Ship passenger lists

The Pitfalls of Passenger Lists

Michael Tepper is a leading authority on passenger and immigration lists in the U.S. He is the author of “American Passenger Arrival Records,” which is a road map through the tens of millions of records and resources documenting immigrant arrivals from the time of the earliest settlements to the passage of the Quota Acts of the 1920s.

The following is an excerpt of an interview from Genealogy Pointers about some of the problems researchers run into when they are on the trail of an immigrant ancestor.

GP: “What would you say is the most common misconception about passenger lists?”

MT: “Almost certainly it is the belief that people had their names changed when they got to Ellis Island. In fact, immigrants did not change their names unless they applied for a change of name by deed poll at a courthouse or when they were naturalized. During processing at Ellis Island, officials had the actual ships’ manifests in front of them. They called each immigrant by name, according to the manifests, and often put a check next to the name after it had been called. So the passenger records are an exact reflection of the immigrants’ identities before they crossed the Atlantic, not after.”

GP: “Are there other false assumptions about passenger lists?”

MT: “Among Americans of relatively recent ancestry, say researchers whose immigrant forebears arrived after 1850, there is the belief that official passenger lists must also exist for the Colonial and Early National periods of our history. The fact is they don’t. No colony-wide or U.S. law requiring the compiling of immigration records was enacted before 1820. The only immigration records prior to 1820 to have survived are really kind of quirky. For instance, we have lists of German immigrants who immigrated to colonies like Pennsylvania because the authorities, intent on keeping tabs on these newcomers, required them to take a loyalty oath. Also, some of the most important published immigration records are not immigration records at all, but land records, such as Nugent’s “Cavaliers And Pioneers” and Skordas’s “Early Settlers Of Maryland,” which identify early immigrants taking up land grants.”

GP: “Let’s turn that situation around. Can you think of an instance when surviving records are frequently overlooked?”

MT: “Yes. Here’s a common mistake that’s made by researchers hoping to find an ancestor during the 1840s. Let’s say the genealogist is looking for a Sean O’Shaunessey, who is supposed to have come from Dublin to New York in June of 1849. The researcher finds a Sean in the official Customs Passenger Lists; however, because the record indicates that his country of origin is Great Britain, not Ireland, the genealogist concludes, mistakenly, that this Sean is not his relative. This is an error that could have been avoided had the researcher known that shipping agents, or bursars, or others who were responsible for compiling the ships’ manifests were far more likely to write ‘Great Britain’ and not Ireland as Sean’s country of origin during the 1840s because Ireland was, in fact, officially part of Great Britain.”

Image credit: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

 

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Evidence Explained: An Interview with Elizabeth Shown Mills

Dipping into the Genealogy Pointers archives, we unearthed a fascinating interview with Elizabeth Shown Mills, author of “EVIDENCE EXPLAINED: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace.”

As one of the most respected and influential persons in American genealogy, Published widely in academic and popular presses, she was editor of the “National Genealogical Society Quarterly” (NGSQ) for 16 years.

Mrs. Mills has also taught for 13 years at a National Archives-based institute on archival records and, for 20 years, headed the program in advanced research methodology at Samford University in Alabama.

Mrs. Mills knows records, loves records, and regularly shares her expertise in them with audiences across three continents.

“EVIDENCE EXPLAINED” is Elizabeth Mills’ third major publication pertaining to source citation. Her earlier works include: “EVIDENCE! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian” (1997) and “QUICKSHEET: Citing Online Historical Resources “Evidence!” Style” (2005). The groundbreaking “EVIDENCE EXPLAINED” analyses citation principals and includes more than 1,000 citation models for virtually every source type. In the process, it covers all contemporary and electronic history sources–including digital, audio, and video sources–most of which are still not discussed in traditional style manuals.

“Genealogy Pointers” spoke with Mrs. Mills about the making “EVIDENCE EXPLAINED” and how researchers can benefit from it. Here are the exchanges from that conversation:

GENEALOGY POINTERS (GP): Why did you write this book?

ELIZABETH SHOWN MILLS (ESM): Researchers need help and want help, but what they need today is not available elsewhere. Those who study history now probe far beyond the materials covered by standard citation guides–combing long-ignored original, grassroots-level records for fresh insight into our world. Thanks to modern technology, billions of these original records are now easily accessible through many different media. However, today’s researchers also know two things: First, all these records are not created equal. Second, the real reason to carefully identify sources for each piece of information is to ensure that we use the best sources possible. Otherwise, we just can’t reach reliable conclusions. Analyzing evidence is no easy task, considering the volume of information available, the diversity of the records, all the quirks within each type of document, and all the media formats.

Since the 1997 publication of the original “briefcase edition” of “EVIDENCE!” (which compactly covers 100 of the most common types of history sources), researchers have deluged me with questions about thousands of other materials. I definitely understand their angst, after three decades of my own research in the archives of most western nations, as well as writing for journals and presses in several academic fields and 16 years of editing a major scholarly journal. The new “EVIDENCE EXPLAINED” draws on that experience–but it’s also rooted in four file drawers of inquiries and debates generated by the users of that first edition.

