Passenger Lists, Immigration, Emigration, Naturalization, Oaths of Allegiance and Passports

Background Reading and Lists

Note: All call numbers are in the Social Science and History Department (SSH), unless otherwise noted. "Room Ref" means you can retrieve the book yourself, but it can't be checked out. "Ready Ref" or "Ready Ref D" means the staff will have to retrieve it for you, and we'll hold some form of identification, such as a library card or driver's license, while you use it. "Stacks," "Bookstacks" or "STX" refers to a storage area from which a book must be retrieved by the staff. Many such books can be checked out, though others, such as books over 100 years old or in poor condition, cannot. Photocopies can be made for $.25 per page.

The Source. 929.1072 So84a2 (Room Ref). Good essay, lists of special collections, how-to books, bibliographies by country, and a summary of U.S. naturalization provisions.

Ancestry's Red Book. 929.1072 R245b 3rd ed. 2004 (Room Ref). Lists immigration, naturalization, and ethnic records by U.S. state.

The Genealogist's Address Book. 929.1025 B444g 4th ed. 1998 (Ready Ref D). Lists ethnic and immigration research centers.

The Encyclopedia of Associations, vol. 1, part 2, section 10: Fraternal, Nationality, and Ethnic Organizations. 061 G131e7 (Ready Ref)

Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives. 016.9291 Un3g (Room Ref). Essential reading. Gives passenger list holdings of the National Archives by port of entry. Gives federal naturalization record holdings by state. Gives the best description of passports as a genealogical resource.

The Archives: a Guide to the National Archives Field Branches. 016.973 Sz71a (Room Ref). Lists what resources are available at each of the regional branches of the National Archives.

"American Immigrant Genealogy: Ship Passenger Lists" in Prologue (Journal of the National Archives), Summer 1985, pp. 112-120. AE 1.111:27/3. Government Publications Department.

American Passenger Arrival Records. 929.1072 T268a2 (Room Ref). The best one-volume book about passenger records.

They Came in Ships. 929.1072 C689t (Room Ref). The best one-volume how-to book on finding an immigrant ancestor. An excellent bibliography.

Generally, emigration record sources can be found in country specific genealogical guidebooks such as Finding Italian Roots, 929.1089 C689f (Room Ref), and In Search of Your British & Irish Roots, 929.1072 B333ib (Room Ref). These guidebooks can be found by doing keyword searches in the Free Library catalog.

Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP)

Researching your Family History at the Parkway Central Library. Handout. Social Science and History Department (SSH) Reference Desk.

Generally, there are two kinds of passenger lists: published and unpublished. Published passenger lists have appeared in books or periodicals, are indexed, and are available primarily at libraries. Unpublished passenger lists have not appeared in books or periodicals, may or may not be indexed, and are available primarily at archives.

To make FULL use of the FLP collection, you must be able to use the online catalog, especially the subject and "keyword" functions. See Subject Headings and Keywords for more information about these functions. If you have difficulties with the catalog, ask for assistance from a librarian. The books listed below are only SOME of the most important ones at FLP.

Pennsylvania German Pioneers. Shelved with 929.373 P2657ab (Room Ref). Essential for Pennsylvania research.

A Collection of Upwards of Thirty Thousand Names of German, Swiss, Dutch, French, and Other Immigrants in Pennsylvania from 1727-1776. 929 R87 (Ready Ref D). A separately published index is 929.3 R876c (Room Ref).

Passenger and Immigration Lists Index and suppls. 929.373 P2657a (Room Ref). An essential index for locating published passenger lists.

Passenger and Immigration Lists Bibliography, 1538-1900 and suppl. 016.9293 F472p (Room Ref).

Passengers and Ships Prior to 1684, Penn's Colony. 929 Sh49p (Room Ref).

Ship Passenger Lists Pennsylvania and Delaware, 1641-1825. 929.3748 B695s (Room Ref).

Passenger Arrivals at the Port of Philadelphia, 1800-1819. 929.3748 T268p (Room Ref).

Swedish Passenger Arrivals in U.S. Ports 1820-1850 (except New York). 929.373 Ol8s (Stacks).

Passengers to America. 929.373 P266t (Room Ref).

Record of Indentures in Philadelphia 1771-1773. 929.3748 P53r (Room Ref).

Bonds of Indemnity & Memorandum & Indentures of the Poor, 1751-1796. Microfilm 929.3748 B64o. Newspaper and Microfilm Center.

