Finding the minimum information for passenger lists
To find an individual's ethnicity on a passenger list, you must at least know the individual's full name and the approximate date of arrival. However, the more information you know, the better. For example, if you know the individual's nationality or the port of arrival, you will be able to narrow down your search. If you do not have the minimum information to find a passenger list, you can either:
Get help finding some of the minimum information by selecting one of the following items,
click the Back button on your browser to return to the list of other places where you can find an individual's ethnicity, or
read the paragraphs below for a few additional tips.
Finding passenger lists
Knowing the port of entry may help you find the passenger list that you need. Contact the state archives or National Archives branch in the vicinity of the port of entry and find out what type of ship arrival records they have for that port. Once you know the names and dates of ships that came through the port of entry, you can begin looking up passenger lists under various ship names. You don't have to look up the lists for all of the ships that came through that port, but only for those that came from a likely port of exit and arrived on the date you think your ancestor entered the country. Eventually, you may come across the passenger list that contains your ancestor's name.
If you don't know the port of entry, then you can make some educated guesses. For example, many people moved hundreds of miles away from their port of entry, but others stayed in the general area. If you can make an educated guess, you at least have a possible place to start looking for passenger lists. If you don't know exactly where an individual lived when they arrived in the United States, you may be able to take a guess at it by finding out where they were at other points in their life. For example, where did they get married? Where were their children born? Where did they die? Where were they at the time of each census? The answers to these questions may help you out. For assistance finding any of this information, return to the main Step-by-Step topic.
Finding ethnic background
You can also check for your surname in surname dictionaries, which are available at most libraries. Surname dictionaries normally give information about the ethnic background associated with a surname. However, if your family's surname has changed over time, you may not find the current version in the dictionary, or the dictionary may be misleading. Other family members may have ideas about your ethnic makeup, too, so try asking around. While information gleaned from dictionaries and family members is valuable, it's probably a good idea to use other records to verify what you've learned.
If you know that your ancestor departed from Hamburg, you should check the departure records that are available through the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The departure records for Hamburg are indexed by year from 1850-1934, and usually give the individual's town or village of residence in Europe.
Make sure to check photo albums, scrapbooks, diaries, and family Bibles at home. See the topic Finding information at home for more information. Also check for local histories. See the topic Finding previous research.
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