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From Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill  9/14/2005

Another search for Jann

The family discussed in last week's article was located using the Castle Garden website and our search ended up focusing on a half-sibling of the actual person we were trying to locate.

This week we "re-search" for the Huls family using's Immigration records and see how searches there are conducted differently. As before, our search begins with a summary of the family structure.

  • Johann Huls, born 1807, aged between 62 and 65.
  • Meta, born 1842, aged between 27 and 30.
  • Johann, born 1849, aged between 20 and 23.
  • Martin, born 1854, aged between 15 and 18.
  • Jann, born 1866, aged between 3 and 6 (our focus person).
  • Antje, born 1869, aged between 0 and 3.

Even though I am not related to Martin or to Johann (the son), I include them as they are a part of the family structure. One should never ignore any potential relative. In this case Martin leads me to the remaining members of the family.

Ancestry allows subscribers to search all their immigration databases at once. Since I already had reason to believe the port of entry was New York or New Orleans, I will search the New York lists specifically first.

Remember that Ancestry is adding data over time and some databases are not currently complete. Make certain the database contains the time period appropriate for the individual for whom you are looking. At this point in time, the New Orleans database is too early for my purpose.

The Search
The following fields were entered, based upon the known information:

  • First name: martin
  • Estimated birth year: 1854
  • Arrival year: 1870 +/- 2

The resulting hits were all scanned, with particularly close attention being paid to those whose last name began with the letters "Hu." There were no matches that appeared likely, although subscribers to the Immigration collection at could easily view the corresponding image to confirm that desired family was not on the manifest.

Martin"s age may be incorrect on the manifest. Since Martin was a child at the time of immigration, his age probably is not as susceptible to error as is an adult's. A new search was tried:

  • First name: martin
  • Estimated birth year: 185*
  • Arrival year: 1870 +/- 2

This search will return more results (1,002 to be precise) because now all individuals born in the decade of the 1850s will be returned as matches. The only results I scanned closely were those beginning with the letters "Hu." (Users of the Immigration collection at Ancestry will note that a search on the last name of "Hu*" cannot be used because all search screens require that the wildcard operator [*] be preceded by at least three characters.)

There were not any really "close" matches to the last name of Huls that appeared to be of Germanic origin. However, one entry caught my attention: Martin Hute, arriving in Nov of 1870, born in 1855. The year of birth differed only by a year and this Martin was of Germanic origin.

Sure enough a view of the manifest contains all the desired first names as listed above. When I see the last name on the manifest, I see "Hüls." This is partially because I am somewhat familiar with the handwriting and know what name I am looking for. The handwriting is not the easiest to read and one can understand how it could be misinterpreted. Even experienced researchers may take while to read "U.S. of A." as the family's destination.

Now that I have seen the manifest, I am curious. How are the first names listed in the database? Armed with the last name, I search for entries with this last name of Hute immigrating in 1870 to see how the other first names were transcribed. They appear as:

  • Johann
  • Meta
  • Martin
  • Joh
  • Baby
  • Johann

All match what I had, but Jann is listed as "Joh." and daughter Antje is listed as "baby." The others are "correct" and could have been located by direct searches of the database. A search for the baby sister also might have been in order. Infants may or may not be named on the manifest, so users should consider searching for "baby" in addition to the actual name. Searches for children under one year can be conducted with the age set to "0." (In fact as of this writing, there are nineteen matches for an individual with the first name "baby" age 0 immigrating in 1870. There are over 4,600 matches for individuals aged 0 immigrating in 1870. Coincidentally nineteen of these are also named "Infant.")

  • Note that estimated year of birth means just that: estimated.

Viewing the Manifest
My review of the manifest should not solely focus on the desired names. When viewing any manifest, I always look to see if there is a notation regarding family members who died on the voyage. The listing should also be searched for additional family members whose names may not appear adjacent to the located entry. If villages of last residence are given the entire manifest should be searched for other individuals listing those villages. The same concern applies if specific destinations are given.

What if I Had Not Found the Family?
Remember, I was assuming that the entire family immigrated together. In this case, it turned out that this assumption was true. Keep in mind that families did not always immigrate together and it could be that the desired individual came before or after other family members. Assumptions are great in family history when one remembers they have been made and is willing to part with them in cases where records contradict them.


  • Knowing the family structure is helpful when searching passenger lists.
  • The successful search may require you to search for an individual who is not even a relative.
  • First name searches may be the fruitful approach, but they require knowing additional information about the family.
  • Always view the actual record. Additional clues may be waiting within.

Michael John Neill is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is currently a member of the board of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) He conducts seminars and lectures nationally on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at or visit his website at:, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

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