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Rhonda's Tips: Genealogy Questions Answered
by Rhonda R. McClure

March 28, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Ship Passenger Information

Q: One question I have is how do you find the passenger lists for people who came to the U.S. in 1905 and 1907 that landed in Baltimore? The names were Fechner and they started out from Russia. Edward and Fred came in 1905 and Ludwig and the rest of the family came in 1907. -- Velda

A: For some reason, when we think of passenger lists, all we think of is Ellis Island and New York City. The truth is there were many ports of entry in the United States, especially on the eastern coast. In addition to New York, you will find immigrants entering the country through the ports of Boston, Massachusetts; Baltimore, Maryland; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Some immigrants came in through other smaller ports as well.

While you have the year of arrival for your ancestors, generally this is not enough to easily locate the exact passenger list and therefore the specific page with your ancestor. For those who came through Baltimore, there is a set of microfilms with a soundex of those arriving in Baltimore from 1897 through 1952. The films have been made available through the National Archives as microfilm publication T520, Index (Soundex) to passenger lists of vessels arriving at Baltimore, 1897-1952 on 43 microfilms.

You can order the appropriate film through your local Family History Center. The first step to determining the proper film is to determine the Soundex code for the surname in question. The Fechner surname codes to F256, so you would need the microfilm that includes that Soundex code.

The entries for Edward and Fred should supply you with the necessary information for locating them in the passenger lists. The Soundex card will list the date of entry and the ship along with some identifying information about Edward and Fred so that you should be able to identify your Edward and Fred from others of the same name. With the information found on the Soundex cards, you can then turn to the passenger lists themselves.

The passenger lists are also available on microfilm and can be ordered through your local Family History Center. You can search the Family History Library Catalog under "Maryland, Baltimore (Independent City) - Emigration and Immigration." The collection of microfilms, covers three publications from the National Archives and can be found on more than 130 microfilm rolls.

Enumeration District from Address

Q: I have an address for an ancestor living in Boston in 1900. How do I determine which enumeration district that address falls within? -- Pianoman

A: If you haven't already searched the Soundex for 1900, you may want to do that first. The Soundex indexes individuals in the census using a phonetic system that groups like sounding names together. There is a set of Soundex microfilms for each state for the 1900 census.

There are times, however, when the Soundex code for a surname does not reveal your individual. This happens especially with Eastern European surnames because of the variety of spelling variations and the silent, but present, consonants of many of those surnames. Since vowels are ignored, but consonants aren't, those extra consonants often cause problems. Using the address, is an alternative when you cannot find them in the Soundex and you know where they live.

When working with an address, the first step is to turn to the city directories for the years 1909, 1910 and 1911 to see if your ancestor is actually living at that address. When working in the city directories for Boston, after you have located your ancestor's street address, turn to the street section of the city directory. This will tell you the streets that intersect with the street on which your ancestor lives. The Boston city directories will also tell you which ward of the city the street falls in.

Once you have this information, you will turn your attention to the Census Enumeration District Descriptions 1830-1950, National Archives' microfilm publication T1210. The ten films that cover the 1900 census are available through the Family History Center. If you have a large genealogy department in your public library, they may also have these films.

Using the Ward and street information found in the city directory, you can usually narrow your search of the census down to a few enumeration districts. Generally, I find that I can narrow it down to three or four at the most. When viewing the census films themselves, instead of reading all the names listed on each page, I concentrate on the street names written down the side. This means I do not need to pay attention to the names of the households until I find the house in question where my ancestor was living.

I have found this to be an effective manner of searching the census on microfilm, when they either do not show up in the Soundex, or in the case of the 1910 and soon to be released 1930, they are one of the states that was not Soundexed.

Where to Start in Lithuania

Q: I would like to know how to search about my family tree. I am from Argentina. My father was Abraham born in Barshat or Vilna, Lithuania. -- Diana

A: If you have any living older relatives, the first thing to do is to talk with them. Ask them to share stories of family gatherings and holidays. Ask how old certain family members were at the time of those gatherings. This will give you some dates to work with. Also ask if your relatives remember where those people were born.

Depending on when your father was born, it is possible that the Family History Library has microfilmed some records that might be of use to you. Vilna, Lithuania is now found in the library catalog under Vilna, Vilna, Russia. They have microfilmed many of the church records for the Orthodox Church as well as a few other religions.

If your ancestry is Jewish, then you will want to first start at Avotaynu. They have a great five-minute getting started section on their Web site, along with many valuable databases and information for those tracing their Jewish ancestry. You may also want to look into Discovering Your Jewish Ancestors by Barbara Krasner-Khait or Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy by Gary Mokotoff and Warren Blatt. Both books will get you started the right way in researching Jewish ancestry.

While ethnic research and foreign research do pose additional problems with family history research, it is important to understand the basic research philosophy of working from the known to the unknown. Getting your birth certificate would be the first step. It will give information on your mother and father. Looking into what vital records, or civil registration as many of the European countries call them, are available through Family History Centers is another good step. It is sometimes the only access you will have to such records. You can borrow them to your local Family History Center.

Finally, you may need to write to Lithuania for your father's birth record. If he was born within the last 75 years, you will want to write to

Civil Registry Department
K. Kalinausko 21
Lt 2600
Vilnius, Lithuania

If he was born earlier than this, then the records may be find in either the Lithuanian State Historical Archives or the General Directorate of Lithuanian Archives. You can write to them at

Lithuanian State Historical Archives
Gerosios Vilties 10
2015 Vilnius, Lithuania

and

Lietuvos Archyu Generaline Direkcija
Mindaugo 8
2600 Vilnius, Lithuania


Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning 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 rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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