Saturday, August 13, 2005

Confusing Castle Garden Dates

From: Dittmar, Frederick M.
In your newsletter "Across My Desk 12 Aug 2005" you link us to Kimberly Powell's About page. She states "Castle Garden served as America's first official immigrant receiving station from 1855 through 1890, before being succeeded by Ellis Island in 1892."

I went into the Castle Garden [site] and found my 2nd great-grandmother coming through on October 5, 1850, five years prior to the dates given above.

-- HEINRICH DITMER, Joiner, 18, M, 1850-10-05, Germany, Emigrant
-- FRIEDRICH DITMER, Unknown, 14, M, 1850-10-05, Germany, Emigrant
-- ELISABETH DITMER, Unknown, 50, F, 1850-10-05, Germany, Emigrant

What are the official dates of records available and the operation of the receiving station?

Yes, I know the different spelling. I have DITMER, DITTMOR, DITTMORE, DITTMAN, DITTMAR all with in a six year span in one town, Plymouth, Mass., with some on the same document having two different spellings. I’ve learned to be open-minded for anything. Also Elisabeth became Elizabeth, Heinrich became Valentine and Friedrich became Frederick by 1856.

Happy Granny hugs to you.

CONGRATS on being open-minded when it comes to spelling ancestors' names and CONGRATS on locating your 2nd great-grandmother's date of arrival in the US. Your query did point up an important point, which is clarified on the main page of the Castle Garden database website:

-- The Castle Garden area received ships with immigrants from about 1820 to 1892.

-- Castle Garden had the "first official immigration center, a pioneering collaboration of New York State and New York City" beginning in 1855.

-- The database contains over 10 million records for 1830-1892.

-- Support is needed to finish the estimated 2 million names on original ships manifests for arrivals from 1820-1829.

Kimberly Powell's original article contained a link to a brief history of Castle Garden. Also, please note that Steve Morse frankly explains that "passengers were processed at various places, depending on the year of arrival. [Specifically,] up to July 31, 1855 [there was] no processing. Passengers simply walked off the ship." (See more on Steve Morse, below.)

This means that at the time your 2nd great-grandmother arrived in 1850, the official immigration center wasn't in place. She simply walked down the gang plank and onto the dock. However, the area was gas lit (1825) and had public "warm seawater" bath houses (1830.) A small portion had been set aside as a newspaper library (1825) and a part had been domed over and set aside as a theater (1845.) Even if your 2nd great-grandmother didn't attend the theater, most certainly she would have been overcome by the sheer size of the domed edifice after spending weeks at sea. Once Ellis Island was established (1892) the Castle Garden immigration center became the home of the New York City Aquarium (1896.) If you'd like to know more about the history of Castle Garden area and the Battery, be sure to click the "timeline" button on . That's where I located this information.

Ancestral information culled from the original records includes: first & last name, occupation, age, sex, arrival date, origin, and name of the ship.

Note these interesting "occupations"
-- ANDREW WARRILOW Child, Youngster 7 M 1873-06-16 England Nevada
-- HARRIET WARRILOW Child, Youngster 4 F 1873-06-16 England Nevada
-- SARAH WARRILOW Spinster 28 F 1885-08-24 England Etruria

It should be noted that unlike the website, provides only secondary, typed lists of arrivals, i.e. are no links to the scanned images of the original record that bears the ancestors' names, nor are there links to photos, sketches or description of ships.

The bottom line is that provides the database, but Steve's search engine is better, and he provides direct links to the scanned images of the Castle Garden ship's manifests that are part of's subscription database.

Steve Morse's search engine that receives wide acclaim by those frustrated with their Ellis Island searches. I imagine his search engine that now includes the database will also be well-received. I have not yet done any comparisons. His search engine covers the years 1830 to 1912 with the following breakdown:
1830 to 1855: pre Castle Garden
1855 to 1890: Castle Garden
1890 to 1891: Barge Office
1892 to 1912: Ellis Island

for your 2nd great-grandmother's arrival
Steve Morse reports that "In 1819 congress passed legislation requiring passenger ships coming from foreign ports to submit lists (manifests) of the arriving passengers. Those manifests have subsequently been placed on microfilm rolls at the National Archives as follows:
-- 1820 to 1850: microfilm series M237, rolls 1 to 94
-- 1851 to 1891: microfilm series M237, rolls 95 to 580
-- 1892 to 1897: microfilm series M237, rolls 581 to 675
-- 1897 to 1924: microfilm series T715, rolls 1 to 3590
Scanned images of microfilm rolls from 1851 to 1891 reside on the website. Scanned images of microfilm rolls from 1892 to 1924 reside on the website. [His site] provides direct access to the manifests. A subscription to is required to view the manifest images. For direct access to the manifests use my Ellis Island form. No subscription is required to view the manifest images."

Since your ancestor's arrival took place in 1850, you won't yet find the scanned image online, but you can find out about the appropriate microfilm of original manifests so you can view it at the National Archives or borrow it through your local LDS Family History Center.

1. Go to the Family History Library Catalog online at:

2. Click "Keyword Search"

3. Type "M237" (without the quote marks) since this is the National Archives microfilm series covering the October 5, 1850 arrival of your 2nd great-grandmother according to Steve Morse's comments.

4. Click on the link to: Passenger lists of vessels arriving at New York, 1820-1897 ; index to passenger lists of vessels arriving in New York, 1820-1846 by the United States. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

5. Films (all 785 of them in this collection) are listed in the catalog, in this order:
-- index films first
-- original manifests in chronological order.

Ol' Myrt here did the clicking around for you and determined that you will want to visit your local LDS Family History Center to order the following microfilm:

-- Passenger lists 1 Oct 1850-25 Oct 1850 [FHL US/CAN Film 175449]

Once the microfilm arrives, you'll need to work through it to find the manifest for your 2nd Great-grandmother's ship, and then review each page, where eventually, despite cryptic handwriting, you will find her entry which was transcribed into the database. You work isn't complete until you get from the database to that original record. Note who she stood in line with -- we tend to congregate with friends whenever we have a choice. These folks might also include family members who didn't share the Ditmer, Dittmor, Dittmore, Dittman, Dittmar surname.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

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