Search NY Arrivals
In addition to using microfilm available at the National Archives, you can now search NY arrivals online at one of several Web sites. Through this site, we share details about the history of immigration, but focus on special tips to search NY arrivals. Use of this site is completely FREE, but please note that some sites described and linked to may require subscription or payment to fully utilize their services.
Developing a Strategy to Search NY Arrivals
It's one thing to be able to search NY arrivals online vs. the 'old fashioned' way of scrolling through rolls of microfilm and reading line-after-line until your eyes needed a rest. Computers and an electronic index are a huge time saver, but you'll need to become skilled at how to develop a search strategy to flush out your needle from this NY arrivals haystack.
In the text below, we'll discuss different strategies you can use to search NY arrivals with success. In this example, we use a real story of an Italian immigrant believed to have arrived in 1906 — her name was Teresa Orsatti. As the story has been told, Teresa was from San Giovanni in Galdo (Campobasso) Italy and had four children. Her husband, Giustino Orsatti, had died at age 40 and so the now widowed mother came to America in 1906 in search of better economic opportunities for her children. With just this information, we need to map out a strategy for finding our ancestor.
Interpreting Search Results from NY Arrivals
It's always great to think we'll get lucky — the genealogical equivalent of hitting the Triple-7 on the slot machine. So using the search box above, we can search for First Name is Teresa and Last Name is Orsatti and check the 'Exact matches only' box, then click the search button. But, just like the slot machine, we'll quickly learn that no such passenger by this name exists.
Whether you think about it formally or not — your actions from this point forward are following one of a few strategies (or paths) which should lead to success. As you search NY arrivals, you will become more familiar with which strategy to use in which situation. If you are coming up empty, then you are providing too much information and need to expand your pool of potential matching records. If your search is yielding too many results, you need to narrow your results by providing additional information.
Now, let's continue on our mission to find Teresa Orsatti and her children. Before searching online, it's often helpful to gather any possible clues offline. This may seem strange, but over time will save you time as you search NY arrivals for more than one family member. With a phone call or two, we were able to obtain some additional information from elder family members — now in their 80s, but grandchildren of Teresa Orsatti. We learn quickly that even well-intentioned helpers may add to the complexity of our search. One relative recalls her arrival through New York in 1904, another is sure it was 1906. One story describes her traveling with just three children because her eldest son had already come to America a few years earlier. It's important to listen to whatever clues are being shared — even if they turn out later to be inaccurate. Most important in this situation is to get the names of all the children.
If you're relatively new to genealogy, you'll be learning a lot with every search. We encourage you to attend meetings in your town or local area because others will share little tips that will prove invaluable over time. One thing I learned years ago when just starting to research my Italian heritage was that Italian women often used their maiden name when traveling and for other official documents. Having already asked relatives with no luck, we now know our search is for a woman named Teresa from southern Italy sometime between 1904 and 1906 (assuming even those dates are correct).
Given that Teresa (or Theresa) is too common a given name, our search needs to focus on one of the children in hopes that we can back our way into finding not only the arrival for Teresa Orsatti, but also learning her maiden name.
During our phone calls with relatives, we learned that the children were Giovanni Orsatti, Anna Orsatti, Chiarina Orsatti, and Pietro Orsatti. While we could use any of these children, we will assume for a moment that the story is correct. If Giovanni is the oldest and came before the others, then we don't want to use him as the basis for our initial search. Instead, we want to use one of the remaining children, hoping to find the others grouped together on the same ship and on the same date. In this case, we'll use the next oldest — daughter Anna Orsatti.
JACKPOT! We conduct a search for Anna Orsatti, first using an exact match to see if we can get lucky and not specifying any year of arrival, but simply leaving it open ended in case memories were faded on the year of arrival. This search yields 2 matching records, but just 1 of which is in 1906. A quick inspection of the actual manifest image shows a listing on line 2 for Orsatti Anna, age 15. On line 1 is a 44-year old female, Teresa De Cesare. Could this be our 'Teresa Orsatti'?
Part of our answer lies on lines 3 and 4 with siblings Chiarina (age 11) and Pietro (age 9) as shown in the image at right. Further inspection of this manifest (not shown) is that the mother and 3 children report that they are heading to meet a relative already in America — Giovanni Orsatti, living in Waterbury, Conn. just as we had expected. This ties our entire story together and provides the facts that we were needing.
GREAT, but we're not done yet. This manifest holds one unexpected surprise for us. The passenger on line 5 is a 21-year old male named Pasquale De Rubertis from the same village in Italy. Coincidence? Well, in this case he reports that he is traveling to America for the first time and going to stay with cousin Giovanni Orsatti. We now know another surname, but have yet to connect this clue to Pasquale and Giovanni's common grandparents.
Don't Forget Other Ports
If you search NY arrivals using the techniques described above, but still come up empty, you should consider the fact that family legend may have altered the port of arrival for your immigrant ancestor. Since it was not uncommon for immigrants to make more than one voyage, it's possible that one arrival was through the Port of New York, but one or more other arrivals were through another American port.
Below is a listing of some other popular U.S. ports available for online searching:
Baltimore Passenger Lists, 1820-1948
Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1943
California Passenger and Crew Lists, 1893-1957
New Orleans Passenger Lists, 1820-1945
Philadelphia Passenger Lists, 1800-1945
Passenger & Immigration Lists Index, 1500s - 1900s
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