New Orleans Passenger Lists  

Prior to the Civil War, many Europeans planning to settle in St. Louis and states proximate to it sailed to the port of New Orleans. Once there, they boarded steamboats and sailed up the Mississippi River to St. Louis. They could then travel by boat, train, wagon, or even in some cases by foot to their ultimate destinations.

The good news for genealogists is that records were kept of passengers arriving at the port of New Orleans. The bad news is that there are two such sets of records, and you may need to check both in order to find your ancestor.

  • New Orleans, Passenger Lists, 1813-1963
  • New Orleans, Passenger List Quarterly Abstracts, 1820-1875

Captains of vessels sailing to New Orleans after 1819 were required to create a list of passengers to be given to the Harbormaster or his assistant on arrival. Passengers were then checked against that list before disembarkation. At the port of New Orleans, the Customs Collector was charged with creating a quarterly abstract of the passenger lists collected by the Harbormaster. Thus, two lists were created for this port.

Now, you can be forgiven for thinking that these two lists must be more or less identical, given that one was created using the other as its source. Due to damage to (and in some cases outright loss of) one record or the other, numerous passengers appear on one list but not the other. For example, I located the records of the following persons in New Orleans, Passenger Lists, 1813-1963, and then checked the New Orleans, Passenger List Quarterly Abstracts, 1820-1875, to see if they appeared in that list.

Passenger                        Arrival Date      in Passenger Lists?     In Quarterly Abstracts?

John R. Pearson              5 Apr 1852                 Yes                             Yes
Thomas Pearson             3 Jul 1830                   Yes                              No
William Pearson             15 Dec 1856               Yes                              No
M. Pearson                      30 Jan 1840                Yes                              No

I then located the records of the following persons in New Orleans, Passenger List Quarterly Abstracts, 1820-1875, and then checked the New Orleans, Passenger Lists, 1813-1963,to see if they appeared in that list.

Passenger                        Arrival Date        in Quarterly Abstracts?   in Passenger Lists?

James Pearson                6 Dec 1850                  Yes                               No
Ann Pearson                   20 Nov 1845               Yes                               Yes
Sarah Pearson                 1 Apr 1857                  Yes                               No
Robert Pearson               22 Feb 1849                 Yes                              Yes

I think my very limited research demonstrates that these lists are not identical, and that a successful search for an ancestor may well require that you check both.

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