Monday, October 22, 2007

Tip # 22...Visit the Ellis Island Web Site

Ancestry research is not at the top of the list of Monday night activities for the most ardent family historian. Many of my friends want to kick back with their friends and watch Monday Night Football. So, tip # 22 is as easy to complete as checking your email and you can even watch football while you do it. All you need to do is visit http://www.ellisisland.org/. The Ellis Island Foundation has created an excellent, simple to use site you can search quickly.

If your ancestors came to the United States through Ellis Island, you can search for them on the passenger lists. Through the Ellis Island site I was able to locate all of my grandparents passenger lists. Three out of four of my grandparents entered the United States through Ellis Island. My maternal grandfather entered through Philadelphia.

Using the site is straightforward, however the names of your ancestors may not be. When I searched for my paternal grandfather's name, I did not find a match. When I searched for my grandmother's name, I found it listed next to my grandfather. His first name was listed as Iwan instead of Johannes or John. The soundex way of spelling the name helped me in my search. I guarantee if you try a few names, you will be hooked on trying to find them all. Once I discovered the misspelling of his name, I could add a note to the site for any future researcher to find.

I love to discover the names of my family on the lists especially since every line also contains information such as the amount of money they had, where they came from, and sometimes a physical description. The handwriting of the recorder is equally fascinating. Passenger lists help us better relate to the circumstances of our ancestors' arrival.

Once you have found the passengers you seek, be sure to review the entire list of passengers. Neighbors from their same hometown, or future neighbors at their destination may have been on the same ship. Many times, families came in larger numbers than we realize, and you may find relatives you did not know existed.

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. also seeks stories of your family’s immigration. It is a great way to share your ancestor’s story in 300 words or less. Details such as why your family came to America and what challenges they faced upon arrival can be preserved when you submit stories to this site.

So, do a little Internet surfing tonight and I bet you will visit the site again and again. Especially when you need the distraction if your football team struggles on Monday Night Football.

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