Markings in Other Manifest Columns

In the Head Tax Column . . .
Until 1952, there was a "Head Tax" on each immigrant entering the United States. For most immigrants, the tax was included in the price of their steamship ticket and paid by the steamship company. The same was true for passengers who came by railroad or ferry across the Northern and Southern Borders. Those immigrants who came "under their own steam" had to pay at the door.

Not everyone had to pay the Head Tax. Children under 16 were exempt, as were returning residents, citizens/natives of Canada, Mexico, and most Caribbean islands. Also exempt were "Non-Immigrants," that is, people who were not coming to live in the U.S. permanently. In this category were visitors, tourists, and people traveling through U.S. territory in transit to another country. Many nonimmigrants had to pay the Head Tax as a deposit to guarantee they would leave as promised. Those "transits" who paid a Head Tax deposit got a receipt and had the fee refunded when they departed.

Many returning residents disputed their need to pay the Head Tax, claiming they already paid it upon their first arrival. They usually paid the tax, got a receipt, went to their home in the U.S., then pursued their refund by mail.

In the Can Read and Write Column . . .
The Immigration Act of 1917 first required that immigrants coming to live in the U.S. permanently be able to read and write in their native language. Thus passenger lists after 1917 include a column asking whether the passenger can read and/or write, and in what language. Whenever an Immigrant Inspector suspected that an applicant for permanent admission was illiterate, he could send them for a literacy (reading) test.

The government initially tested the immigrants by having them read selected passages from the Bible, but it became clear this system could be controversial. So the Immigration Service soon developed a rather complicated system to perform the testing. First, each known language was issued a number. Then, a number of phrases and passages in each language were printed on slips of paper (one phrase per slip), and each phrase received a serial number. So each slip had one number for the language, and another for the phrase (i.e., #-####).

A second set of slips were printed in English, and numbered with the exact correponding numbers. The phrases usually contained simple instructions, such as "Get up, open the door, and return to your chair," or "Shake the hand of the person next to you." The literacy test involved first determining what language the immigrant spoke/read, locating a slip for that language, and giving the immigrant the test language slip and the testing official the corresponding English language slip. By reading the corresponding instructions in English and observing the immigrant's actions, even an Inspector who spoke only English could discern whether the person before him could read.

The passenger manifest would later be annotated with the number of the test slip. The notes indicated both that the immigrant was tested and exactly which test was given. A test slip number by itself usually indicates the immigrant passed. If he/she failed, the annotation often also includes the words "cannot read." If their illiteracy became grounds for exclusion (i.e., the reason to send them back), it should appear on a List of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry.

Hospital stamps or medical annotations . . .
Some records of immigrants who were held for real or suspected ailments bear a stamp reading "IN HOSPITAL." Many also have stamps indicating the end of their hospital stay, as either "discharged," "died in hospital," or "deported." If an immigrant was hospitalized, beginning in 1903 at New York the immigrant should also appear on a List of Aliens Detained or a List of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry. If they were hospitalized at Philadelphia ca. 1882 to ca. 1902, there may be additional records at the National Archives in Philadelphia. There are no known additional records for other ports.

Any immigrant whom the Public Health Service doctors thought might be sick, mentally ill, or otherwise unable to take care of themselves might be issued a Medical Certificate (click here to see a 1906 Medical Certificate). Those immigrants certified then went for a full examination by medical staff. They may not have been hospitalized, but many ship lists bear annotations noting Medical certificates, like those below, both certifying "senility":

Note the examples above and below both contain some language saying the doctor was of the opinion the condition would affect the immigrant's ability to earn a living (that is, a Likely Public Charge, or LPC).

NON-IMMIGRANT Stamps . . .
Non-Immigrants were people who do not plan to stay in the United States. Some nonimmigrants were travelers (called "Transits," and often stamped "In Transit") on their way to someplace else, and who simply needed to cross the U.S. in their journey to another destination, such as Canada, Mexico, Asia, or Europe. Others were visitors on holiday, or on a business trip. Some nonimmigrants were students, coming to spend years studying in America, but with the intention of returning home after graduation.
Nonimmigrants did not face close scrutiny, because they did not intend to stay. Transits had to show they had tickets for transportation beyond the United States, and students had to prove they had been accepted for study at an accredited school.
Nonimmigrants who arrived after June 29, 1906, and then changed their mind and remained in the United States, later found themselves unable to become U.S. citizens. After the 1906 date only those admitted for permanent (not temporary) residence could be naturalized.

How Much Money?

The question of how much money an immigrant had in his possession is related to his or her ability to support themselves in the United States and not become a Likely Public Charge (LPC). They needed enough money to pay for transportation, food, and lodging until they found a job, a place to live, etc. The amount needed would differ for different immigrants. Those coming to live with family members needed less cash on hand than those with only temporary lodging arranged. And those with scarce or marketable skills needed less money than common laborers, especially at times of high unemployment in the United States.

Immigrants were frequently less than truthful about the amont of money in their possession. Some claimed to have more money than they had, thinking the higher number would improve their chance of admission to the United States. Others claimed far less than was true, fearing their life's savings would be stolen by other passengers, or taken from them by corrupt border guards encountered on their journey.

Immigrant Inspectors often corrected the amount during immigrant inspection. Small variations are expected, explained by the fact that some funds might be spent while aboard the ship. Large differences are usually explained by the fact that many immigrants hid the fact that they carried large amounts of money until they arrived in America.

Discharged at Pier, Discharged at Dock . . .
Some passenger lists contain stamps or annotations indicating a passenger was "discharged" at the pier or dock. First and second class passengers were generally inspected on board the ship and allowed to proceed while steerage immigrants lined up to board barges or ferries to Ellis Island. United States citizens listed on alien pages often display a "US Citizen discharged at pier" stamp. The example at right is from the record of a 26 year-old student "d[is]c[harge]d at dock" by Inspector Biglin. Whenever a passenger is so annotated, it means they did not proceed with others on that page toward extended immigrant inspection.

Visa Issued . . .[Visa Matters since July 1, 1924]

JewishGen Home InfoFiles Home Guide Home Left Margin Name Column Occupation Column Nationality and Citizenship Cross References Other Columns List of Detained Aliens List of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry Glossary

©2002 JewishGen, Inc.