23 November 2006

Free access: Ancestry immigration records

Ancestry.com is offering free access to its entire Immigration Collection through the end of November. This collection is normally available only through paid subscriptions, so this is a great opportunity.

Previously, records were only available through 1924 and for only certain ports. The new list includes many new ports (more than 100 ports in total) and into more modern times.

Among the new and updated databases are Baltimore 1820–1948, Boston 1820–1943, California 1893–1957, Galveston 1896–1948, New Orleans 1820–1945, New York 1820–1957 and Philadelphia 1883–1945.

Other records include Detroit, San Francisco and Seattle, and the total number of records is nearly 67 million. Here's a complete list.

To provide access to databases representing more than 100 million passengers, Ancestry's team (including some 1,500 paleographers -- historical handwriting specialists) spent 1.8 million hours to create their index. For the first time, says the company, researchers can look at a single online source to find all available passenger list records.

I will add a caveat that should be followed using any online source. Do not rely on the transcribed text screen, and ALWAYS view the original manifest image if it is available. You know your family's names, while the transcribers, no matter how professional, do not. While the text screen is convenient, it does not replace your own eyes reading the original manifest, which holds additional information and possibly familiar names.

There are still some errors on Ancestry.com (although far fewer than in the Ellis Island Database) but it seems to have gotten better. Our cousin Max, who settled in Springfield, MA, was labeled Menchel Tallesly in the EIDB. At Ancestry, he is Mendel, although still Tallesly instead of Talalay, which is clear (at least to me!) on the scanned manifest.

I submitted a correction for this record and several others I noticed.

During my November meeting with MyFamily.com's Michael Sherrod and Suzanne Russo Adams in Provo, Utah, I was told that all corrections are welcomed. When you click on a passenger's name, the first screen will be a transcribed version of the manifest information. If you discover an error after viewing the original manifest, click on the Comments icon and submit the correction.

I asked Suzanne when corrections are made, and she told me that they are made according to a cycle that spans several months. Your correction may appear soon after you provided it, if you've submitted the correction just prior to a scheduled update, but do be prepared to wait a few months.

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