Archive for June, 2019

ellis islandAt some point in your record gathering process, you will probably find yourself looking for immigration records. If your family immigrated between the years of 1892 and 1924 you will most likely be looking at the records of Ellis Island. Between those years 22 million people came to America, and over 100 million Americans can trace their ancestors through Ellis Island.

Not everyone immigrated through Ellis Island!  If your ancestor came before 1892 they couldn’t, and if they came after 1924 they may or may not have. You may discover that your ancestor arrived through Philadelphia, Baltimore, or one of the more than 90 ports of entry. Some immigrants came first to Canada and Mexico and then entered the United States through a border crossing, many of which have existing records. There were also other important processing ports located at Baltimore Harbor, San Francisco’s Angel Island and Galveston Texas. Castle Garden in New York was an important port before Ellis Island opened.

Database names come from the ships’ manifests, and include not only the names of any aliens, but U.S citizens who may have been traveling abroad, crew members, deportees (those who arrived and were denied access), and even those who literally “missed the boat.” If your ancestor’s name is listed, it can give their:

  • Age and sex
  • Occupation
  • If they could read or write
  • Native County
  • Last residence
  • Point of departure
  • Destination and more

Sometimes a notation appears to the right of the document stating that you can view the ship manifest online. Since families often bought passage at the same time, they are often listed next to each other, and a relative may appear on the next record.

If you know your ancestor came through Ellis Island, and you can’t locate them in the record, check other possible spellings. If your ancestor was illiterate, the clerk may have spelled it like it sounded to him, or a transcriber may have made an error. Also important to note is that the “American Immigrant Wall of Honor,” which is a part of the Ellis Island Museum, contains the names of any immigrant whose descendants want to honor them by paying a fee to record their name there. A name may appear on The Wall regardless of where or when a person immigrated. A good example is John Alden, whose name appears there, but who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620.

Names were not changed at Ellis Island! Though many names were obviously changed near the time of arrival, this didn’t occur because of a clerk at Ellis Island, or another port, despite all the wonderful stories you’ve heard. Immigration records were created at the point of departure and were recorded by an officer of the shipping company, who most often spoke the same language as the immigrant. Port clerks checked names of the new arrivals by using the original shipping company lists. Names that were changed, were changed by the immigrants after their arrival. This was done for many reasons, one of which was to make them sound more “American”.

Places to check for immigration records:

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King Philip’s War in the 1600s until today, this nation has felt the need medals shotfor an organized military. Early military units were created by towns who enlisted men to protect their communities. As people enlisted, a record of their service was kept so that they could receive compensation.

After the Revolutionary War, military records began to be kept on a national level. The National Archives houses a card file, which has been filmed and was taken from local muster rolls. These are indexed by name, and by state. Because the newly formed United States had little money to pay for military service at this time, bounty land was given in lieu of pay and tracts of land were set aside, mostly in Ohio and Kentucky, for the purpose of compensation. Not all moved to their land, it was often sold, creating another record, and a clue to where your ancestor lived both before and after the war. See www.nara.gov.  That site’s research room also yielded information on my Uncle who was a POW in Germany during WWII and included the camp he was detained in, as well as the information on a cousin who was MIA during the Korean War.

In 1917, as World War I approached, the nation instituted a draft.  Three separate days were set aside and amazingly during those three days nearly 100 percent of eligible men registered. That meant over 24 million eligible citizens and aliens born between 1872 and 1900 filled out draft registration cards. These registrants were not all inducted or served in the military. Only a small percentage were actually called up, but this registration is a significant place to look for anyone who has male ancestors of military age during this time period, because of the sheer numbers of men that are recorded.

World War I Draft and World War II Draft Cards can be found online at www.ancestry.com., and free at familysearch.org. These databases are continually being added to, so keep checking if you don’t find the person you are looking for. The digitized image of the cards gives the individual’s full name, age, and home address, as well as date and place of birth, citizenship status, and occupation. They will tell you if the person was married and had any children less than 12 years of age. If a person was exempt from the draft that would be included in addition to a physical description, and a description of any disabilities. Each card is signed by the draftee so you will get their actual signature.

Records of Military Service can be important to the history and tradition of a family. They can pave the way for us to join a lineage society, and they foster patriotism and national pride which helps our families feel a responsibility to country and gratitude for ancestors who have served. Fortunately, there are lots of records and many ways to locate them. Happy Hunting.

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