Frequently Asked Questions
in quasi-alphabetical order)
- What was Alien Registration? (United
|Alien Registration Cards (Forms AR-3, I-151, or I-551), were
first issued in August 1940. All non-citizens had to register
and be fingerprinted,
and there were penalties (up to $1,000 fine and 6 months in
jail) for failure to register.
- What is the difference between Assisted and Unassisted
|Through most of the 1800's and again at various
times in the 1900's (most recently the 1950's) the British government
covered most of the cost for "Assisted immigrants" to go to Australia.
In the 1800's there were various reasons - mostly to do with
reducing the population in the towns and cities of England and
providing a source of labour in Australia, as the cattle and
sheep stations, farmers and merchants, and those with fancy homes
were all suffering from a shortage of labour. Assisted immigrants
in the 1850's had to be skilled in some way - whether in agricultural
labour, shepherding, blacksmithing, domestic service, etc. No
habitual poor were allowed. They paid from 2 pound to 6 pound
per person (depending on age) for the cost of the entire 2-3
month journey. They travelled on specially chartered ships.
Unassisted immigrants came out to Australia on their own
passage, paying their own cabin class or steerage fare.
During the 1850's and 1860's these were most often gold
seekers or wealthy merchants who sought to take advantage
of the booming economy. Some of the young men and young
women on the ships were domestic servants accompanying
their employers. (submitted by Michael Bouy)
- Are there any records available from the Barge
- What does Between Decks ('tween deck)
mean? Was it the same as steerage?
|The Between deck or 'tween deck as it's commonly
known, is the deck below the main deck. This deck was frequently
used for cargo on the homeward voyage and given a cursory cleaning
with temporary partitions erected for steerage class passengers
on the "outward bound" voyage. It was partitioned into dormitory
accommodation usually with men one side and women the other.
- Where do I find the passenger lists for Castle
(New York, NY)
- What was a Certificate of Arrival? (United
|Certificates of Arrival were a product of the
Basic Naturalization Act of 1906, and begin to appear in court
naturalization records ca. 1911. The 1906 law required that
each applicant for naturalization be a legally admitted immigrant,
and applied to all immigrants arriving after June 29, 1906.
These began to apply for citizenship in 1911 (5 years later),
and in response to the applications to the courts (Declarations
or Petitions), the Immigration Service would issue a Certificate
of Arrival, which simply certified information taken from the
passenger manifest. The Certificates of Arrival were never
given to the immigrant. They were issued and sent to the court,
to satisfy the court that the applicant met the admission and
residency requirements for naturalization. Certificates of
Arrival were associated with Declarations and/or Petitions,
but were not the same document. When an immigrant filed a Declaration
(or, if they were exempt from the Declaration requirement,
when they filed their Petition), one copy of that document
went from the court to the US Immigration Service. The INS
then checked the immigration records to verify the immigrant's
claimed port/date/ship of arrival. When found, they would certify
that information on a form called "Certificate of Arrival," and
mail it back to the court. Today these forms are often found
filed with the court records. Copies of the certificates were
not kept by the INS, since they had the passenger list itself.
- On my ancestorís records I found a Contract number.
What was a Contract ?
|A Contract, was a document entered into,
by the emigrant and the shipping line(or an Agent of the shipping
line). The Contract may have simply been a ticket for passage
from port A to port B. In other cases, the Contract may have
included overland travel to the primary departure port, passage
on a Feeder ship to an emigration port
in Britain or another European country, transatlantic passage,
and inward transportation to the final destination from the
- What is the meaning of Date
Often we encounter abbreviations used in contemporary
documents and newspapers, in reference to dates. For example,
in a report of a shipwreck, an item might say "On Sunday
night, the 18th inst., . . " or, ".
. the ship left Liverpool on the 8th ult." .
. or, ". . the inquest will be held on the 25th prox. .
These are Latin abbreviations which were commonly used. The
inst. is short for instant which
means — in the current month
ult. is short for ultimo which
means — in the month preceding (before the current
prox. is short for proximo which
means — in the next month (following the current month)
sennight - an archaic term for seven nights
fortnight - an old term for fourteen nights
(two weeks), still used in standard British English.
- What is a Declaration of Intent or DOI?
Did everyone immigrating to the US have one?
|A Declaration of Intent in this context,
represents the first step in the naturalization process. Immigrants
in the US who wished to become US citizens had to go to their
local court and file a Declaration of Intention to become a
US citizen. That document had to be on file for at least two
years, and they had to live in the US for at least five years,
before they could take the next step.
The second step toward citizenship was filing a Petition
for Naturalization with their local court (if they
had moved since filing the Declaration, this could be
a different court). The judge then either granted or
denied the petition, thus granting or denying US citizenship.
