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Article posted: September 17, 1999

Passenger Lists 1865 - 1919
By: Ryan Taylor, Biography and Archived Articles

The hot news in Canadian genealogical circles is about passenger lists.
When our ancestors crossed the Atlantic, the ship's captain was obliged to make a list of the people on board his boat. Sometimes the list was made for the authorities at the port of embarkation, whether it was Liverpool, Le Havre, Amsterdam or Hamburg.

Government officials at the other end expected him to have the list when the ship arrived also. They needed it for bureaucratic reasons before they would allow people to disembark in the new land.

People journeying directly to Canada would enter the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, and sail towards Quebec. Looking at a map of the area, critic Northrop Frye said that it was like Jonah being swallowed by the whale and perhaps anxious emigrants felt the same way.

They would arrive at Quebec City where the official welcome would take place, and then proceed (often on a smaller boat) to Montreal and then inland.

In the earliest days the records were poorly kept and have not survived, but from 1865 there are many thousands of surviving passenger lists indicating when people came to Canada from Europe, where they started and their nationality, and when they arrived. The lists are kept at the National Archives in Ottawa and anyone can read them, but they are not indexed and so finding your relations can be very difficult.

The hot news is that the National Genealogical Society in Washington DC, in cooperation with the National Archives, is setting up a project to index the records 1865-1919. The resulting database will be searchable by genealogists everywhere who can then obtain a reference and know exactly where to look on the microfilm to find their families.

I should say that passenger lists are not, in my view, a rewarding place to find information. Although we can learn when our families arrived and where, there is little hard information in the lists. However, people find them fascinating.

The index will be compiled by volunteers under the supervision of Eric Grundset, librarian at the Daughters of the American Revolution library in Washington. He tells me that the National Archives will provide printouts from microfilm and the volunteers will do the transcriptions at home working on their own computers. They can transfer the data to disks. The files will then be combined at a central location to form the database.

It is a very large project and is, at the moment, in the planning stage, but I expect that by 2000 it will be on the go.

I hope that many of you will volunteer to work on a section of the index. Once the project is ready for people to volunteer, I will provide more information.

If you would like to find out more about the passenger lists at the National Archives, you can read about them at their website, Many of the microfilms are available on interlibrary loan, but finding out which one of the hundreds is the one you need may be difficult.

A new book lists earlier passengers. Index of Passengers who Emigrated to Canada between 1817 and 1847, prepared by John A. Acton, is available from Global Genealogy & History Shoppe ( call Sandra at 613-257-7878 ). It extracts names on lists in the British Colonial Office. The original indexing was done by staff of the National Archives. As mentioned above, Canadian passenger lists before 1850 are rare, so this is a welcome addition to printed sources which will be available in most libraries.

Editor's Update To Above Article

Ryan Taylor reported news of an upcoming project being undertaken by the National Genealogical Society in Washington DC to index Canadian records of passenger arrivals 1865-1919. Ryan's source reported that the project was being undertaken "in cooperation with the National Archives" (of Canada) and that the index would be compiled by volunteers under the supervision of Eric Grundset, librarian at the Daughters of the American Revolution library in Washington.

Upon publication of the story it came to the attention of this editor that senior memebers of the National Archives of Canada are aware of the intention of the National Genealogical Society (American) to take on the project, however the National Archives of Canada is not involved in it in a "co-operative" basis.

Françoise Houle, Director General, Client Services and Communications National Archives of Canada confirmed that the Archives has been officially notified about the project. According to Ms. Houle, the NAC is not in a position to approve or disapprove of it because the NGS plans to use public domain information contained on microfilm produced by the Church of Jesus Christ And The Latter Day Saints. She further explained that the National Archives of Canada will have no input into what the NGS database will contain, method of distribution, cost of using or buying the index, methodology of production nor the quality of the resulting index. Ms. Houle did say that she hopes that the National Genealogical Society in Washington will produce a high quality result as the information holds such great importance to genealogists and historians.

The original Gazette article initiated a number of inquiries from the heritage community to National Archives of Canada staffers. If you are interested in more information about the project contact the National Genealogical Society in Washington. Because the project is not a National Archives of Canada project, NAC staff will not be able to answer your questions.

Ships Lists & Immigration Lists on CD ...

Ships and Seafarers of Atlantic Canada. 1 cd.- The Atlantic Canada Shipping Project, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1998, by Maritime History Group at Memorial University of Newfoundland. These databases were created for the Atlantic Canada Shipping Project, a large scale research project undertaken by the Maritime History Group at Memorial University of Newfoundland, to study the rise and decline of the shipping industry of Atlantic Canada. This project, which ran from 1976 to 1983, was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Memorial University. More information

Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1600s-1800s. Originally compiled by P. William Filby, the work includes information taken from naturalization records, passenger lists, and claims for headrights. Over 2,750,000 individuals who arrived in USA and Canada. For each individual listed, you will find the following information: name, location of entry port, and where to find the original source record. You may also determine information such as age, year of immigration, and the names, ages, and relationships of family members. For convenience and easy searching, an alphabetical name index is included on the CD. OUTSTANDING VALUE! More information

CD # 257 - Passenger and Immigration Lists: Irish Immigrants to North America, 1803-1871 contains images of the pages of twelve volumes of compiled passenger lists. It was produced in collaboration with the Genealogical Publishing Company and includes lists of approximately 46,000 Irish passengers who arrived in the United States and Canada primarily in the nineteenth century..More information

The Mayflower Descendents- With Other New England Town Records, by Search and Research Publishing Corporation. The Mayflower Legacy CD contains 43 volumes (over 513 megabytes) of original pilgrim records literally transcribed and edited by George Ernst Bowman (1862-1941) who founded the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants in 1896 Mr. Bowman was induced into the National Genealogy Hall of Fame in 1996 in recognition of his unique and outstanding contributions to early American research, and his pulication and preservation of literal copies of priceless ancient pilgrim records. More information

Digital Archives of Colorado Ship Passenger Lists, Miscellaneous Atlantic, Great Lake and Gulf Ports. The MPPL Series of DigArcCo™ Cd-Roms contains actual images of hand-written ship passenger lists from miscellaneous Atlantic, Great Lake and Gulf ports between 1820 and 1873. These Cd-Roms are not completely indexed as yet. DigArcCo are in the process of transcribing them in preparation for publishing them to Cd-Rom. Click Here for a list of the CDs of, Ship Passenger Lists.

Mayflower Vital Records, Deeds and Wills, 1600s-1900s Referencing the names of almost 82,000 individuals, this CD contains some of the best information pertaining to the most celebrated immigrants to the United States. What you can learn about each individual varies. More information

The Complete Mayflower Descendant, Vols. 1-46 & Other Sources, 1600s-1800s Combined, these four works reference the names of approximately 200,000 individuals. While the majority of the records date from the 1600s through the 1800s, a number of references date back as far as the 1400s and some date well into the first half of the 1900s. More information

Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607-1776 Family ArchiveWith approximately 140,000 names, this CD contains the most comprehensive list ever published of the men, women, and children who emigrated from England to America between 1607 and 1776. More information

Books By Ryan Taylor

Across The Waters, Ontario Immigrants Experiences 1820 - 1850 - by Frances Hoffman & Ryan Taylor, 1999. Riveting first-hand accounts of the immigration and settlement experience, taken from the diaries and letters of 150 immigrants.

Routes To Roots, The Best of Ryan Taylor's columns from the Kitchener Waterloo Record, by Ryan Taylor 1997

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