Massachusetts Emigration and Immigration

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The FamilySearch moderator for Massachusetts is Lee Drew.

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

For information about immigrants, see:

The United States Research. The "Emigration and Immigration" section lists national sources that include many references to Massachusetts settlers.

Tracing Immigrant Origins introduces the principles, search strategies, and additional record types you can use to identify an immigrant ancestor's original hometown.

People[edit | edit source]

1600s. Early settlers of Massachusetts generally came from England and Scotland and the other New England states. Plymouth Colony was first settled in 1620. From 1630 to 1642, fifteen to twenty thousand people settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Up to 1880. Significant immigration from other European countries began in the 1840s, when many people came to work in the textile mills. Prior to 1880 about 95 percent of the overseas immigrants to Massachusetts came from Britain, Ireland, and northern Europe. The Irish were the largest immigrant group from the late 1840s through the rest of the 19th century. In the 1870s large numbers of Canadians, especially French Canadians, began to move overland into the state.

After 1880. A significant change in immigration patterns occurred after 1880. A wave of Italian and Portuguese immigration began in the late 1880s and reached its high point just prior to World War I. Russians, Russian Jews, and people from Poland and other Slavic countries came in large numbers in the early 20th century. In 1907, for example, 80 percent of the immigrants to Massachusetts were from southern and eastern Europe.

An especially helpful source on immigration and ethnic groups in Massachusetts is:

Thayer, Mrs. Nathaniel. The Immigrants (1830-1929) in Volume 4 of Commonwealth History of Massachusetts, pp. 142–71. Edited by Albert B. Hart. New York, NY: The States History Company, 1930. FHL book 974.4 H2ha

Records[edit | edit source]

Boston Passenger Lists. Boston is the major port of entry to New England. The Family History Library and the National Archives have passenger lists for Boston from 1820 to March 1874 and from 1883 to 1943. See the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under MASSACHUSETTS, SUFFOLK, BOSTON - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION.

Indexes to Boston Passenger Lists. These indexes are also available:

Index for 1820-1874:

United States, Bureau of Customs. A Supplemental Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Atlantic & Gulf Coast Ports (excluding New York) 1820–1874. Washington, DC: National Archives Records Services, 1960. FHL films 418161–348 This is listed in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under UNITED STATES - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION - INDEXES.

Index for 1848-1891:

Bureau of Customs. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston, 1820–1891: with index 1848–1891. Washington, DC: National Archives Record Service, 1959–1960. FHL film 205656 (first of 397 films This is listed in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under MASSACHUSETTS, SUFFOLK, BOSTON - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION.

The 1848–1891 index (above) to the state passenger lists can also be used to access the National Archives records.

Boston passenger lists for 1848–1891 are also at the Massachusetts State Archives. These include records for the nine years missing from the National Archives records.

Passenger lists for 1874–1883 can be digatally accessed through the Family History Library Catalog. The title is Registers of passengers arriving in Massachusetts ports, 1848-1891 by the Massachusetts State Archives. This catalog entry has earlier and later lists as well.

Indexes for 1902–1940:

United States, Immigration and Naturalization Service:

  • Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels arriving at Boston, Jan. 1, 1902–Dec. 31, 1920
  • Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston, Aug. 1, 1891–1935
  • Book Indexes to Boston Passenger Lists, 1899–1940

Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Service, 1944–1945, 1956. FHL film 1324975 (first of 594 films)

Other Passenger Lists. Also consult passenger lists of other New England ports and for ports in Canada. For Canadian border entries from 1895 to 1924, see:

United States, Immigration and Naturalization Services. St. Albans District Manifest Records of Aliens Arriving from Foreign Contiguous Territory. Washington, DC: National Archives Records Service, 1986. (On 400 films, beginning with FHL film 1472801 (first of 937 films) There are soundex indexes for 1895–1924 and 1924–1952. These records are listed in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under UNITED STATES - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION.

Ships[edit | edit source]

Lloyd's Register of Shipping identifies ships leaving England, their masters, ports of departure, and destinations. They survive as early as 1764 and are being put online at Lloyd's Register of Ships Online - free.

