Some of my distant cousins arrived in the US around 1890, but I have been unable to track down a copy of the ship's manifest that documents the arrival. It is possible that they did not all come together, but this seems unlikely as the children were young around the time of arrival. The family came from Russia, from around St. Petersburg. Here is what I have:

Family as of the arrival date:

  1. Peter (Pesach) Axel, b. abt 1860, d. 1922
  2. Sarah Axel, b. 1860-1865, d. 1933, (wife)
  3. Jacob David Axel, b. 1880, d. ? (son)
  4. Lewis Axel, b. 1886, d. 1943, (son)
  5. Jennie Axel, b. 1888, d. 1976, (daughter)
  6. Tamah Axel, b. 1890 or 1891 in Russia or New York, depending on which census records you look at; d. 1983 (Daughter)

Evidence for immigration:

  1. Jacob David Axel's index to naturalization petitions (dated 6 Mar 1905) shows an arrival date of June 15, 1890 in New York.
  2. According to his naturalization record, Lewis Axel claims to have arrived in Boston on or about the 9th of June, 1891.
  3. Sarah Axel's 1933 death certificate claims that she resided in the the US for 43 years, 40 of which were in New York. This places immigration around 1890, and not to New York.
  4. First unambiguously US-born child is Mathies Axel who according to the 1930 and 1940 censuses was born in New Hampshire in 1893; his SSDI entry says he was born in 1892, but helpfully omits the place of birth.

So the evidence points to an arrival some time around 1890-1891, but I cannot find the ship's manifest. I have tried looking for all the children and for the parents, both in Boston, in New York, and elsewhere.

It's possible that the reason I cannot find the information is that their last name was not listed as Axel, but I have not found any hint of what their last name might have been. I have tried searching without specifying the last name, but that too has yielded nothing plausible.

What should I try now?

  • Oh, the times I have longed to search a first letter and last letter only! (a) Try searching Axel as a first name (keep the Russian nativity and range of dates filter) ... while I get creative. (Azel?).
    – GeneJ
    Commented Dec 1, 2012 at 1:48
  • Try searching around here. Unfortunately, it only covers up until July 1891 when federal record-keeping took over, right in the middle of where we're looking.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Dec 1, 2012 at 2:19
  • Did I miss this clue: Is the family at Manhattan in 1900? If so, 1900 US census shows they immigrated in 1888.
    – GeneJ
    Commented Dec 1, 2012 at 2:23
  • The one thing that interests me is that Axel is a Swedish name, not Russian. Every entry for an Axel that I find is Swedish.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Dec 1, 2012 at 2:47
  • 1
    I had searched the Mass. site before, with no luck. Still no luck with various variations on Pesach, Lewis and Tamah (with no last name), or on Axel as first name, or on vRious possible Russian names that are phonetically or semantically similar to Axle/Axel. Commented Dec 1, 2012 at 6:21

4 Answers 4


It's possible that the reason I cannot find the information is that their last name was not listed as Axel, but I have not found any hint of what their last name might have been.

Axel may be a shortened version of Axelrod/Axelrad. On the other hand, JRI-Poland has over 100 records for the surname Axel, so apparently the name does exist on its own among Jewish people.

There's an old discussion on the Ancestry.com message boards regarding the names Axel and Axelrod that may interest you.

  • It is my supposition that their name was Axelrod in Russa, but that doesn't really help with the ship's manifest. Commented Dec 1, 2012 at 16:02
  • IF the original surname was Axelrod, then they most likely immigrated with that surname and shortened it after immigration. So this is definitely relevant to your search for the ship manifest.
    – efgen
    Commented Dec 1, 2012 at 23:06
  • Btw, perhaps your Axels are hanging out with my Kmioteks! I can't find my ggf's ~1898 ship manifest or his father's. I did, however, easily find his mother traveling with some of the children. It always amazes me how some records are very easy to find, and others are so elusive :-)
    – efgen
    Commented Dec 1, 2012 at 23:14
  • Yeah, it's funny how sme people lead well-documents lives while ohers are quite hard to pin down. Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 1:24
  • I had searched in ways that should have matched both Axel and Axelr?d, but failed. My best guess at this point is that their ship's manifest got lost for some reason. Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 1:26

You don't mention where you have tried searching. If you haven't tried any of the following, you could add them to your list:

  1. you started with one good way - you asked the question here :-)
  2. Castle Garden is a self-described "free site offers access to an extraordinary database of information on 11 million immigrants from 1820 through 1892".
  3. Ellis Island website states approximately 80% of the immigrants in 1890 came thru Ellis Island. 1890/1 are right at the cusp of the switch to federal control.
  4. shipindex.org might give you a list of likely ships and source citations you could then track the sources
  5. WeRelate.Org - besides entering your ancestors and opening a talk page, you can look thru their source citations and ship information for other places to look
  6. ancestry.com
  7. archive.org
  8. National Archives (archives.gov)
  9. familysearch
  10. archives.com
  • I've searched on ancestry.com, familysearch.com, The Massachusetts ship manifest database, castle garden, and briefly on archives.gov. I have found the family in a number of trees on ancestry.com, and none of them mentions the manifest of the ship on which they arrived. Commented Dec 1, 2012 at 16:24

Try using Stephen P. Morse's One-Step Webpages at http://stevemorse.org/ and search as many different ways as you can think of. Note that Morse has a form to search the Russians to America Passenger Data File, 1834 - 1897, part of NARA's Access to Archival Databases (AAD). Always search the same site as many different ways as you can access it, since there's no guarantee the different subscription services are sharing an index.


Never underestimate the power of error. I find my grandfather in Castle Garden's data, entering on the SS Weimar, 22 April 1891. The problem is that he entered Baltimore on that day, not New York City, as confirmed by three research librarians at NARA's NYC branch. They even called Filby to speak to him about it. The last I looked, though, my GF, and all his shipmates, are still in Castle Garden's database.

And the immigrant generation of my family had real short-term memory problems as evidenced by their capricious use of whatever dates came into their heads when asked about their immigration or births.

Errors can come from transcribed spelling errors, too (the most likely problem in my experience).

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