Searching the Ellis Island Database in One Step
Frequently Asked Questions
REVISED VERSION

Stephen P. Morse , San Francisco

This page has been completely rewritten and reformatted to make it more user friendly.

Sections:

 100 General
 200 Ships, Ports, & Ethnicities
 300 Other Search Parameters
 400 Missing Manifests


100 GENERAL

101. Is your website a search engine or just a search form?  And what is the difference?

A search form is a form that allows you to enter values to be used as search parameters.  After you do so, those values are submitted to a search engine.  The search engine then obtains the results and creates a webpage that displays the results for you.

My website is only a search form.  I do not have my own search engine.  Instead I take the values you enter and submit them to the search engine on the Ellis Island website.  From then on you are using their site and not mine.  They obtain the results, and  they create the webpage that displays the results for you.

Alternately you can bypass my site and use the search form presented on the Ellis Island site itself.  However, I found that form to be hard to use and not very versatile.  That is why I created my own.

[Second thoughts.  I now have my own search engine, and it is accessible from my enhanced (gold) search form.  It provides many enhancements not possible from my main search form which uses the Ellis Island Website's search engine.  This is different from my white search form which still uses the search engine on the Ellis Island site.]
 

102. Question removed -- no longer applicable
 

103. Do you have any success stories of your own that you can share with us?  Perhaps we can learn some search tips from it.

Yes I do.  Years ago I had spent many hours at the National Archives searching for a Jonas Feiner, but was unsuccessful.  And when the Ellis Island Database first went on-line and I developed this search page, I tried again but still nothing.  After making some refinements to my search page, I gave it one more try -- this time looking for anybody having the first initial J and last initial F, arriving between 1898 and 1900, being between 25 and 35 years of age, and being Romanian.  Found only 17 hits.  Examined them.  One was a "Jonie Foinsz" from Tassy.  That was obviously a mis-reading of Jassy which is indeed the town that my Jonas Feiner came from.

I pulled up the original manifest and carefully read the name.  Although the Ellis Island volunteers entered it as "Jonie Foinsz", I was able to read it as "Yoine Foinar".  That real close to Jonas Feiner.  It said he was going to his brother-in-law (no name given unfortunately) in Brooklyn -- yes, my Jonas Feiner did go to Brooklyn when he arrived.  So I'm pretty sure I've got the right record.
 

104. What more have you learned from your contacts with the Ellis Island people?

I don't know anybody from the Ellis Island project and am in no way affiliated with ellisisland.org.  I'm just a user like you who got frustrated by all the pages that I had to visit in order to do a search.  So I developed this search form.

[Second thoughts:  After developing this website, I have been contacted by the people at Ellis Island.  So I now know who the key people are.]
 

105. I know the ship on which my grandfather arrived and the day that he arrived.  Is there any way that I can get to that ship's manifest so I can do a line-by-line and page-by-page search looking for my grandfather?

There are several ways to do this.  Let's start with the hard way:

Enter the ship name and year on my white search form.  Then enter any first letter of a last name.  Presumably there will be somebody whose last name starts with that letter and who came over on that ship in that year.  So you should get at least one match.  Problem is you might get too many matches and the search on the Ellis Island server might time out.  In that case, pick a two-letter pair as the start of the last name to reduce the number of hits.

Once you get a list of hits, pick one of them and get to his index card.  It will show you the Month/day that he came over.  Keep in mind that this ship probably arrived multiple times during the year, usually on the average of once a month.  If this is not the arrival date that you wanted, then go back and pick another name from the list of hits you got.  Keep repeating until you get one with the arrival date that you want.

Once you have a passenger with the right arrival date, you're in business.  Go to his manifest and then start advancing forward and backwards on the manifest pages.

A word of caution.  You must spell the ship name exactly as it is entered in the database.  And there could be spelling errors on ship names in the database.  See question 201 for some help with ship spelling.

Next for a moderately-difficult way.
Go to my Missing Manifest Form (found in the Ellis Island section of my home page at http://stevemorse.org).  Fill in the "Month", "Day", and "Year" that your grandfather arrived.  The series and roll frame will automatically be filled in for you.  Click on the display button and you will be on frame 1 of that roll.

By pressing the +1 button under Frame, step through the microfilm roll until you get to the ship that your grandfather was on.  Then continue stepping through each manifest for that ship, checking each one for your grandfather's name.

You might want to read through question 403 to see some of the errors that might occur when you are doing this.

Finally the easy way.  This is similar to the moderate way except it gives you a shortcut for getting directly to the correct roll and frame on the missing manifests form.
Go to My "Ship Lists" form (found in the Ellis Island section on my homepage at http://stevemorse.org).  Enter the name of the ship and the date of arrival.  Click on the search button.

Look at the results and see if the ship and date you want is listed.  If so, click on the ship name.  That will take you to my missing manifest form starting with the roll and frame for the first manifest page of the ship you want.  Continue stepping through each page and check each line for your grandfather's name

See also question 415 which says the same thing in a different way.
 

