primary sources

17 Apr 2014

Not Changed at Ellis Island

not changed at ellis island sassy jane genealogy

“Immigrants. Ellis Island.” (NPS)

Why ancestor surnames were not changed at Ellis Island by inspectors is today’s post.

Today is the anniversary of the busiest day in Ellis Island’s history.

One hundred and seven years ago, 11,747 individuals arrived to begin new lives in America. An average day saw 5,000 immigrants processed through Ellis Island.

Most genealogists who have worked with immigration records know ancestor surnames were not changed at Ellis Island by inspectors.

Mistakes happened and the process was flawed, but immigration officials were most probably not the source of name changes. Is Hollywood to blame for this misperception?


18 Dec 2013

Czech Kindertransport and Sir Nicholas Winton

This is the story of a remarkable man – still with us at the age of 104 – named Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved 669 children from the Nazis between December 1938 and August 1939. Winton, a British stockbroker, established the Czech Kindertransport and worked with a team in Prague to save the children, most of whose parents perished at Auschwitz. Winton raised money, organized transports, and when necessary, forged papers to save the children.

Nicholas Winton and one of the children he rescued. (courtesy The Guardian)

Winton was so modest about his role in the Kindertransport that it was only revealed in 1988 when his wife Grete found detailed records in their attic. It contained lists of the children, including their parents’ names, and the names and addresses of the families that took them in.

Eighty of “Winton’s children” were located in Britain and reunited on the BBC […]

19 Sep 2013

The Bondwoman’s Narrative – Identifying Author Who Was a Fugitive Slave

The Bondwoman’s Narrative, Courtesy Beineke Library, Yale University


The Bondwoman’s Narrative – Identifying Author Who Was a Fugitive Slave is a great article at the New York Times today.

In 2002, an 1850s novel written by a fugitive slave was published and became a best-seller. But the true identity of the author, who used the pen name Hannah Crafts, was unknown.


6 Sep 2013

Collection of Collections at CONTENTdm for Follow Friday

contentdmThe Collection of Collections site by CONTENTdm is today’s Follow Friday post. It gathers digital collections from a host of libraries and archives that use CONTENTdm‘s software to deliver digital collections to researchers.

Lots of attention in the genealogical research world goes to commercial (for-profit) digital collection sites like Ancestry or MyHeritage.

But there are many, many non-profit libraries, archives, and museums that are working hard to digitize and deliver their collections directly to users, usually for free. In these collections are genealogically rich materials such as yearbooks and oral history transcripts.