What information will I find on a ship manifest?
One of the most important records used by genealogists, the immigration Passenger List of vessels arriving in the United States ports. A manifest or ship’s manifest is a document listing the cargo, passengers, and crew of a ship, aircraft, or vehicle, for the use of customs and other officials. Where such a list is limited to identifying passengers, it is a passenger manifest or passenger list.
What information will I find on a ship manifest?
Personal data on any person who has booked passage on the ship. This includes: age, marital status, last residence, final destination, and other interesting information.
You can see the manifests of ships arrived at the port of New York on the site Ellis Island-FREE Port of New York Passenger Records Search
What instructions did the purser follow to complete the manifests?
- Below is an extract from the Department of Commerce and Labor – “Special Instructions for Filling Alien Manifests”, located on the back of a passenger list of 1906. The information returned on the manifest [Forms 500, 500 A, and 500 B], so far as it relates to alien arrivals (including those in transit and tourists), should be made in accordance with the following classifications.
The number of the column on the manifest is given in these special instructions and is followed, in parentheses, in all cases up to and including column 16, by a descriptive title indicating briefly the subject to which it relates.
- Column 3 (Age) – The return of age in column 3 should be expressed in years or months, the latter applying only to those under 1 year of age.
- Column 4 (Sex) – The entry in column 4 should be either M (male) or F (female).
- Column 5 (Married or single) – The entry in column 5 should be either M (married), S (single), Wd (widowed), or D (divorced).
- Column 6 (Calling or occupation) – The entry in column 6 should describe as accurately as possible the occupation, trade, or profession of each alien arrival, as for example: Civil engineer, stationery engineer, locomotive engineer, mining engineer, brass polisher, steel polisher, iron molder, wood turner, etc., and not simply as engineer, polisher, molder, turner, or other indefinite designations. A distinction should be made between farmers and farm laborers, regardless of the amount of money shown, as follows: A farmer is one who operates a farm, either for himself or others. A farm laborer is one who works on a farm for the man who operates it. Steamship companies should make this distinction on the manifests, and corrections should be made, if necessary, by inspectors and registry clerks, during the personal examination of alien arrivals.
- Column 7 (Able to read and write) – Column 7 is subdivided and the entries therein should be either Yes – Yes (can read and write), No – No (can neither read nor write), or Yes – No (can read but not write).
- Column 8 (Nationality) – Column 8 should be construed to mean the country of which immigrant is a citizen or subject.
- Column 9 (Race or people) – The entry in column 9 should show the race or people as given in list on reverse side of alien manifest. Special attention should be paid to the distinction between race and nationality, and manifests should be carefully revised by inspectors and registry clerks in this regard. For instance, “France” appearing on a manifest does not necessarily mean “French” by race or people, and similarly “French” appearing on a manifest does not necessarily mean “France” by nationality. An alien who is Irish, German, or Hebrew by race might properly come under the heading of United Kingdom or any other country by nationality. In this connection the following distinctions should be especially observed:
- Italian (north): The people who are native to the basin of the River Po in northern Italy (i.e., compartments of Piedmont, Lombardy, Venetia and Emelia) and their descendants whether residing in Italy, Switzerland Austria-Hungary or any other country should be classed as “Italian (north).” Most of these people speak a Gallic dialect of the Italian language.
- Italian (south): The people who are native to the portion of Italy south of the basin of the River Po (i.e., compartments of Liguria, Tuscany, Marches, Umbria, Latium, Abruzzo, Molise, Campania, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicily, and Sardinia) and their descendants should be classified as “Italian (south).”
- Column 10 (Last residence) – The entry in column 10 should show the country, and city or town of last permanent residence, instead of the province, city, or town.
- Column 11 (Final destination) – The entry in column 11 should show definitely the place (city or town) of final destination.
- Column 12 (Whether having a ticket to such final destination) – The entry in column 12 should be either Yes (ticket) or No (no ticket).
- Column 13 (By whom was passage paid) – the entry in column 13 should show definitely by whom passage was paid, as self; husband, father, brother or other relative; friend; steamship company, etc.
- Column 14 (Whether in possession of $50, and if less, how much) – The entry in column 14 should give in each case (individual or family) the exact amount of money shown.
Why can’t I find my ancestors previous date of arrival–it doesn’t match the date listed on subsequent entries?
According to the instructions for filling out the manifest, this column should contain the dates of prior residence in the United States, along with the location of residence. Thus, “1907-1912, Chicago,” should mean that the immigrant had resided in Chicago from 1907 to 1912. However, often these dates do not, in fact, indicate actual periods of previous residence. As a case in point, one ancestor’s 1908 manifest listed prior residence as “1898-1902, Chicago,” but after much searching, these dates were found to actually indicate dates of return to Italy. His periods of residence in the US were actually 1893-1898, and 1900-1902.
Often whole periods of time ignored return trips to Italy — another ancestor’s 1901 arrival record indicated previous residence as “1891-1900, Chicago,” but his actual residence in the US was 1891-1893, 1894-1900. Also, these dates might not necessarily correspond exactly to the actual dates in question — another record showed “1907-1912” when the actual dates were 1906-1912.
Of course, sometimes the dates are just what they are supposed to be: inclusive dates of previous residence.
- https://web.archive.org/web/20090603180421/http://www.cimorelli.com/pie/faq/emigfaq1.htm#30 ↩