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<June 2016>

More Links

# 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, 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’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 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]
Monday, February 09, 2009 1:53:13 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Note that in 1900, Syria was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. That would account for Turkey being listed as their homeland.

(My horses' progenitors were imported in 1906 from the Syrian desert, so I've followed this a bit. :-)
Monday, February 09, 2009 3:57:30 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Thank you. I know a little of the history of the area, but certainly not enough. Our March 2009 issue recommended Lebanese genealogist Amin Maalouf's book, Origins: A Memoir, and it's at the top of my reading list.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009 11:43:44 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Hello Diane,

This is one of the best "Insider" pieces yet. May I share it with my "genies"? All with your attribution, of course.

Happy Dae.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009 4:30:53 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Go for it--I hope they find it helpful!
Tuesday, February 10, 2009 4:51:59 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)

Thanks for the info. Where could I get a copy of Amin Maalouf"s book? My dad's family came from what is now Lebanon and I can't be certain whether or not I have found them in the Ellis Island or records.
Esther Leonard
Tuesday, February 10, 2009 5:00:37 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
It's $16.08 right now on You can read a bit more about the book there, too.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009 7:27:03 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Hello Diane -

Thanks for sharing this story. I've made some exciting discoveries regarding my Hungarian great-grandfather's arrival passenger list(s) this week also. Read "Ferencz Ujlaki and the trip he didn't take" (both parts 1 and 2) for the story along with some additional tips on reading ship manifests.

Here are the links:

I hope you and your readers find it interesting.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 10:49:44 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Thank you, Lisa--I found it interesting.

A quick addition to this post: I was trying today to reproduce my search steps on, and I also realized Maria and Fadlo are indexed as Italian, rather than Turkish or "Arabo" (I've submitted a correction). Their ship left from Naples; almost all the other passengers were Italian. The chips were stacked against me:)
Saturday, February 14, 2009 5:26:35 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
thank you for this helpful article. when my grandfather came to the US in 1905 he was abbe AGULNICK and changed his name to abraham goldberg. i knew that my grandmother, feige reisel ROCHAVEN AGULNICK came over before 1909 with their son, my uncle willie. although i searched every way i could think of, i was unable to find them. i finally searched for a 3 or 4 year old child with a name beginning with a v or w. i found a welwel goldberg who was 4 years old and saw that he was with a woman, reisel goldberg. all of the other details fit and this was the passenger list for my grandmother and uncle willie. i would like to know how my grandmother was able to travel under the new americanized name. and i would suggest that if you can't find them under the old name, try the new americanized one.
leslie rubinson
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