Ship Manifests Search Example for Ancestor Research

Attempt to Find a Ship Manifest Using the Census Record Arrival Year

My first hint of when my great-grandfather John Alm and family came to this country was from census records. The 1900, 1910, and 1920 U.S. Federal Censuses all showed that his immigration year was 1880. The first searched the Immigration & Travel records at Ancestry.com using the name John Alm and 1880 as the arrival year, but was not successful.

Census Records Showed the Family Immigrated Together

John traveled to the U.S. with his wife and family.The names of all family members born in Sweden were obtained from both family stories and the census records. Having more than one family member traveling together makes it easier to be sure the right ship manifest is found. I also searched the Immigration & Travel records using all the names of his wife and the names of four children born in Sweden, but did not find anyone.

Searching for Naturalization Papers

So, to get more information, I searched the North Dakota Naturalization Records Database using his name, country of birth, and residence of Cass County. I knew John lived in Cass County based on family information that the family farm was near Christine, North Dakota, in Cass County. There was only one John Alm from Sweden in Cass County listed. The listing provided the volume and page number of John's first and second naturalization papers. Using that information, I ordered his naturalization papers from the State Historical Society of North Dakota State Archives. His first papers showed that he arrived at the Port of Boston in 1880. The Port of Boston was very useful new information—assuming it was correct.

Smaller Screens

The image below might be difficult to view on a smaller screen. You can enlarge the image by spreading your thumb and finger on the screen. If that does not work or it is still hard to read, try tapping on the image. That will bring up a larger image that you can view. The larger image should be easier to view on a smaller screen.

John Alm Naturalization Papers
John Alm Naturalization Papers

Why I Did Not Find a Ship Manifest on Ancestry.com

I went back to Ancestry.com to check the Card Catalog for the Massachusetts, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1963. Turns out, at the time, Ancestry.com was missing the passenger lists for the Port of Boston for 1875 through 1882. That explained why I could not find John Alm or any family members.

Searching for a Ship Manifest in the Massachusetts Archives

Next, I turned to the Massachusetts Archives to search the Passenger Manifest Lists online. Still no luck. The passenger lists at the Masschusetts Archives, however, were not fully indexed at the time. The website did gave the option of asking a Reference Archivist to search if the request was specific. The request needed the full name of the person who immigrated, an approximate time frame for arrival at the port, age at arrival, and names and ages of family members traveling together. (I had the arrival month from the naturalization papers and the rest of the information from the census records mentioned above.) The Reference Archivist found the Alm family. This is the index card the archivist sent:

Marathon Ship Manifest Index Card
Marathon Ship Manifest Index Card

Why it is Useful When Family Members Immigrate Together

The card did not show the name "John" as the father, but all the other people and ages matched. (This is one reason why it is so helpful when family members travelled together. It makes verification easier.) I did not know it at the time, but John's name in Sweden was originally Per (or Peter) Johan Svensson. Later on, you will also see family members using various names. This card gave May 16, 1880 as the arrival date and Marathon as the ship name.

The Arrival Ship Manifest

I then requested and received ship manifests for the family from the Massachusetts Archives. The family is between the red dashed lines that I added:

Marathon Ship Manifest  Marathon Ship Manifest
Marathon Ship Manifest

Adding Details to the Immigration Story

Next, I wanted to find out how long of a journey they had. John Alm's wife was Marie Alm (Maria Nilsdotter in Sweden). Several family members had researched Marie Alm's Swedish ancestry. From that research, I knew Marie and her siblings grew up on the S?tterstad Farm near Sunne, Sweden and that Marie and two sisters moved to Ljusne, Sweden to find work. I located the Alm family's household record in Ljusne at ArkivDigital. It showed they left Ljusne, Sweden for "N. Amerika" on April 15, 1880. See the red arrow below. Look to the left and you will see the father's name is Per Joh Svensson Alm or Peter Johan Svensson Alm. This is John Alm. Marie's name is shown as Maria Nilsdotter. The names of the four children who traveled with them to the United States are also shown. These household records contain plenty of information. Everyone's birth date and birth place is listed. You can also see that the John moved to Lusne in 1877 from S?derhamn.