The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607-1660. 973.0042 C673c. Shelved with 929.873c (Room Ref).

The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775. 929.373 C673b2 (Room Ref).

The Original Lists of Persons of Quality. 929.3 Or4l2 (Room Ref).

Emigrants to Pennsylvania, 1641-1819. 929.3 T268e (Room Ref).

"Eighteenth Century Emigrants from German-Speaking Lands to North America" in Publications of the Pennsylvania German Society, vol. XVI (The Northern Kraichgau) and vol. XIX (The Western Palatinate). 974.8 P3829p v. 16. and 974.8 P3829p v. 19. Request these at the SSH reference desk as periodicals, not as books.

One of the most common and difficult passenger list problems concerns the lack of an index to the New York passenger lists for the period 1847-1896. There is a good strategy for dealing with this problem in Genealogical Helper, Jul-Aug 1994, pp. 6-8. 929.105 G286h. On microfilm in the Newspapers and Microfilm Center.

Philadelphia Naturalization Records. 929.373 P53n. In SSH Room Ref and Govenment Publications Department with census material. Before using this very useful index, read "The WPA Index of Naturalizations: an Explanation", in Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, v. 36, No. 2, 1989, pp. 109-116.

Philadelphia (County) District Court Declarations of Intention 1818-1875 Index. 929.3748 M71p (Room Ref).

Pennsylvania Archives. 974.8 P3823a. Especially Colonial Records, vols. 1-4, 9, and 10; and Series 2, vols. 2-3, 14 and 17. (Room Ref).

The Laws of Pennsylvania & the Statutes at Large. 929.3 L749g (Room Ref). An index to the The Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania and The Laws of Pennsylvania, 1682-1820 in the Government Publications Department. Naturalizations granted by Acts of the Assembly can be found here.

Naturalizations of Foreign Protestants in the American and West Indian Colonies. 929.3 G449n (Room Ref).

Bureau of Naturalization. 325.73 Sm5. Bookstacks. Gives a history of U.S. naturalization laws.

Names of Foreigners Who Took the Oath of Allegiance to the Province and State of Pennsylvania 1727-1775, With the Foreign Arrivals, 1786-1808. 929.3 Eg53n (Room Ref).

Names of Persons who took the Oath of Allegiance to the State of Pennsylvania between the years 1777 and 1789 With a History of the "Test Laws" of Pennsylvania. 974.8 W521n (Room Ref). Shelved with 929.3 Eg53n.

Maritime Records, Port of Philadelphia. Gov Pub STATES P 38-1198, microfilm in Government Publications.

  • Port Warden Minutes, 1776-1880.
  • Arrivals and Clearances of Vessels.
    • 1800-02, 1816-17 (Inward).
    • 1801-1822 (Outward).
  • Masters and Crews, 1793-1880.
  • Alphabetical Lists of Crews, 1789-1880.
  • Index by Name of Vessel.
    • Barks.
    • Brigs.
    • Schooners.
    • Ships, Sloops, Steamships, Misc.
  • Record of Wrecks, 1874-1937.
  • Slave Manifests, 1800-1841.
  • Letters of Marque, 1804-1815.

An alphabetical index to images of or textual information about ships appearing in many of the books at FLP is in the Print and Picture Collection. Each entry in this one-of-a-kind card catalog gives the name of a ship, the date (if available) of the image or text, and the call number of the book in which the information appears. Researchers seeking ship images at FLP should always consult this index.

Index to Seamen's Protection Certificate Applications, Port of Philadelphia, 1796-1823. 929.3748 D646i (Room Ref).

Ships of Our Ancestors. 387.2432 An89s. Business, Science & Industry Department (BSI) Ref.

Passenger Ships of the World, Past and Present. 387.243 Sm55p. BSI Ref.

Morton Allen Directory of European Passenger Steamship Arrivals. R387 Al5. BSI Ref.

Merchant Steam Vessels of the United States 1790-1868. 387.24 L998ms. BSI Ref.

Merchant Vessels of the United States, an annual, 1873-1981. GPD TD 5.12/2:.

Transatlantic Steamship Arrivals 1906-1925. 387.5 T687t. BSI Ref.

Adler's Directory: a Compilation of Passenger Steamships Sailing from European Ports and Arriving in the Eastern Ports of the United States from 1899 to 1929. 387 Ad5. BSI Ref.