106. Question removed since it is no longer applicable.
 

107. Why doesn't your searchpage allow me to see Ellis Island records prior to 1892 or later than 1924?

Up to April 18, 1890, Castle Garden was used as the immigrant processing center.  On that date the US Treasury took over immigration, and moved the processing center to the so-called Barge Office.  That office operated until January 1, 1892 when Ellis Island was opened.  So that is the start date of the records in the Ellis Island database.  The Barge Office was also used from June 14, 1897 until December 16, 1900 because of a fire that had destroyed Ellis Island (don't worry, no records were lost due to the fire).  The records from this second use of the Barge Office are in the Ellis Island database.  After 1924 Ellis Island was no longer used as a major processing center.  Some immigrants were still processed there, but only in rare cases.

OK, that explains why the Ellis Island database covers the years 1892 to 1924 only.  So how can you access the other years?  Simple.  Go to my All-New-York Arrivals searchform, which covers all arrivals from 1820 to 1957.  As such, it duplicates the records found in the Ellis Island database and contains records from many additional years as well.
 

108. How do I obtain printouts of the original manifest?

These are available for sale at the Ellis Island Foundation website.
 

109. Your website used to work fine, but now only part of the site comes up when I visit it.  What's wrong with your site?

I got asked that question several times recently, and each time the problem was in the user's browser.  Specifically, the copy of my webpage in the browser's cache was bad and that bad copy was what was being displayed when you thought you were visiting my site.  The problem can be fixed by clearing the cache in your browser.

Most of the complaints I've received were from people using the Microsoft IE browser, so here's how to clear the cache in IE:

From the tools menu select "internet options"
That should open up a window with several tabs across the top
Make sure you are in the "General Tab"
The pop-up should have three sections
The middle section is labeled "Temporary Internet Files"
That section has two buttons
The first button is labeled "Delete Files"
Click on that button.
Then try to visit my site again.
But just in case you experience such a problem when using the Netscape browser, here's how to flush its cache:
From the edit menu select "preferences"
That should open up a preferences window with several choices on the left side
Click on the plus sign in front of "advanced" and several choices will appear below it
Click on the choice that says "cache"
The right side of the window has a button that says "Clear Memory Cache" and another that says "Clear Disk Cache".
Click on both buttons.
Click on OK to close this preferences window.
Then try to visit my site again
[Second thoughts:  You can also recover from this without completely flushing the cache but simply forcing a reload of my webpage from my server rather than from your cache.  You can do that by pressing the "reload" button (netscape browser) or "refresh" button (microsoft browser) that is at the top of your screen.  Press it a couple of times while holding down the shift key.  Also press it a couple of times without holding down the shift key.]
 

110. After your page loads I get a message at the bottom of my screen saying that a javascript error occurred.  After that, your search button has no effect.  What should I do?

This too is usually caused by having a stale copy of my webpage in your browser's cache.  See my answer to question 109 for what I mean by that and how you can correct it.

If you still see the problem after you've followed the steps in question 109, then there really is a javascript error in my program and I will want to fix it.  Send me e-mail giving details of the error.  You can get the details as follows:

- Netscape browser:

Type javascript: (don't forget the colon) into the location field of the browser.  The location field is that field near the top of your browser that is labeled "location".  It is the field that you type web addresses into when you surf the web.  A window will open which gives a line number and a description of the error.

- Microsoft browser:

In the lower left corner of the screen you will see an exclamation mark in a yellow triangle.  Double-click your left mouse button on it.  A window will
open which gives a line number and a description of the error.


111. My father's name is spelled correctly on the manifest but it was typed in wrong on the passenger record.  How do I get it corrected?

Any attempt at getting the Ellis Island Foundation to fix such errors would probably be futile (see Second Thoughts below).  The typing in of these records was a massive task undertaken by volunteers from the Mormon Church.  Naturally it is full of errors.  The correcting of these errors would involve reading the e-mails from millions of people like yourself, determining for each one if it is really an error in transcription or simply the way the family would like it to read, and then physically making the change if they deem it appropriate.  That would be a second massive task and I doubt that it would be worth doing.

My advice is to be happy with the work that they did do and be thankful that you were able to find your father's manifest in spite of their errors.  After all, the goal of their work was to enable people to find their ancestors, and it appears like they have succeeded in your case.  The end result is the image of the ships manifest and that you now have.  The fact that there is an error in the tool that enabled you to find that manifest is no longer important.

[Second thoughts: The Ellis Island Foundation has recently added a pre-populated e-mail where you can list your suggested changes right next to the existing data.  They say that their staff will check the suggested changes against the original manifest, and make the correction if a mistake was clearly made in the transcription process.  I've heard that this process is already underway and that they are even reviewing the suggested corrections that they have received since the inception of their website.]
 

112. Why do you have two different search buttons -- one labelled "old format" and the other "new format"?

These correspond to the format of the results that will be generated.  The "old format" is the one that is generated directly by the Ellis Island website, and is the only one that I displayed until recently.  But now, thanks to some remarkable work by Yves Goulnik, I am able to present the results in a much cleaner format consisting of links that will take you in one step to either the passenger record, the text or scanned manifest, or a picture of the ship.  The new format also allows you to specify the number of names per page, rather than being restricted to only 25 per page.

See also question 116.
 

113. When I go to your website I get the message "StartSearch not defined".  What am I doing wrong?

I received that question from several people and I discovered that all of them were using outdated versions of the Netscape browser -- version 3.01 in one case, 3.08 in another.  I never realized that people still had these browsers so I never tested my website on them.  My recommendation is to update to a later browser.  Anything from Netscape 4.5 and beyond should be fine (see question 510 for a problem with Netscape 4.08), and anything from IE 5.0 and beyond should work.
 

