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Diaries & Journals | Immigration Reports | Illustrated London News | Trivia | Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions
(arranged in quasi-alphabetical order)

  • What was Alien Registration? (United States only)
  • 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 Immigration to Australia?
    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 Office? (New York, NY)
  • See Ellis Island.

  • 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.

    in steerage

  • Where do I find the passenger lists for Castle Garden arrivals? (New York, NY)
  • See Ellis Island

  • What was a Certificate of Arrival? (United States only)
    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 arrival port.

  • What is the meaning of Date Abbreviations?

    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 meanings are:—
    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 month)
    prox. is short for proximo which means — in the next month (following the current month)

    sennight - an archaic term for seven nights (one week)
    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 became citizens.

  • Are Ellis Island records different from 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. Missler?
  • 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 website

  • What is Germans to America?
    Germans to America, are a series of books edited by Ira A. Glazier and P. William Filby. There are presently 60 volumes. They contain indexes of passenger arrivals of German immigrants to US ports. You will find a list of the years covered by each volume, at this URL

    For a list of libraries with copies of these books, see

  • 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 take a "feeder ship" to a larger emigration port to embark on the transatlantic ship.
    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 included:

    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?
    F. MisslerThe F. 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 cousin!

    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 Government.

  • 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 Center library.)

  • 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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