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
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A further Congressional act passed on May 7, 1874 repealed the legislative provision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:
- 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
Date of Arrival The date on which the immigrant arrived in the
Final Destination The immigrant's final destination in the United
You may also find additional information about your ancestor in this record,
With this information, you
should be able to determine quite a comprehensive account of your ancestor's arrival
in the United States.
- 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
- Your ancestor's purpose
- Your ancestor's mode