Have you ever wondered how and when your ancestor crossed the ocean to Canada or the U.S.? For those who arrived in the 1800s and later, it wasn’t until the early 1920s that commercial flights were offered, and even then, only available to the very wealthy. In the 1930s and 1940s, many still travelled by passenger ship.
Anyone travelling by ship was recorded in a ‘passenger manifest’, and depending on the line, the information recorded could be either very basic or extremely detailed. At the very least, a passenger manifest will tell you the date that your ancestor set sail, the name of the city or port where the ship originated, and a list of the names of every passenger.
More detailed ship’s manifests will also list your ancestor’s nationality, age, their occupation, and their final destination. It may even list the name of the person and address where they will be visiting or where they intend to live.
The image above is the passenger manifest which lists my great-grandfather William Woolsey, with two of his daughters – Grace and my grandmother Dorothea Woolsey. The ship’s manifest shows that the year is 1909, they are travelling from England and their final destination is Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. It lists my g-grandfather’s occupation – a butcher and lists the occupations of my grandmother and her sister – housekeeper and shop girl. This is typical information that may be gathered from a ship’s manifest and adds another element to your genealogical research.
Listed below are three of the top free searchable online databases listing passengers immigrating to both Canada and the U.S. :
Collections Canada – also includes American records in the case where the port of entry was in the U.S. and the passengers either remained in the U.S. or continued on by train to Canada.
The databases include – Passenger Lists, Border Entry and Immigration records
The Ships List
Over 3,500 free passenger lists to Canada, U.S, and Australia
The Immigrant Ships website has over 14,000 records of passenger manifests
Good Luck with your search! Please leave any questions or comments below.