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**Script Samples from Ship Manifests**
Overcoming Obstacles
Increasing the Chance of Success



It is no doubt a point of frustration for researchers like ourselves when we cannot find the name of a person we are looking for, whether it be on the Ellis Island database (or, for example, on a Federal Census report.) Each ship's officers whose job it was to inscribe the name of each emigrant into their ship's ledger had their own unique way of writing script. Little did they know that we would be so interested in researching our family's past one hundred years later. It seems that it was not until 1919-1920 that typewriters were used. This, of course, did not eliminate the problem of misspellings or human error, but greatly reduced it.

It seems that many officers were not too familiar with Yiddish names, and even if they were, knew how to spell them correctly. The fault must lie, to some extent, with the language barrier that existed between the one giving the information and the one taking it. Can we imagine what it must have been like when our ancestors would be asked their name? Would they say their name clearly, and would the officer know how to spell it? Perhaps Itzhak was said, but Itzrock was written. Perhaps a ship's officer only spoke German and would write, for example, Fishel as Fischel or Hersh as Hersch. Even if the officer had asked the emigrant to write down their name, did they know how to write? Even if they did, would they write their name legibly and spell it correctly?

Shown below are some examples of given names that were written on various ship manifests at the ports of Antwerp, Bremen and Hamburg between the years of 1899 and 1914, and entered incorrectly into the Ellis Island database. More examples will follow at a latter date, including those pertaining to errors with surnames and the small letters within the names.

You might want to look on your own for other examples in the Ellis Island database. This is  a good way of training your eye to recognize the various types of errors that may occur. By doing this, you will gain a better sense of how and why such errors have been made, and this bit of extra knowledge will give you a greater chance for successful searches in the future. This is a good exercise not just with ship manifests,  but is applicable too when searching through census reports and other handwritten documents.


In this entry, the letter “F” is mistaken for a “T.” In a 1914 Antwerp manifest, the name “Feige” is entered as “Tenje.” Note also the small letter “g” is also mistakenly written as “j,” and the “i” is mistakenly transcribed as an “n,” despite the present of a dot nearly above the “i.”
Sometimes the first letter of a given or surname is not capitalized. The “F” in Feivel, as written here on a 1904 Bremen manifest, appears to be a “small f.” The name on the EIDB is “Jemiel,” and thus an additional error is made in interpreting the “i” and “v” in Feivel as an “m” and “i.”
The given name is listed as being “Jischel” on this 1907 Hamburg manifest, though it should be “Fischel”. Note the bottom loop of the letter F (partially erased), and the horizontal line that runs through the letter.  Also, because Fischel's name was registered at a German port, the letter “c” was added to a name that might otherwise be spelled “Fishel.” Additionally, it is worthwhile to note that if there is a question about the spelling of a given name with regard to a Hamburg emigration, one can easily visit the Hamburg database at, enter the surname, and/either the year of immigration or estimated year of birth, and receive a typed version of the given name that they have entered into their database. You can then compare it to what you see on the actual ship manifest, the way it is spelled on the EIDB, and attempt to determine which is the correct spelling.

This given name should be “Grune,” though it is entered into the EIDB as “Zrune.” This error was confirmed  by comparing this capital “G” to another capital “G” on the same page, in this case, as used with the more familiar given name of “Golde.” This was taken from a 1903 Antwerp manifest.
This surname should have been listed as "Ismach," but it will be found under "Gsmach." This was found on a 1912 Hamburg ship manifest.
Here, one would be unable to find this person listed on the EIDB because her given name “Itze” is written as “Ytze." The capital letter “I” as written here can easily be mistaken for the letter “Y” or even a “T.” This was taken from a 1903 Antwerp manifest. This is not an uncommon error.
 On a 1906 Bremen manifest , this given name is written as  “Jarok,” though it should have been written as  “Izrok.” The giveaway should have been the small line written  through the second letter “z,” which is used to indicate the letter “zed” or "z."
The capital letter “J” is often misread in the script form as being an “I” or a “T,” such as in this case, where it has been transcribed as the letter “T." The name written on the EIDB is “Tochwed” instead of “Jochwed.”
This given name is listed as “Indeo” when it is really “Judes.” Also note the separation of the small letter “d.” This was taken from a 1905 Antwerp manifest.
On a 1909 Antwerp manifest, the given name “Neche” is written as “Miche.” This is not surprising, as the letter “i” is not dotted and the “c” can easily be mistaken for an “e.”
The name is written on the EIDB as “Poske” rather than “Noske,” which I propose is the correct given name. This comes from a 1908 Hamburg manifest
This given name is listed in the EIDB as “Lalmen” rather than “Salmen.” The capital letter “S” is frequently mistaken for the letter “L.” This was taken from a 1903 Antwerp manifest. This seems to be one of the more common errors made.
This is another mistake made with the capital letter “S.” Here, the name is transcribed as “Tonder,” rather than “Sender.” From an 1899 Hamburg manifest.
The capital letter “S” is again misread, this time mistaken for the letter “P” in this 1904 Bremen manifest. The name is listed as “Pimche,” rather than “Simche.”
This entry is a bit too "loopy" for its own good. Notice that nice big loop at the bottom end of the capital "Z." Believe it or not, this surname is entered on the EIDB as "Judeh." From a 1913 Rotterdam manifest.
This surname is supposed to be "Zinowicz" though it is entered onto the EIDB as "Sinowicz." This error was found on a1908 Rotterdam ship manifest.


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