"Locating Pictures of Ships," in Genealogical Helper, Jan-Feb 1994, p. 18. 929.105 G286h. Lists sources of ship pictures.

North America's Maritime Museums: An Annotated Guide. 387.5097 H837n. BSI (Stacks).

We Who Built America. 325.73 W786w (Stacks). Good essays on immigrant traffic in America and on the immigrant experiences of European and Asian immigrants.

The Great Migration. 325.73 G94 (Stacks).

The Atlantic Migration. 325.73 H19a (Stacks).

Bibliography of Pennsylvania History with suppls. 016.9748 P3843b (Room Ref). For material after the supplements end, see America: History and Life (Electronic Resources). A good bibliography for all aspects of early ethnic life in Pennsylvania.

The Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. 973.04 H261e (Ready Ref D). Shelved with 305.8009.

Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America. 305.8009 G131e (Ready Ref D).

The Ellis Island Source Book. 325.1097 B638e (Stacks). Contains an outstanding bibliography.

The Map Collection has numerous maps and gazetteers that help identify places of origin and ports of arrival and departure.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP)

To make full use of the HSP collection, you must be able to use all of their catalogs.

HSP has an outstanding collection of published passenger lists, especially the larger collections such as Germans to America and The Famine Immigrants. There are MANY published passenger lists at HSP that are NOT at FLP.

For a list of HSP holdings by Pennsylvania county, see Woodroofe Listing.

National Archives - Mid-Atlantic Branch (NARA)

Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives. 016.9291 Un3g. Lists passenger arrival records by state and port. An essential reference. 3rd ed. (2000) in Government Publications Department.

The Archives: a Guide to the National Archives Field Branches. 016.973 Sz71a (Room Ref). Lists passenger arrival records available at each of the regional branches of NARA.

In the reference area at NARA, there are many useful books that may help locate an immigrant ancestor.

Forms for requesting passenger lists from the National Archives in Washington, D. C., are available here. Before you send the form, talk over your request with the archivist.

Naturalization records for the following local courts can be found at NARA:

United States Circuit Court        1790-present
United States District Court       1790-present


Philadelphia City Archives (PAR)

Naturalization Index to Declarations and Petitions, Mayors Court, Recorders Court, Criminal Sessions Court, and General Sessions Court. Available at PAR.

Descriptive Inventory of the Archives of the City and County of Philadelphia. FLP - 016.9748 P53d (Room Ref).

In the reference area at PAR, there is some unique material that may help locate an immigrant ancestor.

Naturalization records for the following local courts can be found at PAR:

  • Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, 1793-1906
  • Philadelphia District Court, 1811-1874
  • Philadelphia Court of Quarter Sessions, 1802-1897, 1914-1930
  • Philadelphia Court of Criminal Sessions, 1838-1840
  • Philadelphia Court of General Sessions, 1840-1843
  • Mayor's Court of Philadelphia, 1814-1838
  • Recorders Court of Northern Liberties and Kensington, 1836-1838


Pennsylvania State Archives (PAA)

Guide to Genealogical Sources at the Pennsylvania State Archives. 016.9293 P384g2 (Room Ref).

Naturalization records for persons who naturalized in Philadelphia through the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania 1794-1824 and 1843-1868 can be found at PAA. Inquiries can be sent to the Pennsylvania State Archives, P.O. Box 1026, William Penn Memorial Museum, Harrisburg, PA 17108.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS)

LDS pamphlet Tracing Immigrant Origins. Available at LDS.

The LDS collection is the largest collection of genealogical material in the world and is worldwide in scope. Much of the material in their catalog is on microfilm and available for loan for a nominal fee. LDS is an outstanding resource especially for hard to find emigration information.

Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies (BIES)

The BIES, a world class library for ethnic and immigration studies, became part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 2002. Click on "About Us" on the Historical Society's homepage for a link to the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies. Materials stemming from the Balch and Balch collections, or relevant to the ethnic and immigrant experience, can be found throughout the HSP site. Please visit the Quick Links on the Ethnic and Immigrant Experience for assistance in locating this material.

Independence Seaport Museum (ISM)

Information on the New York Maritime Register is available at ISM. This weekly shipping newspaper covers the period 1868-1941 and lists vessels of all nationalities clearing the eastern ports of the United States. The entire career of a vessel can be traced by using the index.

Questions concerning passenger lists, immigration and emigration information, naturalizations, oaths of allegiance, and passports can be directed to the Social Science and History Department, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103. (215) 686-5396.