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Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Feb 19, 2002

Was Your US Ancestor Indexed with the Ellis Island Immigrants?
It may surprise you to know that many US Citizens were indexed in the Ellis Island online database. If your ancestor happened to visit another country between 1892 and 1924, and used the Port of New York to return to the US, he would be listed on the ship's passenger list -- called a ship's manifest -- and therefore indexed in the Ellis Island Online database.

From 1892 to 1924 Ellis Island was the nation's major federal immigration facility. More than 12 million immigrants were screened for entry into the US through this establishment. An interesting fact that often goes unnoticed is that in addition to the 12 million immigrants that were processed, about 10 million other passengers and ship crew members were also processed. Many of these 10 million people were US Citizens who were returning to the United States after visiting abroad.

Prior to 1820 State and local jurisdictions created records of passenger arrivals. Many of these records have been published and are indexed in the P. William Filby Passenger and Immigration Lists Index which was first published in 1981 but now has 19 supplements covering about 3,050,000 passengers.

In 1820 the federal government began keeping a record of passenger arrivals. Passenger lists from 1820 to about 1891 were called Customs Lists. They were primarily for statistical purposes. However, most did contain helpful genealogical data like the passenger's name, sex, age, occupation and nationality as well as the port of embarkation.

Arrival records created between 1891 and the 1950s were called Immigration Passenger Lists. Like Customs Lists, they were printed in the US, but were completed at the port of departure and then filed in US after the ship docked. Over the years the information required to be given by the passenger has changed. As immigration increased, more details were required on these Passenger Lists. For instance, in 1893, 21 columns of information were requested from the passenger, and by 1917, 33 columns were required.

The ship companies that transported these passengers kept detailed passenger lists, called ship manifests. The information gathered for the ship manifests provides valuable genealogical facts. For instance the passenger's name, sex, age, occupation, and nationality (as well as the port of embarkation) were almost always recorded but, starting in 1897, the manifests included the immigrant's last residence and, beginning in 1907, the exact town and country of birth were required.

US citizens returning from traveling abroad were required to give their exact birth date and place. Other items of significance which were asked of the passenger were their final destination in the US, name and address of the relative they were going to visit, and address of closest living relative in their native country.

More than 40% (or over 100 million) of all living Americans can trace their roots to an ancestor who came through Ellis Island. Though Ellis Island processed immigrants from numerous countries, it opened after the largest influx from Germany, Scandinavia, Great Britain, and Ireland. By 1900, Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Russia had replaced northern Europeans as the chief sources of immigrants. In the busiest year, 1907, immigrants from these three countries made up 75% of the traffic. Consequently, if your ancestors came from Eastern or Southern Europe between 1892 and 1924, or if they were alive at this time and took a trip out of the country from New York, the chances are good they are among the 22 million people indexed in the Ellis Island database.

MyTrees.com has designed a one-screen Ellis Island database search tool, free for you to use at

MyTrees.com Ellis Island Database Search Tool
This search tool accesses the Ellis Island site http://www.ellisisland.org directly but combines their multiple search features into one easy to use screen.

The following information will help you be more successful and less frustrated while searching the Ellis Island site.

Tips for successful searching - use MyTrees.com Ellis Island Database Search Tool

1. It is important to note that the majority of the millions of users accessing the Ellis Island site are from the US so the best time to access the site is 1AM to 6AM Eastern Time.

2. It is okay to Signup as a new user at the Ellis Island site. It really is free with no obligation.

3. Be sure to bookmark the homepage.

4. Avoid Surname Only searches on common names. These may take a few minutes to perform and may even time out before completing. Unfortunately the Ellis Island site does not notify you that your search has timed out.

5. Do a Surname Only search if it is an uncommon name. It is more likely that your ancestor's given name was spelled differently. For instance a Yiddish spelling for the name may have been used. A simple name like David may have been written using the Slavic spelling of Dawid on the ship's manifest. Names like Sarah may have been written as Sara on the manifest. The diminutive of the name may have been recorded. It is sometimes helpful to include in the search the initial letter of the given name. This strategy will limit the results to any person with the specified surname whose given name begins with the specified letter or letters.

