Sunset at Gowanus Bay

Sunset at Gowanus Bay
Sunset at Gowanus Bay, Henry Gritten, 1851

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Passenger and Immigration Lists Index

Passenger and Immigration Lists Index: A Guide to Published Arrival Records of About 500,000 Passengers Who Came to the United States and Canada in the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, First Edition, edited by P. William Filby with Mary K. Meyer (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1981), is an incredibly large collection of names, places, dates and sources of persons who are found in North America prior to the 20th century. William B. Bogardus, in his collection of Brouwer material, included the pages containing the surnames Brewer, Brouwer and Brower, as well as the all important opening pages which provide the list of sources and which are represented by numbers in the lists of "passengers" and "immigrants." Supplements to the original were published in subsequent years, and the pages covering Brewer, Brouwer and Brower, for supplements to the year 1990, along with the initial 1981 pages, have been scanned into one PDF.

Passenger and Immigration Lists Index

While there is no doubt that this index is very useful, the title and premiss of the volume is somewhat misleading. It might be natural for someone picking up this volume for the first time to assume that the dates listed next to each individual's name was the date of immigration to North America, and might assume that all those listed were in fact immigrants. But this is not the case. The "sample entry" (which you can find on the second page of the PDF) explicitly states that the place and date provided in each entry, refers to the "place of arrival" and "year of arrival." In some cases, this may be correct, but in many cases it is not. In many of the entries, the place and date simply refer to a record of some type (marriage, court record, etc.), which would of course imply that the person named in the entry was at the location listed on the date recorded, but does not necessarily mean that he immigrated, or arrived there, on that date. In many cases the "immigrant" was there earlier than the date given.

For example, on page 231 (page 8 in the PDF) we find five entries for "Brouwer, Adam" either in New Netherland or New York. The five entries give the years 1642; 1620-1664; 1647; 1687; and 1687 again. These entries all refer to the same Adam Brouwer, the only one of two, the second being his son of the same name, known to be in New Netherland/New York in the 17th century. While the 1642 date may or may not be accurate as a date of arrival, the other dates certainly are not dates on which Adam Brouwer "arrived" at New York, as might be surmised from the book's title and "sample entry."The last entry, 1687, would refer to the year he took the oath of allegiance at Gowanus.The second entry of 1687, pertains to Adam Brouwer's son, also named Adam Brouwer, who was not an immigrant.

This misleading title also applies to the database found at Ancestry.com titled, "Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s." This database is based upon Gale Research's, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, the same book from which the Brower pages have been extracted, and the same warning applies. Contrary to the title, his database is not an actual database of immigrants and the dates of their arrival.

An example from the Ancestry.com is that of Cornelia Roos. If you have a subscription to Ancestry.com, look her up and you might come away believing that Cornelia immigrated to New Netherland in 1659 at the age of 4. The specific source given is, SCOTT, KENNETH. "Early New Yorkers and Their Ages." In National Genealogical Society Quarterly, vol. 57:4 (Dec. 1969), pp. 274-297. The important thing to do here is to look up this original source that Ancestry.com is citing. This source is not a list of immigrants at all, and it never pretends to be. What it is, is simply a list of New Yorkers and their ages, as found in various records from the early years of New York City (New Amsterdam). The unaware, however, because of the title that Ancestry.com gave to this database, would come away with the belief that Cornelia Roos immigrated to New York in 1659. In actuality, not only did Cornelia not immigrate to New York in 1659, she was not an immigrant at all. She was born in and baptized at New Amsterdam on 1 January 1665, and she was a second generation American. Her father, Gerrit Roos, was one of the earliest persons born in New Netherland (probably born about 1626), his mother, Maria Vigne, was the actual immigrant ancestor of this family. Cornelia Roos does not belong in a database titled, "Passenger and Immigration Lists." No doubt there are other cases similar to Cornelia's.

While these published indexes and databases are certainly valuable, it's important to understand just what exactly they represent (despite what their titles might imply) and it is equally important to follow through and look up the original source that is being cited by the index or database.

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