114. Why am I unable to view a copy of the enlarged manifest on the Ellis Island website?

The answer depends upon how you are trying to get the enlarged image.  Most people are simply clicking on the thumbnail image and expecting the enlarged image to pop up because that is what used to happen.  But due to a recent change on the Ellis Island website, you now need to left-click explicitly on the magnifying glass to the right of the thumbnail image instead of on the image itself.

But one person was reporting that nothing happened even when he clicked on the magnifying glass, although he said it used to work for him.  Upon further questioning, he finally admitted that he had recently installed a pop-up ad blocker from zdnet on his machine.  The pop-up manifest was being misinterpreted as an ad and it was being blocked.  He investigated further and reported back that he could fix the problem by going to the start menu and running "regsvr32 /i urlmon.dll".  Of course an easier fix is to turn off the ad blocker.
 

115. How can I import the list of matches that I obtain into a spreadsheet?

All too often people attempt to combine the final result into a spreadsheet because they don't know how else to display what they have found.  There are much better ways to present such data.  The best in my opinion would be in html itself, which is the native language of the web.  But this is not for the novice, so the details are not presented here.  If you are interested, you can find the details at http://stevemorse.org/ellis/advanced.html.

However there are some valid reasons for wanting spreadsheets, especially when column sorting is important.  For that purpose I have standardized the output displays from the gold form and the new-format display of the white form so that they can be mixed together on one spreadsheet.  Detailed and clearly written instructions for creating such a spreadsheet are given by Shawn Weil on his webpage at

http://www.tangerinecrafts.com/Personal/genealogy/EIDB_Spreadsheet.htm.
I highly recommend this to anyone serious about creating a spreadsheet of the Ellis Island search results.
 

116. Why do I keep getting an "Internal Server Error" message every time I try to use the new display format?

The way the new display format works is that your search request doesn't go directly to the Ellis Island server but instead goes to my server which in turn passes the request on to the Ellis Island server.  When the Ellis Island server sends the results back to my server, my server reformats the results before sending them back to you.

This works fine as long as the Ellis Island server can generate the results in a reasonable time.  But for any very long searches, my server might time out before the Ellis Island server is done.  And when I time out, you see the message:

Internal Server Error

The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request.

Please contact the server administrator, no.valid@email and inform them of the time the error occurred, and anything you might have done that may have caused the error.

More information about this error may be available in the server error log.

When this happens there are two things you can do.  One is to modify your search parameters so that the search doesn't take so long.  If that's not possible, then use the old format and be very patient.  In that case you'll probably see the "please wait" message on your screen for a very long time while the Ellis Island server is working on your request.
 

117. Did all the immigrants to the United States come in through Ellis Island?

Although the vast majority of them came in through the Port of New York (Ellis Island), there were other ports or arrival as well.  Some popular eastern seaports were the Port of Boston, Port of Philadelphia, and Port of Baltimore.  On the west coast there was the Port of San Francisco (Angel Island) and down south there was the Port of Galveston.  Some immigrants arrived at Canadian Ports and then entered the United States by land.  Of course the immigrants that came in from these other ports will not be listed in the Ellis Island database.

The records for the Port of Galveston from 1844 to 1954 are on the Texas Seaport Musuem website and can be accessed by my Galveston 1844 to 1854 One-Step searchform.  The records for the other major ports are also online at the ancestry.com site and can be searched from my One-Step searchforms for the Port of Baltimore from 1820 to 1948, the Port of Boston from 1820 to 1943, the Port of Philadelphia from 1800 to 1945, and the Port of San Francisco from 1893 to 1957.  See also the other tools in the "Other Ports of Immigration" section on my home page at http://stevemorse.org.  A paid subscripton to ancestry.com is required in order to access the records on the ancestry.com site whereas there is no charge to access the records on the Texas Seaport Musuem site.

Prior to Ellis Island, the major processing center for the Port of New York was at Castle Garden and the Old Barge Office.  These records are on the castlegarden.org website and can be searched using my Castle Garden One-Step form.  They are also on the ancestry.com website and can be searched from my All-NY-Arrivals One-Step searchform.  See also the other tools  in the "Castle Garden" section of my homepage at http://stevemorse.org.
 

118. Do you have any suggestions for how I should record the data that I find?

Lisa Perkins has developed a nice webpage in which she presents blank manifest extraction forms.  Her website is at http://www.rootsweb.com/~ilpip1gs/Toolbox/manifest_extract_forms.htm.  And as a backup, the same material can be found at http://stevemorse.org/ellis/extracts.html.

These forms are also useful if you cannot read the column headings on a manifest that you've found.
 

119. Each time I click on the new-display search button, all it does is reload the search form.  Why can't I get the search results?

We use cookies to verify that the search request came from our site's search form and not from some external site.  If we determine that the request came from an external site, we will reject the search request and redirect you to our search form.

If you are making the search request from our search form but have cookies disabled, we will mistakenly assume that you are coming from an external site and redirect you back to our search form.  Since that is the symptom you described, it means that you have cookies disabled.

The way you enable cookies depends on the browser you are using.  Here are the instructions for the popular browsers.

