Wednesday, July 10, 2024

New Orleans, With Gaps


Surely, this has got to be a rule: when searching for passenger records containing the names of your ancestors, those pages will be the ones included in the section referred to as "with gaps." In the case of my husband's second great-grandfather John Stevens, his likely brother Hugh, and even John's in-laws, the Kellys, every one of their records apparently fell within that same category: the "gaps."

While I'm waiting to see the actual copy of Hugh Stevens' First Declaration, complete with reported date of arrival in New Orleans, I thought I'd revisit what's available online for digitized passenger records. While there is admittedly plenty to view, there is one caveat: many versions of the records admit that they come "with some gaps."

That, as it turned out a few years ago when I last attempted this question of immigration, was what stopped me in my tracks. It was hard enough trying to find someone with a name as common as John Stevens. I thought with the less common given name Hugh, I might have better luck. Not so, apparently.

Still, there are several resources online to guide a researcher through all the options. For those subscribers to, of course there are record sets available there for New Orleans passengers from 1813 through 1963, including a 2022 update adding relative contact names, presumably for the much-later arrivals. A similar searchable list at provides a second way to search for Hugh, though it notes that "some arrival dates are not represented in the data"—a fancier way to admit, "with some gaps."

There is, admittedly, a wealth of resources for those seeking passenger records for a multitude of American ports, such as this browsable listing at the National Archives. And thankfully, Joe Beine compiled a list which includes helpful advice on filling in the gaps with other finding aids for New Orleans arrivals.

Well, that's a start. But it's also a road I've traveled before. While it's worth a try again, to see whether any record sets have indeed been updated, this may be a case of needing to look elsewhere for the information I'm seeking. After all, what I really want is to learn about Hugh's parents, back in County Mayo, Ireland.

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