Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston, Massachusetts, 1820-1891. Microfilm publication M277, Rolls 1-36. The National Archives in Washington, DC
This data set contains alphabetical listings of approximately 161,000 individuals who arrived at the port of Boston from foreign ports between 1821 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 in the United States 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 required that the list note, in particular, "the age, sex, and occupation of the aid passengers, respectively, the country to which they severally belong, and that of which it is their intention to become inhabitants."
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.
While researching original passenger lists can often be tedious and difficult, this data set makes finding your immigrant ancestors easier than ever. For each individual listed in this data set, you will find the following information:
- Arrival date in Boston
- Country of origin
- Name of the ship on which the individual sailed (this is available in approximately 20% of records)
- National Archives microfilm roll on which you may wish to research further or verify the information included here
It is important to remember 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.
With the information provided, you should be able to establish a very complete record for your ancestor. By researching further with the National Archives microfilm, you will be able to determine the name of the ship on which an ancestor sailed and the specific location in which they wished to settle.