The following is a list of tips that should make your ancestor searching a bit easier on the Ellis Island database:
Searching the Ellis Island database
-by Kathi Reid
Ellis Island and other ship passenger lists to the US
Examining the passenger records
- After you have clicked on a name from the list of search results, you will be given a passenger record for the individual, which lists:
- Place of residence
- Date of arrival
- Age on arrival
- Marital status
- Ship of travel
- Port of departure
- Above this passenger record is the option to "add to your Ellis Island file". You can save all your ancestors and "possibilities" into your Ellis Island file. Then bookmark/add to your favorites this personalized "Ellis Island file" which you can return to another day for further investigation. You can use your Ellis Island File to store passenger records, ship manifests, and ship images you find during passenger searches. You can also resume a search that you started earlier and review any Family History Scrapbooks that you created.
*Important*: When saving to the Ellis Island file, it takes 2 clicks. I thought I had saved many records only to go back and have my file empty. After you click on "add to your Ellis Island file" be sure to click on ok on the next page.
You can also book mark searches that you have performed into your Favorites on your computer and return to them another day without having to go through the whole search process again.
- If you do find an ancestor on a ship manifest list, be sure to look at previous and next pages of names on the list. You may find relatives that traveled on the same ship.
- If the ship manifest is missing or if it is the wrong manifest, one of the very common problems is that the microfilm was scanned
from the wrong end. Try this: Pick a name or two from
the "wrong" manifest page and look that person up in the index. *His*
manifest page is likely to be the one you wanted in the first place.
- Sometimes above the transcription of the manifest list is an option to view the original manifest list. I have on occasion tried to view the original list and instead get the symbol for a broken image. However, I found that it is at times possible to right click on the place where the image should be, and choose "show picture" which will sometimes to bring up the image. I have also tried viewing the image 10 minutes later and had it work. I have also gone back another day, and have been successful in bringing up the picture that the day before wouldn't work.
- If you have the option to view the original manifest list, you will find a lot of information that has not been transcribed. Some of the columns on the original manifests that I saw are final destination (with street address), $ in possession, friend or relative who is sponsoring immigrant. I found the most interesting columns to be the ones that ask if the immigrant is a polygamist or anarchist. So far I have not found anyone who admitted to being either.
Still can't find you ancestor in the Ellis Island database?
- Make sure he arrived in the time frame that Ellis Island was used: 1892-1924. Otherwise, you will need to obtain records from
other on-line passenger databases
- Before August 1855: wharves of Manhattan
- August 1, 1855-April 18, 1890: Castle Garden
- April 19, 1890-Dec. 31, 1891: Barge Office
- Jan. 1, 1892-June 13, 1897: Ellis Island (note: on June 14, 1897, Ellis
Island burned to the ground.)
- June 14, 1897-Dec. 16, 1900: Barge Office
- Dec 17, 1900-1924: Ellis Island (which had been rebuilt.)
- If your ancestor is not on the Ellis Island website, there are other passenger search engines available at
Ancestor Search - Passenger Lists
. These include the Castle Garden passenger lists; Hamburg passenger lists; the Immigrant Ships Transcriber's Guild passenger lists and many more.
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