Millions of Ellis Island passenger arrival records include the names of the arrivals’ relatives, but those names haven’t been searchable in online indexes–until now. MyHeritage has added over 26.6 million relatives’ names to its passenger list collection and even digitally stitched together the pages for easier reading.
New Names in Ellis Island Passenger Arrival Records at MyHeritage.com
Recently, I interviewed Ellis Island experts and shared my ongoing immigrant ancestor discoveries in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast (episode 211) and Premium Podcast (episode 153). I’ve made progress by searching Ellis Island records at different websites and by learning about clues we often don’t recognize in the records themselves. So I was pleased to hear that MyHeritage has added its own Ellis Island and Other New York Passenger Lists (1820-1957) collection and given it two unique features:
- Its 94 million names include–for the very first time–26.6 million names of the relatives of passengers. Passenger lists recorded both the name of a relative or friend living at the arrival’s last residence and the name of a relative or friend the passenger was to visit in this country. Many times, this chain of names represents family links between an immigrant’s old and new homes. MyHeritage has indexed these names; their press release says they’re the first to do so. A quick check of Ellis Island collections at Ancestry.com, Ellis Island.org, Steve Morse’s One-Step Pages and FamilySearch confirms that none of them mention relatives’ names in their index descriptions.
- MyHeritage has stitched together the two-age passenger manifest images, which I find pretty cool. It’s much easier not to miss the fact that there is a second page for each record, and to trace your ancestor’s line straight across the page. Here’s what it looks like:
Searching for Ellis Island Immigrant Ancestors
Louise (on the right) just before departure for America.
Interestingly, this search engine is the first one of any genealogy records site to pull up both sets of arrival listings for my great grandmother Louise Sporowsky and her daughter Martha, whom I talked about in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode #153.
I’m very fortunate that by a quirk of circumstance Louise and Martha were recorded twice in the same passenger list. But because each entry had variations, they’ve never come up in the same search – that is until now!
The search was a simple one: the name “Sporowksy” & 1910 as the year of arrival:
Premium Members may listen to that episode to find out why Louise and Martha had two passenger listings for the same crossing and what I learned from looking at both of them.
Here’s a tip: There isn’t a separate search field for relatives’ names in the MyHeritage index. I wondered about that, and Daniel Horowitz at MyHeritage confirms that you just use the regular search fields for first and last names of the passenger’s relatives. Results will include both the passengers themselves and the relatives they named.
Learn More about Ellis Island
Me with Barry Moreno at Ellis Island. Photo by Beth Forester.
Listen to the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #211: Barry Moreno, Historian at Ellis Island, talks about the life cycle of this busy U.S. immigration station (1892-1954) and his research into the lives of Ellis Island employees.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
There’s an easy, free way to analyze your family tree for patterns! Discover your ancestors’ average life expectancy, most common first names, how long they stayed married, and more. Share the results at your next family reunion, or use them to understand your family health history just a little bit better. Here’s how.
Whether you’re a paying subscriber to MyHeritage or are signed up as a free user, you have access to a little-known but fascinating tool on the site: Family Statistics.
You’ll find this tool under the Home tab:
Use this tool to explore various statistics and patterns in your family history, and to spot the “record-holders” on your tree. You don’t have to enter any information. Just click the topic on the left that you want to view (overview, places, ages, births, marriages, children, divorce). Easy-to-read infographics and summary charts will appear:
The Family Statistics tool will tell you:
- the most common places of birth, death, and residence
- most common surnames and male/female first names
- average life expectancy for men and women
- longest-lived and shortest-lived ancestors
- oldest/youngest living relatives on tree
- most common birth month, and how many people were born in each month
- number of marriages, and the longest and shortest marriages
- age at first marriage and who was the youngest/oldest when they married
- the biggest age differences in a couple
- total number of divorces, as well as the average age (and oldest/youngest) age at divorce, and the longest marriage ending in divorce
- average number of children per family and people with the most children
- the youngest/oldest age when having a child
- the average and biggest/smallest age difference between oldest and youngest children
You can run these statistics for all your trees together or individually. Here are some of the different ways to use the data:
For your research: Watch for possible errors or omissions on your family tree. Do you really have a relative who lived to be 112 years old, or did someone neglect to enter a death date?
For fun: Watch for interesting things to share in a trivia game or quiz at your next family reunion. You might even consider creating a “Hall of Fame” for that great-grandfather who lived to be 103, or that great-aunt who had 14 children. (Remember, don’t embarrass anyone by sharing sensitive or confidential information about living relatives or the recently-deceased.)
For understanding: Do certain patterns tend to run in your family, such as having children at a younger or older age?
