As a helpful reminder, be sure to read everything on genealogical records. Don’t be tempted to skim or to simply rely on the transcribed index of a document as opposed to viewing an original document. Otherwise, you may miss pertinent details on your research subject. Another helpful reminder, be sure to scroll forward and backwards when viewing online images. Among a multitude of genealogical records, it is especially important to carefully read and scroll through passenger lists and census documents, which can be located on websites such as Ancestry.
When reviewing passenger lists, read all of the information listed on the line or lines regarding your research subject. Compared to information transcribed in the index of the passenger lists, the actual passenger lists contain more information, some of which could be extremely relevant. For instance, passenger lists may indicate the name and address of the nearest relative or friend in the country where the alien formerly resided. However, the index may not include a transcription of that information. Such information may help in deciphering whether the person listed on the passenger list is your research subject or connected to your research subject. Furthermore, such information provides more details with respect to the name of the town where your research subject formerly resided.
Also, when reading passenger lists, be sure to look at the other names on the list, especially on the rows above and below your research subject. This will help you determine whether any family members or friends were immigrating or traveling with your research subject.
Pay close attention to markings on the passenger lists. Often there are various annotations on passenger lists, such as clarified or corrected names or cross-references. Be sure to review a very helpful article by Marian L. Smith called “A Guide to Interpreting Passenger List Annotations.”
When viewing passenger lists from the twentieth century, it is very important to scroll forward to view the next image. Often there is a second page to the list that has not been transcribed and included in the index. This second page often provides extremely pertinent information, such as whether the immigrant is joining a relative or friends, and if so, the name and complete address of the relative or friends.
Census documents provide a wealth of information and must be carefully reviewed. When reviewing census documents, keep in mind that the images of actual census documents provide more details than the information transcribed in the index of the censuses. For instance, the index may transcribe the names of the household members, their ages, birthplaces, and marital status. However, in addition to providing this information, the actual images may also reveal citizenship information, occupation, and education, among other things.
Be sure to review the entire page of the census to see whether your research subject was living close to other family members or friends. When reviewing the census document of my best friend’s grandfather, I found that he was living a few houses away from my great grandfather. In genealogy, you never know what you will find!
Be sure to also scroll forward and backwards to see whether the household that you are researching is continued onto another page. Furthermore, it is important to scroll forwards or backwards to see whether any other family members or close friends were living nearby.
Thus, it is of the utmost importance to avoid skimming passenger lists and census documents and to avoid solely focusing on one page of these documents. In addition to passenger lists and census documents, there are a multitude of genealogical records. All such records need to be read carefully. In future blog posts, the importance of carefully reviewing other types of genealogical records will be discussed.