APG-L ArchivesArchiver > APG > 2001-04 > 0987984406
From: Joan Lowrey <>
Subject: RE: [APG] Ellis Esland data on website
Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2001 17:06:46 -0700
>Anyone know of a particular reason (other than data entry error) names on
>the microfilm I checked opn the FHC microfilm of passenger lists would not
>be in the database from Ellis Island? The site doesn't give any caveats.
It might have to do with which copies of the lists were used for the
I was editor of the newsletter of the German Research Association when
"Germans to America" was first out. I personally interviewed Daniel
Helmstadter, President of Scholarly Resources, its publisher, at the FGS
Conference in August 1990, and interviewed by telephone Dr. Ira Glazier,
co-editor with P. William Filby.
Excerts from an article that I subsequently wrote ["Immigrant Passenger
Lists Indexes," The German Connection, 14:4 (Oct 1990), pp. 84-85, 88]:
Mr. H: "When Richard Nixon resigned in 1984, the federal government found
itself in need of storage space for his records and his administration's
papers which would be placed in the Federal Records Center in Suitland,
Maryland. To make room, the National Archives determined to get rid of, to
destroy, the original passenger manifests as they were already on
microfilm. A number of people in the academic community discovered this,
among them Dr. Ira Glazier of Temple University. There was a great desire
in the minds of everyone to preserve these original documents. So Dr.
Glazier made a proposal to the National Archives administrators: if they
would turn the records over to Temple University, the University would
eventually provide an index to be used with the microfilm..."
"The passenger lists from 1820 forward were indexed by the WPA through 1846
in toto, when funding ran out. So Temple University would index starting
"Temple took possession of eleven tons of passenger lists. The Balch
Institute donated space to house the collection and work space for the
staff of editors and computer keyboard operators. This takes up a full floor."
"The lists which Dr. Glazier is using are the original customs lists. The
WPA's index was made from first-copy transcriptions... The keypunch
operator works from the original list. In the editing stage, the work of
the keypunch operator is checked against the original list."
JL to Dr. G: "Which originals are you using?"
Dr. G: "After the project started, in about 30% of the cases, we found
copies -- shorthand copies -- as well as originals. When the microfilm was
made, in many cases the originals were not as good, so copies were used for
the microfilming. Our indexes are being made from the originals (Customs
Passenger Lists), not from the copies (State Department copies). The
microfilm of the copies lost some information. We have tried to use only
the originals. There have been some cases where we have found originals and
not copies, but I don't believe there have been cases where we have found
copies and not originals."
So it is with passenger lists as it is with census records. We read what is
on microfilm, but that is the copy that was sent to Washington. We'd all
like to see the *original list* that the census taker created. But from a
recent message here, I see that the census-taker's original list was
created from the separate forms that he filled out when interviewing
people. So it went from what the person said (from memory, or what he or
she chose to selectively say to the census taker), to what the census taker
heard, to how the census taker interpreted what he heard, to how the census
taker spelled it (based on his spelling capability, educational level,
national origins, and degree of caring whether he spelled and entered
everything correctly), to how he transcribed it onto book pages (unless he
was tired, then maybe his wife or oldest child did it), to how accurately
this book was transcribed by someone else for the copies which were then
sent to the state and to Washington.
My "Golden Rule of Genealogy" is what I always heard when I was growing up:
"Don't believe anything you hear and half of what you see."