25June Genealogy Notes
- Aug 9, 2005A personal note before passing on the June minutes....
Great news for those with relatives who arrived in New York before Ellis
Island, between 1830-1892. Sacramento's Rootsweb newsletter reports that the New
York Castle Garden records are now online with FREE access at
www.castlegarden.org (before they were accessible for a fee through ancestry.com). I checked
out the site and struggled to find my great-grandfather's listing, despite the
fact I knew the ship and the exact day and year he arrived. I tried many
spellings and finally succeeded when I put in only his first name and a few
arrival years and scrolled through the listings of others with the same first name.
For my great-grandmother, I couldn't find her during the years when I
believed she had arrived ... I broadened the search and found her arriving five
years earlier than expected, at age 12. So good luck in your own searches...
digitized ships' manifests a la Ellis Island are planned in the future.
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June 20, 2005 Meeting Notes
President Mark Heckman called the meeting to order and presented a slate of
officers for the coming year. The slate was elected: Mark will continue to
serve as president, assisted by by co-vice-presidents Burt Hecht and Mort
Rumberg. Teven Laxer will serve as corresponding secretary, Susanne Levitsky as
secretary, Allan Bonderoff as treasurer and Lester Smith as librarian. Several
members volunteered to try to start up a newsletter in the months ahead.
Allan Bonderoff presented the June treasurer’s report -- there is $1,214.91
in our account. We’ve purchased a new book for the library -- “Preserving our
June Speaker: Lester Smith – Immigration Passenger Records Research
When starting your research, many people think they should begin at Ellis
Island, Lester Smith said. That is not necessarily true.
Lester sketched a brief history of immigration records. Before 1820,
immigration records were maintained by the colonies or states. After that date,
Congress passed legislation (which was reviewed by the Supreme Court) that
information would be submitted to the National Archives.
Before 1820, the major source of information is Filby's passenger lists,
which also include an index. He prepared an alphabetized list of all printed
passenger lists available from 1538-1900. Genealogy.com is putting this info on
CD, but check with the library first.
In 1855, New York State took over the responsibility of immigration at Castle
Gardens. This lasted until 1892 when Ellis Island opened. Immigrants came
through Ellis Island until 1924.
Lester noted that in a peak year, 2/3 of the immigrants came through Ellis
Island. But that means that one-third entered the country in other locations.
Depending on the year, passenger lists can offer researchers a little or a
lot of information. In 1895, there were only six questions asked -- name, age,
sex, occupation, ability to read, nationality. After 1912, there were 31
questions passengers answered.
Lester said that ancestry.com has computerized some but not all of the
records for New York City (Castle Gardens) as well as Baltimore, Boston, Galveston
After 1820, check the National Archives Web site: www.nara.gov
The site has a summary of the passenger lists available on microfilm.
Lester cautioned that not everything is available on the computer; you may
have to go to microfilm. The Soundex system may come into play here – Soundex
uses an alphanumeric code so you don't have to know the exact spelling of a
Mark Heckman noted that on the Ellis Island Web site, names may be so poorly
transcribed that you are unable to find your relatives. Mark has found some
through the microfilmed passenger lists that he couldn't locate in the Ellis
Lester noted that ancestry.com has outsourced the transcribing of records to
India, Bangladesh and Korea – more than a few people have been listed as
having come from Korea, when the location is likely Kovna or other Eastern European
Lester said the Family History Library has a complete catalogue of
microfilms, all of the records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Ancestry.com requires a subscription of $190 per year for total access,
although there is free access from computers at the Sacramento library. There are
also 14-day free trial subscriptions which may be useful. Among Ancestry's
data are the New York passenger lists from 1851-1891 (Castle Gardens), the
immigration point prior to Ellis Island in 1892.
Lester also talked about the Hamburg, Germany passenger lists. Hamburg was a
major port of embarcation. They even built the Veddel, a "town within a
town," to process the emigrants.
The Family History Center has Hamburg records from 1855-1934, with quarterly
indexes. The Hamburg Web site has the years 1890-1908 so far, in the three
years it's been running. As money becomes available they hope to do more.
The Ellis Island Web site: www.ellisisland.org
Lester said you don’t want to put too much information down -- if you’re not
exact you won’t get anything. You may have to go through many names, one at
a time, but that may lead to success.
He said Steve Morse’s one-step Web site, www.stevemorse.org offers three
forms for searching the Ellis Island site -- white, blue and gray. The blue
records sort all those records listing the immigrant as Hebrew. The gray form is
for non-Hebrews and white includes all the records. With Steve’s form, you can
get exact matches, “starts with” matches and “sounds like” matches. “You
could build a complete immigration record of your family’s shtetl, putting in
one letter at a time,” Lester said.
Lester praised Steve Morse’s Web site -- “he has a laundry list of search
mechanisms. It should be flagged on your computer if you do genealogy.”
Lester noted that Steve will be among the speakers at an all-day seminar
September 24, hosted by the Nevada County Genealogy Society.
Our Monday, August 22 meeting (7 p.m.) will feature a report back from those
who attended the July international conference in Las Vegas.
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