There was and is no requirement that immigrants naturalize
as US citizens, thus there was no requirement that all
immigrants file a declaration of intent. Many immigrants
did file declarations--many more, in fact, than actually
- Are Ellis Island records
Barge Office or Castle Garden records? Are they kept
in different places? (New York, NY)
|Ellis Island, the Barge Office,
and Castle Garden are just three of the different stations
where immigrants were processed at the port of New York, NY
between 1855 and 1952. ALL federal immigration RECORDS for
immigrants processed at New York--regardless of which station--are
at the National Archives and Records Administration--NARA Ship
Passenger Arrival Records
- What is the Norwegian Emigrantprotokoll? Why
was it kept?
|The Emigrantprotokoll, or "Police
List" is a chronological list of all Norwegians who emigrated
from Norway, beginning in mid 1867. You will also find other
Scandinavians and other nationalities if their journey began
from a Norwegian port. The information contained within the
Emigrantprotokoll may vary from port to port, or the year it
was collected. You will find the emigrantís full name, age
or birth-date, Norwegian residence and date of departure. You
will find the name of the ship, or the shipping line on which
they traveled, or the name of the shipping line or agent for
the transatlantic ship they were joining in Britain or other
European port, if they departed on a Feeder
ship. You will usually find relationships
noted, marital status, occupation, cost of fare for the individual
or group, and on occasion the full destination. After 1860,
when travel restrictions were lifted, and many Norwegians began
to emigrate, they were often treated poorly by emigration agents
and/or ship Captains, and there were many complaints. As a
result, a law was passed requiring the emigrant and the shipping
agent to enter into a Contract. This Contract had to
be signed by the Police, so this is why these records exist.
You can find a full explanation on the S&S, the One
Hundred Years of Emigrant Ships from Norway site,
listed under "Hunting Passenger Lists". (The Passprotokoll and
the Emigrantprotokoll are available on microfilm from your
local LDS Family History Center library.) The Norwegian Digitalarkivet has
been creating fully searchable "online" versions
of the Emigrantprotokollar for many departure ports. They are
to be applauded for the wonderful work they are doing. This
online version is not yet complete, and does require some knowledge
of utilizing the search features, and a rudimentary knowledge
of the Norwegian language, but it is well worth the effort
for the wealth of information you will gain.
- Where can I find out about the F.
- What was a Feeder ship?
|A Feeder ship was a small steamship which
carried emigrants from small ports or minor emigration ports,
to the larger emigration ports such as Liverpool, Hamburg,
Rotterdam or Havre. They usually operated on a regular schedule
with at least two trips a month. There are usually no surviving
passenger lists for any Feeder ships, but some countries have
archived lists of passengers who departed on these ships. See
also Feeder Ships webpages
for more information on feeder ships.
- What does FHC mean?
|FHC, is the acronym used for Family History Center,
which is a branch of the Latter Day Saints
(LDS) Church in Salt Lake City Utah. There are over
2,000 local branches in approximately 50 countries around the
world, with libraries containing filmed records. The FHC is
freely open to the public. You do not have to be a member of
the church to use the library. To locate the FHC nearest you,
check your telephone book's "yellow pages" under "Churches,
Latter Day Saints" for a listing, in North America, telephone
1-800-346-6044. Locations can also found at the LDS
- What is Germans to America?
- What is the difference between Immigration and Emigration?
|These two words can sometimes cause some confusion,
but the answer is easy. Emigration is to "leave
one country to settle in another." Immigration is
to "come as a settler into another country. Therefore,
you "emigrate from," and "immigrate to."
- Why can't I find any information about the ship Indirekte?
|When you find the word Indirekte listed
as "Name of ship:" on a Danish (or other Scandinavian)
emigration record, it means they travelled indirect as
transmigrants, rather than by direct passage.
This could be via Britain, Germany etc. Emigrants would first
ship" to a larger emigration port to embark on the transatlantic
see also the on-site webpage about Transmigration
- What is the meaning of Inst. in reference
to dates? (see dates)
- I have seen the term LDS used. What is the LDS?
|LDS, is the acronym for The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The
LDS have gathered genealogical records from all over the world.
These records are available at the Family History Library in
Salt Lake City, Utah, and at Family History Centers (FHC)
throughout the world. (see FHC for more information)
- I found the notation LPC beside my ancestor's name
on a passenger list, noting detained individuals in a column headed "cause".
What does LPC mean? (United States only)
|LPC, stands for "Likely Public Charge." The
LPC exclusion was introduced to US immigration law in 1891
and was the most common cause of detention and grounds for
exclusion/deportation. Immigrants were most likely considered
a likely public charge if they had little money AND no family,
friends, or prospects, OR if they were disabled in some way
that would prevent them from earning their own living. The
majority of LPC exclusions were overcome during the Special
Inquiry process, usually when friends, family, or some Immigrant
Aid organization came and vouched for the person or posted
a bond for them. Other common exclusion/detention "cause" abbreviations
LCD - Loathsome contagious disease
ACL - Alien Contract Labor
See also Manifest
Markings website for additional passenger list annotations.
- My grandfather's
immigration records name the F. Missler. Why can't I
find this ship?