Our convenient search screen makes it possible for you to search using a last name and first letter or letters of the first name. You can also search using a given name and only the first letter or letters of the surname or any combination of the same. Be sure to select the circle before the word "Starts". This feature tells the search engine that you want to see all surnames that begin with the designated letter or letters.

6. After receiving the result from the Ellis Island site, click Name and Gender For alternate spellings of the surname.

7. Again, after receiving the result from the Ellis Island site, select the Summary Results button which displays exact matches, close matches, and alternate spellings under separate headings. The search result will display 25 hits at a time. If the quantity of hits you received exceeds this, you can click the Next 25 link at the bottom of the results to see the Next 25 results.

8. Try searching the given name as the surname. There are many occasions in the database where the surname and given name have been reversed.

9. Try searching for the name of other members of the family.

10. Try alternative letters for the first letter of the surname. Often extractors were unable to read the handwritten initial capital letters. A "T" was often mistaken for an "F", a "Y" for a "G", an "M" for a "W", an "S" for a "P", an "N" for a "U", a "J" for a "G" and visa versa.

11. Display a scanned version of the passenger manifest online by clicking "View Original Ship Manifest." Unfortunately many of the images in the Ellis Island database have not been associated properly with the individuals. As a result you may get "no image available" or the image may be a display of the second page of the manifest.

If the image that is displayed does not contain the name that you are seeking, click the "Next" link on the Ellis Island result page. Also click "Next" if the page was imaged with another sheet covering the names, usually the page was imaged by itself in the very next frame of the film.

If clicking "View Original Ship Manifest" gives the message "no image available", you will need to note down the date of arrival and the Page number from the Ellis Island display, so you can use our Find Manifest search option at the bottom of our Ellis Island search page. Though our Find Manifest program can find the image of the manifest most of the time, there are some individuals in the Ellis Island site that have been associated with the wrong image. So, though the date may be correct, the page number may be wrong for the individual for which you are trying to locate the manifest. I have observed that if the ship name that displays on the Original Ship Manifest screen does not match the ship name that was on the previous screen for that individual, then the page number will also be incorrect. A possible alternative to finding this manifest page is to click the "View Text Version Manifest" and click the next page. This will display a different number on which to base a search using our Find Manifest search option. Be sure to note the name of the ship so you can verify you are at the right frame in the images when you get to the ship of that name. You can then click the Previous Page or next page in our Find Manifest program. The Manifest pages for a given ship are consecutively numbered.

You can save an image to your hard drive if you would like to by clicking the zoom hour glass feature. A new window will appear. Right click the image and select "save picture as" or "save image as" depending on the browser you are using. Change the name of the file from tif2gif.exe to "image.gif" or a name of your choosing but with a .gif extension before clicking OK to save. Be sure to note the directory in which you save the image.

To view the image later, open your browser and click "File", "Open Page" and browse to the directory in which you have saved the image. In the "Files of Type" field you will need to select "All files" so you will see all the files in the directory. Click the image and it will display in your browser window. You can also view the image using the Paint program that comes with Windows. Click Programs, then Accessories, and select Paint -- click "File" and "Open". Select the directory in which the file is located, and select "All Files" for the "Files of Type" field.

12. Display a text version of the manifest pages by clicking the "View Text Version Manifest" button. Scroll through the entire manifest by clicking the links "Next Page" and "Previous Page" on the Ellis Island result screen.

The designers of the Ellis Island database accept corrections to the database by e-mail at historycenter@ellisisland.org. They make no commitment as to when the correction will be made.

Immigration and Naturalization article:
"We know from experience that records of entry of many aliens into the United States contain assumed or incorrect names and other errors." The reasons for the "incorrect" names are discussed in the article at Changing Immigrant Names.

A fascinating historical article about Ellis Island by June Pelo can be found at Ellis Island.

Here is a site that also displays transcribed Passenger Lists. Though not all passenger lists have been transcribed the site does feature some lists dating back to the 1700s. See Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild.

