I discovered the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild (ISTG) site while looking to interpret the abbreviations used in a ship passenger manifest.* Since the site so efficiently answered my questions, I was curious to see what else it offered. I began exploring the Guild’s website http://www.immigrantships.net. The more I explored, the more impressed I became. Founded in 1998, the Guild was created by and is made up of volunteers. For nineteen years these volunteers have been transcribing ship manifests and have completed over 17,000. These lists cover voyages from the 1600s through the 1900s and include a number of ports worldwide. Once transcribed, the manifests are filed into sixteen online volumes that are right on the home page. You do not, however, have to go through each volume if you are searching for something specific. To find an individual person or ship, enter the name into the search box at the top of the home page’s left frame.
You would think that 17,000 ships’ manifests would be more than enough for any website. But this is just the beginning. The site’s home page is divided into two frames. Prominent in the left frame is a link to The ISTG Compass. The Compass is aptly named. It leads you to additional sites that help you find and use immigration and naturalization records. When you click on the Compass you will see a number of buttons on the left that help you with various designated topics. Those buttons cover a lot of territory, from general ancestral resources to material on immigration, naturalization, and maritime resources. Didn’t find the passenger or ship you were looking for at the ISTG? They give you links to additional passenger lists for both USA and non-USA arrivals. Wherever there is a ship’s manifest, there is a ship and that ship has a history. Use the “Ships” button to find more sites with additional information on individual ships. The Compass also gives a short but impressive description of the ISTG’s goals and ways you can further use the site to find answers and expand your knowledge.
No website, however, is perfect. And that goes for ISTG’s site. Here and there you will find a dead link. Yet the Compass even anticipates this problem. It explains how to access the Wayback Machine, a site that periodically saves snapshots of a website. You can copy and paste your defunct website address into the Wayback Machine, and it should bring up all the dates on which it copied your site of interest. Click a date to find the information you need. Directions regarding using the Wayback link appear in the third frame of the Compass on the far right. That said, the Wayback machine certainly is not perfect. The Guild’s link to “Armenian Immigration to the US & Canada” does not work in Wayback because the site contains something called robots.txt. (I assume these are second cousins to web crawlers and spiders used in dynamic – always changing — web browsers.) So I just copied and pasted the title with quotes (“Armenian Immigration to the US & Canada“) into a Google search and up it came, complete with links and information. There is usually some way to get around a computer glitch. And sometimes we mere mortals can figure it out.
If you go back to the Guild’s home page, a brief examination uncovers another useful (and perhaps unexpected) section: it treats adoptees and the adoption experience. According to the author of this section, “Only a handful of states have open records; in all others the records are sealed. Those involved in adoption, whether it be the adoptee, the birth family or the adoptive family have become statistics; perhaps nothing more than a number on a sealed file. . . . From personal experience, I know that genealogists and family historians are some of the best sleuths in the world. Please take a look and see if you may be able to help someone complete their family tree. The Adoption Story Board puts a human face and words from the heart on a situation and an injustice that has existed far too long.”
There is one other quote from the home page I want to share with you: “We are expanding our research to become more personal. If you are searching for an ancestor and you know the name of the ship, the date and port of arrival, we will do all we can to locate and publish on our site the passenger list from that ship. The Research Team can be contacted by emailing Research Team.” This is one extraordinary group of people. If you do contact them, however, allow plenty of time for a response. There are only so many of them and lots of individuals who want to use this service.
* For those curious about my original search, this end-note is a description of what brought me to the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild. I was looking for a photographic image of a passenger list that included a particular family. I found the visual I needed by going back and forth between Ancestry and FamilySearch. FamilySearch gave me the transcription that allowed me to bring up the actual image in Ancestry — a 1946 alien passenger manifest that was a listing of displaced persons who were coming to the United States after World War II. Located next to the typed information of each individual were handwritten abbreviations. I wanted to find out what they meant.
I started with a quick Google search of “alien passenger manifest” and abbreviations. (When you put quotes around a Google search, you are searching for the exact words listed in the exact order as they appear within the quotes.) The Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild was the first likely site in Google’s list. When I clicked on the link, up came the SS Marine Flasher (a sister ship to the SS Marine Perch that I was researching). Below the list of passengers were all the abbreviations I was looking for and what they meant. They stood for the different organizations that were sponsoring the passengers.
vea/5 August 2016
Newton Free Library
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