Searching for Passengers in the Castle Garden Database in One Step
Browsing through Castle Garden Passenger Records in One Step
Frequently Asked Questions

Stephen P. Morse , San Francisco


 100 Searching for Passengers
 200 Browsing through Records


101. What can I do with your One-Step Search Form that I couldn't do at the site directly?

The site allows you to search on the following information for the first search:

First Name
Last Name
Range for Year of Arrival
After that they let you refine your search by entering:
Place of Origin
The One-Step form lets you search on all this information in one step on the first search.

The site lets you sort your information after you have obtained your results.  The One-Step form lets you specify your sort on the search form itself.

The One-Step form allows you to specify the starting point for your search whereas the site does not.  That is useful if you have many hits and want to look at the first half at one session and then return at a later time to look as the second half.

Finally, there are some bugs on the site which do not occur on my One-Step site.  Presumably these will eventually be found and fixed.  But for the time being, here are some of the known problems:

     First search page gives the default year range of 1820 to 1913 whereas it should be 1830 to 1912
     If on the first search page you set the year range to 1820-1840 (for example), you will get results for all years

102. What is the PID and what can I do with it?

Every passenger in the Castle Garden database is assigned a Passenger ID or PID.  Furthermore the PIDs appear to have been assigned to the passengers in alphabetical order (sort of).  So if you know the PID of a particular passenger, you can browse through the database in alphabetical order by simply requesting the record of the passenger having the next sequential PID.  Of course this means that you need some utility that lets you enter a PID and obtain a passenger record.  To satisfy that need, I have developed a Castle Garden Browser.  See the questions in the 200-section for more details.  To obtain the PID of a particular passenger, see question 103.

103. How do I obtain the PID?

When you get the page of results, note that each passenger name is a link.  Put your mouse over the name of the passenger you are interested in.  On the browser status bar (line at the very bottom of the browser) you will see a line something like:

The number after the equal sign is the PID, 1972 in this case.

104. How do I view the actual manifest?

The manifest are not on the site, so you cannot view them for free.  However, if you have an subscription, you can view them using my Castle Garden Manifests Form.  Furthermore, using my Castle Garden Ship Lists Form first allows you to get to my Castle Garden Manifests Form at the start of the manifest for a particular ship arrival.

105. Is the database complete or are there records missing?

Unfortunately there are records missing.  The people admit that they have not yet transcribed all the records, but they do not say which records are left to be done nor when they expect to get to them.

If you can't find a record you are looking for with my form, you might try using my form that accesses the records for the Port of New York (includes Castle Garden).  There are records that are in the database but not in the database.

To demonstrate this, do the following:

Search for Nikola Tesla (surely you know who he is) using my form  for Port of New York (Castle Garden) arrivals.  You'll find that he arrived on the City of Richmond, June 6 1884, from Sweden.

Now search for Tesla (no first name) using my form.  There is no Nikola.

Now instead of searching by name, try to search by ship arrival.  Using my form, enter City of Richmond, 1884, coming from Sweden, and leave the passenger name blank.  You'll get eight passengers, all arriving on February 24.  But we know that Tesla arrived on June 6, so this is not the arrival of the City of Richmond that Tesla was on.

Do the same thing but leave off Sweden.  This will give 3200 passengers, some of which were on the June 6 arrival.  So that ship arrival is indeed in the database.  But all the pages containing the Swedes (they happen to be contiguous) are not in there although they are in the database.

Go back to my form and search for City of Richmond in 1884.  This will give 5,127 passengers, nearly 2,000 more than were obtained from the database.

106. Are there records in the database that don't belong?

There seem to be many records that were thrown into the database on that have nothing to do with Castle Garden arrivals.  They are valid records, but the ships arrived at other ports (e.g., Baltimore) and these records do not belong in the database.

