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  • Passenger Ship Lists for the Eighteenth Century

    Martin E. Hollick

    In many ways, the eighteenth century is the hardest time period for which to find passenger lists. The seventeenth century has been well researched, and the cachet of being a Mayflower passenger has added to the allure to finding this sort of information for that time period. The nineteenth century provides an explosion of such lists, which survive. Stuck in between, the 1700s is neither popular for research nor replete with records.

    Certainly in the seventeenth century, tens of thousands of immigrants came to the U.S. Those numbers increased to hundreds of thousands by the eighteenth century, and grew to millions in the nineteenth century. So the sheer volume of numbers of immigrants in comparison with the previous century is daunting. The historical context of the century is also the most complex of these three time periods. America was first a colony, and then a war zone before it achieved independence. The interruptions of two major wars from 1756 to 1763 and 1775 to 1783 certainly slowed down emigration. In 1819, Congress passed legislation requiring customs officers in each port to maintain passenger lists. There are exceptions to this rule as in the case of Pennsylvania, where lists of German immigrants survive because they had to take a loyalty oath starting in 1727. Unfortunately, most of the immigrants to New England were coming from other parts of the British Empire and didn’t need to take such an oath.

    Remember, there are two things to consider: are you truly looking for the name of the ship that your ancestor came on or are you looking for clues that will help you discover his or her European origins? If your search is the former, the going will be tough if not impossible. However, if your goal is the latter, then there are several substitutes for passenger lists that will help in your research.

    First, don’t reinvent the wheel. Consult Harold Lancour’s Bibliography of Ship Passenger Lists 1538-1825. Use the third edition, expanded and revised by Richard J. Wolfe (New York, 1963, NEHGS call # Z7164/I3/L2/1963 also LOAN). Lancour’s work is divided into all ports, and then by state. There is an index to ship names at the back. Be sure to read the appendices to this work as well: Appendix I: Published Lists of Ship Passengers and Immigrants After 1825 and Appendix II: Passenger Arrival Records in the National Archives. A companion to this work is Ship Passenger Lists National and New England 1600-1825, edited by Carl Boyer, 3rd (the publisher, Newhall, CA 1977, NEHGS call # R.Rm. REF CS68/S53/1977 also LOAN). This work covers Lancour’s entries one to seventy-one with the actual lists and is indexed by name.

    A second and larger work is Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, edited by P. William Filby and Mary K. Meyer (Detroit, Gale Research, 1981, NEHGS call # REF CS68/P363/1981 also LOAN), which list emigrants alphabetically by name. There are 480,000 names culled from 300 sources. This includes the name of the immigrant, age, place of arrival, year of arrival, and the code number to the source whence the information came. This merely indexes secondary sources, which vary widely in their accuracy and scholarship. The 1982-5 cumulated supplements add 650,000 more records (published 1985) in four volumes, and a 1986 supplement adds another 125,000 records (published 1986) in a single volume.

    Other works that include both seventeenth- and eighteenth-century passengers are:

    Bonded Passengers to America by Peter Wilson Coldham (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1983, NEHGS call # CS61/C62/1983), nine volumes in three.
    Vol. I - History of Transportation, 1615-1775
    Vol. II - Middlesex, 1617-1775
    Vol. III - London, 1656-1775
    Vol. IV- Home counties, 1655-1775
    Vols. V through IX, Western, Oxford, Norfolk, Northern and Midland Circuits, 1663-1775

    Emigrants are listed alphabetically by name under each jurisdiction, but unfortunately, there is no overall name index. This set is augmented by The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775, by Peter Wilson Coldham (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1988, NEHGS call # REF E187.5/C65/1988 also LOAN). The first work, Bonded Passengers, uses assize and palatinate courts records whereas the second work uses the courts of quarter session. However, this volume is completely alphabetical by name. It is supplemented twice: Supplement to the Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage (1992, NEHGS call # E187.5/C65/1988/Suppl. also LOAN) and More Emigrants in Bondage (2002, NEHGS call # REF E187.5/C65/1988/Suppl.2 also LOAN).

    Scots in New England, 1623-1873, by David Dobson (Genealogical Publishing Co., 2002, NEHGS call # F15/S3/D63/2002 also LOAN). Records are gleaned from primary and secondary sources, most interestingly from the Scots Charitable Society in Boston, which was founded in 1657. Arranged alphabetically by name.

    English Adventurers and Emigrants, 1661-1733: Abstracts of Examinations in the High Court of Admiralty with Reference to Colonial America by Peter Wilson Coldham (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985, NEHGS call # E187.5/C682/1984/v.2 also LOAN) and its sequel, More English Adventurers, 1625-1777 (2002, NEHGS call # E187.5/C683/2002 also LOAN) feature High Court of Admiralty records to substitute for passenger lists.

    Ships from Ireland to Early America, 1623-1850, by David Dobson (Clearfield Publishing, 1999, NEHGS call # E49.2/I6/D67/1999), lists just ships and the number of passengers that they held. Sources for this information are given and the author advises that if you know about when and where your Irish ancestor arrived, then this work will be helpful.

    There are a few specific lists for just the eighteenth century, such as Port Arrivals and Immigrants to the City of Boston, 1715-6 and 1762-9, compiled by William H. Whitmore (Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1973 [repr.], NEHGS call # REF F73.25/P67/1900 also LOAN). This is reprinted from volume 29 of the Boston Record Commissioners’ Reports, Document Number 100. This is again only indexed by surname. The 1715-16 records are on pages 5 to 19 and the others from pages 20 to 92. It is the later records that seem to have passengers’ names.