For family health history: Longevity–age at death–is a measure in Family Statistics that relates to your family health history. You can’t look at cause of death with this tool, but click here to read about a clever way to look at causes of death in your family.
MyHeritage is known for the technology tools on its site, such as its new Collection Catalog, the Discoveries pages, its DNA matching (click here to upload your raw data for FREE!), automatic record matching in unindexed content such as books, and automatic name translation in the search function.
Get up to speed on what MyHeritage has to offer in our totally-affordable MyHeritage Quick Guide, newly updated for 2017! Also check out our brand new quick guide, Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites Quick Guide, which compares MyHeritage to what you’ll find on Ancestry, FamilySearch and Findmypast. Each has fantastic features you’ll want to know about!
The Genealogy Gems Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Canadian expert Dave Obee shares the story of the Canadian home children tips on newspaper research. Also in this episode:
New site features at MyHeritage, including improved DNA ethnicity analysis (it’s free?upload your DNA!);
An excerpt from the Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with Fannie Flagg about The Whole Town’s Talking?and a great summer reading idea;
A detailed get-started guide to British Isles research: Terminology and census/civil BMD record tips from Kate Eakman at Legacy Tree Genealogists
Why so many weddings are traditionally held in June.
Download the show notes
NEWS: DNA AND CATALOG UPDATES AT MYHERITAGE
MyHeritage.com: DNA ethnicity estimate updates and new collection Catalog
View an example of the new ethnicity analysis presentation here: https://vimeo.com/218348730/51174e0b49
3 top uses for the new MyHeritage catalog (with additional details and commentary)
MyHeritage Quick Reference Guide (Newly-updated in 2017)
Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites. This brand new, comprehensive guide helps you answer the question, “Which genealogy websites should I use?”
MAILBOX: BOOK CLUB COMMENTS
Visit the book club here.
Companion video recommendations:
Genealogy Journey: Running Away to Home video (click here to see the book)
“You Came and Saved Us” video with author Chris Cleave, Everyone Brave is Forgiven
Alan Cumming on Who Do You Think You Are? Episode summary
Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming
For more information: www.nwgc.org
Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search historical records on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com. In the works: soon RootsMagic will be fully integrated with Ancestry.com, too: you’ll be able to sync your RootsMagic trees with your Ancestry.com trees and search records on the site.
Learn more or sign up for Backblaze here.
Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. Learn more at http://www.backblaze.com/.
INTERVIEW: DAVE OBEE
Continuing our celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday!
Dave Obee is an internationally-renowned Canadian journalist, historian and genealogist. Dave is a columnist for Internet Genealogy and Your Genealogy Today (formerly Family Chronicle). Dave has also written about family history for Canada’s History and Your Family Tree in the United Kingdom.
Put Dave’s books on your shelf – you can get them here.
Finding Your Canadian Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide
Counting Canada: A Genealogical Guide to the Canadian Census
Destination Canada: A Genealogical Guide to Immigration Records
Making the News: A Times Columnist Look at 150 Years of History
Canada research tips:
Look in newspapers for ship crossings, notable people sailing, approximate numbers of passengers etc.
Don’t just rely on search engines for digitized newspapers. Browse the papers where you find some hits.
Canada Home Children: Watch and Learn
Forgotten, an award-winning documentary (watch the trailer here)
Childhood Lost: The Story of Canada’s Home Children documentary (watch it on YouTube)
LEGACY TREE GEM: ENGLISH PARISH RECORDS
Visit Legacy Tree Genealogists: http://www.legacytree.com/genealogygems
Read a companion blog post on English parish records, with several image examples and links to the resources Kate Eakman recommends.
Legacy Tree Genealogists provides expert genealogy research service that works with your research goals, budget and schedule. The Legacy Tree Discovery package offers 3.5 hours of preliminary analysis and research recommendations: a great choice if you’ve hit a brick wall in your research and could use some expert guidance.
GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB: FANNIE FLAGG INTERVIEW
The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg
Genealogy Gems Premium website members may hear this entire conversation in the upcoming Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #148.
BONUS CONTENT for Genealogy Gems App Users
LINK IMAGE TO: http://lisalouisecooke.com/get-app/
If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, your bonus audio content for this episode comes from Melissa Barker, the Archive Lady, in honor of International Archives Day on June 9. The Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users
Start creating fabulous, irresistible videos about your family history with Animoto.com. You don’t need special video-editing skills: just drag and drop your photos and videos, pick a layout and music, add a little text and voila! You’ve got an awesome video! Try this out for yourself at Animoto.com.
MyHeritage.com is the place to make connections with relatives overseas, particularly with those who may still live in your ancestral homeland. Click here to see what MyHeritage can do for you: it’s free to get started.