Netscape Version 4.x

From the Edit menu select Preferences.
Click on the Advanced line on the left-hand side.
On the right-hand side make sure that "Accept all cookies" is checked.
Click OK to exit from the preferences box.
Netscape Version 6.x or 7.x
First you need to make sure that you are accepting cookies.  You do that as follows:
From the Edit menu select Preferences.
Click on the Privacy and Security line and then on Cookies on the left-hand side.
On the right-hand side make sure that "Enable all cookies" is checked.
Click OK to exit from the preferences box.
In addition, you need to make sure that you have not explicitly blocked coookies from jewishgen.org or from stevemorse.org.  You can determine that as follows
From the tools menu select "Cookie Manager" and then "Manage Stored Cookies".
Click on the "Cookie Sites" tab.
See if jewishgen.org or stevemorse.org is on that list and tagged as not being able to set cookies.  If so, select it and press "Remove Site".
Click OK to exit from the preferences box.
Internet Explorer
Several people have commented that they have their browser set to accept cookies but are still getting this message.  Even though you think you are accepting cookies, you might not be accepting all cookies.  Specifically, Internet Explorer has a feature whereby you will reject cookies from sites that do not send back a so-called compact privacy policy.  Unfortunately the jewishgen server is not configured to send back such a policy.  So you need to change your cookie settings to allow jewishgen to set a cookie.  You can do this as follows:
From the Tools menu select "Internet Options".
Click on the "Privacy" tab.
Make sure the slider is not set to "Block" or to "High".  Any other setting would be fine.
Alternately you can keep the slider on "Block" or "High" providing you exlicitly allow cookies from jewishgen.  To do so
Click on the "Edit" button.
Enter the following in the "Address of Web site" field: www.jewishgen.org
Press the "Allow" button and then press the "OK" button.
Click OK to exit from the Edit box.
Furthermore you need to make sure that you have not explicitly blocked cookies from jewishgen.  You can determine that as follows
Click on the "Edit" button.
See if there is an entry for jewishgen indicating that it is blocked.  If so, select it and press Remove.
Click OK to exit from the Edit box.
Finally click OK to exit from the "Internet Options" box.


120. My grandfather's name was ... and he came through Ellis Island in 19..  Can you find his record for me?

I don't have the time to do individual research for all the people who write and ask me to do so.  And for free no less!  But I will answer any questions you have regarding the use of my website.  Beyond that, it's up to you to put in the legwork to find your grandfather.  See the answer to question 121 for how to proceed.
 

121. Do you have any suggestions as to how I go about finding my grandfather's ship record?

I suggest you read through all the questions on this page as some of them contain useful suggestions for finding evasive passengers.  See especially the answer to question 103.  See also the overview for a discussion of when to use the white form, when to use the gold form, and when to use the all-New-York-Arrivals form.
 

122. What is the Passenger ID that is displayed with each match found?

Each passenger in the Ellis Island database is assigned an ID.  This allows web pages to find various items (passenger record, manifest, etc.) pertaining to the passenger.  The ID is normally of no interest to you.  However it is useful if you are using the additional details tool.  See the frequently-asked-questions page associated with that tool for more information.
 

123. How did my ancestor's last name get transcribed correctly when it is listed incorrectly on the manifest?

As an example, see Aniello De Leo who arrived July 3 1898.  He is accompanied by his mother who is apparently traveling under her maiden name of Graviosi.  The last-name column for Ariello contains simply a ditto mark indicating that it too is Graviosi.  The manifest shows that his mother is going to her husband Michael De Leo.  Surprisingly, the text version of the manifest lists Ariello's name as De Leo rather than Graviosi.

This looks like the handiwork of an overzealous transcriber.  Not only did he do extra work, but he made an assumption which he should not have made.  He assumed that the children would have the last name of the father and not the mother, so he transcribed it that way.  It may have been the correct assumption in this case but could just as easily have been incorrect.  Fortunately such transcribing was the exception rather than the rule.
 

124. I found my grandfather in the Hamburg departures.  Why can't I find him in the Ellis Island arrivals?

It might be that you didn't search carefully enough and are missing him, perhaps because his name is badly misspelled.  But if you've done a due-diligence search (going line by line) and still cannot find him, here is a possible explanation.

From about 1892 to 1903, first and second class passengers were simply discharged at the dock -- they disembarked and headed off to a cab or the train, with no immigration screening at all.  If there were additional passengers, the ship would then proceed to Ellis Island for processing of those passengers.  The ship's manifest that it submitted to the officials on the Island might or might not include the first and second class passengers who were discharged earlier.  Furthermore, if there were no additional passengers, there would be no need for the ship to go to Ellis Island, and no manifest would be submitted at all.  All that changed after 1903 when the complete manifest, including early discharges, was submitted.
 

125. Are the Ellis Island records complete?

The short answer to this question is, for the most part, yes.  People ask this question because they are frustrated in ont being able to find their ancestor, and are hoping to learn that they are failing not because of anything they are doing wrong.  In almost all those cases, the person being sought is there but the researcher has just not yet figured out the right combination of search parameters to get a successful match.

However nothing is perfect, and there are undoubtedly some cases in which a record is missing for one reason or other.  For a detailed treatise on this, see the excellent write-up by Marion Smith.



200 SHIPS, PORTS, & ETHNICITIES

201. I've already found my ancestor's record and it shows the ship on which he came over.  Why don't I find him when I search using that ship name?

