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Ellis Island Goes Online With Immigration Lists
The NameJerry writes "Ellis Island Goes Online With Immigration Lists

Tuesday April 17 04:33 PM EDT By SUSAN SACHS  (The New York Times)

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation plans to begin offering Internet access today to passenger manifests from the ships that brought millions of immigrants to New York in the late 1800's and early 1900's.



Now, for the first time and online, Ellis Island brings you . . . your ancestors.

Beginning today, if all goes as planned, anyone with an Internet connection will be able to search through old passenger manifests from the ships that ferried 17 million immigrants into New York Harbor, and the New World, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The database, extracted from microfilms of the original paper manifests, covers arrivals at Ellis Island from 1892 through 1924. Those were the peak years of immigration, when as many as 5,000 people a day shuffled through the inspection process. The information recorded on the manifests hints at their individual tales of grit, adventure and hope.

To find records, the curious can go to www.ellisislandrecords.org. Seen on a computer screen, the ship manifests are prosaic documents: page after page, column after column of names, ages and other dry particulars. Some were typed, the letters fat and slightly uneven. More are filled with the dense florid handwriting popular at the turn of the last century and barely decipherable now.

But the scraps of history contain an ineffable power. Concentrated within them is the force of memory. And a trip through the records, either at home or at the Ellis Island museum, can be emotionally harrowing.

Carol Curro and her husband, Santo Curro, took a preview spin through the computerized manifests last week, when the museum staff let a few visitors try out the system before its official opening.

Mrs. Curro had come with a quest: to find her favorite grandfather, who had crossed the Atlantic several times from Calabria, Italy, before settling down in New York. "He used to talk about it all the time," she said. "I wish now I had listened more carefully."

Mr. Curro was only along for the ride. Or so he said. But just listening to talk about ancestors brought to mind one of his own grandfathers. Maybe he would look. "It would be my mother's father," he explained. "His name was . . . "

And then he stopped. His eyes filled with tears. His wife looked alarmed. His two children looked embarrassed.

"His name," Mr. Curro continued in a strong but shaky voice, "was Paolo Scarfone. He came from a small town called Scilla that's S-C-I-L-L-A. In Italy."

The family sat at one of the large-screen computers in the family history center, in the high-ceilinged room called the Kissing Room because long ago bleary-eyed immigrants were reunited there with their American loved ones.

After one hour, Mrs. Curro did not find her grandfather. Mr. Curro found his.

"Look, here it is," he crowed, pointing at the image of the ship's manifest on the screen, at a line where an officer of the ship Manilla, sailing out of Naples, had written "Paolo Scarfone," a single man, 22 years old.

"And look, look," Mr. Curro said proudly, pointing again at the picture of the 100-year-old document as if it confirmed his own place in history. There, as last place of residence, the manifest showed "Scilla."

Officials of the Statue of Liberty- Ellis Island Foundation, which runs the museum and the family history project, expect millions of people will want to use the Internet site. As a guide, they looked to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which put up its own genealogy Web site, www.familysearch.org, two years ago.

It was so popular that, in the beginning, it crashed almost every day.

The Mormon Church, which has put some 600 million records from all over the world on its site, also provided the labor for the Ellis Island project. About 12,000 volunteer members spent much of the last eight years extracting data from microfilms.

They dealt with 22 million passenger records, including immigrants as well as business passengers and tourists, and faced enormous challenges. The 60-year-old microfilm was of varying quality and the original manifests, sold for paper pulp by the government decades ago, were not available for double-checking. People's names were spelled in oddly inconsistent ways. So were the names of towns and villages, in part because the ship personnel wrote them phonetically.

The volunteers sometimes spent hours trying to decipher a single entry, said Richard E. Turley Jr., managing director of the Mormons' family and church history department.

But they may open a window for countless Americans.

"The challenge every American faces, unless you're a Native American, is tracing their ancestors across the ocean," Mr. Turley said. "This data helps span that difficult gap. At least you have a starting point, like the port they left from."

For the dwindling number of people who are still alive to describe their own experience at Ellis Island, the thrill of discovery is electric and personal.

Felicita Salto, a New Jersey grandmother, arrived at Ellis Island from Italy in 1920, at the age of 6. The family spent 10 days on Ellis Island while her mother was in the hospital there, and Mrs. Salto said she spent the time attached to her worried father's belt by a dog harness.

It is a story she has told and retold to her children and grandchildren. But something about seeing her maiden name, Felicita Gabaccia, written right there on the ship manifest, moved her in a way she found difficult to describe.

"It really hit me to see the names of my family there,"said Mrs. Salto, now 87. "It gave me a feeling of belonging."

Many Ellis Island immigrants, fleeing poverty and persecution, wanted to lose their past. They left their American descendants with just a few cloudy passed-on memories of old dates, places and names.

"I think in the 1950's, people didn't want to think they came from someplace else," said Stephen A. Briganti, a grandson of Italian immigrants and president of the foundation that runs Ellis Island. "They concentrated on being American. Now it's their children and grandchildren who want to find that past."

Mr. Briganti counts himself as one of those and set out to find records of his grandmother's arrival. He located an entry that seemed right on target. It concerned a young immigrant named Nunziata Rotunno, which seemed very close to Annunziata Rotunno, his grandmother's name, and who came from the right small village in Italy, in the right year and at the right age.

Indeed, everything fit. There was just one problem. The manifest showed this Nunziata was a man.

Did Mr. Briganti's grandmother disguise herself as a man out of fear that the ship would not take a single woman traveling alone? Did the ship's officer who filled out the manifest make a mistake? And if so, what happened when the Ellis Island inspectors questioned the young Nunziata? Her descendants will never know the full story.

