JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen Creation of shipping manifests? #general

Doug Mason

I very recently posted an enquiry asking how a ship's Manifest (passenger
list) was compiled. I have thought about this a bit more, and want to
share my thoughts so people can correct me and can help my understanding.

The question was raised in my mind because the name "Sam" was miswritten
on a Manifest as "Lain". A completely understandable mistake, if the
source used by the author of the Manifest was a written document.

The person named "Lain" was not a passenger. He was the husband of a
passenger, whom she was going to join in USA. Her husband had already been
in USA for about 5 years. Hence the error has nothing to do with an
indexer of the Ellis Island record.

The actual manifest is typed, not handwritten. To see it, search for Alta
MANDELBAUM. She arrived on the "Baltic" in November 1920.

Searches for other arrivals of the "Baltic" around that time show that the
Manifests for those journeys are also typed. (The only handwritten entries
are for the names of the members of the crew.) Presumably, comparisons of
handwriting for several journeys of another ship might also show all their
Manifests were written by the one person.

This shows me that a Manifest was created by the management of the ship,
not by the US Immigration service. This is corroborated by the fact that
the Commander or Master signs an Affidavit before the Immigration Officer
certifying to the correctness of his Manifest.

I assume, therefore, that the ship's company created the Manifest either
before the ship departed for USA or it was compiled on board.

Presumably, the writer of a Manifest had access to passengers' documents
and to information provided orally.

How were questions posed to passengers who could not speak English? How
did those passengers respond? The fact that "Lain" is a written error,
rather than an oral error, indicates information was provided in writing.

Alta gives her father's surname as "Lukerblatt". The father of her sister
has the same name. But her sister's surname is given as "Fukerblatt".
Clearly a written source was used by the writer of the Manifest.

Perhaps someone knows the name(s) of sister ships to the "Baltic" and
could tell me if their Manifests were also typed, perhaps on the same
typewriter. It would be better to search for journeys taken in the period
1919 to 1921.

Since Manifests were compiled >from primary sources (written and oral),
Manifests are a secondary source. It is obviously far better if possible
to locate the passenger's application for Naturalization, since this is a
primary source.

A Manifest provided a standardised format for providing information to the
Immigration bureaucracy.

I am simply trying to make a sense of this for myself. I was once told: "a
text without a context is a pretext".

Doug Mason

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