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Genealogy: Immigration & Ships Passenger Lists

Explore History of immigration in the United States

History of immigration in the United States

Official listing of immigration in the U.S. began in 1820

History of a country, region, or group

Records Indexes & Bibliographies

The Passenger and Immigration Lists Index (PILI) is available online in the paid subscription to It is not available in  Ancestry Library Edition.

Finding Books in Catalogs

  • passenger list*
  • italians passenger
  • Scottish Americans genealogy
  • alsace genealogy
  • Quakers genealogy
  • ships passenger lists united states

* searches for any words beginning with that root word; example: list, lists, listing, listings

Immigrant Arrivals in the United States

New York - Welcome to the land of freedom - An ocean steamer passing the Statue of Liberty: Scene on the steerage deck.

1887. Woodcut. Immigrants on deck of steamer "Germanic."  Illus. in: Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, 1887 July 2, pp. 324-325. From Library of Congress.

For information about ship passenger lists, research guidelines, and resources, see

in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy

Immigration Records

Typical immigration records are:

  • Passenger lists
  • Citizenship (naturalization) papers
  • Oaths of allegiance
  • Alien registrations

Other records include:

  • immigrant aid societies
  • ethnic and heritage societies

Multiple Sources Give Clues

In addition to immigration sources, other sources may give important clues for immigration research.

Immigration Research Approaches (online in wiki) provides a list of many of these sources. (In The Source, print in library)

The census is an excellent example of this kind of source. Census schedules may help pin down a date and a country.

Census questions have asked questions about naturalization/immigration from 1880 to 1930. 1850 to 1870 asked the birthplace of each person.

  • 1850 to 1870 has every person’s country or state of birth
  • 1880 to 1930 has birthplaces of both parents
  • 1920 has the year of naturalization
  • 1930 has year of both immigration into the United States and naturalization, if applicable

Research Guidelines

Search American records first

Including family lore, census records, etc.


History and process of immigration in the United States

Official listing of immigration in the U.S. began in 1820

Place of origin, the history and immigration patterns

Subject Librarian

Rebecca Knight's picture
Rebecca Knight
Associate librarian
Reference and Instructional Services Department
Morris Library, Room 117H

Subjects: U.S. Government Information,
Delaware, census, family studies, RefWorks, APA style, and genealogy.

B.A., History. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 1973.
M.S., Library Science. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 1981.



From "Passenger Ships and Images," Ancestry Library Edition.