Pennsylvania Dutch Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What are ship lists, where can I find them and how will they help me?
A. The information below comes from the introduction to Pennsylvania German Pioneers. The authors, in the forward and introduction to the book, do the best job of explaining the ship lists and what appears on them. Anyone who has access to that book would do well to sit down and spend some time reading the somewhat lengthy foreward and introduction to the book.
Basically a thumbnail sketch is as follows. Many Germans (including Swiss and Alsatians and others) came to ports other than Philadelphia during the 1700s (especially from the 1730s through 1775). There are no standard lists for those arrivals. They arrived at Boston, New York, Baltimore, Charleston, and Savannah. Some of those settlers may have eventually made their way to Pennsylvania without appearing on any list. Pennsylvania was the only colony to require the lists--due to the oath that the foreign arrivals had to take. The lists began in 1727, with the William and Sarah being the first ship to arrive with the requirement of the lists, and were discontinued in 1808. There were 3 lists. The first (list A) was the captains list (maintained by the captain) which was supposed to contain the complete list of passengers. This list was also supposed to contain the town the passengers came from and their occupation. The captains ignored this requirement from the start and never completed that information. How nice it would have been for us if they had complied with the requirements. The second list (list B) was called the list of signers of the oath of allegiance to the British crown. This was supposed to contain the names of those adult males--age 16 and over--who would take the oath of allegiance. However, this list did NOT contain the names of any men who were ill on the day they had to sign their names. They did not go back at a later date and add the names. This list is unreliable and often incomplete. In addition this list was merely kept on a sheet of paper and many were lost. The third list (list C) was the only one to be preserved in a bound book in a complete state. This was the signers of the oath of abjuration and fidelity to the proprietor and the laws of the province of Pennsylvania. This list DID contain the signature (or mark) of ALL adult males--16 years of age and older.
The lists came about in 1727 as a result of the unfounded fears of the British government of a foreign threat from the many Germans settling in Pennsylvania who were not accustomed to the English government, language, and customs. The sheer numbers of the these foreign settlers brought fears of an attempted uprising against British rule.
Each captain interpreted what should be put on the lists in a different manner. Only 25 captains have given complete lists of all the men, women and children on their ships. Three captains have given the names of men and women but omitted the children, and sixty-four captains gave the ages of the passengers which had not ever been asked for. Some captains gave the total number of "freights" with children being considered as half'-freights. In two instances the total number of passengers in a party were given in the lists.
So the lists must be a guide for us but
do not always tell us everything we need
to know about our immigrant Germanic ancestors.