Why Can’t I Find My Ancestors in the Baltimore Passenger List?

When you are looking at United States passenger arrival records, sometimes you just wonder how complete they really are. Many people don’t think in these terms, but gaps in the records would go a long way to explain why you’re not finding your ancestors. Many researchers just assume the passenger arrival records are all complete – not so!

A case in point, which is always frustrating to me as a professional genealogist are the arrival records for Baltimore, Maryland. Irish immigrant research can be difficult enough, so the positive of knowing there are gaps in records, such as the Baltimore lists, explains a lot. My discussion below comes from the wonderful book by Michael Tepper American Passenger Arrival Records (1993), pp. 83-85, www.genealogical.com A resource book worth consulting for all the ports.

Many early Baltimore passenger arrival records were destroyed in a fire. However, valuable information has been filled in by way of other transcripts or abstracts. Even with this as a positive, what you need to be aware in Irish immigrant research is there entire years which are missing. Among these are 1842, 1844, 1846, 1847, 1851-56, 1864 and 1867. Of course this is right before, during and after, peek Irish immigration.

Some of this information is supplemented by other sources such as City Lists or Quarterly Abstracts. However, don’t assume all information is duplicated. For a major port such as Baltimore, what you need to be aware of is that there are some substitutes, and this includes four categories:

*State Department Transcripts (1820, 1822-27, 1829)

*City Lists (1833-66)

*Quarterly Abstracts (1820-69)

*Original Lists (1820-91)

The Baltimore passenger arrival records are indexed on microfilm as well on Ancestry as “Baltimore Passenger Lists, 1820-1948, 1854-1957”: www.ancestry.com