"This is what the search for ancestors is going to be like," Mr. Briganti said. "I'm afraid people will think they'll come and push a button and out will pop their ancestors. In many cases, they're going to have to come to the center with substantial information."

Visitors to Ellis Island who want to use the family history center will need to reserve their time at the computers by calling the foundation at (212) 883-1986. Reservations may also be made online at the Web site for the family immigration history center at:

www.ellisislandrecords.org. Anyone who is fortunate enough to score a match will be able to see the name of the ship their relative sailed on, its departure and arrival dates, the name of the relative's contact in the United States, and the names of anyone who shared the journey.

The manifests also tell much about the times.

The forms followed the language of the immigration laws, which excluded those considered mentally, physically or politically undesirable. So in addition to basic biographical information, they asked whether the immigrant was literate, a polygamist, an anarchist, a felon or a cripple.

There were attempts, too, to categorize the newcomers. In addition to nationality, they were identified by "race or people" and by complexion.

On a 1921 manifest, Irish-born immigrants are shown as British by nationality and Irish by race or people, with most being listed as having "fresh" complexions. Jews from Eastern Europe and Russia were shown as belonging to the "Hebrew" race or people. Southern Italians were listed as a separate people from Northern Italians, but both were described as having "dark" complexions.

A ship that sailed from Italy in 1910 carrying the 18-year-old Rodolfo Giuliani, grandfather of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, seemed to be filled with single young men who listed their occupations as laborers. Ships with Irish immigrants in the 1920's showed most people had many relatives waiting for them in the United States, the fruit of an earlier wave of immigration from Ireland in the mid-1800's. Many Eastern European immigrants said they had no one at all on the far side of the ocean to embrace them when they eventually left Ellis Island.

The hard part, as anyone who tries to locate a relative on the Ellis Island Web site will discover, is having the right clues. This reporter, taking advantage of a preview odyssey through the records, can attest to that.

The search aimed to find a grandmother whose children vaguely recalled that her original Russian name sounded like Chaia Kerchevsky. Nothing showed up under that spelling that made sense for age or hometown. Nor for Chaia Kerchewsky. Nor for C. Kerchivski or C. Kershovsky.

Two hours and many many clicks of the mouse later, a typo led to inspiration. How about C. Krechevski?

And there, after a look through the alternative spellings suggested by the computer, was Grandma. Name: Chaie Krechewski.

From the manifest, it appeared that the 21-year-old Chaie, accompanied by her mother and little brother, sailed from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on July 29, 1905, on the ship Noordam. The Ellis Island Web site described it as a three-year-old vessel that stretched 575 feet from stem to stern and might have been built for the express purpose of ferrying poor immigrants, since all but 500 of its 2,278 passengers traveled in third class.

Passage across the unimaginable expanse of ocean took 11 days she was sick the whole time, she would say impatiently to her grandchildren before she died, so what could she remember? and on Aug. 8, in the dead heat of a New York summer, the ship brought her to Ellis Island and a new life.


"
Posted on Wednesday, 18 April 2001 @ 01:43:26 EDT by Admin

 
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Ellis Island website overwhelmed by demand (Score: 1)
by Jerry (jerry@mccrohan.net) on Tuesday, 01 May 2001 @ 13:39:21 EDT
(User Info | Send a Message)
Updated 11:33 AM ET April 26, 2001 By JUDIE GLAVE, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - People searching for information about their ancestral roots have overwhelmed a new Ellis Island Web site that debuted last week.

The site had 26 million visitors in its first 54 hours of operation, and many more were unable to get into the site because of its popularity, said Peg Zitko, a spokeswoman for the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.

The response has just been tremendous, Zitko said.

The site, which went online April 18, includes arrival records of 22 million immigrants who entered the port of New York between 1892 to 1924.

In the first six hours we had 8 million visitors. Zitko said. Right then we knew we had an instant hit. Figures for this week were not available, Zitko said Wednesday.

The largest number of inquiries have come from the United States but there''''s also been a significant number from other countries, she said.

We knew it would be popular because 40 percent of Americans can trace their roots back to someone who entered the country at Ellis Island, Zitko said, but we didn''''t expect it to be an international phenomenon. The site began operating with 10 servers and three backups and had to add 10 more to handle the load.

Zitko said it was the top search term on the Lycos search engine last week, and only the third time in Lycos'''' history that a new term debuted as No. 1.

The database was put together by the foundation and the Mormon Church, which encourages its members to identify ancestors and baptize them into the faith.

Until now, the information was only available on microfilm at the National Archives in Washington or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints'''' Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Visitors to Ellis Island can also access the information at its American Family Immigration History Center.

----

On the Net:

http://www.ellisislandrecords.org

National Park Service site on Ellis Island:
http://www.nps.gov/elis/index.htm

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: http://www.lds.org





Re: Ellis Island Goes Online With Immigration Lists (Score: 1)
by Tomasgolfer on Thursday, 31 May 2001 @ 05:16:19 EDT
(User Info | Send a Message) http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/d/e/s/Thomas-Dessent-MO/
Thanks to the new ellisislandrecords.org site I was able to find out about my Grandmother, Ellie McCrohans'' journey from County Kerry to the U.S. in 1921. She left Queenstown, Cork, Munster, Ireland at the age of 20 and arrived 9 July 1921. The site had the Ships'' picture and the original Ships manifest, which showed her sponsor (her cousin, Maurice Halpin), how much money she entered the country with and how long she was requesting to stay in the US(6yrs). It is quite an incredible undertaking that has allowed people like myself to see these things online. The people involved are to be congratulated.



  

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