Island Immigration Records
how to find personal deatils about your ancestors in Ellis Island
Elizabeth Powell Crowe
you one of the 40 percent of Americans who can
trace an ancestor to the immigration center at Ellis Island? If
so, you’ll want to check out Ellis Island Records Online.
searchable database covers records from 1898 to 1924, and includes
more than 22 million names. It is part of the
Ellis Island Immigration Museum and is the Web version of the
database available at the museum itself. The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints, the National Park Service, and the Statue
of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation cooperated to bring the project
online. All of the funding has come from the private sector, donations,
and the membership of the Ellis Island Foundation.
records, which were transcribed by volunteers from the LDS
church, are from the ships’ manifests. In the Passenger
Record Archive, you’ll find passenger records that give
port of departure
original ships’ manifests show the passenger names, ages,
and associated passengers, which is useful for clues to relationships.
The ship information, often with a picture, gives the history
and background of each ship that brought the immigrants.
you register as a regular user (free of charge), you can keep
copies of the passenger records, manifests, and ship images in
Your Ellis Island File. This can be opened on the computers at
Ellis Island or on the Web site. You can purchase copies of these
documents at the online Gift Shop or at the Interpretive Shop
on Ellis Island.
you join as a Foundation member at $45 per year, you can:
passenger records in the Ellis
and maintain your Family History Scrapbook
one free copy of your initial Scrapbook (print or CD-ROM
receive a 10 percent discount at the online Gift Shop or at
the Center; and
the ongoing work of the Foundation at Ellis Island and possibly
get a tax deduction (check with your accountant).
The site is divided into two parts: free services and services
available only to Foundation members. You must register to gain
access to the free services. This involves choosing a login name
and password, and providing your name and address.
without the free registration, you have access to “The Immigrant
Experience,” which is two sets of articles about the population
of the United States. “Family Histories” gives real-life
examples of people whose ancestors passed through Ellis Island,
and “The Peopling of America” is a series of articles
showing the timeline of people coming to the United States from
all over the world, beginning with those that crossed the Bering
Straits 20,000 years ago.
Here are the basic steps to performing a basic Passenger search:
on Passenger Search from the main page to get to the screen
in Figure 1.
enter the first and last name of the individual you are seeking,
and click Search Archives. If you want to do a more targeted
search, click Passenger Search at the top of the page, and then
click New Search. On that search page, you can input a first
name and a last name, and choose either male or female, although
a gender is not required.
results will be presented in a table as shown in Figure 2. If
the results list is too long, you can refine the search with
the choices in the bar at the left of the screen, filtering
for year of arrival, ethnicity, age on arrival, port of departure,
and/or name of ship. For example, without the exact match, “Abraham”
would also return “Ibrahim,” “Abraam,”
and other near matches.
one of the names gives you the screen in Figure 3. The details
of the person as listed on the manifest are displayed. You can
look at the transcription of the ship’s manifest to see
who is recorded near the person, and you can click on the ship
link to view details about the vessel. Registered members can
save the searches and results in an online file for later reference
Only members of the Foundation may create annotations to the records,
but all registered users of the Web site can view them. Annotations
supplement information in the record, telling more about the passenger’s
background and life in the United States. This information has
not been verified as accurate and complete; it is simply what
the annotating member believes to be factual.
View Annotations on the passenger
record. If there is no View Annotations button, the record
hasn’t been annotated. If you are registered with the site,
you’ll see a list of annotations; if you haven’t registered
yet, a screen will appear allowing you to do so.
Island Family History Scrapbooks
Paid members of The Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation
can also contribute Family History Scrapbooks on the Web site
or at the American Family Immigration History Center on Ellis
Scrapbooks combine member-submitted pictures, images from the
Ellis Island archives, written stories and memories, and sound
recordings. Members can choose to keep the scrapbook private,
or add it to the publicly available Ellis Island Family History
Archive. At the physical location of the center, members can use
a scanner, camera, and recording equipment to work on scrapbooks.
you begin your scrapbook, you have sixteen pages to work on, including
a title page and an author page. Ten of those pages have space
for your images, and four pages have space for an image from the
Ellis Island Foundation archives. The site’s documentation
suggests that you decide on a particular story or theme for your
scrapbook. Begin with a passenger search in the archives to find
passenger records, ship images, and ship manifests to save in
Your Ellis Island File and add to your scrapbook.
