ancestors through Ellis Island used to mean a trip to
the National Archives to pore through endless reels of
now, thanks in part to a project put together by the
Mormon church, all it takes is a few clicks on the
Tuesday, officials with the church and Ellis Island were
to unveil a
new database containing arrival records for the 22
million immigrants who arrived on ships at the port of
New York from 1892 to 1924. The database -- which
includes 70 percent of all U.S. arrivals during that
period -- will also be available on the Internet.
are a lot of people who are anxious to see this
information," said Wayne Metcalfe, who helped
direct the project for The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints. "This is the tool everybody's
waiting for to go back to Ellis Island and find their
database can be searched and includes immigrants' names,
their port of origin, age, nationality, hometown and
to the new American Family Immigration History Center at
Ellis Island can then get printouts of the information
and, if they choose, buy a souvenir copy of the
original, handwritten record and a photo of the ship
that brought their ancestors to the United States.
Online visitors will be able to order the records and
photos in about a month.
database will also will have room for visitors to add
their own information -- including family photos and
stories -- to share with relatives or the general
now, Ellis Island information was only available on
microfilm in Washington or at the church's Family
History Library in Salt Lake City.
in 1996, the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation,
which opened a museum at Ellis Island in 1990, decided
to create a data center at its museum and raised $22.5
million to do so.
then, the Mormon church -- which encourages members to
do genealogical research as a means of finding ancestors
to baptize into the faith after death -- had already
begun to transcribe the information.
while the foundation took digital photographs of the
manifests immigrants filled out on board ship, 12,000
Mormon volunteers copied the records into a database.
wasn't easy. Participants had to decode microfilm copies
of the manifests, which often included dozens of entries
per page in as many different languages.
might be transcribing the names of individuals who were
immigrating from Greece, then a couple of lines later
there's someone who's coming from Italy," said
Metcalfe, who estimated the work would have cost up to
$10 million without volunteer labor. "When your
native language is English and you're trying to
transcribe these names, it presents a real
it will make research easier for the millions of
descendants of Ellis Island arrivals, said Stephen
Briganti, president and CEO of the Statue of
Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation. It is estimated that 40
percent of Americans can trace at least one ancestor
back to the port, which opened in 1892.
said he used the new database himself to track down his
own grandmother -- one of the 265 immigrants named
Rotunno. Although he wasn't sure of the spelling of her
first name, he was able to narrow the field by searching
for the approximate date of her arrival and her age at
great interest now in finding one's family history,
where they came from, what their life was like, what
diseases they might have had," Briganti said.
"This is certainly going to help that process along
because this really is the story of America."