Unfortunately the ship name as spelled on the passenger record and even on the manifest is not necessarily the spelling that you need to use when searching the Ellis Island database.  For example there is a ship called the Konigin Luise and that is how it is spelled on the passenger record and manifest.  But the spelling that the Ellis Island search engine recognizes is "Konigen" instead of "Konigin".

Another example is the "Presidente Wilson".  It is owned by a ship company in Trieste, and that explains why there is an "e" at the end of Presidente. However the search key for this ship in the Ellis Island database is "President Wilson", and therefore you must search for it without the final "e".

In order to search the Ellis Island database by ship name, you must misspell the ship name exactly as it was misspelled when the search key for it was created. It doesn't matter how the ship name is really spelled. And it doesn't matter how the ship name is spelled on the passenger record that the Ellis Island server displays. Unless you use the ship spelling that appears in the search key, you will not find any matches. Unfortunately that spelling is never displayed to you.

To make matters worse,  some ships have been entered into the database with multiple ship search keys as if they were different ships.  The St. Louis, for example is one of them.  Some passengers who came over on that ship can be found by using the spelling "St. Louis" on my search form, others with "St Louis" (no period), and still others with "Saint Louis".

So what does all this mean to you?  It means that life just got more complicated and you might have to try alternate spellings (or misspellings) on the ship name.
 

202. This question is no longer relevant and has been removed.
 

203. What should I do if I don't see the port that my relative sailed from in your list of ports?

I have an extensive list of ports that includes all ports appearing in the Ellis Island database -- approximately 700 of them worldwide.  If you don't see a specific port, that means that no passenger in the database is transcribed as having come from that port.    So if your favorite port is not in my list, just search using the other parameters and leave the port unchecked.
 

204. Would you like the names of some ports that are not on your search page so you can add them?

No, because they wouldn't be ports that are supported by the Ellis Island search engine.  See question 203.
 

205. Why isn't Trieste in your list of ports?  It's a very common port for many of the immigrants.

It's there -- look in "Southern Europe" under "Austria-Hungary area".  And it's spelled Triest (no final e) in the database.
 

206. My grandfather is armenian and I have already found him in the Ellis Island Database.  He came in on a french ship and therefore he is listed as "armenie".  When I use your website and search for him by "armenian", I don't find him.  Why not?

I interrogated the Ellis Island Database and obtain a complete list of all the ethnicities that you can search on.  These are the ones that I listed on my search form.  You'll see that "armenian" is there but "armenie" isn't.  So your grandfather was entered into the database with an unrecognizable ethnicity, and any search that specifies an ethnicity will not find him.  This is true whether you specify "armenian" from my search page or from the Ellis Island search page.
 

207. This question was removed because it is no longer relevant.
 

208. Why do you have two entries for Spanish-American under ethnicities?

Because there are two different codes for Spanish-American in the Ellis Island Database.  Don't ask me why this is -- I'm only the messenger.  If this is an ethnicity of interest to you, I would suggest that you check off both boxes so as not to miss some potential hits.



300 OTHER SEARCH PARAMETERS

301. This question has been removed because it is no longer relevant.
 

302. Is it possible to add a field to your search form for marital status?  That would significantly narrow the number of hits to look at.

Yes, that's possible.  I would have to do it by running a program that filters out the ones that don't match because the Ellis Island search engine does not support a search based on marital status.

But the fields that the Ellis Island search engine returns initially are name, town, year, and age.  To get to the marital status you then have to click on the passengers name and obtain the passenger record that has additional fields.  That means that in order to filter out those results that don't match the marital status I would have to fetch the passenger record for each result that the Ellis Island search engine passes back to me.  Of course that could all be done by my program, invisible to the user.  But it means that I would have to be making many more queries of the database.  In fact, for each page of 25 matches that the Ellis Island search engine returns, I would have to be making an additional 25 requests for each of those passenger records.  That would, at the very least, increase the amount of time required for the search by 25 fold.

So although it's possible to search by marital status, it's not be a practical thing to do.  It would reduce the number of hits by 2 but would greatly increase the time before you would get to see the hits.

Of course if you really want to search by marital status, you can do so by using my gold (enhanced) Ellis Island search form.
 

303. Can I do wild-card searches on the names?

As far as I've been able to determine, the Ellis Island search engine does not allow wild-card or regular-expression searches.  You can do starts-with searches, which gives you some of the power that you would get with wild-card searches.
 

304. Can I do a soundex search to obtain all names that sound like my ancestor's name but are spelled differently?

[Background: There are several soundex systems and basically they involve the use of a list of names that are phonetically equivalent to the one you are interested in.  A soundex search would return all names that exactly match the name you are interested in as well as those that match any of the phonetic equivalents.  Even if the database doesn't support such a search, you could always generate your own list of phonetic equivalents (if you knew the soundex rules) and explicitly search on each one.]

The Ellis Island search engine can do a soundex search.  It also has the ability to generate a list of 30 phonetic equivalents for you.  According to Gary Mokotoff (co-developer of the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex code), this list is probably better than one based solely on soundex.  However the search engine does not search on these equivalents for you automatically -- instead it gives you the ability to select equivalents (one at a time) and search on them.

