Finding an ancestor’s immigration record is the goal of many a genealogist, which is why I’m selecting an excerpt from Rick Crume’s February 2007 Family Tree Magazine article on Stephen P. Morse’s One-Step search site for this week’s “Best of” installment.
Morse has searches for many sites, but his Ellis Island search forms are among the most popular. I have a soft spot for them: I found one of my ancestors by using the Gold form to search passenger lists month-by-month around the arrival date given on a naturalization record.
Just before the issue was printed, Morse’s Gold form replaced the old Blue and Gray forms. That’s about the only time we’ve had to say “Stop the presses!”
When Ellis Island launched its database of New York City passenger arrivals from 1892 to 1924, genealogists viewed it as the greatest advancement since pedigree charts. The ability to freely search records of 22 million immigrants, passengers and crew—and view digital images of the lists—was a huge research boon. But as great as the site was, people became frustrated with its limitations: Searching on just first name, last name and gender wasn’t adequate for finding everyone’s immigrant ancestors.
Those limitations inspired the first One-Step tools. Although EllisIsland.org has since expanded its search options (they now include features that debuted on the One-Step site, such as name-spelling flexibility, birth year, ship name, town of origin and ethnicity), Morse’s White and Gold Ellis Island search forms still offer extra options for ferreting out hard-to-find immigrant ancestors. For instance, the Gold Form lets you search for town names that sound like your search term; both forms let you search on port of departure and age.
By default, both forms hunt for matches that start with your search term. That way, if you search on Glasgow in the town field, you’ll catch both Glasgow and Glasgow, Scotland—whichever way it was recorded.
A key distinction between the forms: The White Form employs the same search engine as the Ellis Island site. The Gold Form uses a different search engine, which works faster when you search on name fragments.
Morse advises using the Gold Form for most searches, and the White Form when you need a “fresh perspective” for your search.
Morse unveiled the Gold Form to provide maximum flexibility in searching all 25 million people in the Ellis Island database. It melds the best of his old Blue and Gray forms, offering added parameters for searching all the records—including traveling companion, exact arrival date and marital status. Want to search for everyone from a particular village? Specify the town, but leave the name fields blank.
Family Tree Magazine Plus members can read the entire article, which covers many of Morse’s other One-Step searches, on FamilyTreeMagazine.com.
Related resources from Family Tree Magazine:
- Best websites for immigration researchers (free article) from last year’s list of 101 Best Web Sites for Genealogy
- Free passenger list transcription forms
- The Family Tree Guide to Finding Your Ellis Island Ancestors by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, available (and on sale!) from Family Tree Shop
- Online Immigration Resources: Retracing Your Ancestor’s Journey webinar recording, available from Family Tree Shop