I knew that my great-grandmother arrived in the US from Italy in about 1914. When I searched the Ellis Island database I found her easily. Unfortunately, I found her twice. Let me be specific. My great-grandmother, her daughter and her niece are all listed on two different ship's manifests, one (the Berlin) arriving in NY Jan 22, 1914, and the other (the Carpathia) arriving in NY Mar 22, 1914.

There is no question that these are the documents of the same women. Aside from the names being the same, so are the ages, the listed relationships, the (very small) town of origin, the person and place to which they were traveling--are all the same. It also does not seem to be an indexing problem of one manifest having been duplicated accidentally. The pages are different, the handwriting is different and the pages have each ship's name in the header.

How could something like this occur? Assuming that it was extremely unlikely for all three women to have traveled by ship from Italy to the US twice in 2 months, my assumption is that some sort of fraud was involved. Could my relatives have sent their papers back to Italy to be re-used by another group of women of similar age? Did that sort of thing happen often? Does anyone have any other possible explanation?

And, what kind of papers would have been required for immigrants at that time, anyway?

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    Can you share their names? There were no additional marks on the manifest for the Berlin?
    – nkjt
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 19:55
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    Hi, Kelly, welcome to G&FH.SE! Without seeing the manifest pages, it's difficult to comment. Have you looked at any other record groups (newspapers, or the INS Correspondence files)? Is it possible that one of your relatives got turned away in January, was sent back to Italy, and came back in March? Do any of them appear at the end of the January manifest in the special inquiry pages? Is the first manifest lined out?
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 23:25
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    I wouldn't rush to assume fraud - if I had this sort of problem, I would submit it to Marian Smith at USCIS for her series of "Your Questions" webinars. uscis.gov/HGWebinars You could also try looking for the regulations of the times in the USCIS History Library. See their webinar about History Library Catalog and Services on the Genealogy program webinar page. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page to see how to submit a question for the "Your Questions" webinar. (I'm assuming you won't mind having your documents used as a basis for a presentation.)
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 23:25
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    @Jan Murphy As a matter of fact, the names on the Berlin manifest have a pencil line drawn through them, as do a number of other names on the manifest. I assumed that that was some kind of bookkeeping mark at the disembarkation end of the trip, but perhaps I'm wrong about that?
    – Kellyg
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 1:30
  • This question is a good example of how we can lead ourselves down the wrong path by making too many assumptions. (I don't mean to pick on you -- we have ALL done it.)
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 16:33

1 Answer 1


Entries on passenger manifests were lined out when the passengers did not sail, were changed to a different class of travel, or did not embark or disembark at the port stated on the manifest header.

See Marian L. Smith's article A Guide to Interpreting Passenger List Annotations at JewishGen.org. The information you want is on the page Markings on the Manifest's Left Margin, under the section "Not Shipped," N.O.B., or "Did Not Sail":

Often passengers booked to sail on a given ship did not depart. Perhaps they missed the ship, or changed their travel plans, or became ill and health officials prevented them from boarding the ship. Whatever the case, in some instances the change or decision occurred so late there was no time to amend the passenger list. Their names and passenger information remain on lists for ships upon which they never arrived.

To indicate the record is meaningless, steamship company employees would mark the record in one of several ways. The most common was to "line out" the entire record with dark grease pencil or ink. Some of the lines are straight across and can be difficult to differentiate from scratches on the microfilm. Others are deliberately "wavy."

IMPORTANT NOTE: the article cited above was based on New York manifests. Other ports may show different manifest markings.

We can still glean useful information from these manifests, even if the passengers didn't sail. Imagine if the manifest for the Carpathia was unreadable -- you would have been able to retrieve much of the same information from the Berlin's passenger manifest.

Update: In March 2017, Marian L. Smith presented a live webinar at USCIS demonstrating how we can fail to find someone in the passenger lists because of common misconceptions. One of the common misconceptions is that the passengers were involved in the creation of the lists. Smith showed a copy of the forms that were given to passenger at the Cunard Line office with the questions that needed to be answered for the passenger lists. These forms were used in the steamship company offices to create the passenger lists -- and most of the pages in a passenger list would have been created before the ship left the departure port. (The exceptions would be any notations about births and deaths on board, which couldn't have been added until after the events had happened, and the pages for the passengers who had to appear before a Board of Special Inquiry.)

All the tickets were numbered. If passengers had to show their tickets as part of the boarding process, as we do when flying today, then the steamship company would know which passengers did not board.

Researchers using these lists should keep in mind that:

  1. The information on the big sheets was copied from intake forms
  2. The person giving the information would not have seen the big sheets and would not be available to give more information when the big sheets were compiled
  3. The person sailing may not have been the person buying the ticket

Any time information is copied, errors can creep in.

Update 2: For New York arrivals, you can do a cross-check by browsing or searching a collection on FamilySearch. New York Book Indexes to Passenger Lists, 1906-1942. A Wiki article on how to use the records is here: New York, Book Indexes to Passenger Lists.

The collection "New York, Book Indexes to Passenger Lists, 1906-1942" consists of images of books of indexes to passenger manifests for the port of New York. The indexes are grouped by shipping line and arranged chronologically by date of arrival. This collection corresponds to NARA Publication T612: Book Indexes to New York Passenger Lists, 1906-1942 and is part of Record Group 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. This collection partly indexes NARA Publication T715, "Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897-1957."

These indexes were created by the steamship companies and were turned over to the Immigration Service along with the passenger lists. The one I have used is a tabbed index book. The regulations said that the printed manifests for the cabin class passengers should be tipped into the front. If your passenger's entry was lined out because they appeared on the manifest twice, you may be able to get a pointer to their final entry by looking at these index books.

Whatever the cause of the line-out may have been, examine all the entries carefully to see what information the ticket buyer gave the steamship company, and correlate that information with other records.

Further reading:

  • Passenger Manifest Annotations, posted by NARA archivist Elizabeth Burnes in Immigration and Naturalization Records on Nov 8, 2021, on NARA's History Hub
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    And of course, the indexes record all the names on the page, without including that critical detail -- did not sail. It is essential to look at the images, for all the information that did not make it to the indexed record or that need context and interpretation.
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 19:15
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    I really appreciate the information and the link to the Marian Smith article. It was very informative. Unfortunately for me, I went back and examined the entries in more detail. The only indication that they might not have made the voyage on the Berlin is the pencil line. There are no other annotations; number, letter or symbol. So I have no idea about what happened. It has occurred to me that boat travel across the North Atlantic in the winter in 1914 (the original departure time) could have been pretty unpleasant, especially for an elderly steerage passenger used to a warm climate.
    – Kellyg
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 20:48
  • You might get a 'lucky dip' in a newspaper collection, a manuscript collection (a letter or diary), or something else like that.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 3:09
  • 1
    Indexes also often misspell names. I worked on one today where "Ilacqua" was indexed as "Flacqua." And years ago I found by pure luck a "Stomiany" in an index when the name was actually "Słomiana"
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 7:43

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