Copyright © 2011 Cindy Carman. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Feb 19, 2002

Was Your US Ancestor Indexed with the Ellis Island Immigrants?
It may surprise you to know that many US Citizens were indexed in the Ellis Island online database. If your ancestor happened to visit another country between 1892 and 1924, and used the Port of New York to return to the US, he would be listed on the ship's passenger list -- called a ship's manifest -- and therefore indexed in the Ellis Island Online database.

From 1892 to 1924 Ellis Island was the nation's major federal immigration facility. More than 12 million immigrants were screened for entry into the US through this establishment. An interesting fact that often goes unnoticed is that in addition to the 12 million immigrants that were processed, about 10 million other passengers and ship crew members were also processed. Many of these 10 million people were US Citizens who were returning to the United States after visiting abroad.

Prior to 1820 State and local jurisdictions created records of passenger arrivals. Many of these records have been published and are indexed in the P. William Filby Passenger and Immigration Lists Index which was first published in 1981 but now has 19 supplements covering about 3,050,000 passengers.

In 1820 the federal government began keeping a record of passenger arrivals. Passenger lists from 1820 to about 1891 were called Customs Lists. They were primarily for statistical purposes. However, most did contain helpful genealogical data like the passenger's name, sex, age, occupation and nationality as well as the port of embarkation.

Arrival records created between 1891 and the 1950s were called Immigration Passenger Lists. Like Customs Lists, they were printed in the US, but were completed at the port of departure and then filed in US after the ship docked. Over the years the information required to be given by the passenger has changed. As immigration increased, more details were required on these Passenger Lists. For instance, in 1893, 21 columns of information were requested from the passenger, and by 1917, 33 columns were required.

The ship companies that transported these passengers kept detailed passenger lists, called ship manifests. The information gathered for the ship manifests provides valuable genealogical facts. For instance the passenger's name, sex, age, occupation, and nationality (as well as the port of embarkation) were almost always recorded but, starting in 1897, the manifests included the immigrant's last residence and, beginning in 1907, the exact town and country of birth were required.

US citizens returning from traveling abroad were required to give their exact birth date and place. Other items of significance which were asked of the passenger were their final destination in the US, name and address of the relative they were going to visit, and address of closest living relative in their native country.

More than 40% (or over 100 million) of all living Americans can trace their roots to an ancestor who came through Ellis Island. Though Ellis Island processed immigrants from numerous countries, it opened after the largest influx from Germany, Scandinavia, Great Britain, and Ireland. By 1900, Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Russia had replaced northern Europeans as the chief sources of immigrants. In the busiest year, 1907, immigrants from these three countries made up 75% of the traffic. Consequently, if your ancestors came from Eastern or Southern Europe between 1892 and 1924, or if they were alive at this time and took a trip out of the country from New York, the chances are good they are among the 22 million people indexed in the Ellis Island database.

MyTrees.com has designed a one-screen Ellis Island database search tool, free for you to use at

MyTrees.com Ellis Island Database Search Tool
This search tool accesses the Ellis Island site http://www.ellisisland.org directly but combines their multiple search features into one easy to use screen.

The following information will help you be more successful and less frustrated while searching the Ellis Island site.

Tips for successful searching - use MyTrees.com Ellis Island Database Search Tool

1. It is important to note that the majority of the millions of users accessing the Ellis Island site are from the US so the best time to access the site is 1AM to 6AM Eastern Time.

2. It is okay to Signup as a new user at the Ellis Island site. It really is free with no obligation.

3. Be sure to bookmark the homepage.

4. Avoid Surname Only searches on common names. These may take a few minutes to perform and may even time out before completing. Unfortunately the Ellis Island site does not notify you that your search has timed out.

5. Do a Surname Only search if it is an uncommon name. It is more likely that your ancestor's given name was spelled differently. For instance a Yiddish spelling for the name may have been used. A simple name like David may have been written using the Slavic spelling of Dawid on the ship's manifest. Names like Sarah may have been written as Sara on the manifest. The diminutive of the name may have been recorded. It is sometimes helpful to include in the search the initial letter of the given name. This strategy will limit the results to any person with the specified surname whose given name begins with the specified letter or letters.