This search form takes that one step further.  It lets you specify a sounds-like search, in which case many of these equivalents will be searched for at one time.  For technical reasons, not all 30 equivalents can be searched for at once, so they are broken down into groups.  The number of equivalents in a group depend on how many other search parameters are specified, so the number of groups will vary from a minimum of two to perhaps as many as five or more.

The One-Step search form offers the following choices for doing sounds-like searches on the last name

sounds-like (few) -- the top two of the 30 phonetic equivalents that the Ellis Island search engine generates
sounds-like (many) -- all 30 phonetic equivalents that the Ellis Island seach engine generates
sounds-like (soundex) -- a true soundex search based on the American Soundex system


305. My grandfather's first name is "Georg" and not "George", and he is correctly entered in the database that way.  But if I search for him as "Georg" I don't find him.  I do find him if I search for "G" or "George".  What's going on?

That's a strange bug in the Ellis Island search engine.  It seems like the name that appears in the database is not necessarily the name that you must search on.  In this example, the search algorithm probably thinks that the name entered in the database is a misspelling of "George", and is requiring you to search for what it thinks is the correct spelling.

The saving grace here is that you can search on initials and find the person you are looking for, in spite of this bug.
 

306. I can find my relative when I search for him by name.  But when I add his age, I can no longer find him.  Why is that?

The ages of some passengers were entered in the Ellis Island database as years and months.  So if you are searching for a person who is 26 years and 4 months, you will not find him if you enter an age of 26 years.  However you will find him if you give an age range of 26 to 27.

Fortunately there are not too many people who were entered into the database this way.

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400 MISSING MANIFESTS

401. When would I use your missing-manifests page?

Suppose you searched for a passenger, got to the passenger record, clicked on "view original manifest", and it brought you to a page that says "NO IMAGE AVAILABLE" in a big black box.  This means one of two things have happened.  Either the image did not get uploaded into the online Ellis Island database due to some error..  Or the image was uploaded but the link in the database is missing.  In the latter case, you can access the image using my missing manifests page.

[Second thoughts: The message no longer says "NO IMAGE AVAILABLE" but instead says "WE ARE EXPERIENCING SERVICE DELAYS".  The message is bogus and there are no service delays.  The instructions described here still apply.]

Also, when you click on "view original manifest", you might get to an image of a manifest but for the wrong ship.  In this case the link in the database is incorrect.  My missing manifest page might be able to help in that case as well.

And, finally, you might not have found your passenger at all, but from other sources you know the exact date of arrival and possibly the ship as well.  In that case you can use the missing manifests page to view all the ships that arrived on that date and go through them line by line looking for the name you want.

A good companion tool to my missing manifests page is my ship lists search form.   It can tell you what roll and frame your ship is on, and give you a link for getting directly to the manifest.  See question 415 for more details.
 

402. I got the "no image available" message.  How do I use your ship-lists page and missing-manifests page to find that image?
402a.
I got the "experiencing service delays" message.  How do I use your ship-lists page and missing-manifests page to find that image?

You just searched for a passenger, got to the results page, clicked on "view scanned manifest", and it brought you to a page that says "NO IMAGE AVAILABLE" or "WE ARE EXPIENCING SERVICE DELAYS" in a big black box.  Now do the following:

a. Above the black box is the date.  Write that down.  To the right of that box in a blue field there is a page number.  Above the page number is a line number.  Write that down as well.  Also write down the port of departure.  There will probably not be any ship name shown, but ignore it if there is because it is probably wrong.

b. Go to my Ship Lists page.  Enter the range of dates and the port of departure.  This gives you a list of arrivals.  You click one-at-a-time on any that correspond to the date that you wrote down, and that gets you to the microfilm roll and frame for the first frame of that arrival.

c. You advance through the frames by clicking on the +1 button under the word FRAME.  For each frame, look at the line that you wrote down and see if it contains the passenger you are looking for.  Continue until you find the passenger, or you get to the first frame of the next ship.  If you get that far, you lose and you need to see question 404 in that case.

d. In some cases you can fill in the frame field with the page number that you wrote down, and that might be the correct frame.  If it is, it will save you from having to step through each frame of the ship's manifest.
 

403. I got to the manifest for the wrong ship.  How do I use the missing-manifests page to find the correct manifest?

You just searched for a passenger, got to the results page, clicked on "view scanned manifest", and it brought you to a page that contains the manifest for some other ship.  The steps you now need to perform are similar to what was done in question 402, except you don't need to write down the page number in step a because it is incorrect -- in this case step d will not apply.

You will probably see the name of the ship displayed in step a.  That will be the wrong ship.  However if from the results page you click on "view text manifest," you will see a display that gives a ship name.  That is probably the correct ship and should be entered in step a instead of entering the port of departure.
 

404. I still can't find the original manifest online.  Where can I go to view the actual microfilm?

Some places that you can do this include many branch offices of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), several branches of the New York Public Library (NYPL), and just about any Family History Library (FHL) of the Mormon Church.
 

405. I'm confused by the "roll number", "frame number" and "line number" that appear on your "missing manifests" page.  Can you explain these?

The roll number corresponds to the physical roll of microfilm.  You normally need not be concerned with that because I will compute it for you automatically when you enter the date.  The only reason it's on the page is in case you can't find what you want on the roll that I compute for you and you want to try searching on the next or previous roll.

