|SS Germanic, White Star Line|
source: John S. Johnston [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The other day I really seemed to be on a roll. In a relatively short time, I located the passenger list showing my 2Great Uncle Hans Syverson and his family arriving at the Port of New York on 17 Aug 1878 aboard the SS Germanic.(1) Some of the research involved records accessed through the Digital Archives of Norway (DAofN). I accessed other records through Ancestry.com.
My successful plan for finding Hans Syversen's immigration records used the following steps.
1. Use the Norwegian census records for 1865, 1875, and 1885 to establish the last census year in which the family or individual was recorded as living in Norway. (DAofN). Also, check US Federal census records to see when the family is recorded in the US.
Hans and his family were recorded in both the 1865 census for Norway and the 1875 census for Norway but not in the 1885 census. Both 1865 and 1875 records showed the family living on the Belden South Farm in Lesja Parish of Oppland. According to the 1880 US census, the Hans Syversen family was living in Linden, Brown County, Minnesota. This gave me a timeframe of between 1875 and 1880 for the family's emigration period.
2. Check local parish records to see if the family or person is listed as a "Removal", the column heading used for individuals notifying the church of their intent to move out of the area or to emigrate. (DAofN)
|Oppland, Lesja Parish, Register #8, Migration Records, 1878-1879, p 589|
Digital Archives of Norway
After looking at the Migration Records for 1875-1877, I found this page listing Hans and his family. The family had notified the church of their plan to leave 17 July 1878 for America. All of the family, Hans Syverson of Belden Farm, his wife Marit Paulsdatter, and their children Toline, Sofia, Marit, Hans, Ole, and Anton were planning to emigrate to America.
3. Study US Federal Census records to see the year recorded for immigration, number of years in the US, or information on naturalization. (Ancestry.com)
According to the 1900 US Federal Census, Hans immigrated to the US in 1878 and had been in the United States 22 years. This agreed with the parish record shown above. For the son Hans, however, different information. In the 1910 census, son Hans indicated he had immigrated in 1889 while the 1920 census gave 1876 as the year he arrived in the US. In the 1915 South Dakota census, son Hans said he came in 1875 and had been in the US for 40 years. Hans (the father) had the date of 1878 that corresponded with the parish date of 1878. His son Hans, for unknown reasons, had various dates ranging from 1876 to 1889. I chose to consider 1878 as the probable date the family emigrated since the father Hans had provided that date in 1900, a time closer to the actual event than the later years in which his son Hans gave emigration information.
4. Search for the family or individual in immigration databases and ships' passengers lists. Use sites such as Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Library and Archives of Canada, The Ships List, Castle Garden for immigration 1820-1892, Ellis Island, or Steve Morse's One-Step Search.
This part of my research took a number of tries. With our immigrant ancestors, we are viewing passengers lists sometimes written by someone writing in English based on information spoken in another language so the variation in the spelling of names can necessitate additional searches for information. Add to the passenger list information, the fact that it has been transcribed or edited by yet others who may not be familiar with names from other countries.
Another variable in my search was estimating the arrival date for the family. I found a series of excellent articles about the process of emigration from Norway and conditions found in the steamers that crossed the Atlantic to America on the Norway Heritage website. The articles mentioned that Norwegian immigrants primarily sailed from Norway to Hull in Yorkshire, England or other several other English ports. From the English port, the emigrants would travel by rail across England to the port of Liverpool to begin their trip across the Atlantic. The trip might take as long as a month based on making the connection to cross England and board the transatlantic steamer. If Hans had indicated to the Lesja Parish church that he and the family planned to leave on 17 July 1878, I hoped to find him arriving in American sometime in August of 1878.
A third variable concerned how his name might be listed on a passenger list - Hans Syverson, Hans Syverson Belden, Hans Belle as he was listed in the 1880 US census, or perhaps some variation I had not anticipated. Through trial and error and much adjusting of the "Broad to Exact" sliders on Ancestry's search boxes, I finally found the family of H S Belle listed as arriving at the Port of New York on 17 Aug 1878, exactly one month after the family departed from Norway.
I was not certain at first this was MY Hans Syverson of Belden farm. I looked back at both the 1875 Norway Census and the parish Migration Record to compare the Norwegian family listings with the one on the New York passenger list. One huge difference was seeing the entire family listed on the passenger list as being from Sweden instead of Norway. The family members' names and information were generally more accurate. Below is my transcription of the passenger list with corrections made in (red).
#154 H S Belle age 44 male farmer Sweden (Norway)
#155 Mar (Marit) Belle age 43 female wife Sweden (Norway)
NOTE: daughter Marie was listed as leaving on the parish Migration Record, but she was not on the passenger list. Checking into this is definitely on my To-Do List.
#156 John Belle age 17 male laborer Sweden (Here was a big difference - no John was ever recorded as being a member of the family. However, there was a daughter Toline Belle, age 17 in 1878, who is also listed in the 1865, 1875 and 1880 censuses.)
#158 Maret (Marit) Belle age 11 male (female) child Sweden (Norway)
#159 Hans Belle age 9 male child Sweden (Norway)
#159 Ole Belle age 5 male child Sweden (Norway)
#160 Anton Belle age 3 male child Sweden (Norway)
Comparing this passenger list with information I already knew about the family, I was confident I had found the passenger list for my 2Great Uncle Hans Syversen and his family. According to SteveMorse.org, all passengers arriving in New York in 1878 would have been processed through Castle Garden so I also looked for the family using the Castle Garden database. On the Castle Garden website, I wasn't as successful in finding a listing for the family's arrival. Their website provides a template of information on individual passengers rather than digitized records that can be browsed. I never keyed in the right set of search terms to actually find the Syversen family records.
I had found the information in a few hours and without a lot of difficulties, thanks to the sliders on Ancestry.com's search screen. I thought I had established a winning sequence of research steps for tracing my Norwegian relatives on their travels to America. I couldn't wait to try it out on other relatives who I knew had immigrated to the US in the late 1800s.
To be continued ...
(1) "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957", SS Germanic, arrival Port of New York 17 Aug 1878; accessed Ancestry.com; citing National Archives M237, roll 414.