Our convenient search screen makes it possible for you to search using a last name and first letter or letters of the first name. You can also search using a given name and only the first letter or letters of the surname or any combination of the same. Be sure to select the circle before the word "Starts". This feature tells the search engine that you want to see all surnames that begin with the designated letter or letters.

6. After receiving the result from the Ellis Island site, click Name and Gender For alternate spellings of the surname.

7. Again, after receiving the result from the Ellis Island site, select the Summary Results button which displays exact matches, close matches, and alternate spellings under separate headings. The search result will display 25 hits at a time. If the quantity of hits you received exceeds this, you can click the Next 25 link at the bottom of the results to see the Next 25 results.

8. Try searching the given name as the surname. There are many occasions in the database where the surname and given name have been reversed.

9. Try searching for the name of other members of the family.

10. Try alternative letters for the first letter of the surname. Often extractors were unable to read the handwritten initial capital letters. A "T" was often mistaken for an "F", a "Y" for a "G", an "M" for a "W", an "S" for a "P", an "N" for a "U", a "J" for a "G" and visa versa.

11. Display a scanned version of the passenger manifest online by clicking "View Original Ship Manifest." Unfortunately many of the images in the Ellis Island database have not been associated properly with the individuals. As a result you may get "no image available" or the image may be a display of the second page of the manifest.

If the image that is displayed does not contain the name that you are seeking, click the "Next" link on the Ellis Island result page. Also click "Next" if the page was imaged with another sheet covering the names, usually the page was imaged by itself in the very next frame of the film.

If clicking "View Original Ship Manifest" gives the message "no image available", you will need to note down the date of arrival and the Page number from the Ellis Island display, so you can use our Find Manifest search option at the bottom of our Ellis Island search page. Though our Find Manifest program can find the image of the manifest most of the time, there are some individuals in the Ellis Island site that have been associated with the wrong image. So, though the date may be correct, the page number may be wrong for the individual for which you are trying to locate the manifest. I have observed that if the ship name that displays on the Original Ship Manifest screen does not match the ship name that was on the previous screen for that individual, then the page number will also be incorrect. A possible alternative to finding this manifest page is to click the "View Text Version Manifest" and click the next page. This will display a different number on which to base a search using our Find Manifest search option. Be sure to note the name of the ship so you can verify you are at the right frame in the images when you get to the ship of that name. You can then click the Previous Page or next page in our Find Manifest program. The Manifest pages for a given ship are consecutively numbered.

You can save an image to your hard drive if you would like to by clicking the zoom hour glass feature. A new window will appear. Right click the image and select "save picture as" or "save image as" depending on the browser you are using. Change the name of the file from tif2gif.exe to "image.gif" or a name of your choosing but with a .gif extension before clicking OK to save. Be sure to note the directory in which you save the image.

To view the image later, open your browser and click "File", "Open Page" and browse to the directory in which you have saved the image. In the "Files of Type" field you will need to select "All files" so you will see all the files in the directory. Click the image and it will display in your browser window. You can also view the image using the Paint program that comes with Windows. Click Programs, then Accessories, and select Paint -- click "File" and "Open". Select the directory in which the file is located, and select "All Files" for the "Files of Type" field.

12. Display a text version of the manifest pages by clicking the "View Text Version Manifest" button. Scroll through the entire manifest by clicking the links "Next Page" and "Previous Page" on the Ellis Island result screen.

The designers of the Ellis Island database accept corrections to the database by e-mail at historycenter@ellisisland.org. They make no commitment as to when the correction will be made.

Immigration and Naturalization article:
"We know from experience that records of entry of many aliens into the United States contain assumed or incorrect names and other errors." The reasons for the "incorrect" names are discussed in the article at Changing Immigrant Names.

A fascinating historical article about Ellis Island by June Pelo can be found at Ellis Island.

Here is a site that also displays transcribed Passenger Lists. Though not all passenger lists have been transcribed the site does feature some lists dating back to the 1700s. See Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild.

