today’s Tip: Don’t forget Castle Garden!
If you are working on immigrants to the U.S. and they came to the United States early, don’t forget the Castle Garden website (http://www.castlegarden.org). Castle Garden is free and was the entry point for many early immigrants from 1820 to 1890, before Ellis Island opened.
They have a great little search engine there, lots of records, a free newsletter you can sign up for, and offers some nice history too.
The search engine (in my experience) is very specific, so I always use the wildcard (*) to check spellings.
For instance, when I ask for one of my surnames, KNECHTL, I get one response, but when I ask it for KNECHT*, I get 701, so I have many more permuations of this name. And while I know there are several folks out there who are preaching now that the immigration officals were very accurate and thorough, I have found differently. Many of my ancestors were not able to read and write, so they had trouble spelling their name, etc.
I also read in some testimony before the U. S. Congress from 1890 that the average interview with an immigrant (which they actually checked with a stopwatch) “These examinations were timed on several occasions and were found to average thirty seconds to an immigrant”. Not what I would think would be conducive to fully accurate record keeping.
So if you haven’t given it a look, check out Castle Garden!
Onward To Our Past!