Tuesday, April 26, 2016

When You Can't Find a Ship Manifest

You know those relatives that you just can't find on a ship manifest?  That you search for using wildcards and alternate spellings and every trick in the book--and they're just nowhere to be found?

Well, those were my Joshowitzes.  I knew that my great grandmother Esther Rutner Joshowitz came to America with my grandmother's oldest brother Izzy.  They came at some point after WWI and at least nine months before my grandmother's birth in February 1922.  I tried with just first names (lots and lots of Esthers and Esters came to the US in that time period).  I tried with as many wildcards as Ancestry would allow.  And nothing.

I cursed transcribers who obviously couldn't read my great grandmother's name.  I grumbled at the Ancestry programmers who put too many restrictions on wildcards in searches.  And then I tried searching on Steve Morse's site.
Output on Steve Morse's site

Steve Morse's site found them--Darva is the Hungarian name for Kolodne, where the Joshowitz family lived.  So what did his algorithm do that my searches on Ancestry didn't?
Ester & Ignac Jasovice Ship Manifest, Page 1
Esther and Ignac Jasovice arrived on the SS Finland, which had departed Antwerp on October 20, 1920.
Ester & Ignac Jasovice Ship Manifest, Page2
They arrived at the Port of New York on October 30, 1920.

So why couldn't I find them?  These manifests were nicely typed, so there couldn't have been too huge a transcription error.

Well, it turns out that this ship's manifest simply isn't indexed on Ancestry.  Ancestry has manifests for other 1920 sailings of the Finland but not this one.  What did Steve Morse's site do that I didn't?  It looked at the Ellis Island's database of ship manifests.

So while not finding a particular manifest in Ancestry doesn't mean it isn't there, it also may be that it isn't, and you should search elsewhere as well.

Note:  I'm on Twitter.  Feel free to follow me (@larasgenealogy).

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  1. I, for one, always start with stevemorse.org for passenger lists.

  2. Great reminder to try different sites, try different spellings, and never give up! Sharing your happy dance today.

  3. The other thing is that stevemorse.org uses a different Soundex system than Ancestry. One that is designed for Eastern European names. Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex.

  4. Always remember the powerful Steve Morse finders ! Love them (-:

  5. Great tip! I use stevemorse but always assumed it was just a better way of searching the Ancestry database. I didn't realize that Ancestry's database did not include all the manifests available from Ellis Island. Thanks!