Many ships that sailed from Bristol, England to Boston are described in: Bristol, Africa and the Eighteenth-Century Slave Trade to America 1698-1807 (4 vols.) FHL British Books 942.41/B2 B4b v. 38-39, 42, 47. All four volumes are available for free online at the Bristol Record Society website.

British Naval Office Shipping Lists, 1678-1825, have been digitized by British Online Archives (site requires subscription). Names of passengers are not included.

Sources[edit | edit source]

The following sources index names of immigrants to Massachusetts:

Filby, P. William. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. 11 Volumes. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1981-. (FHL book 973 W32p; some volumes are on microfilm.) Indexes over 500,000 passengers to America from 1650 to mid-1980 in published passenger lists. Includes the immigrant's name, age, and year of arrival. Provides source list for all indexed passengers. The first three volumes are a combined alphabetical index that was published in 1981. Supplemental volumes have been issued annually.

Colket, Meridith B. Founders of Early American Families: Emigrants from Europe 1607–1657. Cleveland, Ohio: General Court of the Order of Founders and Patriots of America, 1985. FHL book 973 W2cm. Includes a list of those who came to the Colonies during the first 50 years. Lists names, dates, and brief information about each immigrant and sources for further research.

Banks, Charles E. Planters of the Commonwealth: Emigrants to New England in Colonial Times. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1961. (Family History Library FHL book 974 W2bf and FHL film 874196 and FHL|283833|item|disp=FHL fiche 6046840}}

Harris, Ruth-Ann M. and Donald M. Jacobs, eds. The Search for Missing Friends. Five Volumes. Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1989–1995. (Family History Library FHL book 974.461 H29s A list of thousands of immigrants who left Ireland from about 1830–1850. Families became separated and began putting advertisements in the Boston Pilot searching for their relatives. These records include name, residence in Ireland, and various items of family information.

Anderson, Robert C. The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England, 1623–1633. Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, c1995. FHL books 974 W2a 3 vols Genealogical information about the early immigrants to New England. Each volume is indexed, with a cumulative index at the end of Volume 3. Well documented with sources cited.

Coldham, Peter Wilson. The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607–1776, and Emigrants in Bondage 1614–1775 FHL Collectiondoes not circulate to Family History Centers [Novato, California]: Brøderbund Software, 1996. A comprehensive list of about 140,000 immigrants to America from Britain. Includes Massachusetts immigrants. May show British hometown, emigration date, ship, destination, and text of the document abstract.

Coldham, Peter Wilson. The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614–1775. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1988. FHL book 973 W2c An alphabetical list of English convicts transported to colonial America.

Coldham, Peter Wilson. The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1661–1669. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1990. FHL book 973 W2coL A list of those who emigrated from England to America, including those who were deported and those sold into labor. Compiled from English public records.

Coldham, Peter Wilson. The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1700–1750. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992. FHL book 973 W2coL A list of those who emigrated from England to America. Compiled from English public records. Usually gives name, age, occupation, residence, ship, destination, and precise source citation.

Bolton, Ethel Stanwood. Immigrants to New England, 1700–1775. Salem, Massachusetts: Essex Institute, 1931. FHL book 974 W2b and FHL film 874195 item 3 This list includes names, dates, place of origin, place of settlement, and some family information.

Michael Tepper, ed. Passengers to America. A Consolidation of Ship Passenger Lists from rthe New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Baltimore:Genealogical Publishing Company, 1977. FHL 973 W3t

Background[edit | edit source]

Col. Banks published an article describing migration patterns from England to New England (as they were known in 1930):

  • Banks, Charles Edward. "The Topographical Sources of English Emigration to the New England Colonies 1620-1650," The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. 61, No. 1 (Jan. 1930):3-6. Digital version at New York Family History ($); FHL book 974.7 B2n v. 61.

Websites[edit | edit source]

Emigration and Immigration Records and Resources
Ancestry has a very large immigration database but is a subscription website. Other helpful sites include:

A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:
Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1891-1943 - FamilySearch Historical Records

References[edit | edit source]

Massachusetts Emigration and Immigration .

NOTE: All of the information from the original research outline has been imported into this Wiki site and is being updated as time permits.