How to Find Your 18th Century Immigrant’s Signature

What do you do when you need to see the actual passenger list for the ship you believe your ancestor, a non-British subject, came over on in the 18th century? My 1752 immigrant ancestor Johann Jacob RUPP of Oberhoffen-lès-Wissembourg in Northern Alsace came from Rotterdam by way of Cowes on the Duke of Wirtenburg captained by Daniel Montpelier and arrived on Friday, 20 October 1752 in Philadelphia.

The Harbor of Philadelphia seen from New Jersey Shore, based on Scull’s Map of 1754 (From Etching in The Historical Society of Pennsylvania) published in “Pennsylvania German Pioneers, Volume II” (Strassburger, 1934) Courtesy of the Internet Archive

There are transcribed lists but for one reason or the other, you may want to see the original list or at least a facsimile of your ancestor’s signature. My Jacob RUPP, if he came on the Duke of Wirtenburg, was listed as Jacob BUB on the transcription. Further research as discussed in Three Fantastic Finds Made While Researching 1752 Immigrant Johann Jacob Rupp and Working Through Old and New Research Material to Prove the Immigrant’s Ship has narrowed the possibility down to Jacob BUB being Jacob RUPP due to other evidence found. However, seeing his signature or his name written by the captain or a clerk on one of the three sets of passenger lists would be so much better than a transcription.

The Pennsylvania State Archives maintains official ships’ passenger lists on microfilm for the Europeans, mainly German, Dutch, Swiss and French, who arrived at the Port of Philadelphia during the years 1727-1744, 1746-1756, 1761, 1763-1775, 1785-1808. [Source]

There are three sets of passenger lists:

  • “A” lists are the Captains’ Lists of passengers being imported
  • “B” lists are Oaths of Allegiance to the King
  • “C” lists are Oaths of Abjuration from the Pope.

These lists have been published in Pennsylvania German Pioneers: A Publication of the Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia from 1727 to 1808 by Ralph B. Strassburger and William J. Hinke (1934) in three volumes. Volume I has the transcriptions of the lists in chronological order of the arrival of the ship, Volume II has facsimiles of all signatures on the original lists, and Volume III contains an index of names of passengers, captains, and ships.

The index in Vol. III will help you locate your ancestor on the ship lists listed in Vol. I, or Vol. III if they arrived 1785-1808. When you know the name of the ship and the arrival date you can go to Vol. II to see your ancestor’s name as written by the captain on List A, or as he signed or marked on Lists B and/or C. It is best to use all three volumes of the collection when searching for your ancestor. But what if you don’t have access to them or believe you cannot access them?

I’ve searched many times on the internet for digital copies of books and usually if they are old enough and out of copyright, I will find them on the Internet Archive. In the case of this collection, I located Volume I a few years ago. I didn’t know there was a volume with facsimiles of the signatures or an index. When I learned about the rest of the collection I searched but, due to quirky indexing on the Internet Archive, could not turn up a hit on Volume II.

worldcatA search on WorldCat, which I rarely use, turned up the above result.

And this is why I was having problems finding them on the Internet Archive:


Volume I was indexed as Volume 3, II as 4, and III as 5. But more important are the views. Only 70 for Volume II as it was only recently digitized in late 2015. If your ancestor came over during this time period, landing in Philadelphia, then Happy Huntings!


© 2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


Author: Cathy Meder-Dempsey

When I’m not doing genealogy and blogging, I spend time riding my racing bike with my husband through the wonderful Luxembourg countryside.

4 thoughts on “How to Find Your 18th Century Immigrant’s Signature”

    1. Thank you Amy!! I’m really excited about these and will be looking up my my Hans Jacob Honegger who arrived on the H.M.S. Crown in Philadelphia on August 30, 1749 and Johann Michel Funfrock, the step-father-in-law of my Johann Jacob RUPP, who came 18 years later in 1770 on the Minerva. I’ll also be looking at the other RUPP men who came between 1727-1775 to see if they were relatives from Oberhoffen. Always busy….


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