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Russians to America, 1850-1896 Passenger and Immigration Lists

    Russians to America, 1850-1896 Passenger and Immigration Lists
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About the Data

Americans of Russian or Jewish heritage will find this searchable collection of passenger list information invaluable. "This collection is extremely important to people whose Russian ancestors came to the U.S. in the 19th century," states Gary Mokotoff, leading expert on Jewish immigration.

Parts of this data have been published in book form by the Genealogical Publishing Company. Prior to those volumes, no indexes existed for passenger arrivals from Russia prior to 1896. Researchers had no clear way to find out when or where their ancestors had arrived in the U.S. The information spanning 1892-1896 is also critical, as this was the start of a period of heavy Russian immigration.

Now passenger list information for approximately 430,000 individuals from Russia, largely those of Jewish heritage, is available here for efficient searching. These passengers arrived largely through New York, but some also arrived through ports like Boston, Baltimore, and New Orleans. With the publication of this collection, researchers have an "excellent chance" of finding their ancestors' passenger arrival information, says Mokotoff.

Why are Passenger Lists Significant?

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 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 also provided that the collector of customs submit quarterly passenger list reports to the Secretary of State, who was, in turn, required to submit the information to Congress. The information was then published in the form of Congressional documents. A further Congressional act passed on May 7, 1874 repealed the legislative provision requiring collectors to send copies of passenger lists to the Secretary of State. Thereafter, collectors of customs were to send only statistical reports on passenger arrivals to the Department of Treasury.

Passenger lists such as these 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 countr. (Michael Tepper. American Passenger Arrival Records. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc. 1993. Page 64.)

The information you can obtain from this data set can help you create a well-rounded picture of your ancestor's arrival in America. Generally, you'll find the following types of information about an individual included in this data:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Last residence
  • Country of origin
  • Final destination
  • Ship's name
  • Port of departure
  • Date of arrival
  • Purpose of travel
  • Mode of travel
  • Additional comments

More About this Data Set

From this data, you can learn a great deal of valuable information about your immigrant ancestors. The primary types of information you'll learn are:

Name — The individual's given name and surname, as well as any titles that were included in the original index.

Please 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 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 want to search only on the surname.

Age — The immigrant's age at the time of arrival.

Country of Origin — The nation in which the immigrant's shipboard journey began.

Date of Arrival — The date on which the immigrant arrived in the United States.

Final Destination — The immigrant's final destination in the United States.

You may also find additional information about your ancestor in this record, such as:

  • The name of the ship on which your ancestor sailed
  • Your ancestor's gender
  • Your ancestor's occupation
  • Your ancestor's village or town of origin
  • Your ancestor's port of embarkation
  • Your ancestor's purpose for travel
  • Your ancestor's mode of travel
With this information, you should be able to determine quite a comprehensive account of your ancestor's arrival in the United States.

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