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Passenger lists

What are passenger lists and what kind of information can I find in them?

Passenger lists are lists of the names and information about passengers that arrived on ships into the United States. These lists were submitted to customs collectors at every port by the ship's master. Passenger lists were not officially required by the United States government until 1820. Before that date, the information about each passenger varied widely, from names to number of bags. The contents of post-1820 passenger lists also varied over the years, with more information being collected in the later years. However, the lists always included each individual's name, age, sex, occupation, and nationality. Later passenger lists began to include information such as martial status, last place of residence, destination in the United States, personal description, and birthplace.

Where can I find passenger lists?

Post-1820 passenger lists are held by the National Archives, so you must either go to or contact the National Archives regional branch in your area or the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The passenger ship list holdings for the regional branches vary, so you should call before you go. For more information about contacting the National Archives, see the topic The National Archives and regional centers.

Pre-1820 lists are held by numerous archives and libraries. To find the actual list in an archive or library, you must first locate the name of the list in an index.

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