Recall that only has the manifest images online ( does not).  So it could be that you'll find your ancestor using my form but then are unable to find the manifest using either my Castle Garden Ship Lists tool or my Castle Garden Manifests tool.  That's because both of those tools access the website.  In that case you'll need to use my form form but change the port selection on the top line to access one of the other ports; if you do so, you'll probably find the record there.

To demonstrate this, do the following:

Using my form, leave the passenger name blank, enter Weimar for the ship name and 1891 for the year.  You'll get 5,489 passengers.  Scroll a few pages and note the dates of arrival.  They are April 22, June 3, July 14, August 26, October 7, and December 31.

Do the same search using my form for Port of New York (Castle Garden) arrivals.  You get only 733 passengers.  And all of them were on the December 31 arrival.  The other five arrivals of the Weimar for that year are not in the database for Castle Garden, although they are in the database.

Now use my form with the port selection on the top line set to Baltimore.  You'll get 7,104 passenger.  They include arrival dates of April 22, June 3, July 14, August 26, October 7, and November 18.  Note that the December 31 arrival of the Weimar is not found here -- that ship indeed went to Castle Garden in New York.

107. What are the Destination Codes listed on the results page?

The website does not list final destinations of passengers but instead gives a code corresponding to the destination.  Unfortunately they never present you with a list of what those code numbers correspond to.

I have started to compile a list of such code numbers and the destination that each corresponds to.  That list is far from complete, so if you know of any additional codes, please email me and I will add them.  You can see the list that I have by clicking on the DESTINATION CODES button at the top of my search form (it's the last button in that group of buttons).


201. What is a Castle Garden Record Browser?

The records have been entered into the Castle Garden database in alphabetical order, and each has been assigned a number.  This number is called the Passenger ID (PID).  A browser lets you view the record for a particular PID and advance sequentially through the PIDs viewing the records for adjacent passengers.

To be more specific, the assignment of PIDs appear to cycle through the alphabet several times.  I have identified at least two ranges of PIDs within which the passenger records are in alphabetical order.  Also I have identified another two ranges of PIDs within which the PIDs are somewhat random.

202. How would I take advantage of this browser?

Suppose you are looking for all the passengers named Smith whose first name starts with J.  The search engine does not permit you to do a starts-with search.  So on their search form as well as on my One-Step search form, the best you can do is search for all passengers named Smith.  There would undoubtedly be many of them.

An alternate would be to search for the passenger named Smith whose first name is exactly J (not starts-with J).  Assuming there is at least one, you will find him and note his PID (see question 103).  You would then go to my Castle Garden browser and view records sequentially starting from that PID.

What if there is nobody in the database whose name is exactly J Smith?  In that case you would search for Smith with no first name.  Once found, you would again go to the browser starting at the first Smith.  But instead of going sequentially through the PIDs at this point, you would jump by some large amount.  That's what the +10, +100, +1000 etc. buttons are for.  You would keep doing this until you got to a Smith whose first name starts with J.  If you go too far, use some of the negative buttons (-10, -100, -1000 etc.) to jump back.  By doing this repeatedly, you will eventually get to the first J Smith and then can start going sequentially (+1).

See also question 203

203.  What the alphabet links at the bottom of the browser and how would I use them?

In question 202 we saw how to browse through all first names for a common last name like Smith.  Now suppose you have an uncommon last name which could have several variations of spelling.  If you are lucky, you can find somebody with that last name by doing a search, and then use the browser to step sequentially looking for other people with that name or with variants of the name.

But if you can't find anybody by doing a search on the name variants that you can think of, you can still browse through the database hoping to find a variant of your name.  You do so by going to the alphabet links at the bottom of the browser and clicking on the first letter of the name you are interested in.  That will get you to the first passenger record for that letter.  Now you can browse through other records starting with that letter by using the various plus and minus buttons as described in question 202.

Remember that in question 201 I said that the PIDs cycle through the alphabet several times.  So for completelness you will have to select the letter you are interested several times, once from each of the groups.

-- Steve Morse