How to Find Your Ancestors in Colonial Passenger Lists in the Early 1600s
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How to Find Your Ancestors in Colonial Passenger Lists in the Early 1600s

This article gives hints and tips on finding your ancestors in the passenger lists of colonial ships that transported immigrants to the American colonies in the interests of genealogical research.

Finding your ancestors in passenger lists in the colonial period may be challenging. In the early years of immigration there was no federal government to oversee immigration. The individual colonies supervised what ships landed in their territory. Lists and documents were of interest to the shipping company, but there was no governmental oversight. At that time Canada and the Colonies were all English, but there were immigrants from all over Europe.

Immigration was greatly influenced by the prevalence of war in both Europe and the colonies. Shipping was disrupted by war and the manpower needed on ships was limited when the navies were commandeering available seamen. Between 1775 and 1815 there was little immigration.  Some records of laters ships and  passengers is available through the NARA at archives.gov.   Although the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620 is the official date of the beginning of the migration to the New World, the arrival of the Winthrop fleet in 1630 was the beginning of the major wave of immigration to the Americas. It is estimated by statisticians that as many as third to a fourth of the immigrants were forced as slaves from Africa.

To confirm that your ancestors were in a particular location, church records and cemetery records may be a good place to start. There were taxes charged to land owners, but women and children’s names were not included unless the woman was single or widowed and a landowner. The first Federal US Census was conducted in 1790. The head of household is the only name recorded with a list of the number of people in the house and their approximate ages.

Search here for the names of ships which transported immigrants. Search each ship listed for an ancestor’s name. You may also search the list of passengers. Most of the ships on the list left from England, but there were also some form Holland. If you are lucky enough to have the date your ancestors left Europe, check this ship list because it is chronologically organized. This list is not yet complete. Check back later for additions.

Do not assume too much: You will need confirming evidence from other sources to identify and place your ancestor in a particular place. When recording facts, write down ever piece of information you find. Do not be discouraged if the information excludes someone from further investigation. You want to be accurate.

Once you have the name of a ship, look for it in other collections. You might even want to research the name of the master of the ship to confirm dates he sailed. If he died before your ancestor was born, you may need to begin again. Genealogical research must begin in more recent times and move backward. The more evidence you find the more sure you are that you have the right name and you can tie the ancestor to current members of the family or historical events.

Passengers http://www.packrat-pro.com/ships/shipnamesR.htm

Ships http://www.packrat-pro.com/ships/shipnamesR.htm

Genealogy.com http://www.genealogy.com/102/lesson1/course1_03.html

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