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Where in the world…?

Published on Wed, 09/23/2020 - 08:11am
Where in the world…?

One of the goals of most genealogists with immigrant ancestors is the elusive: “When did they arrive in the United States?” It is important to first narrow down which person immigrated, and then a timeframe of when they arrived. One of the most comprehensive resources is the Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, sometimes called “Filby’s.” These are comprised of three initial volumes, with annual supplemental volumes, and the Midwest Genealogy Center has them all!

First things first: why are they referred to as “Filby’s?” The first volume was published in 1981, and was compiled by P. William Filby. The first edition includes around 500,000 names compiled from 200 passenger lists. Each subsequent volume and supplement draws from over 200 different sources, including naturalization records, passenger lists, ship manifests and more. According to its publisher, Gale, these sources have resulted in more than 4 million names indexed in the series.

Using Filby’s can take some getting used to. The important thing to remember is they are indexes. Each volume is compiled from different sources, so if you do not find your ancestor in one, move on to the next. As always, keep spelling mistakes or changes in mind when looking for your person. The books are listed alphabetically by surname, and then first name. Generally included with each name is age, place of arrival, and year of arrival. The source of that information is included at the end of each entry in the form of a source number and page number within that source.  Using these numbers, you can see the exact source that immigration information was obtained from, and the page number. Each year a new supplement is published, using different records than the books before. So if you are not finding your ancestor, try not to get discouraged! Next year you might have better luck when the new index comes out.

Sarah M.
Midwest Genealogy Center

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