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25June Genealogy Notes

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  • SusanneLevitsky@aol.com
    Aug 9 9:05 PM
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      A 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.
      - - - - - - -

      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
      Litvak Heritage.”

      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
      and Philadelphia

      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
      listing.

      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
      Island database.

      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
      cities.

      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.
      http://linktoyourroots.hamburg.de/
      .
      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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