The frame number (called page number on the Ellis Island site) corresponds to the a particular frame on a roll of microfilm.  To find the manifest that you want, you might have to step through an entire roll, frame by frame.  But if you've already found the person (by doing a search starting from the white or gold search form) but discovered that the original manifest is missing, you at least have the frame number (they call it page number) presented to you.  So you can try entering that number instead of stepping through each frame on the roll.  Of course that might be the wrong frame, and then you'll have to try some of the other things described in question 403.

The line number is the line on the frame that contains the passenger you want.  If you've already obtained the frame number by doing a search for the passenger, then you are presented with the line number as well.  This number never gets entered on my "missing manifest" form, but rather is the line that you scan down to on the manifest image to see the person you want.
 

406. Since the manifest (on the missing manifest page) appear inside a frame rather than in a full window, how do I mail the URL of the manifest to someone?

There is a checkbox that says "Display on separate page".  Check that box before clicking on the "Display" button and the manifest will no longer be put in a frame.  That should solve the problem of mailing the URL to a friend.
 

407. Is there a problem using your missing-manifests page from webTV?  I am not able to get it to work.

Apparently there is a problem because I've already received this complaint from numerous people.  But I can't imagine what it could be.  Whatever the problem is, it is not due to my site.  My site works with every other internet provider and with all commercial browsers.  If anyone has any more information about what the cause of the problem is, I'd be very interested in hearing from you.

For what it's worth, here is what one person told me:

"when I clicked on to Missing Manifests section, everything got disconnected. This happened twice and since I have webTV, I was told by them that webTV is unable to take a lot of information (whatever that means)."


408. Why does the manifest image on the missing manifest page sometimes fade out as I try to read it?

I give up!  I've never seen that behavior myself and was ready to chalk it up to hardware problem on a specific computer, except that at least two independent people have now reported that same problem.  And there's not much in common with what they were doing -- one was running the Netscape browser, the other was running the Microsoft one.  One was using an HP machine and the other a Compaq.

If anybody else experiences anything like this, please let me know at once.  Also if anybody has any insight here, let me know that too.
 

409. I found the manifest but it doesn't give the passenger names.  Where are the names?

The manifests are sometimes on more than one frame and you are seeing something other than the first frame.  You have to get to either the next or the previous frame (some rolls were scanned in backwards) to see the rest of the manifest.

If you found the manifest from my "missing manifests" page, then simply use the "+1" and "-1" buttons near the word "Frame" to get to the previous/next frame.  If you found it by clicking the "original ship manifest" link on the Ellis Island site, then click on the "prev" or "next" links that appear in the blue box just below the frame number.
 

410. I enter the date of May 21 on your missing manifest form, but it gets changed to May 19.  How do I get to the manifests for May 21?

Keep in mind that a roll might contain several days worth of ship landings.  Also recall that about half of the rolls have been scanned in backwards.

After you enter the date, my form figures out which roll covers that date and it displays that roll number in the "roll" field.  It also updates the date to the start date for that roll.  So the roll it found for you obviously starts with May 19 and goes at least as far as May 21.  Step through the roll frame-by-frame and you'll eventually get to May 21.

If the date-change didn't occur, that means that the roll you want starts with the date that you entered -- namely May 21.  In that case it could be that May 21 was split across two rolls and that the previous roll ends with some ships that arrived on that date.  So when the date-change does not occur, you should check the previous roll as well.

Keep in mind that if the roll is scanned in backwards, the first frame is not frame 1 but rather is the one that has the highest frame number.  And the date displayed is the date corresponding to that first frame and not to frame 1.
 

411. I found the manifest but it has a lot of cryptic numbers on it.  What do these mean?

Marian Smith recently wrote up a nice guide to interpreting these annotations.  See  http://www.jewishgen.org/InfoFiles/Manifests/
 

412. Why can't I find volumes 2281 or 2282?

That's a good question.  According to my Ship Lists website as well as the National Archives website, those volumes are supposed to be on T715 rolls 1034 and 1035 respectively.  But they are not in the uploaded manifest images on the Ellis Island website.  It appears that only one volume from each of these rolls was uploaded.  And to make it more confusing, rolls 1033 and 1035 were scanned in backwards whereas 1034 is in normal order.

Volumes 2281 and 2282 certainly exist and can be viewed at various libraries.  See the answer to question 404.
 

413.  What happened to frames 293 through 431 on roll 1305 series T715?

Looks like those frames didn't make it when they uploaded the images onto the Ellis Island website.  The frames preceding 293 are there as well as the frames following 431.  See question 404 for what to do next.  There are other instances in which specific frames within a roll are not present, but this is probably the most severe case.
 

414. I found the text-version of my grandfather's manifest.  So why does your "Missing Manifest" tool give a not-found error.

The microfilm roll containing your grandfather's manifest obviously exists, otherwise the volunteers would never have been able to type up the text version of it.  Unfortunately, when the EI folks uploaded the images of the rolls to their website, they skipped a few rolls. That's why my Missing Manifest form, which goes to the images directly and avoids the bad links on the EI website, is unable to display it.  Time to go to a library and view the actual microfilm roll (see question 404).

To date, here are the rolls that have not been uploaded to the EI website.  They are all in the T715 series:

33, 613, 1743, 2642, 3102, 3525

In addition, there are other rolls that have been only partially uploaded.  See questions 412 and 413 for some examples.