    Emigrants from England to the American Colonies, 1773-6, by Peter Wilson Coldham (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1988, NEHGS call # REF E184/B7/C64/1988), is a transcription of immigrants leaving England. First transcribed in TheNew England Historical and Genealogical Register, volumes 62 to 65 (1908-1911), this work is arranged in alphabetical order by ports of departure and fully indexed by name.

    Another work is Ethel Stanwood Bolton’s Immigrants to New England, 1700-1775, (Salem, Mass., The Essex Institute, 1931, NEHGS call # REF F7/B74/1931 also LOAN). The Genealogical Publishing Company reprinted this 235-page resource in 1979. Listed alphabetically by surname, each entry identifies the source of the information contained in it. An index of women appears at the end and there is sadly no introduction or preface. This type of work is less a collection of passenger ship lists than a conglomeration of sources that show emigrants when they first appear in New England. Another such work is “The Petition to Governor Shute in 1718,” which appears in Charles Knowles Bolton’s, Scotch Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America, on pages 324-330. (This list also appears in Early Settlers of Londonderry, NH, p. 262-4.) Although ships are not mentioned, the place in Ireland whence these immigrants came is mentioned, making this list a very important source of genealogical information.

    Emigrants from Ireland to America, 1735-1743: A transcription of the Report of the Irish House of Commons into Enforced Emigration to America, by Frances McDonnell (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992, NEHGS call # E184/I6/E45/1992) lists over 2,000 people with a full index by name at the end.

    However, one needn’t rely solely upon the research of others. The National Archives at Waltham have the original records of the U.S. Customs Service (see their website). Record Group 36 includes the following records:

    Starting in 1789
    Bridgeport, Connecticut
    New London-Stonington, Connecticut
    Gloucester, Massachusetts
    Salem, Massachusetts
    Marblehead, Massachusetts

    Starting in 1795
    Middletown-Hartford, Connecticut

    Starting in 1763
    New Haven, Connecticut

    Starting in 1790
    Newport, Rhode Island
    Providence, Rhode Island

    Starting in 1793
    Plymouth, Massachusetts

    Although regulations for passenger lists did not begin until 1820, New England port masters kept their own records much earlier and these are the records that survive.

    Other such lists survive in manuscript collections like this one from the NEHGS itself: Massachusetts Impost Office, Boston Vessels Entered in the months of March, April, May and June 1712 (MSS C 3450). I transcribed the April entries as an example of what information can be gleaned in these records:

    April 5th

    Sloop William & Sarah from New York
    Joseph Thorn
    John Wright
    Daniel Lawrence, all Planters

    April 8th

    Sarah from London
    Twenty Nine Mariners
    James Gouge, Gentleman

    April 12th

    Brigantine Suaes??? from Glasgow
    John Akron
    Patrick Cheap
    Robert Clarke
    All traders
    George Seinen (?) a youth for Education
    [blank] Peacock, a cordwainer

    14th April

    Brigantine Martha & Hannah from Montserrat
    Alexander Baker, mariner and his servant
    Haynes and Scott, of New York

    19th April Ship Sulles (/) from Surinam
    Johanes Vannarbergreen, Merchant

    28th April

    Brigantine Hope from Fyall?
    William Wilson, merchant
    And six mariners

    29th April, Barque Hopewell from Surinam
    John Seylor, a Saylor

    Other useful works include:

    New World Immigrants: A consolidation of ship passenger lists and associated data from Periodical Literature, edited by Michael Tepper (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1979, NEHGS call # REF CS68/N48/1979 also LOAN ), Vol. 1.

    Passengers to America: A consolidation of ship passenger lists from the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, edited by Michael Tepper (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1977, NEHGS call # REF CS68/P37/1977 also LOAN). Although the Register is searchable by name on the NEHGS website it is not yet searchable by subject. (A print subject index is available for the first fifty volumes.)

    Immigrants to the Middle Colonies: A Consolidation of Ship Passenger Lists and Associated Data from the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, edited by Michael Tepper (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1978, NEHGS call # REF F106/I47/1978 also LOAN). Fully indexed by name.

    American Passenger Arrival Records, by Michael Tepper (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1988, NEHGS call # CS68/T49/1988).

    They Came in Ships: A Guide to Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor’s Arrival Record, rev. ed. by John P. Colletta (Salt Lake City, Ancestry, 1993, NEHGS call # CS49/C63/1993 also LOAN [rev. version only, 2002]).

    The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, rev. ed., by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Salt Lake City, Ancestry, 1997, NEHGS call # R.Rm. REF CS49/S65/1997 also LOAN). Chapter 13: Immigration: Finding Immigrant Origins, p. 441-520.

    Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records, by Kory L. Meyerink (Salt Lake City, Ancestry, 1998, NEHGS call # R.Rm. REF CS9/P75/1998 also LOAN), specifically Chapter 14: Immigration Sources pp. 499-544.

    A Researcher’s Guide to Boston, by Ann S. Lainhart (Boston, NEHGS, 2003, NEHGS call # R.Rm. REF F73.25/L35/2003 also LOAN), Chapter 16, Passenger Lists, pp. 65-6. Most lists that survive date from 1848.

    American Maritime Documents 1776-1860, by Douglas L. Stein (Mystic Seaport Museum, 1992, NEHGS call # REF Z692/M28/S73/1992). Good background reading for the researcher.

    Internet resources include:

    Cyndi’s List is still the best place on the Internet to start any sort of genealogical research.

    Passenger Lists on the Internet
    Lists are not in any specific order so use the find command or just scroll down the list.

    Ships to Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia from 1750-2.

    Ships to Nova Scotia from 1750 to 1862

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