Ellis Island Resources for the Family Historian 9/23/10

 
“Mama arrived with 4 year old Martha gripping her hand tightly.  She said she looked feverishly around for Papa, and spotted him across the room.  She ran to meet him and gave him a kiss, which she normally would never have done in public!”
 
That was the scene my Grandma described as Louise and Gustaf reunited near a wooden column outside the Registry Room at Ellis Island aptly known as “The Kissing Post.”  Many public displays of affection took place there after long journeys across the ocean.
 
Approximately 12 million immigrants were processed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954.  It seems like only yesterday that the long dilapidated buildings were finally restored and reopened to the public.  They have become one of the most popular tourist destinations in New York City, welcoming over 35 million visitors to date.
 
This month marks the 20th Anniversary of the Immigration Museum at Ellis Island which first opened on September 10, 1990.
 
According to a recent Ellis Island press release , “Just half a mile from the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, the museum’s exhibits highlight the growth of America during the peak immigration years of 1880-1924. The galleries illustrate the Ellis Island immigrant reception process, the immigrants’ arrival and settlement throughout the United States and feature their “Treasures From Home” – the cherished personal objects, photographs and papers they brought with them from their homelands. And the American Immigrant Wall of Honor® celebrates the immigrant experience with the inscription of the names of over 700,000 individuals and families who have been honored by their descendants.”
Of special note is the Ellis Island Oral History Archive, which was created by the Foundation and contains the reminiscences of over 1700 individuals who either immigrated through or worked at Ellis Island during its heyday as the country’s largest immigration processing center.   If you are lucky enough to visit in person, you can listen to excerpts from these oral histories through the museum’s popular audio tour.  You’ll walk the corridors vividly reliving the immigrant experience as if you were a “new arrival.”
 
If an in-person trip is not on your horizon any time soon, don’t fret.  More than 1,700 first-hand life story audio recordings of Ellis Island immigrants are now available online for the first time free at Ancestry.com.
 
 “As immigrants created new lives in the U.S., the stories of their homelands and their remarkable journeys to America were often lost,” said Christopher Tracy, senior vice president of global content for Ancestry.com.  “We are thrilled to offer people the opportunity to hear the voices of their ancestors sharing stories of their lives.”
 
The oral histories were originally recorded by the National Park Service starting in the 1970s, and contain first-hand accounts recalling the lives these immigrants left behind, their reasons for leaving and their incredible and often-trying journeys to America.  In addition to oral histories from immigrants, the collection also includes recordings from former Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty workers, and military personnel who were stationed on Ellis Island.
 
“To our family it is important that we in the U.S. know the origin of the people who came to this country, settled here and made it what it is today. It makes us very proud to know that our mother was part of this,” said Yvonne Rumac, daughter of oral history participant Estelle Belford, who immigrated to the United States from Romania via Ellis Island in 1905.
 
And if you are interested in learning more about your own immigrant ancestors here are some resources for you:
 
Ancestry boasts the world’s largest online collection of U.S. immigration records. www.ancestry.com/immigration.
(Comprised of more than 170 million records, the Ancestry.com U.S. Immigration Collection includes lists of passengers who immigrated by ship to America between 1820 and 1960, including those who came through Ellis Island; more than 7 million citizenship and naturalization records; border crossings, passport applications and more to help reconstruct our ancestors’ journeys and early lives in America. Ancestry.com has also added nearly 2 million new U.S. naturalization record indexes.)
 
The FamilySearch Wiki
A brain trust of some of the best researchers out there, the FamilySearch Wiki allows you to search on keywords to learn more about a vast array of topics including immigration.  Much of the information comes from the experts who work at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  You get the benefit of their immigration research knowledge from the comfort of your own home.
 
https://wiki.familysearch.org/en/Main_Page  Then search for the records themselves on the free FamilySearch Beta website
 
Stephen P. Morse’s One Step Pages
If your search at the EllisIsland.org website doesn’t retrieve your ancestors head on over to Stephen Morse’s One Step Pages.  There you will find  dozens of links to search resources including the Ellis Island Gold Form for arrivals between 1892 and 1924.  Even the folks at Ellis Island refer researchers to Morse’s site.  Listen to my interview with Stephen Morse on Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #10
 
Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast Episodes on Immigration and Naturalizaton
Genealogist Steve Danko covers immigration and naturalization in depth in episodes 29, 30, and 31.  Steve even offers up some little known tips about deciphering some of the crytic notes researchers often find on passenger lists.
 

FAQ – Premium eLearning

Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning Membership – FAQ If you want inspiring and entertaining genealogy education on-demand, Premium eLearning is for you! World-renowned speaker Lisa Louise Cooke has built this program to be accessible for all ages, all skill levels,...

Here’s What is Changing on Ancestry.com

Do you feel like every time you log in to your favorite genealogy data website, it’s changed? Well, that’s probably because it has. The sites themselves are gaining weight, both the weight of additional users and additional records. It only makes sense that the way you navigate these sites will change and (hopefully!) improve.

You’ll notice this in recent changes to Ancestry.com. The site has responded to user feedback by introducing three new features, described in a recent press release:

Ancestry photo comment sharing

Ancestry photo comment sharing

1. Username=real name for new users.

“With more than 50 million family trees on Ancestry.com, connecting with other members can yield family history gold. We know it’s hard to make a personal connection with “TheRealCookieMonster53.” In an effort to promote collaboration and sharing, members profiles will use real names instead of usernames. Users can still change their setting at any time from their Member Profile page to show their preferred name.

Although this change is only for new users, we encourage everyone to update their Member Profile to a more personal and transparent name (sorry Cookie Monster).”