Continue reading…

ESMills

We’re all family. Cousins, actually

When we remember that we’re a part of the greater human family, will we be nicer to each other? Maybe, but hopefully we will at least remember to look beyond what we think we know.

Elizabeth Shown Mills is a historical writer who has spent her life studying Southern culture and the relationships between people—emotional as well as genetic. She is an accomplished researcher and writer, having her work published widely by both academic and popular press. Mrs. Mills has also taught for 13 years at a National Archives-based institute on archival records and, for 20 years, headed the program in advanced research methodology at Samford University in Alabama.

In We Are All Cousins, a brief video produced by National Genealogical Society, Mrs. Mills discusses her own family history and the richness that can be found with the realization of our own interconnectedness. She stresses the importance of not limiting ourselves to the ethnic and religious groups we believe we belong to exclusively, as our histories are often more complex and interwoven.

Photo Credit: Samford University

Evernote for the Genealogist

Evernote for the Genealogist

As a working professional, I was forced to look for an organizational solution to my compulsive note-taking problem. I used to carry around a small notepad and a package of sticky notes. My two companions lived in my backpack as a student, on my desk at work, even in my purse as an adult. My scribbles followed me: from my colorful tabs of commentary peeking from between the pages of my books to important thoughts in meetings to my grocery list, my tiny paper trail kept me organized.

After losing one too many notepads, I started to jot my notes-to-self on my iPhone. This was a vast improvement, but not quite there. When I found my solution in the free app Evernote, I didn’t realize I was using an awesome tool for a genealogist to solve my personal organizational struggle.

Evernote is an app that has thankfully replaced my paper system. I can take notes, keep track of online articles I want to read later, open spreadsheets and other documents on my mobile device, use it as a calendar and planner, and even record passages from my e-reader.

While I use Evernote on my iPad or iPhone, I can sync what I’m working on to my computer as well. I can seamlessly move back and forth between my linked devices – two computers and three digital devices – keeping all of my notes and research in one central location. It’s password protected, giving me peace of mind that my important information is safe.

The best part? I’ll say it again, Evernote is free!

In her blog post Evernote and Genealogy: They’re Made for Each Other, Alona Tester gives a great introduction of how and why to use Evernote for genealogical research.

Think of Evernote as a shelf of blank notebooks that you can jot down all your little notes and add in those newspaper and any other clippings you find that are relevant too (you know, old-school scrapbook-style), while still keeping them in a relevant notebook … that’s what Evernote allows you to to do digitally. Yes, seriously!

Evernote Tips: The 11 Amazing Features That Make Using Evernote So Freaking Awesome

Just think if you had digital notebooks for each family group? Or for your local history study? Or a particular topic that you are researching? Or a to-do notebook? It gives you a place to enter notes that you currently have on scraps of paper everywhere (I know we all have them), as well as filing them into a relevant folder.

Additional information: To learn more about Evernote this video is a great place to start. Ready to try it? Download it for your computer or device. Evernote thinks it’s a great fit for genealogists too! Cyndi’s List has an entire category devoted to Evernote, and an entire Evernote blog to accompany it.

We’d like to thank Alona Tester for allowing us to reprint her work.

Image Credit: Evernote.com

brainpickings.org

DNA, Genealogical Research and Privacy

Building your family tree is a painstaking process, traditionally comprised of careful historical research. Using advances in science, direct to consumer DNA testing is gaining tractions as a new genealogical tool. You, the consumer, are sent a kit to collect a sample; the company will sequence and compare your results to those within their database. The idea is to match you to your genetic relatives, enabling the discovery of missing links and the ability to close doors on cold leads.

When a company can offer a quick and easy way to discover your heritage, it’s a tempting idea. That’s not to say one shouldn’t use new technologies to discover genealogy, or that there isn’t a place for DNA testing in the new research landscape. However, just as the expanding web comes with a heightened awareness of a long and lingering digital footprint, using a DNA testing service should carry at least equal caution.

What happens when you give away your DNA for testing? Do you know where it will end up, who will see it, or how it will really be used? An Alaska class action lawsuit against Family Tree DNA claims that the company posted personal information on very public websites, in violation of state law.

According to the complaint of Michael Cole, Family Tree DNA publishes the results of its genetic tests on a publicly available website, not just their customer site, as he believed. This additional access on their own site and that of an Ancestry.com subsidiary is what Cole claims is “unbeknownst to and without the consent of its customers.”

The suit claims “Family Tree’s practice of releasing information about its consumers’ genetic makeup without their permission, carries serious and irreversible privacy risks and violates Alaska’s Genetic Privacy Act.”

As with any piece of personal information, caution and good judgment should be exercised. Read the small print to learn how your DNA will be used and shared, as well as who may have access to it.

Source, Kyla Asbury, “Alaska class action lawsuit says Family Tree DNA posted info on public websites,” May 16, 2014.

Image Credit: Brainpickings.org