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Passenger Arrival Records

The National Archives has passenger arrival records, sometimes called "ship passenger lists," for arrivals to the United States from foreign ports between approximately 1820 and December 1982 (with gaps).  The records are arranged by port or airport of arrival. Passenger arrival records may provide researchers with information such as: one’s nationality and place of birth; ship name and date of entry to the United States; age, height, eye and hair color; profession; place of last residence; name and address of relatives they are joining in the United States; amount of money they are carrying, etc.

Use Form NATF 81or order online to obtain copies of inbound Federal passenger arrival manifests for ships and airplanes, 1820-1959.

Passenger arrival and departure records dated post 1957 were filmed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the original paper records were not retained.  The accessioned microfilm reels now in the custody of the National Archives in Washington, DC, are the record copies of the original paper records which no longer exist.  Unfortunately, due to the fragile nature of the original camera negative film, access to the microfilm is limited until it can be transferred to a more suitable format.  The National Archives is in the process of transferring the microfilm to a digital format, and all digitized copies will eventually be available online via the National Archives Catalog.

Arrival records are restricted due to personally identifiable information for 75 years, and must be requested through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request during the restricted period. 

Please note:  All requests for passenger arrival records dated post 1957 must include the full name of the passenger; exact day/month/year of arrival; port or airport of arrival; vessel or airline name; and for airport arrivals, the flight number.    

Records older than 75 years are publicly available, and many have been digitized by National Archives partners. See our list of all the digitized records available on our partners' websites. Please note: FamilySearch.org is a free site. Ancestry and Fold3 are both subscription services that allow free searches of some or all index terms for each title. Free access to Ancestry.com and Fold3.com is available in all research rooms at the National Archives, including those in our field locations and Presidential Libraries. Microfilm publications digitized by our partners as part of our digitization partnership agreements will eventually be free online in the National Archives Catalog.

Documentation for arrivals December 1982 and after are held by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Additionally, most immigrants admitted since May 1, 1951 should be entirely documented in an Alien File (A-File).  The USCIS arrival records and A-Files are available through the USCIS Freedom of Information Act Program (FOIA).  

 

Accordion

Until January 1, 1820, the United States federal government did not require captains or masters of vessels to present a passenger list to officials. As a general rule, NARA does not have passenger lists of vessels arriving before January 1, 1820.  There are two exceptions to this rule:

Arrivals at New Orleans, Louisiana, 1813-1819

Arrivals at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1800-1819

To locate other passenger lists from 1538-1819, consult these books (among many others), which are found in libraries with genealogical collections:

Indexes

  • Filby, P. William, ed. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index: A Guide to Published Arrival Records of ... Passengers who Came to the United States and Canada in the Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Centuries. 3 volumes plus annual supplements. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1981-__. This series is a finding aid to published passenger lists. Be sure to read the "front material" to understand how to use the information you find.

Bibliographies

  • Filby, P. William, ed. Passenger and Immigration Lists Bibliography, 1538-1900. 2d ed. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Co., 1988.
     
  • ​Lancour, Harold, comp. A Bibliography of Ship Passenger Lists, 1538-1825; Being a Guide to Published Lists of Early Immigrants to North America. 3d ed. New York: New York Public Library, 1978.
     
  • ​Wood, Virginia Steele. Immigrant Arrivals: A Guide to Published Sources. Revised. (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, Local History & Genealogy Reading Room, n.d.).

Compilations

Carl Boyer and Michael Tepper, each using a different format, have undertaken to publish the names in Lancour's lists. [Note: Tepper's coverage of Lancour is not comprehensive: an inventory of those articles omitted appears on pages viii, ix and x of New World Immigrants.]

  • Boyer, Carl. Ship Passenger Lists, National and New England (1600-1825). Newhall, CA: C. Boyer, 1977. Covers Lancour entries 1-71.
     
  • Boyer, Carl. Ship Passenger Lists, New York and New Jersey (1600-1825). Newhall, CA: C. Boyer, 1978. Covers Lancour entries 72-115.
     
  • Boyer, Carl. Ship Passenger Lists, Pennsylvania and Delaware (1641-1825). Newhall, CA: C. Boyer, 1980. Covers Lancour entries 116-197.
     
  • Boyer, Carl. Ship Passenger Lists, the South (1538-1825). Newhall, CA: C. Boyer, 1979. Covers Lancour entries 198E-243.
     
  • Tepper, Michael. New World Immigrants: a Consolidation of Ship Passenger Lists and Associated Data from Periodical Literature. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1979.
     
  • Tepper, Michael. Passengers to America: A Consolidation of Ship Passenger Lists From the New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1977.
     
  • ​Tepper, Michael. Emigrants to Pennsylvania, 1641-1819: a Consolidation of Ship Passenger Lists from the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1978.
     
  • Tepper, Michael. Immigrants to the Middle Colonies: a Consolidation of Ship Passenger Lists and Associated Data from The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1978.

Ethnic Groups

There are numerous published name indexes to 16th through 19th century arrivals of persons of various ethnic groups, including persons of Czechoslovakian, Dutch, English, German, Irish, Italian, and Russian descent. For a listing of some of these indexes, see:

  • Wood, Virginia Steele. Immigrant Arrivals: A Guide to Published Sources. Revised. (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, Local History & Genealogy Reading Room, n.d.).

Two online guides to immigration by particular ethnic groups are:

  • Douglas, Lee V. Danish Immigration to America: An Annotated Bibliography of Resources at the Library of Congress. Research Guide No. 28. (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, Local History & Genealogy Reading Room, n.d.).
     
  • Douglas, Lee V. A Select Bibliography of Works: Norwegian-American Immigration and Local History. Research Guide No. 6. (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, Local History & Genealogy Reading Room, n.d.).

For useful guides on the historical and legal background of passenger arrival records, explanation of what information they contain, and search strategies, see:

  • Colletta, John P. They Came in Ships. 2d ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry, Inc., 1993.
     
  • Tepper, Michael. American Passenger Arrival Records. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1988.
     

For more detailed examinations of immigration in U.S. history, see:

  • Handlin, Oscar, ed. Immigration as a Factor in American History. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1959.
     
  • Handlin, Oscar, ed. The Uprooted: The Epic Story of the Great Migrations that Made the American People. Reprinted, 2d edition enlarged, Boston: Little Brown & Co., 1973.
     
  • Higham, John. Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925. Rutgers, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1955. Reprint, New York: Atheneum, 1963-1981.
     
  • Konvitz, Milton R. Civil Rights in Immigration. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1953.
     
  • Wittke, Carl. Refugees of Revolution: The German Forty-Eighters in America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, Press, 1952. Examines German immigration to the U.S. following the failed 1848 revolution in Germany.
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