Castle Garden Search Tips
by Dan Lynch

The following are observations which may be helpful to those searching the passenger archives.

In this example, I was attempting to locate one or more passengers believed to have sailed from Ireland for New York sometime in the early 1870s. Their names: Mary Lynch (mother and daughter, same name), Ellen Lynch, Eugene Lynch, Daniel Lynch, and Bridget Lynch.

You’ll certainly have your own elusive ancestors, but for now, let’s isolate one passenger – Daniel Lynch - so you can understand how to mine the data in the archive.

Searching for LAST NAME = “LYNCH” results in 12,666 records.  In some online archives, you could then isolate a subset of this number by using FIRST NAME STARTS WITH “D” and then simply evaluate the many variations that result. Since the site does not offer any advanced conditional operators (e.g. – starts with, contains, sounds like) tied to the first name or last name fields, you will need to be diligent to uncover all possible alternatives.

From experience, I conducted searches for:
First Name is
Last Name is
183 records
21 records
0 records
0 records
5 records

That’s a total of 209 results. Then I went back to the 12,666 generic LYNCH arrivals (with no first name specified) and sorted the list by first name.  I quickly noticed that some entries were for “A LYNCH” and others for “A. LYNCH” (note the period).  Using this clue, I tried again:
First Name is
Last Name is
17 records
2 records
17 records

That’s an additional 36 results, bringing the total to at least 245 records.

This same concept will impact your search for many other first names – Edward, James, Patrick, William, and many others.

Tip: Use the BROWSER tool to browse all possible first names for the last name you are interested in.  The browser will let you jump ahead or back any number of frames making this task much easier and less time consuming.

Names With Spaces

If you are searching for a last name that may contain a space or special character, be sure to submit searchers for each of the various alternatives.

Examples include:
Last Name
7 records
DI TOTA(with space)
15 records
299 records
341 records
143 records
68 records
809 records

First Names Preceded by “S” or “D”

While searching the files, I have observed some common first names preceded by an S or D as part of the name. Matching gender, it appears this may have been an abbreviation used by some workers to signify “Daughter Mary” or “Son John” (written and transcribed as DMARY or SJOHN).

In addition to adding this to your list of alternate searches, you may wish to use the browser and scan the results sorted alphabetically by first name. Get into the habit of looking at both D and S even if the name you’re looking for is a common one.

Ages Exceeding 100

The archive contains many passengers with ages listed well in excess of 100 (many more than 900 years old).  Many of these results (but not all) show Occupation as “Infant”.  One theory is that a 700 year old, 800 year old, or 900 year old was instead a 7-month, 8-month, or 9-month old infant.  This, of course, does not explain the 600 year old Laborers or those with other occupations.  Net comment – use caution when using age as a filter.