Thursday, March 17, 2016

The 21 Day Genealogy Challenge - Day 17: Ship Manifests

Some journeys take us far from home.  Some adventures lead us to our destiny. – C.S. Lewis

Welcome to day 17 of the 21 Day Genealogy Challenge!  Today we will examine a 1949 passenger list to reveal the type of information that can be found in a ship's manifest.  Passenger lists such as this can be helpful in locating our ancestor’s birth country and final destination. 

What will a Passenger List tell me?

The first item you will note on a passenger list is the name of the ship.  A Port of Departure and a Port of Arrival will be given along with the dates of travel.  In the example below, note that the ship is The Queen Mary and she is arriving into Southampton. 
Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008.Original data - Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA). Series BT26,
The next portion of the manifest will be a series of required information to be provided by the passengers.  In this particular manifest the following questions are asked:

Port of Embarkation; Port at which Passengers have landed. 

The name of the Passenger and the class in which they traveled, ie First Class, Cabin or Tourist.

The Age of the Passengers.  Notice that the ages are sectioned.  Those lines coming up on the parallel angel inquire if the passenger is male or female.  The sections within the age groups are as such:

Adults of 12 years and upwards: Accompanied by Husband or Wife.  Not Accompanied by Husband or Wife. Children between 1 and 12.  Infants.

The following boxes inquire where in the United Kingdom the Passenger intends to visit, their occupation, and the Country of Last Permanent Address.  If the Passenger intends to immigrate, they are required to select their Intended Future Permanent Address.  And, finally, they are asked to identify the Country of which they are a current citizen or subject.
Could there be more? 

In some Passenger Lists, we may find more personal information such as age, height, eye and hair colour.  The passenger may be asked to give the name and address of the relative they left behind, as well as the name and address of the relative they are going to see.  Some forms require the Passenger to indicate how much money they are traveling with.

Not all Passenger Lists are one page, like the one shown here.  Be certain to turn the page or scroll to the next screen when you are looking at any document.  This particular Passenger List gives minimal information, but it is still useful.  Here we see my great aunt Cecilia is traveling to Port Talbot, Wales.  She is 51 years of age and her occupation is that of Clerk.  She states she is a citizen of the United States.  The number 1 we see one the form falls under the section where she is asked to identify her country of Permanent Residence.  This number indicates that her residence is Foreign.

Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008.Original data - Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA). Series BT26,
 Where Can I find Passenger Lists?

First and foremost, I would suggest looking for Passenger Lists at the National Archives.  Not only do they have ship manifests, but they also have information regarding travel between the borders of United States and Canada, as well as United States and Mexico.  Too often we assume that our immigrating ancestors went through Ellis Island.  This is not always the case.  My husband and I have had ancestors enter through both Louisiana and Massachusetts ports.  Researching the National Archives records may help you locate the ancestor’s arrival port.

Speaking of Ellis Island, you will want to visit Not only is the ship manifest available on this site, but you can also view a photograph of the ship your ancestor sailed on. You may search for your ancestor by name, or you can search by port of departure.  The site is free, though you may make a donation if you wish.

Remember to look at the country where you immigrant ancestor departed.  Records were kept not only for people entering a country, but departing as well.  As you research your ancestor’s homeland, you will want seek out the ship records for that particular country.  You may find that their homeland required them to register their emigration.

What if I cannot find my ancestor on any ship record?

If you are having difficulty finding your ancestor on a ship record, you may have to play around with the spelling of the name.  If you are still not successful, try looking at manifests for other years of arrival and departure from the countries you believe your ancestor traveled between.  

Here is your 5 Point Review:

  •  Determine what year your ancestor may have traveled or immigrated to another country. 
  •  Review sites such as and to see if your ancestor is listed in a ship manifest. 
  • When you find your ancestor in a manifest, record new information in their profile on your family tree, and obtain a copy of the manifest for your files. 
  • If you are unable to locate any travel information for your ancestor, try searching for them using an alternate name spelling.  You may want to do a page by page review of the manifest to see if you somehow overlooked them, or try looking in other manifests in the years surrounding the travel dates you are researching. 
  • Remember that travel was recorded on both ends of your ancestor’s journey.  Look at the records for departure from the country your ancestor emigrated from, as well as the records of the country your ancestor immigrated to. 

Congratulations! You have completed day 17 of the 21 Day Genealogy Challenge!  

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them in the Blog Comment section below.  It is my hope you will invite your friends to join this challenge by sharing this blog with them on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.  The share icons are just below this blog entry.

Thank you for joining this challenge and remember…..

History not shared is History forgotten!