415. Is there an easy way to go directly to the roll and frame for a particular ship arrival?

Yes.  Go to my  my Ship Lists page and enter the ship name and and a range of dates.  This gives you a list of arrivals.  You click on the one you want and that gets you to the start of the manifests for that ship arrival.  Then step through those manifests, frame-by-frame, looking for the person you want.

(See also question 105 which says the same thing in a different way.)

I thought these instructions were very clear, but apparently some people were having trouble with them.  If that's you, see question 417.
 

416. Is there an easy way to get to the list of detained aliens which is at the end of the manifest pages for a ship arrival?

Yes there is.  Go to my Ship Lists page and display the contents of the entire roll (by entering the roll number and pressing SEARCH).  If you don't know the roll number, you might have to enter information on the particular ship arrival first, do the SEARCH, and then see the roll number on the results page.

At this point there are two possibilities.  Either the roll was scanned in backwards (frame numbers are decreasing on the results page) or it was scanned in correctly (frame numbers are increasing).  About half the rolls are scanned in backwards.

If the roll was scanned in correctly, click on the name of the next following ship arrival in the list.  That will get you to the first frame of that ship's manifests.  Then go back one frame.  That will be the last frame of the ship that you want, which will likely be the last page of the list of detained aliens.  Keep going backwards a frame at a time to see the remaining pages of detained aliens.

If the roll was scanned in backwards, click on the name of the ship itself.  That will get you to the lowest-numbered frame for that arrival.  And since the frames are scanned in backwards, the lowest-numbered frame will be the last page of detained aliens.  Then start going forward a frame at a time to see the remaining pages of detained aliens.
 

417. I read question 415 but don't undertsand it.  Can you give more details?

OK, here's the same thing in more details:

1. Go to my homepage at http://stevemorse.org

2. Click on the link for Ship Lists in the Ellis Island section

3. Enter the name of the ship and the month and year of arrival.  Do not enter the day since you might be off by a couple of days.  You might even try leaving off the month for the same reason.  Hint: enter only the first few letters of the ship name to avoid misspellings.

4. Click the SUBMIT button.

5. You will get a results page showing ship arrivals that satisfy the conditions you specified.

6. Determine the line for the arrival you want and click on the name of the ship on that line.

7. You are now on the form that gives direct access to the manifests. And specifically it is displaying the first page of the manifests for that arrival.

8. Keep clicking on the +1 button under the word FRAME to advance to other frames.  Check each frame to see if it contains the passenger you want.  Continue until you are get to the first frame of the next ship.
 

418. I have my grandfather's manifest but cannot find him when doing a search.  Can I find out how his name is spelled in the database?

Pick some other passenger on that manifest page whose name is clearly written and unlikely to be misspelled.  Search for that passenger.  When you find him, go to the text version of that passenger's manifest.  On that page you should see you grandfather's name as well, and you will see the spelling that was used when the name was transcribed.

[Second thoughts -- see question 420]
 

419. I found the manifest for the ship arrival, but it doesn't have the line number that I need.  How do I get to it?

There are many instances in which frames or even entire rolls from the original microfilm have been accidentally skipped when the images were scanned in and put on line.  In some cases they assigned a frame number to the frame, but you get some sort of error message when you attempt to access the frame.  In other cases they've skipped over the frame completely and not even assigned a frame number to it.

See questions 412, 413, and 414 for examples of the former.

An example of the latter is series M237, roll 609, starting at frame 710.  Note that frame ends with line number 892 and frame 711 starts with line 949.  So the frames containing lines 893 to 948 have all been skipped.

But all is not lost.  Those frames do exist and are on the actual microfilm rolls.  See question 404 to find out where you can view those microfilm rolls.
 

420. Why can't I do a search for any of the passengers on series T715, Roll 833, Volume 1833?

It appears that that entire volume was skipped when the search index was created.  So you will not be able to find such passengers when using any of my search forms.  I was previously under the belief that every line of every manifest on the microfilms had been indexed, and any failure to find a person was due to possible gross spelling errors when the index was created.  But this example proves me wrong.  So far this is the only case that I know of where such an omision occurred.  [Second thought -- see question 422 for another case that I just became aware of.]

The dates involved are February 24/25 1907 and the ships are the Eutoria, Gutrune, Prins Willem, Caracas, Spartan Prince, Kaiserin Auguste Victoria, Trinidad, and Havana.

See also question 418.
 

421. Why can't I magnify an image of a manifest beyond 0.7?

The ellisisland.org website does not allow you do change the magnification -- all images that they display to you are at magnification level of .5.  I have discovered how to change the magnification and give you the option of changing ot on my Missing Manifests form.  However it does not work uniformly for all manifest images.  Some of the images can be magnified up to 1.0, others can not be displayed at magnifications exceeding 0.5, and still others have other limits on the amount of magnification permitted.  It should always be safe to display with a magnification of 0.5, but for other values it's hit or miss.
 

422. Why can't I do a search for any of the passengers on series T715, Roll 1377?

The dates involved here are November 21 to 24 1909 and the ships on that roll are the Pannonia, Sannio, Tennyson, Colon, Jose, Patris, Columbia, Roma, Desterro, Rosalind, Havana, Winipedian, Rijndam, and Duca d'Aosta.

This is another example of the issue discussed in question 420.  See the answer to that question for more details.
 

-- Steve Morse