Missler is one of the more famous "ghost" ships
in emigration and immigration lore. No ship by that name
existed. The confusion stems from the fact that Freidrich
Missler was the biggest ticket agent in Bremen, and shipped
emigrants out from Germany to Canada, the US, South America,
and South Africa in the late 1800's and early 1900's. He
usually gave emigrants a small wallet to hold their ticket
and other papers. That wallet has a picture of a steamship
on the front, and the name "F.Missler" in large letters.
As a result, for decades, people have begun their genealogy
search looking for the SS MISSLER, only to find out later
Missler was the shipping line agent. Freidrich Missler had
a good working arrangement with the North
German Lloyd Line.
- I have seen Name Change at Ellis Island mentioned. Was this
a common practice?
Name Change of Immigrants at Ellis Island
by Immigration officers is a misconception which is not supported
by historical research or fact. Passenger Lists were created
abroad, probably much closer to the Immigrantís homeland, where
it is less likely that he would be misunderstood. His name
was probably recorded with a great deal of accuracy at that
time. When he reached the Immigration clerk at Ellis Island
(or elsewhere), the clerk had a copy of this passenger list
in his hand. One third of all immigrant inspectors at Ellis
Island early this century were themselves foreign-born, and
all immigrant inspectors spoke an average of three languages.
They were assigned to inspect immigrant groups based on the
languages they spoke. If the inspector could not communicate,
Ellis Island employed an army of Interpreters full time, and
would call in temporary interpreters under contract to translate
for immigrants speaking the most obscure tongues. The inspector
operated under rules and regulations ordering that he was not
to change the name or identifying information found for any
immigrant UNLESS requested by the immigrant, and unless inspection
demonstrated the original information was in error.
The immigrant may have made several connections in his
journey, with several records created. Immigrant names
could be mangled in the process. The first ticket clerk
may have misspelled the name (assuming there was a "correct
spelling"). Every transcription of his information afforded
an opportunity to misspell or alter his name. Thus the
more direct the immigrant's route to his destination, the
less likely his name changed in any way. Perhaps more frustrating
for researchers is the fact that some immigrants didn't
seem to give the same name twice. Not unlike the Chinese
who took a new name to mark each of the different stages
in their lives, these immigrants often traveled under names
they never used again once reaching dry land. Women and
children traveling under HER maiden name, children traveling
under their father and mother's surnames, young men traveling
under their father's surname and their own first name,
an individual traveling on the ticket of another! It is
a grab-bag of names that can come out in any particular
order. And then there are those running from military conscription,
who might travel under the name of their neighbor's third
The practice of allowing immigrants to legally change
their names during naturalization proceedings began in
1906. In the new law of that year Congress codified what
they said was and had been existing practice--immigrant
names seldom remained unchanged in America. So, beginning
in 1906, the courts began to get this name change down
on record during naturalization.
- Was everyone coming to the United States, required to present a Passport?
The United States did not require incoming aliens
and immigrants to present Passports until 1917/1918.
Many immigrants prior to that time may have carried passports
issued by their home countries, but US officials did not ask
to see this document. It would have remained in the possession
of the immigrant.
After introduction of the passport requirement during World
War I, US authorities would ask that anyone applying for
admission to the United States present a passport. Again,
it would remain in the possession of the immigrant because,
technically, the passport is the property of the government
which issued it (in these cases NOT the US Govt.).
Later, if the immigrant naturalized as a US citizen, they
would be required to surrender their foreign passport. But
the passport would then be returned to the country which
issued it. These passports were not kept on file by the US
- What was the Passprotokoll in Norway? When was it used?
|The Passprotokoll, was a "passport
log" maintained by the local police, prior to 1860. Beginning
in 1810 and up until 1860, all emigration from Norway, and
travel within Norway was strictly controlled, and required
a passport. In the Passprotokoll you will find "emigration
papers" for this period. (The Passprotokoll and the Emigrantprotokoll are
available on microfilm from your local LDS Family History
- What was Prepaid Passage (PPD) and how did it work?
|Prepaid Passage came about from the desire
on the part of successful settlers, to help their less fortunate
relatives to emigrate with their families. Local organizations
were also formed which enabled the settler to give this sort
of assistance to his friends, rather than his having to save
enough money for the purpose. The railway companies and steamboat
agents and the local bankers usually combined for procuring
the prepaid tickets, taking in many instances chattel mortgages
or other forms of security for the payment of the money.
- What is the meaning of Prox. in
reference to dates? (see dates)
- Where is Queenstown? Why can't find it in my Atlas?
|Queenstown, an Irish port in County Cork, near
Cork, was originally known as Cove until Queen Victoria paid
a visit in about 1867. In her honour it was renamed Queenstown.
When that part of Ireland became independent in 1922, the name
reverted to Cove but adopted the Gaelic spelling of Cobh, which
is still pronounced Cove!
- What is the meaning of Ult. in reference
to dates? (see dates)
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Last updated: January 24, 2007 and maintained by
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