I found several entries in the Ellis Island index where I am sure that I know better than the index. Is it possible to file corrections somewhere? I don't even know, to be honest, whether the index is located at Ellis Island or at familysearch. Can you guys tell me?


You can't correct an entry if you can't find it again. If you are sure that the passenger list you saw was in the right time period, then...

Ellis Island (1892-1924) passenger list indexes are available on at least 3 sites:

The Ellis Island Foundation website includes indexes and images. On the Passenger Record page (i.e. the index entry) and on the manifest navigation page, there is a menu item call "Create an Annotation", which is where corrections and other information can be recorded.

Ancestry's database,"New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957" has indexes and images for arrivals before, during and after the Ellis Island period. Corrections to transcription errors and entry errors (for some fields) can be added using the "Add Alternate Info" link on the individual record (index page) or by clicking on a field in the index lines below the image (same as for most databases at Ancestry.com). Or "Leave a Comment."

FamilySearch's index, "New York, Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924" links to images of arrival lists at the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Web site. No corrections can be made to any FamilySearch indexes at this time. See above for the Ellis Island website.

Generally the Ellis Island index is more accurate than Ancestry's, but your mileage may vary. Also I often use Steve Morse's "Ellis island One-Step" search for even more flexibility.

  • So... what happens to my annotations on ellisisland? Can other users read them, are they reviewed to manually fix errors in the index? – kutschkem Jan 27 '14 at 20:44
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    Anyone can use the Ellis Island "View Annotations" menu item to see added information. It does not get appended to the pre-existing record (while corrections are appended at Ancestry). The Annotation option seems to have been designed for descendants to document what happened to the immigrant after arrival, so, while corrections can be made, they are not easy to find by others. – bgwiehle Jan 27 '14 at 20:53
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    Whenever I find weird things going on in an index (from badOCR, transcription errors, etc), I make a note in my own software / research journal in case I need to reproduce that spelling in order to find the person again. – Jan Murphy Jan 28 '14 at 1:09

The Ellis Island website's FAQ says:

  • 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 misspelling is on the text version of the manifest, then it is probably a human error made by a volunteer who spent thousands of hours laboriously transcribing the information from the original microfilm. We are keeping a list of these errors. For possible corrections in the future, please email corrections to news@ellisisland.org. 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 this case we cannot make corrections to misspelled names.

Note that this answer says that errors on the manifest itself "were made at the time the immigrant arrived". This may be one source of the persistent rumor that the manifests were written out when the passengers were processed at Ellis Island, which is not the case. The manifests were made by agents of the ship companies, most probably when the passengers bought their tickets (or someone bought the tickets on their behalf).

Some information was added afterwards, such as lists of passengers who died on board. These lists may have been compiled while the ship was in transit. Lists of Aliens who were held at Ellis Island and Indexes of Aliens held for Special Inquiry were made at Ellis Island and were bound with the main manifests, which may be another source of confusion. (See Marian L. Smith's article on Manifest Markings in the bibliography below.)

Passengers would be checked against the manifest by the agents at the port of disembarkment. It is evident that notes were made at that time because the handwriting is different than the script in the main manifest. We can also see on the list notations which were made later when the immigrant applied for naturalization.

Any time when you have someone dictating answers to a second person, there is the possibility for errors to creep in, and as the FAQ says, the errors on the manifest itself are part of the historical records. This is possible with any historical record; note that many people have mistakes on their own birth certificate, and mistakes creep into obituaries and death notices, and so on.

The articles listed below provide thoughtful discussion and analysis of the evidence found in the passenger manifests:

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