Ship Manifests

How and where would a newspaper reporter in 1899 view Ship Manifests from ships arriving in Boston from Ireland?

  • Hi Anne,

    Prior to World War I, most Steamship Line offices would respond to reference requests from the public or reporters.  If the ship arrived in Boston, then that ship's line office in Boston (or the line's principle ticket agent) would have the line's copy of the manifest on file.  Many people who found the gov't couldn't find their record would visit or write to the SS Line in the city of arrival and ask them to search and find the correct ship and date.  The lines usually charged a fee for this service.

    During WW I the US gov't seized he records of the Italian and German lines from their offices here.  The British lines likely kept their records but after the war the government asked the lines to ensure security of the information.  Fraud investigations of the 1920's and 1930's found that some people were still able to get such information from the SS Lines.

    The fraud problems were not just alterations of the records (changed or added names).  Rather, some paid to have them find a record that COULD be the person who wanted a record of lawful admission.  Someone from the same country, same age, hair color, etc.  Then the immigrant just applied for naturalization under the lawful passenger's name!  Hence the gov't tryed to control access to that information.  

    Marian Smith

  • Hi Marian, Thank you so much for your response! Sorry for this late reply. Do you know if the town my character was from in Ireland would have been listed on the manifest, or would it just be the port she left from?

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