Copyright © 2011 Cindy Carman. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Feb 19, 2002

Was Your US Ancestor Indexed with the Ellis Island Immigrants?
It may surprise you to know that many US Citizens were indexed in the Ellis Island online database. If your ancestor happened to visit another country between 1892 and 1924, and used the Port of New York to return to the US, he would be listed on the ship's passenger list -- called a ship's manifest -- and therefore indexed in the Ellis Island Online database.

From 1892 to 1924 Ellis Island was the nation's major federal immigration facility. More than 12 million immigrants were screened for entry into the US through this establishment. An interesting fact that often goes unnoticed is that in addition to the 12 million immigrants that were processed, about 10 million other passengers and ship crew members were also processed. Many of these 10 million people were US Citizens who were returning to the United States after visiting abroad.

Prior to 1820 State and local jurisdictions created records of passenger arrivals. Many of these records have been published and are indexed in the P. William Filby Passenger and Immigration Lists Index which was first published in 1981 but now has 19 supplements covering about 3,050,000 passengers.

In 1820 the federal government began keeping a record of passenger arrivals. Passenger lists from 1820 to about 1891 were called Customs Lists. They were primarily for statistical purposes. However, most did contain helpful genealogical data like the passenger's name, sex, age, occupation and nationality as well as the port of embarkation.

Arrival records created between 1891 and the 1950s were called Immigration Passenger Lists. Like Customs Lists, they were printed in the US, but were completed at the port of departure and then filed in US after the ship docked. Over the years the information required to be given by the passenger has changed. As immigration increased, more details were required on these Passenger Lists. For instance, in 1893, 21 columns of information were requested from the passenger, and by 1917, 33 columns were required.

The ship companies that transported these passengers kept detailed passenger lists, called ship manifests. The information gathered for the ship manifests provides valuable genealogical facts. For instance the passenger's name, sex, age, occupation, and nationality (as well as the port of embarkation) were almost always recorded but, starting in 1897, the manifests included the immigrant's last residence and, beginning in 1907, the exact town and country of birth were required.

US citizens returning from traveling abroad were required to give their exact birth date and place. Other items of significance which were asked of the passenger were their final destination in the US, name and address of the relative they were going to visit, and address of closest living relative in their native country.

More than 40% (or over 100 million) of all living Americans can trace their roots to an ancestor who came through Ellis Island. Though Ellis Island processed immigrants from numerous countries, it opened after the largest influx from Germany, Scandinavia, Great Britain, and Ireland. By 1900, Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Russia had replaced northern Europeans as the chief sources of immigrants. In the busiest year, 1907, immigrants from these three countries made up 75% of the traffic. Consequently, if your ancestors came from Eastern or Southern Europe between 1892 and 1924, or if they were alive at this time and took a trip out of the country from New York, the chances are good they are among the 22 million people indexed in the Ellis Island database.

MyTrees.com has designed a one-screen Ellis Island database search tool, free for you to use at

MyTrees.com Ellis Island Database Search Tool
This search tool accesses the Ellis Island site http://www.ellisisland.org directly but combines their multiple search features into one easy to use screen.

The following information will help you be more successful and less frustrated while searching the Ellis Island site.

Tips for successful searching - use MyTrees.com Ellis Island Database Search Tool

1. It is important to note that the majority of the millions of users accessing the Ellis Island site are from the US so the best time to access the site is 1AM to 6AM Eastern Time.

2. It is okay to Signup as a new user at the Ellis Island site. It really is free with no obligation.

3. Be sure to bookmark the homepage.

4. Avoid Surname Only searches on common names. These may take a few minutes to perform and may even time out before completing. Unfortunately the Ellis Island site does not notify you that your search has timed out.

5. Do a Surname Only search if it is an uncommon name. It is more likely that your ancestor's given name was spelled differently. For instance a Yiddish spelling for the name may have been used. A simple name like David may have been written using the Slavic spelling of Dawid on the ship's manifest. Names like Sarah may have been written as Sara on the manifest. The diminutive of the name may have been recorded. It is sometimes helpful to include in the search the initial letter of the given name. This strategy will limit the results to any person with the specified surname whose given name begins with the specified letter or letters.

