Passenger Lists Are Not Dead Ends
September 16, 2013
My father’s family insisted the Rinke’s came through Ellis Island. Everybody did, right? I could find nothing for the extended Rinke family in the index (Soundex) for New York landings for 1820 – 1943 (Family History Library Film). That was a long time ago, when I first started genealogy and believed every family story had to be true!
I should have read They Came in Ships: A Guide to Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor's Arrival Record, 3rd edition, by John P. Colletta, Ph.D. The book is loaded with information, websites, and books about immigration. They Came In Ships is essential to your success in finding that elusive passenger.
Mr. Colletta goes through the differences in the laws and what records are available from year to year and port to port. The year to remember is 1820. Everything changed then. Passenger lists were not required or saved prior to that year. There are several published works on these early arrivals, but no "passenger lists." Other records, land for instance, can give immigration information for these early settlers.
After 1820, the federal government required "Custom Manifests" or "Customs Passenger Lists" from the ship’s captains. Early lists included name, age, sex, occupation, and nationality. There were no standard forms, so each manifest had to be studied individually. New laws through the years have added more information to the manifests, introduced standardized forms, and defined acceptable immigrants. The first of these laws came in 1875; criminals and women “brought for lewd and immoral purposes” were not admitted to the United States.
I now know to take the blinders off and look at every possibility. But I didn’t realize how many ports of entry have been used through the years until I found A Genealogy Guide by Joe Beine at http://www.genesearch.com/ports.html. His guide includes all the US ports of arrival and Canadian and Mexican border crossings. There are links to records and/or indexes or information on where to find the records. Fantastic resource!
Oh, the Rinke’s? We’ll get back to them.
Midwest Genealogy Center