Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ship Manifests Annotations

Located at bottom of Declaration of Intention
Don’t Overlook the Scribbles
Manifests Annotations
Do you ignore the handwritten numbers, slashes, x’s and notes on passenger lists?  If these scribbles do not excite you as a family researcher, you have not read the following two articles:

Passenger lists may be located at ancestry.com and fold3 and ellisisland.org(Often there is a free trial for searches.)

Our immigrant ancestors who arrived after June 29, 1906 needed a certificate of arrival as a requirement of the naturalization process. (Not a requirement if arrived before this date, but it may still be found on earlier ship manifests). By 1926, scribbles in the occupation column were used to verify a legal immigration/passenger record. For the genealogist, these scribbles provide hints to if your ancestor initiated his naturalization papers between 1926- 1942/43.

Using these annotations the researcher may be identified in order to determine in which District an ancestor was living.

Besides the series of numbers written in the occupation column indicating initiation of the naturalization process, or naturalization numbers on or above your ancestor’s line, you may find a X, far left, of your ancestor’s name.  Most would dismiss this X as a cross out, but it actually indicates that an immigrant was temporarily detained for various reasons. To further decipher the X annotation, visit the Archives.com Expert article.  

Another “go to” article is Markings on the Manifest’s Left Margin by Marian L. Smith.     

The Good Stuff is at the End
Ecstatic about finding our ancestor’s often erroneously leads us to thinking “that’s all the information.”  But you will want to check the end of the manifests for references and notes of the passengers, especially if there is a marking on the left column of the manifest.

As early as 1903, the end of passenger lists noted Records of Detained Aliens and Records of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry for court hearings, passenger fees or other reasons.  Visit: Board of Aliens Held for Inquiry for more information.

Researchers will find that understanding manifests annotations and markings will assist in bringing down brick walls.  You may wish to take a longer look at those passenger lists.

Kathleen Brandt
accurate, accessibe answers


  1. Thanks Kathleen, I learned something HUGE today. Review time!

  2. Ok, I'm going back to check the last page of the manifest! Thanks for the tip!

  3. What the word "US CITIZEN" notation means in the column prior to the names of passengers admitted in US ports during 1920's? Could this Alien Manifest from Insular Government of U.S be usefull as proof of US Citizenship of my ancestor without naturalization certificate? Thank you.

    1. Sorry to inform you that the answer is "no." You will want to pull the original naturalization certificate from the originating courthouse or USCIS. This must be certified. You may also wish to obtain the Alien Registration if applicable from the National Archives, KC (75% are held here for the nation) or it could be in California National Archives. Another way is to pull your ancestor's social security application. That can move you toward verifying your ancestor's US citizenship and assist in your dual citizenship proof.

      Let me know if you would like a3Genealogy to assist with your search. And read about these topics on this blog or follow us on social media for more information. Good luck on your search.