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Frequently Asked Questions

 F.A.Q.

 

Q. This is my first visit to the website. What should I do? 

A. Explore! You'll find authoritative information about Liberty and Ellis Island. We encourage all of our visitors to register on the website. You can do this on any page in the top right-hand corner, "Be a part of history - Register now!". This will prompt you to fill in any necessary information to create an account. Alternatively, you can click in the top, right-hand corner, "Login", and sign up with your Facebook account. Registration is free.

Q. What if I've forgotten my account email and/or password?
A. On any page in the top right-hand corner you can "Login" and the pop up lets you click on "Reset Password". This will allow you to input your email address and reset your password through an email you receive from the website. Passwords should use at least 6 characters and include 1 number.

Q. I had an account with your old website but how do I login to this one?
A. If you are a returning customer, you will have to select a new password. On any page in the top right-hand corner you can "Login," type in the email address you have most recently used on our websites and then click "Reset Password." You will receive an email that prompts you to create a new password. Passwords should use at least 6 characters and include 1 number.

Q. Why isn't your website displaying properly on my screen?
A. You might be using an older version of a browser that our website does not support. We suggest using at least IE 9.0, Chrome 25, Firefox 19 or Safari 4.0 or newer. In addition, try clearing your browser's cache.

Q. What is the difference between Registration and Membership? 
A. Registration is the basic process of creating an account on the website. Membership provides you with benefits on future purchases and more access to site tools. You have to Register to be a Member, but you don't have to be a Member to Register. Learn more about the benefits of membership, which include discounts on area hotels, restaurants, sightseeing tours and more.

SEARCH PASSENGER

Q. Is there a fee to search for manifests?
A. No. Searching for and viewing manifests is free for all Registered users. Just click on Register Now or Login in the upper right-hand corner of this page to register.

Q. I know my ancestor(s) came through Ellis. Why can't I find them?
A. There may be inaccuracies in family stories, different ways of spelling the name, transcription errors, hard-to-read handwriting, etc. And don't believe the myth that names were changed at Ellis Island. The immigration officers worked off of the ship manifests which were logged at the Port of Departure and created no records themselves. Name changes could have been made at the time of naturalization, but that occurred long after processing at Ellis Island.

Additionally, some images were misindexed during the scanning process. That is, the passenger name is not correctly linked to the proper manifest page. The result is that no image is available even if you find the passenger record. Also, some rolls of microfilm were too poor for the volunteers to be able to transcribe, so those names are totally missing from the database.The important thing to remember is that there are 51+ million records in this database and some level of error was unavoidable. If you need help finding your ancestor's record, please call us at 212-561-4588 or use our Contact Us feature.

Q. Can I search if I'm not sure of the spelling of the last name or first name?
A. Yes. Be sure to enter at least 2 characters for the name of the passenger you are searching. Once you've done that, you can modify your search by using tools like "sounds like", "close matches" and "alternate spellings". This will help ensure you find what you're looking for. As an example, if you type "Bourbon" as a last name, and select "sounds like" - our Passenger Search will find passengers like "Burbin", "Nurbin" and "Turbin".

Q. Can I do wild card searches on the names?
A. Absolutely. Simply type at least 2 characters on the name and select "contains". This will ensure the Passenger Search finds all the records that contain those specific letters.

Q. Can I look up a passenger by ship or port?
A. Of course. In Passenger Search, narrow your search with either the Wizard or One Page Form. This will allow you to do a more advanced search with filters such as Gender, Marital Status, Arrival Time Period, Ship Name, Departure Port, Passenger ID, and much more.

Q. Can I do a soundex search to get all names that sound like my ancestor's name but are spelled differently?
A. The Ellis Island database uses a customized system that provides a choice of alternate spellings for the name that sound the same, for instance Smith, Smyth and Smythe. Access this by clicking on "sounds like" on your search. While we do not do a soundex search per se, searching in this manner will generate a list of possible phonetic equivalents for a broader search.

TWO-PAGE MANIFESTS

Q. Why do I have to pay by the page?
A. Ship manifests from 1892 through mid-July 1907 are 1-page. Thereafter, the manifests are 2-pages. You may purchase just one page, but since there is valuable historical information featured on each page, you may want to purchase both pages. Plus, the 2nd page of a 2-page manifest is offered at a discount.

Note: The ship manifests from 1925 to 1957 will all show as 2-pages. However, the U.S. Citizen pages from those years are only 1-page manifests. We apologize for any confusion.

Q. Why does the website bring me to the second page of the manifest instead of the first?
A. The original manifest books were large and laid out left to right. We do not distinguish between a left and a right side, and the system automatically defaults to the right-hand page.

