immigration records

19 Mar 2016

Why We Do Genealogy

How many times have you been asked why we do genealogy?
Back when I was a working archivist-librarian, the bosses who held the pursestrings would ask me why we should even bother with all that old stuff. After all, it was so expensive to take care of and nobody really cared about those dusty old archives. My immediate, though internal, answer was always, “How can you not care about history?”

None of my grad school classes in history or library science prepared me to justify archival preservation, research, or outreach, especially to bosses who had never done primary-source research themselves. Eventually I figured out ways (with more or less success) to make preservation and access to the historical records in my care palatable to administrators who only had eyes on the bottom line.

A few years ago, I posted about a visit to the Tenement Museum, one of the best historical museums anywhere.

I have eight great-grandparents […]

9 Mar 2016

Translating Hamburg Passenger List Categories

Is your German a little rusty or perhaps even non-existent, but you are using that great resource database,
the Hamburger Passagierlisten, 1850-1934?

Knowing and translating Hamburg Passenger List Categories before you search can be very helpful. Search both the departure lists in from Hamburg, as well as the arrival lists in New York or other U.S. ports. Before you decipher the German handwriting in a record your find, it helps to know what categories of information were used on the passenger list itself. (Right click or control-click on a Mac to download the image below for easier viewing.)

Hamburg Passenger Lists (Hamburger Passagierlisten, 1850-1934 available as a searchable database at were completed in Germany by clerks for the steamship line, using information from emigrants. The Germans were thorough about completing forms, so I have found far more of the all-important information about ancestral village names and birthplaces in these emigration records than I’ve found in […]

7 May 2015

US Port Passenger Lists 1820-1957

Today’s post is about US Port Passenger Lists from 1820-1957. Immigration records are a particular delight to me, as the great-granddaughter of immigrants from five European countries.

This Saturday, I’ll be presenting “Coming To America: Castle Garden, Ellis Island & Immigrant Ancestors” at the San Diego County Genealogical Society, one of my favorite genealogical societies.

But what if your ancestors arrived in Boston, Baltimore, New Orleans, or through Canada? One valuable guide is Joe Beine’s US Ports of Entry and Their Immigration Records and Passenger Lists. Arranged by states, Joe Beine’s site is especially valuable for comprehensive coverage of immigration records of ports throughout the United States.

Even if your ancestors arrived at US ports other than New York, my presentation and the related Sassy Jane Guide, Discovering Immigrant Ancestors at Castle Garden and Ellis Island, helps you explore what your ancestors experienced as they left their homes and sailed to New World, passed through immigration inspections, and entered the […]

22 Jul 2014

Ethnic America Mapped

Ethnic America Mapped is the subject of today’s post, courtesy of the Washington Post. Frequent readers of Sassy Jane Genealogy know that I recommend the research insights to be gained from combining data with mapping. This interesting map shows which ancestries make up the largest population in each of the country’s 3,144 counties, showing that the history of settlement of the United States by various ethnicities is still evident today.

The Washington Post notes:
Some highlights to note: The Irish really do run Boston. People of Irish ancestry make up the largest contingent of counties in Massachusetts, and in parts of Rhode Island, southern New Hampshire and eastern New York. The only counties outside the Northeast where the Irish make up the biggest share of the population are in southern Oregon.

The legacy of slavery still shows up in many rural Southern counties, where African Americans make up dominant slices of the population. Mexican Americans are dominant […]