January 16, 2008

Finding Ancestors on Ships Passenger Lists

Many genealogists have trouble finding their ancestor's records. The internet is a vast complex of websites and it can be confusing and difficult to narrow down your search for your family tree.

Since I spend a lot of time on various Rootsweb.com mailing lists trying to help researchers with their genealogy queries, I thought it might be helpful to post some of the Questions and my Answers here on OliveTreeGenealogy Blog.

The answers here have been edited for this Blog

Q:

> Grandfather, _name removed_, born in Bavaria
> has stated he came to America on October 15, 1880. leaving
> from Havre on the ship Wieland.
>
> I have been unable to find his name on any Ship Lists for
> that period. Nor have I been able to locate a ship list
> for the Wieland for any time in 1880 or 1881.
>

A:

I don't know where you looked as you didn't tell us. It's helpful to give a brief list of sources you have checked. This helps others to guide you or do lookups on your behalf. You gave us a lot of good information but if you would like to learn more on writing queries on mailing lists please see Good Query, Bad Query

Searching Ancestry.com I found the ship WIELAND sailing into New York on several voyages in 1880. Some of the dates were 19 March, 15 Sept,4 Aug, 29 Jan, 15 June, etc.

Don't be misled by the date of immigration given by your grandfather. (Oct 15/80) You must allow a year or even two, on either side of the given year, as immigration and naturalization years are very often mis-remembered.

A search just of the ship name and the immigration year given (no passenger name) brings up 4,842 hits on ancestry.com

Many have NOTHING for the name, meaning it could not be read on the film. However you may be able to see the names, you will have to look at the original images either on microfilm or online

Many have only a first name. Or initials. It seems these particular ships lists were difficult for the indexers to read.

You could also narrow the hits down by using your grandfather's dob and place of origin. Don't overlook wildcards if using search engines.

For more help with ships to New York in the time period you need see Ships To New York 1875 - 1899

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