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Ship Passenger Lists

Irish people have seemingly always been on the move. And they had good reason to be, what with the British breathing down their necks and passing punitive, unfair legislation.

For example, the British passed a 1699 law banning wool exports, which destroyed the Irish wool industry and sent flocks of Protestant wool workers onto outbound ships, fleeing to America and other lands. The Potato Famine of 1845-1847 was another huge stimulus to emigration from Ireland. Many landlords paid the passage for their indigent tenant farmers, as a quick and easy method of regaining possession of their farmlands. If your ancestors came over on a ship in the 1700s, chances are they were Protestants involved in the wool industry; during the 1800s, most were Catholics. In addition to America, Australia and Canada were other popular immigrant destinations.

Filby's Passenger and Immigration Lists Index

One of the best ways to locate a globetrotting ancestor is to look him up in P. William Filby's Passenger and Immigration Lists Bibliography 1538-1900, A Guide to Published Lists of Arrivals in the US & Canada. This colossal guide has three primary volumes, and 19 supplemental volumes, and is an index to passenger arrival records that have been published elsewhere. Even though Filby's lists more than 2 million immigrants, the volumes contain the names of only about 15% of the immigrants to the U.S.

Since Filby's is an index to other published sources, you will need to follow up and locate the book or periodical that contains the actual listing. The actual passenger list may be available available on microfilm from the Mormon Church or the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Microfilm lists can be researched at the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City and through local Mormon Family History Centers. .

One thing to remember when searching ship passenger lists is that, although your ancestor may have hailed from Ireland, most 19th-century Irish emigrants sailed from Liverpool in Great Britain, not from Dublin or an Irish port city.

If you are certain that your ancestor set sail from an Irish port from 1846-1886 bound for Boston or New York, the Genealogical Publishing Company has compiled passenger lists from this period and published them on CD-ROM (visit www.genealogical.com for more information). Available in two separate volumes, this collection of passenger records covers 2 million immigrants who left Ireland during the great mid-19th-century mass exodus. Listed are each passenger's full name, name of ship, port of origin and disembarkation, ship arrival date, passenger's age, gender, and occupation, country of origin, destination, manifest ID number, village or town of origin, and purpose and mode of travel. If you already own the Family Tree Maker software, you will be able to import this ship passenger information directly into the program and possibly save yourself hours of data entry time.


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