Friday, May 28, 2010


from Genealogy Gems: News from the Fort Wayne Library
No. 73, March 31, 2010

Passengers in the Records of the St. Lawrence Steamboat Company, 1819-1838
by Steven W. Myers

Genealogists whose ancestors traveled to or through Canada before 1865 are often challenged by the lack of passenger arrival lists. One source that came to light just a few years ago is a boon to researchers and helps fill this void. The records of the St. Lawrence Steamboat Company, operated by the Molson family of brewery fame, include information on the passengers and freight carried between Montreal and Quebec by 15 steamboats and two barges in the years 1819 to 1838. Part of the Molson Archives, these records are now available in the Genealogy Center on 16 reels of microfilm (cabinet 89-O-2).

The lists include thousands of names and indicate whether the passenger traveled in cabin or steerage, their destination, including some intermediate ports such as Sorel and Three Rivers, the amount charged and the amount paid. The identification of passengers is often scant. Sometimes only the initial of the first name is supplied and groups usually appear as “Wm. Robinson, wife and 2 children” or “John Smith and 2 friends.” Still, even that could be useful when other sources are lacking and some entries do provide more. For example, among passengers on the “Malsham’s 8th Trip, Quebec to Montreal, 3rd July 1819” were “Widow Caldwell & 5 Child[ren], 4 above 12 yrs [and] 1 under 12 yrs.” Jean Stamel’s passage on July 10th 1819 was “to be paid by Maitland & co” according to the remarks column, indicating a relationship worth investigating. Some passenger names appear regularly and probably represent local residents traveling on business or making social visits, but many are immigrants just passing through.

Crew lists and wage books provide additional opportunities for researchers and record the name, position, rate, lost time and remarks. Among the crew of the New Swiftsure were Pierre Beaumont, Seaman, who “June12th went ashore sick, returned July 5th” and Thomas Armstrong, Cook, who was “sent ashore for thievery” on June 2nd. The wage book for 1832 indicates that on May 17 Antoine Bibeau, sailor, was paid “in full for 12 days” service on the steamboat Chambly.

Even the freight lists could be useful to those researching local businesses, merchants and others. Among the freight on the Chambly’s 7th trip from Quebec to Montreal on May 22-24, 1828 were one horse and one piano forte for Col. Brown of the 79th Regiment Highlanders, resident in Montreal, as well as one basket for Mrs. Ogden of St. Paul Street. The freight lists can also indicate a consignee’s occupation as when two boxes of tin and one sheet of lead were shipped to E. Hart & Sons at Three Rivers, or when a consignee was identified as “R. Penn, ordnance store keeper.”

If you have ancestors who lived in or traveled through the Quebec-Montreal corridor in the years 1819-1838, these lists are worth a look. An index and transcripts of the passenger lists are available online at

Note: This electronic newsletter is published by the Allen County Public Library's Genealogy Center. We welcome the wide distribution of this newsletter and encourage readers to forward it to their friends and societies.

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Steve Myers & Curt Witcher, co-editors

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