Shipwrecked Passengers Bound for the Americas, 1817 - 1875

This collection was researched and transcribed by NYG&B Fellow Frank A. Biebel in 2013. He states that the Act of 1819 "made no provision for the inevitable shipwreck(s), including survivors.” This lead to there being “no comprehensive list” of the names of the victims of the shipwrecks, leaving most of them unknown.

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Collection Category: Immigration|Collection Type: OCR|Location: All NY Counties

The Act of 1819 was an attempt to regulate passenger ships coming U.S. ports from Europe. This makes the enactment of this law timely. Between 1817 and 1875, the U.S. experienced an influx of European immigrants. There was much traffic on the Atlantic and that meant that shipwrecks were common. Unfortunately, the Act of 1819 was created without much thought of documenting shipwrecks and how prevelent they would be. It's creation did lead to the documentation the shipwrecks and their victims. The records are not comprehesive, but the information in this collection has important genealogical data. 

In this volume you will find 339 listed shipwrecks that Biebel noted were, for the most part, not covered “in print or on-line.”

The collection mainly covers shipwrecks of European ships traveling to the United States, although some ships to Canada and other countries are included. Most of these 339 ships were wrecked and did not make it to port.

This volume is text searchable – searches entered will query this volume.

Details given in the documents include:

  • Port of embarkation
  • Destination port
  • Account of the wreck
  • Names of known survivors
  • Disposition of survivors
  • Passenger lists (if available)

For those who survived, these records serve to document the story of a unique and rare immigration experience; for those who died, the records serve as a particularly tragic death record. In either case, a discovery here will become a story worth telling.

The principal sources used by Biebel were newspaper accounts and, in some cases, passenger lists from the port of departure that were submitted to the immigration authorities of New York. Crew only, military and fishing vessels are excluded.

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Suggested citation for this collection:
New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, “Shipwrecked Passengers Bound for the Americas, 1817 - 1875” digital images, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, (, 2019.