Port of Boston

Boston-1914-manifestNot all immigrants into America came through the New York City ports. Philadelphia, PA and Baltimore, MD had been traditional ports of entry for decades, especially in the 1700s and into the 1800s. In the south, the port of New Orleans was another popular entrance for those wanting to settle in the south or to go west. 

Yet, your ancestors may have come through the Port of Boston. This is especially true between 1847 and 1854, Boston began drawing a minimum of 20,000 immigrants per year thanks to subsidized immigration from Britain via the Cunard Ship Line. Even with British subsidies, the $17 to $20 fares left most of the new immigrates with nothing once they arrived. With no money to travel further most of the Irish immigrants remained in Boston rather than moving on. By 1850, three quarters of the foreign-born residents of the city were Irish. Then in the 1890s, and into the 20th century the Irish were joined by large numbers of immigrants from Eastern and Mediterranean Europe. Jewish immigrants fleeing poor living conditions in Eastern Europe came to settle in Boston.

During those years the immigrants were processed at Boston - Long Wharf mapLong Wharf at the terminus of State Street which finally was replaced with a new facility in 1920 termed East Boston Immigration Station, and referred to as “Boston’s Ellis Island.” It remained in operation until 1954. So depending when your ancestors arrived, it could had been at the Long Wharf or East Boston Immigration Station. My English ancestors arrived in 1914, so they came in at the Long Wharf.

Using the Ancestry.com site and its section titled; “Boston, Passenger and Crew List, 1820-1954” you might be able to locate your ancestors. These records are originally from the National Archives. Also using the local Family History Centers, microfilm of those passenger lists are available. On FamilySearch.org the passenger lists for Boston are also found, with over 460,000 listings, and later listings.

 Boston-East Boston Immigration Station1922

Photos: ‘Kershaw family’ on the Carmania Ship manifest April 23, 1914 for the Port of Boston, early Long Wharf and East Boston Immigration Station in 1922.

Related genealogy blogs from FamilyTree.com:

Ships Carrying Immigrants


Castle Garden


Irish Come to America


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