California Passenger Lists
In addition to using microfilm available at the National Archives, you can now search California passenger lists online at one of several Web sites. Through this site, we share details about the history of immigration, but focus on special tips to search passenger arrival records. Use of this site is completely FREE, but please note that some sites described and linked to may require subscription or payment to fully utilize their services.
Below is a listing of some other popular U.S. ports available for online searching:
Baltimore Passenger Lists, 1820-1948
Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1943
California Passenger and Crew Lists, 1893-1957
New Orleans Passenger Lists, 1820-1945
Philadelphia Passenger Lists, 1800-1945
Passenger & Immigration Lists Index, 1500s - 1900s
About California Passenger and Crew Lists, 1893-1957
This database is an index to passenger and crew lists of ships and some airplanes arriving at Los Angeles, San Pedro, San Francisco, and Ventura, California* between 1893 and 1957. In addition, the names found in the index are linked to actual images of the passenger and crew lists, copied from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) microfilm (see Source Information for specific microfilm series and roll information).
*Some of these lists indicate other California ports as the port of arrival but the records were filed at one of the above listed ports.
Passengers who were enroute to their final destinations were headed either to other U.S. ports, such as San Francisco, or to foreign ports, such as Yokohama, Japan. Ports of embarkations for these passengers varied, but included ports in South America, the Panama Canal Zone, Hong Kong, Japan, Canada, Hawaii, and other U.S. ports.
A variety of Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) forms were used to record information about the passengers and crew members. Different forms could be used depending on whether the individual was a passenger on a plane, passenger on a vessel, crew member, citizen, alien, etc. Forms may have simply changed over time as well. Due to the variety of forms, the amount of information available for an individual in this database will vary according to the form used and the questions asked on it. The type of information that is generally contained in this database though, includes:
- Birth date
- Last residence
- Vessel or airline name
- Port of departure
- Port of arrival
- Date of arrival
(or if unknown, date shore leave was granted or date of departure from the arrival port)
Additional information about an individual may be recorded on the original document and may be obtained by viewing the corresponding image. Many of these items may be used to search the index in the search template above.
It is important to note that the port of departure listed on these passenger lists is not always the original port of departure for these individuals. A ship could make several voyages throughout the year, making several stops along way. Oft times the port of departure found on these lists is the most recent port the ship was located at prior to arriving at the port of San Francisco. Therefore, if your ancestors emigrated to the U.S. from Australia, they could be found on a passenger list coming from Honolulu, Hawaii (if, in this case, the ship left from Sydney, Australia then continued on to Honolulu, Hawaii before arriving in San Francisco).
The microcopies of the passenger lists are arranged chronologically by arrival date of vessel or airplane. If you do not wish to search this database using the search template, the images may be browsed following the chronological arrangement. To browse the images first select the “Year” in which you would like to search, followed by the “Month”, and finally the “Ship Name”.
To learn about researching in passenger records consult John P. Colletta’s book, They Came In Ships (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993).
Some of the above information was taken from:
Prechtel-Kluskens, Claire, comp. Publication Details of Lists of Passengers who Arrived at San Pedro/Los Angeles, California, 1920-1949, in Transit to Their Final Destinations, (National Archives, Washington, D.C.).
Publication Details of Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at San Pedro/Wilmington/Los Angeles, California, June 29, 1907-June 30, 1948, (National Archives, Washington, D.C.).
Publication Details of Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at Ventura, California, May 1929-December 1949, (National Archives, Washington, D.C.).
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