Q. How come the page I ordered does not have my ancestor's name on it?
A. It is probably the 2nd page of a 2-page manifest. As explained in the previous question, manifest pages don't necessarily come up in left-to-right order. It is important to look at the manifest page closely on the website to make sure you are ordering the page you want. Only the first page of the manifest has the passenger name on it. Page 2 contains other information. Be sure to click "Add Image to Selection" for the page that shows the image you want.

ORDERING

Q. Can I order the manifest for the entire ship?
A: You may order as many pages from a ship's manifest as you can find in our database. However, it is not possible to purchase it in a consolidated format as ships have multiple records for multiple years of activity.

Q. How can I buy the passenger record?
A: Once you have found a passenger using Passenger Search, you may view that passenger's information by clicking on it and seeing the Passenger Record on that passenger's page. If it's the one you want, click "Add Image to Selection" and then above click "Add to Cart" and proceed to Checkout.

Q. How do you set your shipping and handling rates?
A. We try to find the most cost effective method of shipping but want to make sure your order arrives in a timely manner, too. Information regarding international shipping can be found on our website.

Q. I saw something at the gift shop on Ellis Island, but when I checked your website, I couldn't find it. Why?
A. Actually, nearly everything in the Family History Center shop is also available online. In fact, our online store carries many items not available at the shop on Ellis Island. It is possible you may have seen an item in one of the other gift shops at Ellis Island that are not run by the Foundation.

MEMBERSHIP QUESTIONS

Q. Why didn't I receive my member discount?
A. Although it is rare for that to happen, glitches sometimes do occur. Also, member discounts are not applicable on all items, such as Wall of Honor inscriptions. If you are not a member but choose to become one, you must first complete your membership transaction online before placing your order for items in a separate transaction to receive the discount. To inquire about an adjustment to your order, please call Donor Services at 212-561-4588 or use our Contact Us feature.  

RETURNS

Q. Are images non-refundable? 
A. Since our heritage documents are highly personalized, they are non-refundable. They can only be replaced for a duplicate if they are damaged in shipping. Of course, if you receive the wrong manifest, please let us know, and we will correct your order.

Q. I have received the manifest I ordered, but the image is not clear. Why?
A. The original documents themselves are very old and often very hard to read. When they were microfilmed 70+ years ago, the result was less than perfect copies. There was also a wide variety among them, as the 3½ million manifest pages came from different books covering many years. The microfilm was scanned into a computer to produce a digital image. We clean up that image to the best of our ability and print them on specially ordered archival paper which will last 200-300 years.

ERRORS AND MISSING MANIFESTS

Q. The Passenger Record says the passenger was on ship "A" but when I click to see the original manifest image, I see a page from ship "B". Why is this?
A. This is probably an indexing error. Volunteers dedicated thousands of hours to enter millions of pieces of information, so there are bound to be some errors. Unfortunately, in some cases the passenger name is not correctly pointed to the correct ship manifest page. We are continually correcting these indexing errors. Should you need help finding the correct manifest image, please call us at 212-561-4588 or use our Contact Us feature. You can report errors by viewing an individual Passenger Page. At the bottom of the page on the "Passenger Record" page, you can click the "Request a Text Correction" button to queue changes for our team.

Q. I just placed an order for a manifest, but my passenger's name was spelled incorrectly. Can you correct the spelling before you send me my order?
A. If the error is on the digital image of the manifest itself, then it is an error that was made at the time the immigrant arrived and is part of the historical record. In that case, we cannot make corrections to misspelled names. If the misspelling is on the text version of the manifest, then it is probably a human error made by a volunteer who spent time transcribing the information from the original microfilm. You can report errors by viewing an individual Passenger Page. At the bottom of the page on the "Passenger Record" tab, you can click the "Request a Text Correction" button to queue changes for our team.

Q. I can't find the original manifest online. Where can I go to view the actual microfilm?
A. You can try the branch offices of the National Archives and Records Administration, some branches of the New York Public Library and Family History Libraries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Q. Are all ship passenger arrival records available?
A. Due to a change in INS microfilming procedures in the late 1940s, some ship passenger arrival records were destroyed prior to filming. No paper or film copies of original records are available for the following dates in the Port of New York: U.S. citizen passenger arrivals from January 1 - May 20, 1944; Alien and citizen passenger arrivals from January 1 - September 17, 1949; Alien and citizen passenger arrivals from December 1 - December 31, 1954.

FRAMING

Q. Can I buy a manifest or ship picture at the Family History Center on Ellis Island and send for custom framing through the website?
A. No, custom framing is only available when manifests and ship pictures are purchased together through the website. However, you can save the manifest and ship picture to your Profile and execute your purchase and custom framing order when you arrive home.

Q. What frames do the logo mats fit?
A. The logo mats may be used as a standalone, lower-cost framing alternative. They are only available for purchase in the American Family Immigration History Center at Ellis Island.

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