Our convenient search screen makes it possible for you to search using a last name and first letter or letters of the first name. You can also search using a given name and only the first letter or letters of the surname or any combination of the same. Be sure to select the circle before the word "Starts". This feature tells the search engine that you want to see all surnames that begin with the designated letter or letters.

6. After receiving the result from the Ellis Island site, click Name and Gender For alternate spellings of the surname.

7. Again, after receiving the result from the Ellis Island site, select the Summary Results button which displays exact matches, close matches, and alternate spellings under separate headings. The search result will display 25 hits at a time. If the quantity of hits you received exceeds this, you can click the Next 25 link at the bottom of the results to see the Next 25 results.

8. Try searching the given name as the surname. There are many occasions in the database where the surname and given name have been reversed.

9. Try searching for the name of other members of the family.

10. Try alternative letters for the first letter of the surname. Often extractors were unable to read the handwritten initial capital letters. A "T" was often mistaken for an "F", a "Y" for a "G", an "M" for a "W", an "S" for a "P", an "N" for a "U", a "J" for a "G" and visa versa.

11. Display a scanned version of the passenger manifest online by clicking "View Original Ship Manifest." Unfortunately many of the images in the Ellis Island database have not been associated properly with the individuals. As a result you may get "no image available" or the image may be a display of the second page of the manifest.

If the image that is displayed does not contain the name that you are seeking, click the "Next" link on the Ellis Island result page. Also click "Next" if the page was imaged with another sheet covering the names, usually the page was imaged by itself in the very next frame of the film.

If clicking "View Original Ship Manifest" gives the message "no image available", you will need to note down the date of arrival and the Page number from the Ellis Island display, so you can use our Find Manifest search option at the bottom of our Ellis Island search page. Though our Find Manifest program can find the image of the manifest most of the time, there are some individuals in the Ellis Island site that have been associated with the wrong image. So, though the date may be correct, the page number may be wrong for the individual for which you are trying to locate the manifest. I have observed that if the ship name that displays on the Original Ship Manifest screen does not match the ship name that was on the previous screen for that individual, then the page number will also be incorrect. A possible alternative to finding this manifest page is to click the "View Text Version Manifest" and click the next page. This will display a different number on which to base a search using our Find Manifest search option. Be sure to note the name of the ship so you can verify you are at the right frame in the images when you get to the ship of that name. You can then click the Previous Page or next page in our Find Manifest program. The Manifest pages for a given ship are consecutively numbered.

You can save an image to your hard drive if you would like to by clicking the zoom hour glass feature. A new window will appear. Right click the image and select "save picture as" or "save image as" depending on the browser you are using. Change the name of the file from tif2gif.exe to "image.gif" or a name of your choosing but with a .gif extension before clicking OK to save. Be sure to note the directory in which you save the image.

To view the image later, open your browser and click "File", "Open Page" and browse to the directory in which you have saved the image. In the "Files of Type" field you will need to select "All files" so you will see all the files in the directory. Click the image and it will display in your browser window. You can also view the image using the Paint program that comes with Windows. Click Programs, then Accessories, and select Paint -- click "File" and "Open". Select the directory in which the file is located, and select "All Files" for the "Files of Type" field.

12. Display a text version of the manifest pages by clicking the "View Text Version Manifest" button. Scroll through the entire manifest by clicking the links "Next Page" and "Previous Page" on the Ellis Island result screen.

The designers of the Ellis Island database accept corrections to the database by e-mail at historycenter@ellisisland.org. They make no commitment as to when the correction will be made.

Immigration and Naturalization article:
"We know from experience that records of entry of many aliens into the United States contain assumed or incorrect names and other errors." The reasons for the "incorrect" names are discussed in the article at Changing Immigrant Names.

A fascinating historical article about Ellis Island by June Pelo can be found at Ellis Island.

Here is a site that also displays transcribed Passenger Lists. Though not all passenger lists have been transcribed the site does feature some lists dating back to the 1700s. See Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild.

Copyright © 2011 Cindy Carman. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

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