A New Look at Immigrant Passenger Manifests

Many people have found the Passenger Arrival Manifests for their Immigrant Ancestors on the Ellis Island Records site.  I have found the Passenger manifests for all of my grandparents and several other relatives.  Only recently, however, have I started to take a second look at these records to discover what additional information they contain about my ancestors – information that may be hidden in annotations and even on other pages of the manifests.

Siborowski Manifest

If you already have found the passenger manifest for your immigrant ancestor, take another look at the manifest and look for annotations.  Two types of annotations were made. The first type was made prior to or at the time of arrival and includes:

  • Numbers in the left margin (typically 2 to 7 digits), especially on lists of ships that sailed from England.  This number is the contract ticket number and may be helpful in finding the individual in the British “Outbound Lists”.
  • Rarely, a solitary number to the left of the passenger’s name will indicate a Head Tax receipt number.
  • “Not Shipped”, “NOB” (Not On Board), “Did Not Sail”, or “Cancelled”, often with the entire line crossed out indicate that, for some reason, the passenger listed did not sail with the ship.
  • Sometimes an entire line is crossed out, not because the passenger was not on board, but because they are officially listed on another page of the manifest.
  • An “X”, “D”, or “Held” at the left of the manifest, between columns 1 and 2 or in the name column, means that the passenger was temporarily detained or held for a Board of Special Inquiry and the name may have been recorded with further information in a list at the end of the manifest.
  • The notation “S.I.” or “B.S.I.” at the left side of the manifest before the name means that the passenger was held for a Board of Special Inquiry hearing and the name may have been recorded with further information in a list at the end of the manifest.
  • The notation “USB” or “US Born” or “USC” (US Citizen) may have been made to indicate that the record is for a returning citizen of the United States.
  • The letter “C” followed by a string of numbers (C-######), indicating the Naturalization certificate number, may have been made on the records of returning citizens.

The second type of annotation was made after arrival and includes:

  • Numbers similar to “435/621” with no date is the New York file number which indicates an early verification/record check.  The actual file no longer exists.
  • Numbers similar to “432731/435765” indicate that the passenger was a permanent resident of the United States returning with a Re-entry Permit.
  • Numbers similar to “1X-151593” indicate that the arrival of the immigrant was verified prior to naturalization and typically indicates that the verification was made after 1926.  The first number indicates the naturalization district, the “X”, if present, indicates that no fee was required for the Certificate of Arrival, and the second part of the number is the Certificate of Arrival number or the Application number.
  • The date of the Certificate of Arrival or the date of Application may follow the Certificate of Arrival number or Application number.
  • “C/A” indicates a request for a “Certificate of Arrival” was made in connection with the filing of papers for Naturalization purposes.
  • “V/L” indicates a “Verification of landing” was made.
  • “W/A” indicates that a Warrant of Arrest was made.
  • “404” or “405” is the Verification Form used to reply to a request for Passenger Manifest information to the INS.
  • If only the name is crossed out with a line or a series of X’s and another name was written in, the name was officially amended.

The Passenger Manifest for the Siborowski/Skowronski Family – 1903 shows a number of these annotations, including “S.I.” showing that one family was sent to a Board of Special Inquiry, an “X” showing that the Siborowski/Skowronski family was detained, and a listing of numbers indicating that Certificates of Arrival were issued for some of the passengers, including Pawel Skowronski.

To find additional information such as the “Record of Detained Alien Passengers” or the “Record of Release of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry”, repeatedly click on the arrow to move to the next frame of the film (on the Ellis Island Records site) or scroll through the microfilm to the end.  You’ll need to be careful with the Ellis Island site, however, since many of the records are recorded in reverse order, and the “forward” arrow may actually take you backward through the pages in the manifest.

Stephen Morse’s Website

If you already know when your immigrant ancestor arrived and you know the name of the ship on which they traveled, it may be far easier to use Stephen Morse’s website to scroll to the end of the film.  Go to Stephen Morse’s site, click on Ship Lists, enter the name of the ship and the date of arrival, and click on “Search” and you will be presented with a link to the correct manifest.  You may still need to scroll through images to find the beginning or end of the manifest, but on Stephen Morse’s site, you can scroll though four frames at a time rather than one at a time on the Ellis Island Site.  Since Stephen Morse’s site actually directs you to the records on the Ellis Island Records site, you may need to click on the -1 button rather than the +1 button to move forward to the next image if the images were scanned from last to first.  If you have the actual frame number for the image of interest, you can enter the frame number directly and jump to that image.

By accessing these images through Stephen Morse’s site, you can save or print the images, even though these functions are disabled on the Ellis Island Site.

