How can I determine whether there are BSI (Board of Special Inquiry) minutes or records for an alien on a "List of Detained Aliens" or "Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry"? Were there always hearings for all individuals on these lists, or were individuals often released from detention without hearings or the production of additional documents?

I am attaching three images as examples of individuals I am seeking BSI records for (if they exist).

  • Image 1, Line 37: Jankel Samolisa (arrived NY 19 June 1912 on Kroonland)
  • Image 2, Index No 91: Ester David and children (arrived NY 29 June 1920 on Nieuw Amsterdam)
  • Image 3, Index No 11: Hersz Samojlicer (arrived NY 24 July 1925 on Aquitania)

Image 1, Line 37: Jankel Samolisa (arrived NY 19 June 1912 on Kroonland) Image 2, Index No 91: Ester David and children (arrived NY 29 June 1920 on Nieuw Amsterdam) Image 3, Index No 11: Hersz Samojlicer (arrived NY 24 July 25 on Aquitania)


https://www.uscis.gov/history-and-genealogy/genealogy/genealogy-notebook/researching-deportation-records "Researching Deportation Records" explains this in detail.

For records prior to April 1, 1944 "Today, exclusion files exist only for cases appealed to INS headquarters in Washington, DC. There is usually no surviving record for non-appealed exclusion hearings, which made up the majority of cases."

That web page goes on to describe the subject index for the case files, searchable online on ancestry.com or via microfilms held by the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Each of the three examples you have seem to be people who were admitted to the US within a day or so of the ship's arrival. That isn't enough time for their entry to have been denied and then appealed to Washington, so it seems very likely that none of their special inquiry records survive. (The image you included for Jankel Samolisa is the record of detained aliens, not the page listing actions of the board of special inquiry. But it says he was given only one meal, so I presume Jankel was held for less than a day.)

In my own research I came across a family who was held for quite a number of days. I made a request to NARA by email, specifying the names, date of arrival, ship's name, etc. NARA replied to me that the file was available, and an estimated number of pages and the charge per page (I believe it was 80 cents per page). The reply included a link to a web site where I could authorize payment (I paid via credit card). Within a fairly short period of time (maybe two weeks) I got another email saying the scanned records were available for me to download. I got several dozen pages of records, including copies of the typed minutes of the board of special iniquiry, then another board of special inquiry when a relative already in the US came to be questioned, as well as a report from an inspector sent by the government to verify the relative's claims about his economic situation, and copies of bonds signed by other relatives promising to pay the government $500 if one of the immigrants ended up on public assistance.

  • Thanks! Also this - From "Quick Guide to finding INS Case and Correspondence Files Related to Specific Individuals": A USCIS Index Search should return file citations for any immigrant who had a BSI decision appealed to Washington, D.C. between 1893 and 1944 or anyone who was the subject of a warrant for deportation between 1903 and 1950. The Index Search may return file citations even for individuals who do not appear in the Subject Index to INS Correspondence and Case Files
    – John
    May 2 '20 at 19:32
  • what is the practical difference between the lists "Record of detained aliens" vs "Record of aliens held for special inquiry"?
    – John
    May 4 '20 at 16:13
  • @John At least in the cases I've seen, a ship manifest has three lists: the regular passenger list; the list of detained aliens, which is a subset of the passengers; and a list of aliens held for special inquiry, which is a subset of those who were detained. The special inquiry list has extra information, mostly (as can be seen in your example) about who ordered the special inquiry, and the date(s) and result(s) of the hearing(s) they had. Your first example was held "To father", and released to him (by the way, his address seems to be 6 Goerck St in Manhattan, on the Lower East Side).
    – aem
    May 5 '20 at 2:40

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