2. Comment sharing across all copies of a photo.

“Today, commenting happens on individual copies of photos which means most comment activity on shared photos is missed.  We have made a new update on the site that will enable comment sharing across all copies of a shared photo so everyone can join the conversation.  We’ll email users when new comment activity occurs, but also make sure the email volume isn’t overwhelming. 

In addition, we’re refreshing the media page so it’s simpler to update, share, and view your family photos and stories.” (editor’s note: I’d be interested to hear if you, my lovely readers, find the emailed photo comments helpful, and limited as promised by Ancestry.)

3. Related Content suggestions in the image viewer:

“The Interactive Image Viewer has been updated with the Related Content panel. This is currently the most requested feature for the image viewer. A fantastic way to discover new content is just another avenue to easily flesh out more relevant records, the Related Content panel not only includes Suggested Records but will also show Related Trees.”

Family History Episode 24 – Using Marriage Records in Family History

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Republished March 25, 2014

family history genealogy made easy podcast

with Lisa Louise Cooke

https://lisalouisecooke.com/familyhistorypodcast/audio/fh24.mp3

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 24: Using Marriage Records in Family History

So far in this podcast series you’ve made a lot of progress. You’ve set up your genealogy database, talked to your relatives, gotten familiar with the Family History Centers and you have your research worksheet to lead you in your investigation backwards in time, through death records and the census.

In today’s episode we’re going to continue working backwards down the records aisle looking for marriage records. Marriage records are a type of vital records, meaning they provide vital statistics for a person’s life. They can be a rich—even vital!—source of genealogical information.

Marriage records, like death and birth records (which we’ll be covering in an upcoming episode) are primary sources. This means that the record was completed at the event or very close to it by someone who was present at the event. That means it’s a pretty reliable source.

There are two types of marriage records: civil records which are recorded with the local government, usually at the county level, and church records, if the marriage took place in a church.

Update: Many government and church marriage records have found their way into major genealogical databases (www.Ancestry.com, www.FamilySearch.org, www.FindMyPast.org, www.MyHeritage.com, etc). Look for indexed records and—if you’re lucky—digitized versions of the actual record. (If you find only indexed records, use the process below to find copies of the actual record.)

Civil/Government Marriage Records

You need to determine where the marriage took place in order to figure out the proper civil authorities to contact. Usually that’s the clerk in the town, county, district or parish where the happy couple said “I do.” In the U.S., chances are it was at the county level, but if you’re not sure, do a Google search on the name of the county and the phrase “vital records” or “marriage records.” Chances are one of the first search results will be a link to the website for that county and hopefully the specific page that will tell you how to request vital records. There you should find specific instructions about how to make the request and any fees involved.

3 Tips for Obtaining Marriage Records for Genealogy

  • Tip #1: Be sure and follow the instructions to the letter because otherwise you will likely have your request returned to you unfilled and asking for more information which just wastes time.
  • Tip #2: As with Death Records, it isn’t necessary to order a certified copy because you are not using it for legal reasons, just information reasons. Certified copies cost more and usually have more requirements to applying for them.
  • Tips #3 Request a complete photo copy (which is sometimes referred to as a LONG FORM) rather than a SHORT FORM which can be a brief transcription of the record. There may be clues in the original record that may be left out (or mistranscribed) in the SHORT FORM.

If all this sounds cumbersome there is an easier to request marriage records and that is through Vitalcheck.com (see below). While it costs more you can order the records quickly and easily online.

If you’re looking for civil records in England or Wales, those records have been officially recorded by local District Registrars who reported to the General Registrar Office since July 1, 1837. These records are probably easiest to access, particularly if you are not in the UK, through FindMyPast.com, which does charge a fee for each record.

Types of Civil Marriage Records:

  • Marriage application. I can’t guarantee they’re available in every county, but it’s definitely worth asking!
  • Marriage license. This record often holds the most genealogical value. It will include their names, ages, residences as well as perhaps their race, occupation, age, and perhaps their parents’ names.
  • Marriage register record. This confirms the marriage actually took place. This may be just a signature and date from the official who performed the marriage, and may be a small section at the end of the marriage license information. (The latter type of record may also be called a “marriage return” or minister’s return.”
  • Marriage certificate. While this record is part of the process it isn’t available through the vital records office. It would have been kept by the couple and will involve some looking around and asking relatives to see if it still exists.

Tip: A marriage license alone does not prove a marriage. A couple could easily apply for a license but never go through with the big day.

Church Marriage Records

Start looking for these records at the Family History Library (www.familysearch.org).

Other places to look:

  • The church if it still exists. Search for their website. Contact the church office and ask if they have records for the time period you’re looking for. If they no longer have the records ask where they are being archived.
  • Check in with the closest local library and ask to talk to the reference desk.
  • Search the WorldCat catalog (see Links).
  • Check the US Gen Web site for the state and county where the marriage occurred (see Links). These sites are run by volunteers and each county has a different variety of records and resources available. Contact the local genealogy or and historical societies and ask for their help.

Other records to look for:

  • Banns of marriage records. Look for a record of the banns in the church minutes or church bulletins.
  • Newspaper marriage announcements. Tip: Keep in mind when you’re searching a newspaper database and you find a listing for what appears to be the right family in the right area but the date is way off, be sure and check it out because it just may be a republishing of the news you were looking for! (Learn more about newspaper research in my book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers.)

Links/Updates

FamilySearch. To search for marriage records by place, click on Search, then Catalog, then search by location. You’ll find both government and church marriage records listed here. Look at the county level for U.S. government records; look at the municipal level or under the Church records category for church marriage records.

USGenWeb

WorldCat

VitalChek

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