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From the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 12/10/2003

Finding Peter, Paul, and Margarete: Using Online Passenger Lists

This week we do some searching of the New York Passenger List Index recently released to subscribers of While the online database makes searching and locating records much easier, our methodology can be applied to a manual search of the records. (Note: Peter, Paul and Margarete's Passenger lists can be viewed here).

The release of new databases frequently sends genealogists off to enter names in search boxes, hoping to hit a goldmine. However, the first steps should involve work in offline records in order to learn as much as possible about the immigrant and organize that information before rushing into searches.

The Name
Learning how the name is pronounced in its native language is an excellent idea. The phonetics of the surname will affect how it is written in the records; some sounds can be spelled in more than one way. The legibility of the handwriting will also affect how the name appears in the transcribed index. Much to the chagrin of family historians, these phonetics and legibility issues can interact and create some unusual spelling variants.

Approximate Date of Immigration
Having an approximate idea of when the ancestor immigrated is very helpful and sometimes a must if the name is relatively common. Records that are particularly helpful in establishing an approximate date of immigration are census records, obituaries, biographies, and naturalizations. Any record that shows your ancestor as living in the new country may help you pinpoint his or her year of immigration—city directories and tax records are examples of records that can help in pursuit of this information.

Family Structure Details
A comprehensive search of records in the area where the immigrant settled may provide clues about other family members who might have immigrated with your ancestor. Any information about these other family members may help you to locate additional information on your actual ancestor.

Included in the Ancestry Daily News archives is an article on my search for the Germanic origins of an 1850s-era immigrant to Davenport, Iowa. The article discusses how a tentative family framework was created involving three contemporary couples that all shared a common German heritage:

Paul and Elisabeth Schollmeyer Freund
Conrad and Margaretha Freund Krebs
Peter and Margaretha Kraus Freund

Paul, the ancestor, died in the 1850s and all the Freunds listed are suspected siblings. The others all died after the 1880 census and several decades after Paul. Peter and Margaretha Freund are known to be siblings and children of a Charles Freund. Paul and Peter are listed as neighbors in the 1856 Iowa State Census. The couples also appear as godparents for each other's children in the 1850s and 1860s.

Off to the Passenger Lists
Before aimlessly searching for Paul, I printed out a sheet that outlined the surmised family structure (with the word "tentative" written in large letters across the top), and included the following information:

Paul's approximate date of birth—ca. 1828 Bavaria
Paul's approximate date of immigration—ca. 1853
Variants of Paul's last name—Frend, Frent, Friend

This is information that will come in handy when I search the lists for Paul.

Why Search New York Lists?
I searched the New York lists because I could do it online without leaving my home. But I actually had no information indicating Paul had landed in New York. So if I don't find him in New York, he could have arrived elsewhere. When searching this or any online database, I should review the information contained in the database. Searching the online passenger list database is a great start, but it does not mean my search is complete. There were other ports besides New York, and the fact that I found a likely match in the New York database does not mean that I really have the right one. A "hit" in another port may have information more closely matching the desired ancestor.

A search of the New York Passenger Lists at in early December 2003 included only two matches for the name, Paul Freund. This would seemingly make the research an easy two-minute process. It does not. Unless there is overwhelming evidence indicating I have the right guy, I will have to go through all the matches and search all reasonable surname variants. One "close" match does not mean that there are not other better matches later in the index. As we will see, I was lucky that searching additional name variants was not necessary in this case.

Viewing the Actual Passenger List
The index is linked to images of the original manifests. When I saw the manifest for the Paul Freund who landed in New York on 19 Jun 1854 on board the Juventa, I knew I had the right man. I knew this because I had done my homework. Part of the manifest listed the following individuals:

Krebs, Conrad, aged 35
Krebs, Margarethe, aged 32
Krebs, Elisabeth, aged 3
Krebs, Thekla, aged 3/4
Kraus, Margaretha, aged 27
Hornung, Catherine, aged 23
Freund, Georg, aged 66
Freund, Paul, aged 27
Freund, Elisabeth, aged 36

All were from Bavaria.

I printed out the manifest image and typed the names, indicating to the side the likely relationship. I was pretty certain I had the correct family.

— Krebs family—family of Margarethe Freund Krebs
— Kraus, Margaretha—who would later become the wife of Peter Freund in Davenport, Iowa
— Hornung, Catherine—??
— Freund, Georg—the father?
— Freund, Paul—our guy
— Freund, Elisabeth—possibly Paul's first wife or a sister?

With the entire family immigrating, it helped me determine I had the "right" guy. Having done my homework made the matching process easier. However, there is one person missing: Peter.

Why Might Peter Not Be Listed with the Rest of the Family?
I am speculating that Peter was already in the United States. Peter is known to have married a fellow Bavarian, Margaretha Kraus, in Davenport in the later 1850s. It seems highly likely that the Margaretha Kraus listed with the Freund immigrants is the same one that Peter later married.

A search for Peter Freund in the New York passenger list database resulted in several hits. While I have not yet gone through the entire list results, one hit might be the guy I need. An entry for a Peter Freund, landing in New York City on Ferriere on 4 June 1853 appears promising. This Peter is a Bavarian native. Most interestingly is that listed directly after him is a Peter Hornung, aged 25. When the Freund family later immigrates, there is a Catherine Hornung with them who cannot be placed within the Freund family. Is she related to Peter Hornung and possibly his wife? As usual, further work needs to be done.

Here's What I Need to Do:
I should complete my searches of the Peter Freunds in the online New York City Passenger List database to see if there are other matches that fit my data. The 1856 Iowa census should be searched for both the Hornungs and Freund family members who have not been previously located. Death and burial records for the German Catholic church attended by the Freunds should be rechecked for George Freund and Elisabeth Freund. They might have been overlooked in earlier searches. As usual, the location of one record leads to more searching and more questions.

Paul Freund was relatively easy to find. Not all immigrants can be located this easily. However, my search was made easier because outside work was done before I began searching the passenger lists. In addition to doing the homework mentioned earlier, here are some additional guidelines to remember when searching the passenger lists:

— Make certain that what you locate on the manifest "fits" what you already know. If things do not "fit," your reasons should be logical and typically should not involve miracles, violation of the laws of space and time, or reincarnation.
— Do not grab the first person that comes close to matching the desired ancestor. Additional reasonable name variants should be searched as well.

In case readers think all searches are this easy, we'll be discussing some additional examples in the upcoming months. While I don't have any Johan Schmidts (the equivalent of John Smith) in my background, I do have an adequate supply of my own problem people.

Some additional reading:
Do You Ear What I Ear?—Phonetics and records

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 the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures 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.

Copyright 2003, All rights reserved.

Used by the author on his website with permission.

Michael's other articles