Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
The ship's manifest refers to the list of cargo carried by a ship. The term "ship's manifest" and "passenger manifest" are often confused, but there are differences. The passenger manifest or passenger list is a record of passengers traveling aboard ship, while the ship's manifest refers specifically to cargo. It is said, the two records were often kept together by the ship's captain.
The ship's manifest can be an important resource for genealogists. The ship's manifest typically includes the name and type of ship, the type of goods being carried, and the names of the shipper and receiver. The ship's manifest may also be referred to as "cargo manifest," or in the case of slave ships the "slave manifest." Slaves were considered property and were referred to as cargo, rather than passengers. On slave ships, the name of the slave owner or agent might also be included. The shipper is not necessarily the owner, and might be a slave trader. Slaves are listed by name, age, sex, height (rounded to whole numbers), and color, if any such information was given. The ship's manifest can prove useful for those researching African American ancestors and those whose ancestors shipped any type of cargo on the high seas, as well as those engaged in the slave trade.