is included as part of the information provided about each individual, making it easier for you to locate individuals among the original records. These microfilmed records should be available for research through your local National Archives branch. Please contact them for information about researching at their facilities.

From this data set, 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 under different spelling.

    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."
  • Some of the given names listed in this data set may have been truncated. For example, the truncated name "Fr." could be "Friedrike," "Fritz," or "Franz." 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 appended by letters. An age appended by "w" was recorded in weeks. "M" was recorded in months, "h" was recorded in hours, "y" was recorded in years, "d" was recorded in days. You can assume that an age without a letter after it was recorded in years.

Country of Origin -This field column lists the country in which the individual resided.

Arrival Date - This field lists the date the immigrant arrived in the United States.

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.

Destination - This last field notes the immigrant's final destination in the United States. You may also find additional information about your ancestor in this record, such as:

  • The name of the ship on which your ancestor sailed
  • Your ancestor's occupation
  • Your ancestor's village or town of origin
  • Your ancestor's port of embarkation
  • Your ancestor's port of debarkation
  • The name of the ship's Captain

    It is important to remember that there may be additional information on the original record. The microfilm roll number is included as part of the information provided about each individual, making it easier for you to locate individuals among the original records. These microfilmed records should be available for research through your local National Archives branch. Please contact them for information about researching at their facilities.

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