Re: Trouble finding relatives in Ellis Island Passenger Lists #names #records

Lee Jaffe

I just found my great-grandmother, traveling with two children, one of them my grandmother, despite some daunting handwriting and transcription problems, but only because of a lucky break.  The family surname is Zarov (Zharev or Joroff) but the bursar wrote Barov.  You can see that there was an attempt to correct it by hand with a Z written over the B.  But it was transcribed Barow in the database.  To add to the problem, the bursar's elaborate handwriting caused the transcriber to render my great-grandmother Dora into Gora and my grandmother's name Ida into Jola (the lowercase d became ol).  The lucky break was that the three were traveling with other Zarovs, whose names were transcribed correctly in the database.  It also helped that one member of the second family had the same given name as my grandmother's brother.  Thus the results for Zarov produced one likely entry, Abram Zarov.  When I looked at the manifest I was initially disappointed to see his mother identified as Feige,  Luckily, I still have sufficient peripheral vision to notice the other cluster of Z/Barovs nearby.  I don't know that any of the search modes (soundex. etc.) will help with mistakes in the first letters of a name or mitigate a radical change like Z to B.

A friend of mine who likes slogging through records was able to find one of my great-grandfathers' manifest record by brute force.  His name in Bialystok was Menachem Mendl Sztejnsapir but he changed it to Stein in the US.  Despite the fact we had purported ship name and arrival date from his naturalization petition, no amount of searching on likely variations of the two names could locate him.  My friend went page-by-page through manifests until she found a candidate – Mendel Sapir – who matched my great-grandfather on enough points to make him the likely target.  Again, I don't think there is a reliable way to conduct a database search that would retrieve a Sztejnsapir if you didn't already know or guess he was traveling as Sapir.  

Sometimes your only options are luck (and a touch of peripheral vision) or brute force labor.

Lee Jaffe

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