Directly quoting Ancestry.com, Passenger arrival lists are among the most highly prized records for documenting an ancestor’s immigration because of the significance of that move. Lists were not kept for every ship and some have been lost, but those that survive are becoming increasingly available online and new indexes afford us much better access to them. Because the forms used for passenger arrival records for the most part weren’t standardized until the twentieth century, earlier records will vary in content, but even the earliest records have a story to tell when you put them in the context of history, your family, and the journey itself.
Early passenger lists typically include the name of the ship, the names of passengers, ages, ports of arrival and departure, date, country of origin, and occupation.
20th century lists include even more details, giving the town or county of origin, and the names of other family members, destination, physical description, and more. Passenger lists are typically used by family historians to document their immigrant ancestor’s trip to their new country, but don’t overlook the possibility of finding ancestors who were visiting relatives, traveling for business, or for pleasure.