PROFILE AMERICA: June Weddings
Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer
Sunny Morton, Editor
Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide, Content Contributor
Lacey Cooke, Service Manager
Vienna Thomas, Associate Producer
Check out this new episode!
Social Security Death Index (SSDI) search is not necessarily as straight forward as you might think. We’re going to explore what SSDI records are, their range of availability, and how they compare across the Genealogy Giants records websites.
If you’ve been dabbling in genealogy research for a while, then you are very likely familiar with the Social Security Death Index, more commonly referred to as the SSDI. But even experienced researchers have questions, like the one that Marti sent me recently:
From Marti in Texas:
Thank you so much for all your helpful resources on your website!! I just listened to the SSDI Working Backwards podcast episode (Family History: Genealogy Made Easy episode 3) and my grandparents passed away in 2012 and 2014. Do you know when the last time the index has been updated, I cannot locate them.
Thank you so much!!
This two-fold question is a good one. While many genealogical record sets have privacy laws that dramatically restrict more recent records from being available, the SSDI is not one of them. But even if the records are available, there may still be times when we have trouble locating our relatives.
Whenever you run into a road block finding ancestors in a record collection, do what good detectives do, and go back to the beginning. In this case, let’s learn more about the collection itself.
Social Security Death Index Background
The Social Security Act was signed into law in 1935 by President Franklin Roosevelt. By 1937, more than 30 million Americans had registered. Today, the Death Master File from the Social Security Administration contains around 90 million records of deaths and they are publicly available online.
Some data goes as far back as 1937, but most of the information included in the SSDI dates from 1962. This is because the Social Security Administration began to use a computer database for processing requests for benefits in 1962. Some of the earlier records back to 1937 have not been added.
It’s important to know that the SSDI does not have a death record for everyone. It’s also very possible that you may occasionally find an error here and there if something was reported incorrectly. But don’t let that stop you from tapping into this major resource! It’s a wonderful alternative source for finding people who were counted in the 1890 census (which was unfortunately mostly destroyed) because they may still appear in the SSDI. Also, those who were born before vital records registration in their home state began, may also show up. Remember, working folks just had to live past 1937 to have been possibly included. That means some people could have been born sometime in the late 1800s.
Now that we have a handle on the history of the SSDI, let’s look at who has it and how recent their records are.
Where to Find the SSDI
The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is available on all of the ‘big 4’ genealogy records websites, which we here at Genealogy Gems refer to as the “Genealogy Giants.” The links below will take you directly to the SSDI search page for each.
(Current as of February 28, 2014)
(It is not stated how current the database is, but a search for 2014 did retrieve results)
(No dates or citation provided, but a search for people who died in 2014 did retrieve results)
In Marti’s case, she will want to search every single one of these websites for her ancestors. The good news is that they all appear to be up-to-date, but that doesn’t mean they are all exactly the same. The same collection of genealogy records can appear differently from site to site for a number of reasons such as accidental omissions, variations in the power of their search engine, differences between indexers and scanners, and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) inaccuracies. These may or may not affect the SSDI, but the point is that you can’t go wrong searching each one of the Genealogy Giants just in case. And since SSDI search can be conducted for free at all of the Genealogy Giants, it doesn’t cost you anything to do so.
A quick way to find all of the websites that include the SSDI is to Google SSDI genealogy. Here’s a link to the results.
SSDI Search Head-to-Head Comparison
Another excellent reason to search the SSDI on multiple websites is that each website displays the information a little differently. And as you can see from the chart below, when it comes to the Genealogy Giants, there are definitely differences.
It’s interesting to note that Ancestry is the only website that provides information about the year that the Social Security number was issued. It isn’t exact, but it’s more than the others offered in my search for Alfred H. Sporan.
The differences between the 4 major websites can be sometimes subtle or quite dramatic. Understanding their strengths and weaknesses, as well as free versus subscription offerings, is key to successful research that is both efficient and cost effective.
The quick reference guide Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites is a must-have for anyone serious about getting the most out of free and paid subscriptions.
The author of this 4-page full color cheat sheet, Sunny Morton, is Contributing Editor here at Genealogy Gems, and she’s packed this guide with everything you would ever want to know, and many things you probably didn’t know that you needed to know. You can pick up your copy here
in our store.
SSDI Search and Beyond
There is another database at Ancestry that is worth keeping your eye on. It’s called the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index and it shouldn’t be missed! Currently this covers 1936-2007, but who knows, they may update it in the future. It includes even more information. It was first released in 2015. Read more about it here at Genealogy Gems.
Gems: Share Your SSDI Search Experience!
I invite you to take a moment to share your SSDI search experience in the comments below.
Have you had any surprises?
Did you find a difference between the records found at different websites?
We want to hear your story, because we all benefit from each other’s experiences.