Furthermore, Stephen Morse’s site will provide additional information about microfilms containing the images for the ship of interest, information which may be useful to construct a reference source citation for the manifest image.  The Siborowski/Skowronski manifest can be found on FHL US/CAN Film 1399018 and on U.S. National Archives Film Series T715, Roll 333, Volume 580, Frame 108.

Of course, you can conduct your entire search for Passenger Manifests from Stephen Morse’s site, which includes a much more powerful and versatile search function than does the Ellis Island Records site.

Record of Detained Aliens and Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry

At the end of a post-1903 passenger manifest from Ellis Island, you may find a Record of Detained Aliens and a Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry.  Although these images are available at the Ellis Island Records site, the individuals in the Records of Detained Aliens and Records of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry are not indexed and you will have to serach for those names manually.  Passengers who were dependants of a detained passenger were also detained, but only the number of dependants are listed in the Records of Detained Aliens; their names are not listed.

More Information About the Journey

Finally, by scrolling through the entire ship’s manifest for a given date of arrival, one may discover that the ship stopped in several ports along the way.  By examining all pages of the passenger manifest, it becomes apparent that, when the Siborowki/Skowronski family traveled to America, their ship the S.S. Graf Waldersee:

  • departed Hamburg, Germany (on the Elbe River) on March 13, 1903;
  • departed Cuxhaven, Germany (on the shore of the North Sea at the mouth of the Elbe River in Lower Saxony) on March 14, 1903;
  • departed Boulogne-sur-Mer, France (at the mouth of the River Liane on the Pas de Calais, a narrow bottleneck that separates the English Channel from the North Sea) on March 15, 1903;
  • departed Plymouth, England (in the southwest of England in the County of Devon at the mouths of the Rivers Plym and Tamar) on March 16, 1903;
  • and arrived in New York on March 29, 1903.

Tomorrow:  More about the Record of Detained Aliens and Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry.

Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko

This entry was posted in Siborowski and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to A New Look at Immigrant Passenger Manifests

  1. The Record of Aliens held for Special Inquiry is available on http://www.ancestry.com . Access to immigration and passenger records are free on Ancestry.com through the end of the year 2006.

    You can search for the passenger manifest for David Alexandrovicz and you will get results for both the original pages of the passenger manifest and the page for the Board of Special Inquiry. Here is a direct link:


    David and Michel arrived in New York on 05 October 1925 and were deported on 28 November 1925 for no proper visa.

    Most other records of the Board of Special Inquiry were destoyed many years ago. If any additional records relating to the Board of Special Inquiry still exist, they are in the custody of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now called the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) and can be obtained by filing a Freedom of Information Act Request.

    You can download a form and instructions for your request from:

    Good luck!


  2. S. A. Josovic says:

    All your links to http://www.uscis.gov are out of date. Please can you update them?

  3. I tried to update the links in this article, but the USCIS website has been revamped so completely that I can’t find the original pages anymore.

    Sorry about that. I’ve removed the links from the article.


  4. Tim Agazio says:

    Steve, This is a great article! My grandmother had an S.I. on her line of the manifest and, until now, I never knew what it was. I’ve been meaning to do some research on this but never got around to it. Some of my other family members who immigrated also has annotations on their manifest line that I can now check out. Thanks again.

    Tim Agazio

  5. Josie Mesi Daly says:

    I have a letter from one of my relatives that grandson was buried on Ellis Island as he got sick on board the ship and died before he could leave the island. Is this possible? Did they have a burial site on the Island?

  6. Hi Josie,

    I am not aware of any cemetery on Ellis Island. The website http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~quarantine/cemetery.htm documents the place of burial of more than 400 people who died in quarantine on Ellis Island in 1910-1911. All places of burial are near Ellis Island. None appear to be on Ellis Island itself.

    You can also check out the book “Forgotten Ellis Island: The Extraordinary Story of America’s Immigrant Hospital” by Lorie Conway. There may be more information there.

    You may also want to look into the book “The Graveyard Shift: A Family Historian’s Guide to NYC Cemeteries” by Carolee Insskeep (see http://store.ancestry.com/index.aspx?p=1630).


  7. lorie conway says:

    Hi Steve-

    Thanks for mentioning Forgotten Ellis Island — the first film and book to be produced about the abandoned immigrant hospital. On and off since 1998 when I first read about the “Other Ellis Island,” I have been researching original records about the immigrant patients and medical staff which associated with the hospital. In terms of burial on Ellis Island, since the two islands where the 22 hospital buildings stood were built from land-fill (excavated during the creation of New York’s subway system), no one was allowed to be buried on Ellis Island. Rather, the immigrants were taken by hearse (often paid for by immigrant aid societies or the Red Cross since many of the immigrants who died were penniless) to paupers graves on Hart Island or to Mt. Olivet in Queens. Other cemeteries that accepted the immigrants who died are located in Brooklyn and Staten Island. We filmed some of the unmarked immigrant graves at Mt. Olivet Cemetary.

