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IKK member Melody Carter has asked for and gotten permission to copy and paste the following article:

         By Patty MacFarlane McCormack
            ISTG Founder/Coordinator

[When I was a young girl, I would sit with my grandmother at the huge oak dining room table on gloomy Saturday afternoons. As the rain trickled down the window panes behind the lace curtains and spilled off the eaves onto the Lily of the Valley planted along the side of the house, we would label the back of old sepia hotographs and file yellowed newspaper clippings in a shoebox. Over the years, one shoebox became many.

My grandmother died on 2 December 1980, almost two months after my fifth child was born and my mother became the family historian. She continued the shoebox tradition for many years with the help of my three younger sisters and brother, as I was now living in another state.

I returned home when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996. With video camera in hand, my two youngest children and I walked the cemeteries in Rome, New York with her. I filmed the tombstones of our ancestors and she spoke, piecing together the history of our lives, holding to her firm belief that we needed to know those who came before us.

Like an unbroken link, she with me as I came into the world and I at her side as she left it, the torch was passed to me in July of 1998. I returned to my home in Colorado with boxes of our treasured past and a burning desire to discover even more. I sought out information on the Internet which was not there and soon knew the frustration of so many others on the same quest.

That same year, in honor of my grandmother and my mother, Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild was born on September 16th, the week of both their birthdays. We seek to help you know the brave souls who dared to cross the sea, how and why they came, what they may have endured to get here and how they are a part of the tapestry of  your life. The threads of your tapestry are many; some dance with brilliant colors, others are dark and frayed, yet every thread contributes to its beauty. In present day, precious threads of my tapestry include a wonderful man, six children and eleven grandchildren, with number twelve about to enter the design in March.]

The Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild ("ISTG" or "the Guild") has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1998. The original group of 16 volunteers has grown to 500 volunteers who span the globe. They all hold dear the philosophy that the search for records of our ancestors' immigration should be easier than it has been in the past.

The mind-numbing work of searching through microfilmed passenger lists can take a toll on just about anyone. Many people do not have a facility nearby, many lack the good eyesight it requires, and many are nearly housebound for one reason or another. Now volunteers decipher and transcribe passenger lists which then are uploaded to the ISTG Web site. The Guild now has its own microfilm reader/copier and a small, but steadily expanding, library of films from which to work. Lists are copied and mailed to the volunteers, who work with a buddy to assure the best possible tanscription.

Volumes 1-5 each contain 1,000 transcribed passenger lists and Volume 6 is working its way toward another thousand as new lists are added several times each week. The index in each volume has a search engine at the bottom of the page and the entire ISTG Web site is easily searched by using it. Each volume also can be searched manually by name of ship, port of departure, port of arrival, name of passenger, or captain's name.

The search by surname option recently has been expanded to include the full names of each passenger and their number on the passenger list. This helps researchers identify parents with children of the same name, and having the passenger number available makes the data easy to locate on the list. We also include in the full name search any and all possibilities the transcriber notes when a name on the microfilm is difficult to read or in doubt. For example, you will find several variations of a passenger name to allow for phonetic spelling or difficulty in communicating, and also the name of friends or relatives the passenger intends to join as well as the name of the nearest living relative in the country left behind (included on many of the passenger lists in the late 1800s). The name of the relative further assists the researcher because it reveals who in the family had already arrived, who remained at home, and where that home was.

Other passenger list projects linked from the ISTG Web page are: The Bremen Project; 1889 Austria, Poland and Galicia Immigrants; Irish to Argentina; WW II Refugees to Australia; 1901-1903 Ships Project; and Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada 1851-1872.

A recent addition to ISTG are maritime news article excerpts from Irish newspapers from 1700 to 1912, contributed primarily by Dennis Ahern, with some contributions by Cathy Joynt and Alison Causton. The names of ships and surnames mentioned in the articles are indexed. Please visit Ships News of the Past. Under General News you will find a wealth of information contributed by Barbara Anderson. The articles are from the ROMAN CITIZEN newspaper, Rome, Oneida County, New York. ISTG wishes to thank these contributors publicly for their generous donation to the ISTG Maritime News Project.

I think we all enjoy looking at the old photographs that have been passed down for many generations. You can submit photos of your ancestors and view those submitted by others by checking out Immigrant Pictures. You'll also find nautical poems and other musings, the 1820 Act re: Passenger Lists and ISTG's stupendous THE COMPASS.

THE COMPASS is a guide to assist in the search for immigrant-related information and its aim is to provide the best and most up-to-date information available with special emphasis on passenger lists, ships, ship images and descriptions, emigrant and ethnic databases, and resources such as archives, libraries and museums online and offline. There are in-depth descriptions of each site, and some, due to the extensive amount of information, are listed under more than one topic.

Many ports of entry in the United States and other countries tell a story. THE COMPASS offers letters and diaries written by immigrants and published articles about their experiences. Information is provided about specific ships and shipwrecks, some rescues but many whose fate is unknown.

There are lists of sites on the Internet with passenger lists, regardless of the number of passengers on any given list. With each site you are given the ship's name, the port and date of departure, and the port and date of arrival, if known. If you find something that sounds like a possible connection, you can use the link to that site where you will find the actual list. You don't have to go through a number of links to get to a list, only to discover that the list you are looking at not only is from the wrong country but also perhaps the wrong century.

The ISTG COMPASS tries to simplify your immigrant research, which often can be a confusing and overwhelming task. Thousands of hours have gone into this area of ISTG and we hope you will find it helpful.

Maintaining a free access site such as ISTG requires some financial support. By purchasing items from links in the ISTG Mall you can contribute to the continuation of the ISTG project. A small percentage of each sale resulting from the link on the ISTG site is paid to ISTG to help cover expenses. Items in the ISTG Mall include maritime books, genealogy books, posters, audio/video, and many other miscellaneous items. [Editor's Note: This item caught my eye: "SHE CAPTAINS: HEROINES AND HELLIONS OF THE SEA, by Joan Durett. This maritime history chronicles the lives and exploits of warrior women who sailed the seas from the times of the Greeks and Romans up to the 19th century."]

If you find an ancestor on a ship on ISTG and would like your ancestor's name to be linked to your e-mail address or Web page, please submit information about the passenger, where settled, children, and even a photo if you have one, along with the name of the ship and date of arrival. This information should be sent to Sheila Tate , Production Coordinator. Also let the transcriber know that their hard work has benefited you by clicking on their name, found at the bottom of the manifest.