Expert answers to your genealogy questions.
Q. What’s the best place to find passenger ship crew lists? According to his naturalization certificate, my great-grandfather entered the United States at New York in January 1856. I suspect he was crew, as he lists himself as a mariner and ship’s cook.
A. An early 19th-century law required the masters of American vessels arriving at US ports from abroad, or leaving US ports on foreign voyages, to file crew lists with the customs agent at the port of entry. The original purpose of the act was to protect American mariners against the threat of impressment, by providing a convenient means of identification. But the crew lists often included both Americans and foreign-born sailors.