Expanding the Search for PASSenger Manifests (Finding Your Sicilian Ancestors)

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My father arrived in 1912 on the SS Berlin (later SS Arabic)

    Last time, I detailed the type of information found on the ships’ manifests of immigrants to Ellis Island, documents that are available on the free site www.ellisisland.org. That site, one of the first to display manifests, can be very helpful, but it has its drawbacks. ellisisland.org sometimes maddeningly displays a manifest that clearly does not match the individual it says it is for. Also, though the site is free, printed copies of the manifests must be purchased from the Ellis Island – Statue of Liberty Foundation, unless you have screen-capture software and the skill to use it. As with all on-line sites, there are many errors in the spelling of names of persons and places. Another aspect of ellisisland.org that could be better is the ‘general search’ where you may want to get a list of all immigrants with a given surname or from a given town. ellisisland.org does not easily allow searches by town, and its general searches provide rather unwieldy lists that take time to navigate.

There are ways to get around these glitches. One is to use the site http://stevemorse.org/ellis/boat.html (known as the Steve Morse ‘white’ site). If you find a person’s name, date of immigration and ship of passage on ellisisland.org but it has the wrong manifest displayed, the ‘white’ site allows you to locate the correct manifest for a particular voyage of a particular ship, and search through it page by page for the passenger you want. This is tedious, but it can be effective.

To obtain hard copies of manifests, the subscription site www.Ancestry.com allows not only ship manifests, but any record found there to be saved to your computer and printed out. Of course, ordinarily you must pay for the Ancestry.com service, but that can be avoided if you use the service at a public library or a Mormon Family Search Center.

An excellent site for general searches of passenger manifests is another Steven Morse site, known as his ‘gold’ site, at http://stevemorse.org/ellis2/ellisgold.html. This site allows you to search for Ellis Island arrivals by one or all of the following, and more: first name; last name; ship name; town (including ‘sounds like’ and partial spellings); year of birth; and year of immigration. Once a list is obtained, it can be sorted by surname, year of birth, year of immigration, town of origin, etc. For example, my ancestral town, Serradifalco, is variously spelled on manifests as Terradifalco, Seradifoles, and so on. But I can search the ‘gold’ site for immigrants with the surname starting with the letters C-o-n-i-g who were born from 1885 – 1892, immigrated from 1910 – 1915, and came from a town whose name contained the string of letters ‘adif’. The result will be a list of anyone who fits that description. Selecting one from the list will transfer you to the ellisisland.org site.

Not every immigrant came to America through Ellis Island. Firstly, Ellis Island did not start operation until 1892. Prior to that, New York City arrivals disembarked at a site known as Castle Garden. Secondly, numerous other ports besides New York were the landing places of Sicilian immigrants. The foremost of these others were Boston and New Orleans, but Sicilians also found their way to the U. S. through Baltimore, Galveston, Philadelphia, and even San Francisco, as well as via some ports in Canada. Similarly, passengers whose final destination was Canada may have first landed at a U. S. port. Lists of Canadian – U. S. border crossings also exist. I’ll discuss these other ports and possibilities in future columns.

Angelo Coniglio

The Lady of the Wheel

Angelo Coniglio
Angelo Conigliohttp://www.conigliofamily.com
Angelo F. Coniglio is a retired civil engineer and university adjunct professor. Today Angelo is a genealogy researcher and author of the historical novella The Lady of the Wheel, set in 1860s Sicily. Details on the book and information on ordering can be found at www.bit.ly/ruotaia. For genealogy questions, Coniglio may be contacted at genealogytips@aol.com Coniglio is a proud son of parents who emigrated to America from Serradifalco one hundred years ago. He has traced his family, as well as his wife's, back seven generations to the early 1700's, and each and every one was Sicilian. See his history of Sicily at www.bit.ly/LaBeddaSicilia Order the paperback or the Kindle version at http://amzn.to/racalmuto

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  1. I found both my sets of grandparents on passengers manifests as well as pictures of the ships they came to the US on through the Ellis Island website. Please note that it took awhile to find my paternal grandmother because they had misspelled her name.

  2. Names may have been misspelled on the original document, and just as likely by the indexer who entered the name in whatever database you searched. When searching, use variations of the name that may sound alike, or even LOOK alike (e.g., the indexer mistakes the handwritten letter “n” for a “u”).

  3. The ellisisland.org website does not present the difficulties they allude to since the manifests are the original document of the landings in the USA and since the German and British ships in the early heavy immigrant flow from Italy to the USA prepared their manifests with Italian script documentation there were some spelling errors but not that many that warrants abandoning the research effort in viewing the enlarged manifests and you can also find the use of a magnifying glass even helpful in discerning the correct spelling when a handwriting is difficult to read. It’s FREE to a viewer and has many advantages. Peter Timber

  4. I am trying to find the ship and passenger list
    that would contain my Grandmother’s name and my
    father’s name. They were from Grotte, Sicily and
    came in the Fall of 1912. My father was 3 years old and they were Naturalized citizens. The names
    were THERESE CIMINO AND VINCENZO CIMINO and they were going to New York from Palermo.

  5. Sicilian women went by their birth surname (that is, their father’s surname), regardless of whether they were married or not. Your grandmother would not have traveled by her husband’s surname. Search for your father, and it’s likely she would appear on the same manifest, with her own surname. Also, Therese is not usually a Sicilian name, it would likely have been Teresa.

    I found a manifest for Vincenzo Cimino, 3, accompanied by Teresa Giordano, 26, from Grotte. Teresa’s closest relative in Grotte was her mother, Maria Infantino (who of course went bt HER birth surname). Teresa Giordano and Vincenzo Cimino were traveling on the SS Principe di Piemonte, and arrived at Ellis Island on 23 July 1913, going to their husband and father, Salvatore Cimino at 443 Wells St., Chicago, Ill.

    You can find the image of the manifest by going to http://www.ellisisland.org, registering (it’s free) and following the directions to search for Vincenzo Cimino.

    Civil birth, marriage and death records have been microfilmed by the Mormon church, and are available for rental. They are also on-line at the free Mormon site http://www.https/familysearch.org (see http://bit.ly/GrotteCivilRecords)and at the subscription site http://www.Ancestry.com

    With those records, you should be able to trace your ancestry back to the early 1800’s. See my page at http://bit.ly/AFCGen

  6. Thank you so much for your help. I cannot tell you
    how much I appreciate it.

    Alex Swol

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