Per Johann Svensson Household
Per Johann Svensson Household

Searching for the Swedish Departure Ship Manifest to Liverpool

I next searched the Gothenburg, Sweden, Passenger Lists, 1869-1951 at Ancestry.com. They departed from the port of Gothenburg (G?teborg in Swedish) on April 30, 1880 for Liverpool, England. See the red arrow below. This manifest states their destination of Moorhead, Minnesota. Moorhead is near the farm in North Dakota where they settled.

Goteborg Ship Manifest
Goteborg Ship Manifest

Determining When the Alm Family Departed Liverpool

To find out when they departed Liverpool for Boston, I found the schedule for the S. S. Marathon at Norway Heritage. Using the May 16 arrival date from the index card I found earlier, I could see that the Alm family left Liverpool on May 5, 1880. See the arrow below.

Marathon Schedule
Marathon Schedule

The Full Immigration Story for the Alm Family

So, I now have the outline for the Alm family's journey to the United States. They left Ljusne, Sweden on April 15, 1880 and traveled to Gothenburg, Sweden. They left Gothenburg by ship on April 30, arriving in Liverpool, England. On May 5, they departed Liverpool for Boston, arriving on May 16. Finally, from an entry in the History of Christine, North Dakota, the family arrived in Moorhead Minnesota by train on May 30. The total journey was 45 days for John, Marie, and their four young children.

Additional Relatives Immigrated to Where the Alm Family Settled

Two of Marie Alm's siblings eventually moved close to the farm near Christine, North Dakota. Her brother, Jan Nilsson (his name in Sweden), departed the S?tterstad Farm near Sunne, Sweden on March 27, 1888 with a destination of "Christine, Dak." according to the Swedish Emigration Records at Ancestry.com. Her sister Emma Nilsdotter (her name in Sweden) left the S?tterstad Farm February 28, 1894. She sailed from Gothenburg on April 6, 1894, traveling under the name Emma N. Setterstad (yes, like the farm name). See the arrow below.

Goteberg Manifest
Goteberg Manifest

The Immigration Journey for Marie Alm's Sister

She sailed from Liverpool on April 12, 1894 arriving at the Port of Boston on April 23. The last name is now Satterstad in this manifest. Her brother J. Nelson (Jan Nilsson in Sweden) in North Dakota paid her passage and she planned to join him. Note how much more information is on this 1894 manifest compared to the one from 1880 for the Alm family.

Catalonia Manifest
Catalonia Manifest

Sister Joined Brother and Both Changed Their Last Names

And yes, Emma did join her brother Jan. (He was now using John for his first name.) They were in this 1895 Minnesota Territorial Census for Wolverton, Minnesota, just four miles from the Alm farm in Christine, North Dakota. Note that now they are both using the last name of Skogland or Skoglund (see the red arrows). Family stories mentioned that my great-grandmother had also used this last name at times, which is why I knew to look for that name as a possibility instead of Nelson or Satterstad. Also, note Emma's occupation is "house keeper" whereas the other women on this page have the occupation of "house wife." That is because Emma was John's sister.

1895 Territorial Census for Wolverton, Minnesota
1895 Territorial Census for Wolverton, Minnesota

Hints from Other Family Trees Helped

So, how did I know to look for Emma Satterstad instead of Emma Nilsdotter in the ship manifests? I found another family tree on Ancestry.com that had that information. Other family trees can sometimes provide very good hints.

Additional Resources Related to Ship Manifests

Not Sure, Try Our Free Online Genealogy Search Advisor

If you are not sure that searching for a ship manifest is the next best option for your research, consider using the advice feature of this site. This will help you pick your next best steps in your research. Go to the .

Ship Manifests Search Guide Context

Other Genealogy Search Guides