How to Find Passenger Lists for Databases without Images

Sometimes we run into a simple problem. We find an index with data that does not link to an image that we can examine. As basic as that problem may be, surmounting it can be a significant challenge. Let’s take an example using passenger lists. Read the given information below and think about how you might solve this puzzle. (Or better yet, stop after the the problem is presented and try to solve the puzzle before continuing on to the solutions.)

Given Information: Giuseppe Milione is included in FamilySearch’s “United States Italians to America Index, 1855–1900.” This particular Giuseppe Milione was reported to be a laborer, aged 43 [born about 1857], and had been a resident of “S. Margheritta.” He immigrated aboard the Spartan Prince, which departed from Naples and arrived in New York 6 May 1900.

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The Problem: This index at FamilySearch does not link to an image of the passenger list. How do you find that image? Bonus points if you can identify more than one pathway to that image.

Perhaps you’ll first try another FamilySearch collection that does include images: “New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892–1924.” In that collection, you might search for Giuseppe Milione, born in Italy between 1850 and 1860.

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Hmm. That search only returns two results, neither of them the one we’re looking for. What now?

Perhaps you’ll think, “I’ll just go to another source that I know has images of passenger lists for the Port of New York. I’ll go to Ancestry.” There, you search for Giuseppe in “New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820–1957.”

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Hmm. No luck there either. What’s going on? There seems to be an indexing problem, but what’s the problem exactly? And how do I circumvent this hurdle?

Solution #1: Try yet another database. (Reasonably exhaustive research includes a reasonably exhaustive search. Don’t give up at the first or second negative result.) In this particular case, a search of Giuseppe Milione at the Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., with just his name and arrival year of 1900, returns just one result. The one we’re looking for. That result includes a link to an image.

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This method won’t work in every instance though, and the image (not reproduced here) is tough to read. How else can we solve this problem? And how can we get a better image?

Solution #2: Let’s look back at the “New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820–1957” on Ancestry. If you go to the search page for that specific collection, you’ll see “Browse this collection” to the right. We don’t know the roll number, but we can browse by date. Choosing first “1900,” then “May.” Of the available May dates for 1900, 6 May does not appear as an option, though that’s the reported arrival date on the index page for Guiseppe Milione. Now what?

Browse forward and backward a bit. Choosing 10 May (the next available date after the 6th) returns three ship names, none of them the Spartan Prince. Going backward, 5 May (the next available date before the 6th) returns eight ship names, the last of which is Spartan Prince. Bingo. The day is only one off from that reported in the index. This is likely the right manifest, or likely enough to make browsing worthwhile.

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Time to start scrolling through the manifest. The Film Strip at the bottom of the images shows that there are 112 pages to scroll through. It could be a little time-consuming, but then you notice that the pages with passengers listed are just every three pages. So there are fewer than forty of those pages to scroll through. Much more manageable. After a few minutes (and toward the end), your patience pays off. There’s Giuseppe on image 106 of 112, passenger 11. As an added bonus, the image here seems just a bit clearer than the one at the Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation.

Solution #3: This solution is similar to the 2nd solution, browsing and scrolling, but at FamilySearch instead of Ancestry. At FamilySearch, go back to the database titled “New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892–1924.” Scroll down past the search box and click on “Browse through 3,243,589 images.”

The resulting page shows the records ordered primarily by roll number. Based on the index we saw, we don’t know what the roll number is. But the records are arranged secondarily by date. So we easily scroll down and find “Roll 119, vol 197–198, 1 May 1900–5 May 1900.” Click on that link for the images.

This roll has 916 images to scroll through, which could be more than exhausting if you started at the beginning and moved forward one image at a time. Thankfully, you don’t have to do that. First, click on the “Information” tab at the bottom of the first image. Those details clarify that the manifest for Spartan Prince is in volume 198, not volume 197, so we can scroll past roughly the first half of the roll. They also clarify that the ships included in volume 198, in order, are New York, Etruria, Spartan Prince, La Champagne, Rotterdam, Coleridge, Southwark, and Ethiopia.

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Click on the “Browse Multiple Images” icon (a group of tiny squares) on the upper left of the first image. You can zoom in or out to show fewer or more images. I like to zoom out until there are ten pages across each row. That way, I can scroll through images quicker while I can still see roughly what each image looks like. Almost all the pages from the manifests look similar, but the label images or heading images look notably different. In just a few seconds, I’ve scrolled down and easily spotted the first page of volume 198 (image 479 of 916).

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From there, scroll down a bit more, then double-click any particular image to enlarge and see what ship that page is from. At my first random “stop and enlarge” (image 546 of 916), the page was from Etruria. That’s the ship immediately preceding Spartan Prince in the list above, so I only need to scroll a bit longer to find the manifest for Spartan Prince. I again click on the “Browse Multiple Images” icon to scroll more quickly, then zoom in again, back and forth, until I find the first image for the Spartan Prince at image 580 of 916. (While there are good, highly visible headings separating volumes here, there are not the same useful headings between ships.)

As with Ancestry, we can scroll through the FamilySearch manifest to find Giuseppe. Skipping to every third page with the names listed makes that scrolling exercise quicker, and we come to Giuseppe Milione, passenger #11, on image 686 of 916. This process might sound onerous, but the whole thing took no more than fifteen minutes.

Big Bonus: This image is infinitely clearer than either of the other two. It’s clear enough that we can see the age of 43 reported for Giuseppe in the index is incorrect. Though it may be arguable, it appears to have been first written as 40, then the latter numeral overwritten with a 9, which makes his estimated birth year about 1851 rather than 1857.

Indeed, if we revisit Ancestry’s “New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island, 1820–1957,” and search for Giuseppe Milione, born 1851 in Italy, arriving in 1900, he is the first result returned. So it was Giuseppe’s age that was misinterpreted when it was put into NARA’s database, an error that was carried into FamilySearch’s “United States Italians to America Index, 1855–1900.” That error made finding the image much more difficult.

Have you used any other methods to solve this kind of problem? If so, comment below and let us know. The more we learn from each other, the better off we’ll all be.

  1. June 12, 2020 1:35 pm
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