This is Part II in a two part series on Researching in Passenger Lists. Immigration Passenger Lists 1891-1957
In 1891, the Office of Superintendent of Immigration of the Department of the Treasury was established. The responsibility of keeping track of passenger arrivals moved from Customs to the new Immigration office. The lists were standardized and had to be put on a government form. The records were microfilmed and the microfilm is located at the National Archives as Record Group 85.
The exception to this is the New York Immigration Passenger Lists from 1891-1897. The Immigration lists for New York were burned in a fire on Ellis Island. The Customs Passenger Lists, which were also kept, survived. Therefore, the passenger records for the port of New York for the years 1891-1897, will be found under Customs Passengers Lists, NARA Record Group 36, not Immigration Passenger Lists, NARA Record Group 85.
The Immigration Passenger Lists include much more information than the Customs Passenger Lists. Information that you can expect to find is name, occupation, age, sex, marital status, last residence and destination in the U.S., if in the U.S. previously then when and where, if joining a relative, the relative’’s name, address and relationship, other family and friends, date of arrival, ships name, master, port of embarkation and port of arrival. Starting in 1903, race was included; in 1906, a personal description and a birthplace was included; in 1907, the name and address of nearest relative in the country from which they came was included.
I found Rosa Federl on the passenger list of the S.S. Hansa which landed in New York on October 21, 1923. It gives her father’’s name, Josef Federl, Frauenstr.7, Muenchen, as the nearest relative from where she came and Alois Goetz, uncle, 666 Union St., Lancaster, Pennsylvania as the person she was to join.
There are National Archives indexes for this time period but not for every port and every year. The National Archives-Rocky Mountain Region does not have all of the Passenger Lists or indexes for this group, but the ones they don’t have can be ordered for a reasonable fee. The films can also be ordered through Family History Centers for a small fee.
There are sites on the Internet that have indexes for Passenger Lists such as the Ellis Island Web site at http://www.elisisland.org , which covers the years 1892-1924 for New York. There are others as well, check Cyndi's List at http://www.Cyndislist.com, for an up to date list of these sites.
NARA will search Passenger Lists for you. NATF Form 81 needs to be completed and mailed with the appropriate fee. The information needed for the search is 1) if indexed, full name, port of entry and approximate date of arrival; 2) if not indexed, full name, port of entry, and one of the following: name of vessel and approximate date of arrival or port of embarkation and exact date of arrival. The National Archives has a catalog Immigrant & Passenger Arrivals which should be consulted when filling out the NATF Form 81.
Essential information to know when looking for a passenger list of any kind is the port of arrival. There are five major ports through which our ancestors arrived by ship: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and New Orleans. There are many minor ports as well. Check the NARA catalog Immigrant and Passenger Arrivals to learn more about specific ports.
If an exhaustive search has been done and a port of arrival cannot be found, foreign records can be used. Foreign Records, such as Port of Embarkation records and Emigration Lists were made when the emigrant left their native country. In most cases, you will need to know the port of embarkation or the province/state where the ancestor was living prior to immigration. Two examples of these types of records are the Hamburg Passenger Lists and the Baden Emigration Lists. The Family History Library has filmed many of these lists and they can be ordered.
I found my great-grandmother, Theresa Huck, along with her children, brothers and their families, on the Baden Emigration List. The information that they came from Baden was extracted from U.S. census records. The Baden Emigration List gave the dates they applied to immigrate and also the town in Germany where they lived before immigrating. It did not give an exact date of departure but it did narrow the Passenger List search down to a month.
For some of us, the search for the Passenger Lists is a long, difficult road. For others, it is as easy as searching on the Ellis Island Web Site. I still have three ancestors to find on Passenger Lists, so look for me sitting at the microfilm reader next to yours.