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United States Passenger List Records

Contributed by Ellen Naliboff

Do you want the passenger lists?

Sound methodology of research is to work back in time. Thus, the arrival (which has better records anyway) is the place to look.

Because passenger lists are arranged by port and then chronologically, it's important to know when and where your ancestor arrived. This information can usually be found on Naturalization Records after 1906. The U.S. Federal Census (see National Archives) for 1900, 1910 and 1920 lists the year of immigration, and 1920 lists the year of Naturalization.

National Archives staff in Washington. DC, will search the immigration passenger lists up to 1954, if there is an index, and if an inquirer can give the full names and ages of the passenger and of accompanying passengers, the port of entry, the vessel, and exact date of arrival. The Philadelphia Index starts in 1800, Baltimore, Boston etc. in 1820. New York is indexed for 1820-1847 and after 1897. If the passenger list is not indexed you must supply either the exact date of arrival or the name of the ship on which the person arrived in addition to the facts listed above.

Requests for searches should be made on NATF Form 81, Order for Copies of Ship Passenger Arrival Records. You can obtain the NATF Form 81 by providing your name and mailing address to Be sure to specify "Form 81" and the number of forms you need. The fee is $10.00, payable only when the requested records are found. If the records cannot be found, no payment is required.

You can do-it-yourself at the local Family History Centers (FHC), if you wish. The Family History Library (FHL) has acquired 99% of National Archives passenger records. There are FHCs scattered throughout the world, located in the LDS meeting-houses. The FHCs are generally listed in the local phonebook under Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) with its own phone number. In some communities, Family Search is in the local public library. No charge is made for using the resources at the local FHC except for a rental fee for microfilm from the FHL in Salt Lake. No proselytizing is allowed in the FHC. For more information online visit:

A tour of a FHC:


Immigration Records:

The National Archives and Record Administration (NARA), Record Group Number, Microfilm Publication Number and Roll Number of the film that you want can be found at the NARA web site for years after ca1891.

Not all persons who entered the United States appear on the available passenger lists. Some lists were lost. Some ship captains probably did not record all passengers on the lists for one reason or another. Indexers do not always spell names correctly, often because the original version of the name was illegible. Since no index is 100% accurate, the only way to be certain whether or not a name is in the actual record is to search the record itself.

Go to these sites for Frequently Asked Questions about passenger lists.

Arnie Lang's Research Guide to Immigration and Ships Passenger Lists


The Immigration and Naturalization Service also has excellent pages on this topic.

For full details on the microfilm numbers and what is available, visit the NARA site. You may also want to visit the Research Guide to Immigration and Ships Passenger Lists or have a look at the discussion of passenger lists.

The New York Passenger Arrivals are Soundexed for the years 1902-1943. You will need to Soundex your surname with the Code (found at LDS FHC Library) then order the microfilm for that code at the LDS FHC Library. If your ancestor's surname is in the Soundex, it will tell you the date and ship your ancestor arrived on. You can then either order the microfilm for this date at the LDS FHC Library, or order it directly from the National Archives in Washington DC.

There is no index for 1847-1896....for Ellis Island.

New York
Indexes to passenger lists

  • 1820-1846.................................... M261 alphabetical
  • 1897-1902.................................... T519 ditto
  • 1902-1943.................................... T621 soundex
  • 1906-1942.................................... T612 alphabetical
  • 1944-1948.................................... M1417soundex

Passenger lists

  • 1820-1897.................................... M237 arr. by date
  • 1897-1957 (includes crew lists).............. T715 arr. by date
  • Registers of vessels, 1789-1919.............. M1066 ditto

Some states also have Naturalization Information. For more information, check out the following sources.


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Last updated: January 02, 2007 and maintained by and M. Kohli