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# Monday, February 09, 2009
Finding Ancestors on Passenger Lists: What Can Go Awry (and How Not to Let It)
Posted by Diane

I’m 90 percent sure my long search for my immigrant great-grandparents' passenger list has come to an end. A few small but significant details dragged out my search—maybe my “lessons learned” will help you.

I’d searched passenger lists on Ancestry.com, the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild, Ellis Island and the Canadian Genealogy Center. I tried crazy name variations, no names and 10-year arrival windows. Once, I realized I was on the 75th page of search results.

Since my ancestors tooled around the South for years, I decided they must’ve immigrated through Galveston and the 1900 hurricane ruined their records.

Then last week’s naturalization record discovery provided a port and date of arrival (New York, Oct. 15, 1900), and my great-grandfather’s name in Syria: Fadlallah.

But I still couldn’t find the passenger list!

So I went to Stephen Morse’s enhanced one-step search for Ellis Island, where you can search by date (rather than just year). First I entered the search terms straight from the naturalization papers. Nothing. I tried other months in late 1900. Nope.

Then the key step: I removed the first name and searched a month at a time. Fadlo Hadad jumped out on a Nov. 4 list. My great-grandfather used Fadlow on his WWI draft registration, and made it his son’s middle name. Could it be a short form of Fadallah? (If anyone’s in the know on this, feel free to comment.)



Beneath Fadlo on the record was wife Maria. My great-grandmother Mary also shows up in various records as Mattie and Marianna. The Ellis Island indexer kindly recorded her as Maria Hadad rather than wife. I probably came across this record early in my research and discounted it because I didn’t recognize Fadlo.

The 10 percent uncertainty level comes from the name, their ages—17 and 21, both two years too old, according to other records—and the origin of Turkey (albeit with the last residence Arabo, as the ship’s Neopolitan clerk recorded it). I do have another record giving Turkey as my Syrian ancestor’s homeland, and I haven't found any other Fadlos or Fadlows close to my ancestor's age in US records.

But I still couldn’t find Fadlo in Ancestry.com’s immigration collection. I searched on Maria Fadlo, and Maria showed up, indexed as Maria Fadlo Wife. Below her in the results was her husband, indexed with Hadad as the first name, Fadlo as the last.

Another look at the list—the ship’s clerk switched from recording passengers last-name-first to recording them first-name-first. The Ancestry.com indexer transcribed exactly what was on the record; the Ellis Island indexer did some genealogical deduction.

So, my lessons learned:
  • Look for evidence of different names your ancestor may have used, and repeat searches as you learn more.
  • Search different databases.
  • Try last-name only searches.
  • Search for women on the first name wife (another lady on the list was recorded the same way).
  • Try switching the first and last names in your search.
  • If you have a rough idea of an arrival date, browse by date.

immigration records | Research Tips
Monday, February 09, 2009 9:05:41 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [9]