March 7, 2002
Q: Have never requested info from National Archives re: Passenger List info and was a little shocked to see $17.25 fee. I was wondering if the info that I would receive from them is worth it. In once instance, I have to check out two different ships because two names and ages match very closely the person that I am seeking and I just wanted to know that if I am going to spend $34.50 for the both of them just to find out that one of them is the correct guy. What other kind of info might I learn from one of these copies. Quite timid about this....Any advice? -- Carolyn
Passenger List Primer
While people have been immigrating to the American Colonies and then the United States since the early 1600s, passenger lists were not recorded in America until 1820. The table outlines the major changes in the information collected on passenger lists since 1820.
As you can see the amount of information recorded on immigrants arriving after 1906 was thorough, allowing you to learn a lot about your immigrant ancestor. This should help you determine if the information is worth the cost. You might be interested to learn, however, that it may be possible to get this information through another source.
Other Resources of Passenger Records
As was mentioned, passenger lists have been microfilmed. These microfilms are available in a number of different places. In addition to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., these microfilms may also be available at your local National Archives branch. Each branch is responsible for a given region of the country. The records held by each branch reflect the states in that region, including passenger lists. You may want to see if your local public or genealogical library has The Archives by Loretto Denis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, this helpful book looks at holdings by record type and repository for the branches of the National Archives.
Many public libraries with large genealogical collections also have microfilmed passenger lists. You may want to ask the genealogical department of your closest library what passenger lists they may have in their collection.
By far, one of the easiest ways to gain access to the passenger lists is through your local Family History Center. Family History Centers (FHCs) are found in local chapels of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While they are run by LDS members, they are open to the public and I encourage all researchers to find their local FHC. Since these centers can borrow microfilm from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, this is your connection to the more than 2 million rolls of microfilm from all over the world.
Borrowing films from the Family History Library to your local FHC does have a minimal cost to cover the expense of duplicating and mailing the microfilm to the local FHC. At present that fee is around $3.50 and you are allowed to keep the film at your local FHC for approximately 30 days. You can pay an additional fee to extend that time to an additional 60 days. If you find yourself using the same films over and over, you may want to consider borrowing on indefinite loan. That way, each time you go to your FHC the film is there.
Some passenger records offer much information for us in our search for an immigrant ancestor. You'll usually find the most information on those immigrants who arrived in the United States after 1905. For those who arrived in the mid-1800s, you may already know everything that the passenger record would tell you.The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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