Ship manifests for vessels disembarking passengers at Ellis Island can be accessed at However, finding individual can sometimes require some detective work.

To access the Ellis Island records, you first need to register and become a member before you can use the records. There is no charge to do so. Once you are registered, you can begin your search. Unfortunately, it is not always as easy as one would hope.

For example, in Norway, Ole Walli used the traditional farm name, Valli. However, the ship manifest for the Teutonic, which landed in New York on June 15, 1901, lists him as Ole Walli. Thus a search using the Norwegian spelling will be unsuccessful. As noted, the manifest is written in a common hand, probably by the purser or captain, whose understanding of the immigrants' pronunciation may have affected their spelling of the passengers' names.

To complicate matters even more, the Ellis Island records are accessed using transcriptions of the original documents. In some cases, the handwriting on the original document is difficult to decipher. On the ship's manifest for the Baltic, the "V" in Valli looks like a "T," which is how it was transcribed. (Similarly, there are several different spellings of "Selbu" on the transcription of the manifest.) Thus a search for John or Anna Walli will be unsuccessful using any combination of the names they used in Norway or America: Johan, Valli, or Walli. To find them, one must search for Johan or Anna "Talli." (You'll have the best luck simply searching for the last name -- for some reason, it doesn't always find them with first name or initial included).

Sometimes even using the spellings that are in the system will result in an unsuccessful search. It that happens, try it using first initial instead of full name, or no name or initial, etc. Knowing the name of the ship, and its arrival date in New York, greatly simplifies the search process. Using the "Advanced Passenger Search" option, you can enter the name of the ship as well as the passenger's name. For the Walli brothers, Ole arrived on the Teutonic on June 15, 1901. John and Anna arrived on the Baltic on April 5, 1907. Karen Nervig, who would marry Ole in 1908, accompanied them on the Baltic.

Once you've found the ship's manifest, you can order a copy for yourself. They're available in two sizes: 11" x 17", or 17" x 22". (With the smaller sized reproduction, the print is almost too small to read.)

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