Overheard in GenForum: Immigrants Arrived NYC 1846
Actually, your information gives you a benefit that most genealogists don't have. Because of the birth date of Alexander, you have a date that you can concentrate on. Most genealogists are forced to try and deal with this from the angle of only having a year of arrival. You can search a couple of days prior to the date of birth, the date of birth, and then a couple of days past the date of birth. However, that is a lot easier than having to search an entire month or year.
Working with Passenger Lists
Before discussing the passenger lists themselves, it is important to discuss what information one can get from them. Prior to about 1890, the information included on a given individual is limited. If you were looking for an adult, you would most likely only have the individual's name, age, occupation and country of origin. Most researchers are disappointed by this information, as they hope to find a place of birth.
However, because of the information you are seeking, this is not an issue. You do need to keep in mind that there will be no relationships listed in the passenger lists. Although, families are usually listed together on the passenger lists.
Working the Index
Your ancestor may actually show up in the index to passenger lists. The Index for immigrants to New York is supposed to go through 1846. This would mean that Alexander Delatore Thurston should appear in there. If he does not show up on the index, you will want to ask yourself a couple of questions.
The first question that should come up is the validity of the date of birth. Is it exact? Could it be a year off? If so, then it puts you automatically into the unindexed years. If it is correct, then you need to think of other reasons that the name did not appear in the index. One that comes immediately to mind is the surname. You mention that they were on a French ship. Alexander's middle name is definitely French. Is it possible that the family was listed under Delatore instead of Thurston? If you haven't exhausted this search in the index, you will want to.
The French Ship
If you do determine that Alexander was not born in 1846 but was actually born later on (such as 1847), then your research will take you to a new approach. While you have a possible date of arrival, I will explain a useful method for locating records for those who do not have that exact a date.
Microfilm M1066 is the Registers of Vessels Arriving at the Port of New York from Foreign Ports, 1789-1919. These registers offer you some valuable information on the ships that arrived in New York. These are especially useful to those who do not have the indexes to help them.
The register page contains information on the following:
Using the Registers
Generally researchers know where their family was coming from, at least the country. As such, it is sometimes possible to use these registers to narrow down the dates needed to search in the passenger lists. Since you know the approximate date of arrival and the country of origin, you can search the registers and then write down the names of the ships that arrive during that time period with the dates of arrival for the country of origin you are seeking.
Sometimes searching for passenger lists requires that you be very methodical. Other times you will find that you luck out and you get to use an index. Of course, sometimes they can offer their own difficulties, but that is for another time.The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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