  8. Dawn Bishop says:

    Thank you for the well presented education on Detention records. I could not locate a thorough explanation before reaching your site. I have two questions I hope you can help me with.
    My great grandfather has a notation on his manifest clearly marked next to his name I-29182. He is only one of 2 individuals with an annotation on this page. Any idea as to what it may represent?
    Second question relates to the Detention list. I found my great, great grandmother on this list for the Grosser Kurfurst, along with her daughter (as an unnamed dependent). Does this mean no further information with be available on either of the two in this ship’s particular manifest or is it worth going through the entire manifest?
    Thank you!

  9. Angela Chiavetta says:

    Can you tell me if the names of the deceased immigrants are listed in the book “Forgotten Ellis Island”?

    I am searching for my g-grandmother who arrived at Ellis Island in 1897. She is listed on the ship’s manifest with her 4 young sons. I cannot locate her. Although, her husband re-married 1 year later.


  10. Martha Y. says:

    What do the initials L.P.C. mean on a manifest “Boarder crossing from Canada”?
    (Stamped next to name.)

  11. John says:

    Can anyone tell me what the letters S S in the left column beside the name mean.

    • Eileen MR says:

      I have a copy of my Aunts manifest that says “short shipped ” ,not sure how you short ship a person, and I still can’t find an answer. If you do let me know.

  12. Cathy says:

    See Marian Smith’s articles entitled

    “A Guide to Interpreting Passenger List Annotations”

    which can be found at the following web address:

  13. Martha Y. says:

    On ship manifests for New York,(1891 in particular), there in the 8th column is “Date and Cause of death” for persons who apparently died at sea. There are numbers instead of actual dates and words for date and cause.
    Does any one know where documentation for these numbers/ codes are located? Is there on line access to these codes/
    Does any one know how bodies were cared for after death until arrival?

  14. Jane says:

    Hello-I have a question re: a ships manifest from Aug. 3 1907-The mother and child are indicated as being admitted to the hospital and above this is has the abbreviations – Dr. Memo. and under this in parenthesis is (canima) Can you tell me what these abbreviations
    mean? Thanks! (also”whooping cough” was scrolled across the section where the child’s(she was 5) info was and stamped that she died-but there is noting in the manifest that indicates why the mother was also in the hospital-Did the hospital at Ellis Island permit a parent to be with their dying child?

  15. Alise says:

    Wondering if you can explain what to do with the naturaliztion information you get from the manifest. How can I use it to request the naturalization information (and where)? Can the info be found with just the number and the date?

  16. susan says:

    How can I find the name of my aunt who was detained in New York in March 1921. She was an eleven year old traveling with a cousin of my grandmother.

    • Julie P says:

      Susan, do you know the last name, you can use stevenmorse.com search engine, if you need more help, join raogk on facebook, there are many of us to help you there.

  17. charles says:

    I am trying to find passenger manifests for the Doctor Lykes which left New Orleans in March 1949 to go to Manila. I have been unable to locate any websites. Do you know of any for ships LEAVING the U.S.?

  18. Ralph Wohlberg says:


    My grandmother, Selma Hanson, originally immigrated from Sweden in 1891. She became a US citizen, and then returned to Sweden sometime around 1900. She then returned to the US on board the S.S. Cedric, sailing from Liverpool 8/28/1903, arriving NY Sept. 1903. She appears on page 50 of the manifest, line 26 (#83). My question: what is the meaning of the notation in cols. 17-22 “Criminal Court Cook Co. Ill, Feb 11 (?) 1903”. ?. Ominous, or innocent !??

  19. ToddM says:

    Wondering if anyone ever figured out the answer to Martha Y’s comment, on Nov. 2008, asking about the numbers in the numbers in the “Date and Cause of Death” column. I, too, haven’t been able to find any other information on this.


  20. ToddM says:

    Never mind my previous comment, I found this information. According to http://boards.ancestry.com/thread.aspx?mv=flat&m=29&p=topics.immigration.seadeath,
    That column was often used by immigration officials to tally the number of male and female passengers by nationality on a given page.

    For example, on the page (a questioner) referenced, the numbers in that column are:
    5-6, meaning 11 Poles, 5 male, 6 female
    3-2 meaning 5 Bohemians, 3 male, 2 female
    2-1 meaning 3 Austrians, 2 male, 1 female
    2-2 meaning 4 Roumaniana, 2 male, 2 female
    3-3 meaning 6 Hungarians, 3 male, 3 female
    6-2 meaning 8 Prossians, 6 male,2 female
    11-6 meaning 17 Russians, 11 male, 6 female

    These match the total tally on the left of 54 passengers, 32 male, 22 female.

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