Passenger List Notations Demystified

passenger ship1

At a recent meeting of the Lake County (IL) Genealogical Society, Jeanne Larzalere Bloom gave a fantastic talk about passenger lists. There’s a lot more to them than just finding your ancestor’s name and date of entry into the United States. I can’t reproduce her entire talk, but here are a few tidbits that are worth remembering.

  • Look for the second page. Passenger lists often span two pages, but an Ancestry search only shows the first page. Be sure to click to the next page; you might just find the town of birth.
  • Those mysterious notations and numbers written or stamped on the passenger list really do mean something. A Guide to Interpreting Passenger List Annotations, by noted immigration historian Marian L. Smith, will help you decipher them.
  • You can also glean naturalization information from the passenger lists. Often when a person applied for citizenship, their original entry into the country had to be checked and codes were written in, indicating which court presided over the naturalization. If you don’t know where an ancestor was naturalized, this could be your lead. The codes can be found in the publication A Directory of Courts Having Jurisdiction in Naturalization Proceedings, available on Google Books and other digital book sites.

Here’s wishing you smooth sailing in your search for passenger lists!

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