Foundation member who has registered and signed in with the site
can click Family Scrapbooks on the main menu; then click Start
New Scrapbook if this is the first time, or click Create New Scrapbook
if there are previous scrapbooks.
member can choose a style and create a title page and author page.
Once completing those steps, he or she can see the scrapbook’s
table of contents. From there, the member can compose the scrapbook
scrapbook pages can accept both pictures and audio recordings.
It is a good idea to gather image and audio files in one location
on your hard drive so they’re easy to find. On a Scrapbook
page, under Add an Image, click Your Computer. In the Upload Image
window, you can browse the local computer for the file or simply
enter the file name. The files are uploaded one at a time; they
can be 180 kilobytes or smaller. If a file is larger than 210
x 210 pixels, it will be resized, proportionally; if it is smaller,
it will not be resized. When Use Selected Image is clicked, the
image will appear on the page and the window will close.
can also add files from the Ellis Island Library by clicking Our
Library on a scrapbook page under Add an Image. Your Ellis Island
File may also contain passenger records, ship images, and ship
manifests that you saved during a passenger search. Click the
left and right arrows to review the images in Our Library or Your
Ellis Island File; then click Use this Image to add it to the
page. On a scrapbook page, under Add Audio, click Your Computer.
audio files is very similar to uploading images. The member can
click the Upload Audio window, browse for or enter the local file
name, and upload up to 1.8 megabytes per file. Then, he or she
can enter a title for the audio file. Click Use Selected File
and the title assigned to the file will appear on the page and
the window will close. To remove an audio file, under Remove Audio?,
click Delete this Audio File.
the online gift shop, paid Foundation members can order one free
copy of their scrapbooks, choosing either a high-quality print
or a CD-ROM copy. Additional copies are available for purchase.
On the table of contents, just click Purchase Scrapbook.
You can also do all of these things onsite at the museum, but
you have to make an appointment within 90 days of your arrival.
Click on Schedule a Visit in the navigation bar at the top of
any page on the site. You can choose to do a passenger search
($5 entry fee to the museum) or to work on a scrapbook. As with
the online version, you must be an annual member of the Foundation
to work on a scrapbook.
input your choice of undertaking for the visit, list the number
in your party (up to 7), select whether anyone will need a wheelchair,
and select the date and check-in time. Your actual appointment
time will be assigned at check-in. You will be given a confirmation
number at the end of the process to present at check-in; print
it out to present at the desk. The screen also gives you links
to articles on how to research and gather information for either
a search session or a scrapbook session.
Once you have registered as a free or paying member, you may find
Stephen P. Moore’s page a very useful tool for the Ellis
Island Records site.
form, “Searching the Ellis Island Database in One Step,”
has all the search parameters on one page. Simply type in the
names of the person and/or ship, check the boxes as appropriate,
and click Search. The input is sent to the Ellis Island site and
the results are displayed.
has a Frequently Asked Questions file that spells out the details
of how best to use both Moore’s form and the Ellis Island
site. For example, if you wish to examine a ship’s manifest
line-by-line instead of searching by name, Moore describes how
to do a broad search, find any passenger arriving on the right
date or near it, and then start browsing the manifest. He also
explains how to deal with missing manifests, solve printing problems,
and other issues.
The Ellis Island site is the best thing to happen to online genealogy
since the launch of FamilySearch. The interface is a little cluttered,
but easy to understand, the searches are fast (now that the site
has enough servers to handle the traffic), and the results are
understandable. At this writing, the scrapbook features were still
being programmed, but they should be up soon. In all, it is a
Powell Crowe is the author of several books, including Genealogy
Online AOL Edition. She also wrote Information for Sale with John
Everett and The Electronic Traveller, both for McGraw-Hill. She
has been a contributing editor for Computer Currents magazine
and author of numerous articles in both popular and technical
publications. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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