Every American with immigrant ancestors needs the "Passenger and Immigration List Index: 2012 edition, 1500s-1900s" — especially for those seeking ancestors prior to the 1820s. This important work is the best, if not the only place to go for tracing relatives to early colonial America and beyond. Updated for 2012, this data set contains listings of approximately 4,712,000 individuals who arrived in United States and Canadian ports from the 1500s through the 1900s. It was compiled by P. William Filby and published by Gale Research.
While researching passenger lists can often be tedious and difficult, this data set makes finding information on your immigrant ancestors easier than ever. Each entry has been indexed by name and is searchable by keyword. The "Genealogical Journal" hailed the printed version of the "Passenger and Immigration List Index" as "one of the greatest contributions to genealogical literature in the last decade."
Prior to 1820, most ships coming to America did not keep documentation of who was on board. Immigration was more of a trickle than a flood. Many individuals traveled to their destination on uncomfortable, rat-infested cargo ships -- usually only five, ten, maybe thirty passengers suffered through the trip together. Because of this, pinpointing documentation of your ancestors' journey to pre-1820 America can be almost impossible. Simply put, very little information exists today that could help.
That's why the Passenger and Immigration List Index proves such an invaluable resource for family history enthusiasts. Thousands of different records have been used to compile this index, everything from original passenger lists to personal diaries. The result is the only compilation of passenger lists this comprehensive -- and the search goes on. The publishers provide yearly supplements as their research uncovers new immigration data.
For each individual listed, you may find the following information:
For example, you may be able to establish a record similar to this one: Aab Wilhelm was 38 when he arrived in Baltimore in 1850 accompanied by his wife Elisabeth Stoll, son Heinrich, and daughter Elisabeth. The original source of the information is also provided. By locating the original source document, you may be able to determine additional details such as the name of the ship on which your ancestors sailed and the location of their naturalization.
Name - In this field you will find the individual's given name and surname. 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 a different spelling. 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 wish to search only on the surname.
Place - This field provides the location of the port through which the individual immigrated.
Year - This field lists an immigrant's year of arrival or the first time that person appeared in public record.
Age - This field indicates the immigrant's age in the source record.
Note: You should note that the date and location that appear in the "Passenger and Immigration Lists Index" do not necessarily equate to the date and port of arrival. Occasionally, the locations referred to are destinations, locations of settlement, or the particular location of the immigrant on the date cited. Dates may reflect the date of death, the date the primary individual requested permission to emigrate, or the point in time when documents place that person in the New World at the location specified. Although the information listed is not always dates and locations of arrival, these references were retained by Gale Research (the original publisher of this material) because the editors felt that "when someone is searching for an elusive ancestor, all information is helpful." Large public libraries, state libraries, libraries with genealogical or history collections, and libraries of family associations and genealogical or historical societies are excellent places to look for the sources listed in the "Passenger and Immigration Lists Index."