[Presented at March 2001 Gastineau Genealogical Society Meeting, Family History Center (FHC)

Juneau, Alaska, by O. R. Kent, Revised Feb. 28, 2003]


The difficulty in finding your ancestors on a ship passenger list is determined to a great extent by how much of the following information you have relating to that individual:


1)      Complete name(s) of the individual(s);

2)      Specific place from which they emigrated;

3)      Specific date of their emigration or of their arrival at a U.S. port (or both);

4)      Name of the ship on which they traveled;

5)      Whether they came “Direct” or “Indirect”;

6)      Whether or not you can read or translate their “home country” language.


If you have difficulty translating foreign languages, there are several foreign language dictionaries as well as a 3-ring binder marked as “Foreign Word Lists” at Juneau FHC.  Also for translating German, you might try one of the following:

           http://www.freetranslation.com  Free Translation: (A variety of free translators.) ; or

            http://www.genealogienetz.de/misc/translation.html  Genealogy-Net Translation Service: (Free translation service by people from Arthur Teschler’s German Genealogy Site); or

            http://www.dictionaries.travlang.com/GermanEnglish/ German-English Online Dictionary (Gives several English words and phrases for each German word.)


 If you have access to Naturalization Records (papers) for the individual(s), you may get much of the above information from them.  See EXHIBIT “A” for address of the Anchorage, AK office of the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) and a link for an on-line form.


Some of the U. S. Censuses will give you the year of Naturalization, which could allow you to go to the USCIS per the above.


If very little of the desired information is known or available to you, your search can become increasingly more difficult.  You are then possibly faced with trying to search the Emigration records of your ancestor’s home land.


Some countries have websites with searchable Emigration (and possibly Passenger Lists) data bases.  For example:


            Denmark:  The Copenhagen Police Records of Emigration 1868-1903


            Norway:     Various data bases – at least 100 new ones


            Ireland:      Various types of information



Beginning in the “spring of 2001” access to data on more than 22 million people who entered the U.S. through New York Harbor (peak years 1892-1924) became available at: 


Using the assumption that you now know the date of your ancestor’s departure (from homeland) you can “guestimate” an arrival at a U.S. Port to be 3 – 4 weeks later; except that if the departure was in the mid-to-late 1800s, time in transit (on the bounty) might be considerably increased.


Attached as EXHIBIT “B” is a “source list” to give you some possible avenues to search.  Books and Microfiche that are listed are here in the Family History Center, Juneau, Alaska.


Searching our Red Spiral Bound “Passenger Lists Port of New York” could be your most lucrative first move.  For a complete “mini-course” on this subject, however, you might want to read and study the RESEARCH OUTLINE  -  Tracing Immigrant Origins published by the Family History Library in SLC in 1992.  As you are very probably aware – your ancestors were “EMIGRANTS” from their home country and “IMMIGRANTS” to the U. S. [Emigrants leave; Immigrants arrive].


To use the Soundex Index (July 1902 – December 31, 1943) of our Red Spiral Bound Passenger Lists booklet, you should proceed as follows: 

1)      Determine the required Soundex Code (same code as for Census Soundex);

2)      Using this Soundex Code, use the Soundex Index to determine the film to be ordered;

3)      Upon receipt of film you’ll find that all entries in each code are alphabetized by first names;

4)      Be aware that the person’s first name might begin with a different letter – example: Christian might also be Kristian – thus the film you selected might not contain the person you’re searching for;

5)      Also be aware that the person’s last name might begin with a different letter – example:  Carstensen might instead be shown as Karstensen; or Wilhemson might instead be shown as Vilhemson – thus the Soundex Code you selected could give you the wrong film number [the 3 numbers of the Code would be correct, but the (lead) letter would be different];

6)      There is also the possibility that both items 4 and 5 above could apply, in which case you could really have a problem.  Solution?  Do your best to determine exactly what name your ancestor used when leaving native land and/or arriving in U.S.


In the event that your ancestors did not enter the U. S. through the Port of New York, you will have to search Passenger Lists for the Port of Entry that was used.  You can find these other possible Ports of Entry by searching the Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) either on the Computer or on Microfiche under:  United States Emigration & Immigration [on fiche:  #006  (1139)]. 

NOTE:  EXHIBIT “C” is a listing of some of the Ports of Departure and/or Arrival, together with appropriate Microfilm or Microfiche Number.


The attached EXHIBIT “D” contains four examples of searches that you should review to get the feel for using our Red Spiral Bound Passenger Lists booklet.


The Librarians at this (or other FHCs) will normally be able to help you get started on your search, and may be able to give you more assistance, depending upon their personal experiences along this line.  Needless to say, this “hand-out” is not necessarily all-encompassing, but is only enough to get you started on the right track.


                                                                                                                                    ORK/DAK  (Rev) 27Nov2003