More Annotations on Immigrant Passenger Manifests

Back in June 2006, I wrote an article entitled A New Look at Immigrant Passenger Manifests where I discussed various annotations frequently seen on early 20th century passenger manifests. 

I received a question from Jeff E. who noticed some annotations on the passenger manifest for his great grandmother.

Jeff’s great grandmother traveled from Russia to the United States with a six year old son. The pair arrived at Castle Garden in 1885 on the S.S. Hammonia.

On the line with Jeff’s great grandmother’s name were the numbers 16 and 18 in the column entitled “Date and Cause of Death”. Jeff wondered what these numbers meant and if they might indicate the death of the six year old child. (Look for the numbers 16 and 18 in the lower half of the manifest page, below.)

SS Hammonia Passenger Manifest from June 1885 - Page 11

Page 11 of the Passenger Manifest of the SS Hammonia
27 June 1885

Even though the numbers 16 and 18 appear in the column for “Date and Cause of Death”, these numbers don’t, in fact, refer to a death. Rather, the numbers are a subtotal of the numbers of male and female passengers from a particular country, in this case, Russia.

In most cases, the numbers are a subtotal of the male and female passengers from a given country listed on each page. In the case of Jeff’s grandmother, the numbers are a subtotal of the number of male and female passengers from Russia on pages 5 through 11 of the manifest.

Similar numbers appear throughout the manifest.

An actual death at sea was recorded on page 15 of the manifest. (Look for the notation of death on the lower half of the manifest, below.)

SS Hammonia Passenger Manifest from June 1885 - Page 15

Page 15 of the Passenger Manifest of the SS Hammonia
27 June 1885

Page 15 shows the information for a 70 year old passenger from Germany crossed out. In the “Date and Cause of Death” column, the manifest states “died on sea drowned”. No date was provided.

Passenger manifests were usually completed at the port of departure. The names of passengers who did not arrive at the destination in the United States, therefore, were crossed out. Such was the case for the German passenger who died at sea.

Because relatively few passengers died at sea, the “Date and Cause of Death” column was largely left blank. Officials frequently entered statistical information in unused spaces on the manifest and, thus, the “Date and Cause of Death” column was used to keep subtotals of the numbers of male and female passengers from different countries.

So, it appears that Jeff’s great grandmother and her six year old son arrived safely at Castle Garden at the conclusion of their journey.

Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko

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One Response to More Annotations on Immigrant Passenger Manifests

  1. Janice says:

    Steve,

    I must say you are absolutely the best at deciphering what looks to me like chicken scratchings :D

    Janice

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