primary sources

3 May 2014

Immigrant Ancestors Talk at SLOCGS

Immigrant Ancestors Talk at San Luis Obispo County Genealogy Society today! This is one of my favorite presentations – “Coming to America: Castle Garden, Ellis Island & Immigrant Ancestors” – and it begins at 1:45 pm at 520 Dana Street, San Luis Obispo, California. The general meeting starts at 12:15 pm.

This talk is based on my new guide, Discovering Immigrant Ancestors, a 77-page PDF with 25 pages of active links to immigration and naturalization resources and an overview of immigration from Europe to America in the 19th and twentieth centuries.

There are five parts to my talk, as this is a hybrid of two presentations. In the first part, we’ll follow in the footsteps of European immigrant ancestors who approached America’s “front doors to freedom” through the Customs House, Castle Garden, or Ellis Island in the 19th and 20th centuries. The second part, I’ll talk about essential and little-known resources for finding […]

2 May 2014

New Immigrant Ancestors Guide Available

My new Immigrant Ancestors Guide is now available.

Discovering Immigrant Ancestors has 25 pages of active links to essential and little-known resources on immigration and naturalization. In this Guide, you’ll also learn how ancestors made the decision to leave Europe, and what it was like to journey to America and pass through immigration inspections to start new lives in America.

Using resources of the National ArchivesLibrary of Congress, academic archives, and genealogy records, Discovering Immigrant Ancestors covers the complete immigration experience of your ancestors, with resources that will advance your family history research.

Even if your ancestors arrived at North American ports other than New York, this Sassy Jane Genealogy Guide provides insight into the immigration experience, and resources for passenger lists, naturalization and alien records, and immigration guides that focus your research.

Discovering Immigrant Ancestors is an illustrated 77-page color PDF available for $9.99. An iBooks format for your iPad is also available upon request. […]

17 Apr 2014

Not Changed at Ellis Island

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.

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 television programme That’s Life! as you can see in the heart-warming clip below.

If you are doing family research in […]