How passenger lists can help your family research - MyGeneTree

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How passenger lists can help your family research

Did your ancestors migrate from another country during the 19th or early 20th centuries? If they did, then it's likely you will find your ancestor on a passenger list. Your ancestors' journey was likely documented on a passenger manifest for the ship they sailed on.

After gathering information from living relatives, census records, obituaries, cemetery records, newspapers, birth and death certificates, you might be able to find information about when and where your ancestor departed from and where they were going. With this information, you are now ready to search passenger list indexes from those areas and timeframes.

Finding your ancestor in a passenger list can be like finding a needle in a haystack… But don't give up!



1.  If your ancestor travelled with family, it would be easier to confirm you have the correct person. If they travelled alone, it might be harder to ensure you have the right person, especially if they had a common name. Try checking to see if you can link them with any friends or neighbours that may also have travelled at the same time.
2.  Start by searching the passenger lists of ports nearest to where your ancestor lived and expand out from there.


3.  When you do find your ancestor on a passenger list, not only is it a fantastic discovery to see their name listed on the manifest, but you can also gain valuable information from the passenger list.

Passenger Lists can give you information like:

  • The name of the passengers
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Nationality, place of birth
  • The port they came from
  • Final destination
  • Passengers last residence 
  • The name of the ship
  • The captain of the ship
  • Deaths and births at sea

 Passenger Ship James T Foord

Passenger Ship - James T Foord


Finding your ancestor will take a lot of hunting but finding them will be so rewarding and add a missing piece to your family tree.

Where to find passenger lists:
Passenger lists are available on the main genealogy website's listed below… however, you can also find information available on smaller websites in various countries.




New Zealand


United States



United Kingdom


1911 playing games on a passenger ship

1911 - Skipping to pass time while onboard a passenger ship.  Photo: Library of Congress


To help you record your documents, for each ancestor, here's a FREE ancestor profile scribble sheet.

Happy searching!