Without knowing the name of the ship, it would be impossible to tell whether your father actually came over on a “cattle ship,” or it just felt like the passengers were herded onto the ship like cattle. Some vessels were not originally designed to carry passengers, but cargo, such as iron, anvils, salt, coal, and even cattle. These ships’ masters installed temporary rough pine berths for passenger voyages, and dismantled them when it was necessary to carry cargo instead of humans.
If you know the name of the ship, you may be able to find out specific information about it in these reference sources:
- Ships of Our Ancestors by Michael J. Anuta (Genealogical Publishing Co.)
- Great Passenger Ships of the World (5 volumes) by Arnold Kludas (Stephens)
- Passenger Ships of the World Past and Present by Eugene W. Smith (George H. Dean Co.)
Ellis Island received and processed newcomers starting in 1892. Upon arrival, the lists were turned over to the authorities on Ellis Island. You can search the free Ellis Island database online.