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I Finally Found Them!: Ship Manifest Records

Rome wasn't built in a day. The same principle applies to genealogy. When I first started researching my family tree, I didn't yet have the skillset to uncover all the records I needed. If I couldn't find something, I would leave it behind and continue onto the next.

This was the case with the ship manifest for my 2nd great-grandfather, Jacob Klane's arrival. Klane was originally Klein, so I was disheartened from the get-go searching for such a common name at the turn of the 20th century.

1905 Melrose City Directory
First known appearance for Jacob Klane in documents. This is his work address found in the Melrose, Ma city directory in 1905.

Jacob appeared in several other city directories over the years, usually living with my great-grandfather. However, I could not find him in the 1910 census living with any of his four known children or on his own.

The only information I had for his arrival to the United States was with the 1920 census, where he listed 1901 as his year of immigration. Although a good ballpark, years of arrival can be wrong, especially the more time that passes.

1920 census
1920 Census. Last line records Jacob Klane as an alien who arrived in 1901.

This was the information I had to work with. And I searched and searched and nothing. But this past summer, I decided to try again, utilizing the skills I had recently learned in the Boston University Genealogical Research Certificate program. Like I had before, I researched "Jacob Klein," and other variations of the last name (Klane was a variation on Klein). I set his year of birth to 1850 give or take 10 years and paid attention to the entries that listed from where the passengers immigrated.

But I also needed to think outside the box. I was maintaining old habits from before I knew better about names. Yes, he was always described to be as "Jacob," but that wouldn't have been his name before arriving to the U.S. It would likely be the Yiddish, "Yankel."

That was it.

Excerpt of entry for my 2nd great-grandfather "Jankel Kleine," bottom line, found on He sailed on the SS Friesland from Antwerp, Belgium, and landed at Ellis Island on 30 Sep 1902.

I couldn't believe it! What had originally seemed insurmountable obstacle was solved with a new methodology in a matter of seconds.

And then I became really ambitious. What about Jacob's wife, my 2nd great-grandmother Sophie? I checked the following page, and she wasn't there. So I used my newly acquired skills a second time.

2nd great grandmother death
Death record for my 2nd great-grandmother. This and her grave are the only evidence I have that she ever lived in the United States,

My 2nd great-grandmother wouldn't likely be Sophie back in Lithuania. Her grave listed her Hebrew name as Elisheva, which put into perspective why on my 2nd great-grandfather Jacob's death record that I ordered from the Massachusetts Archives she was listed as Seva.

Grave of Sophie Klane, buried at Shari Jerusalem Cemetery in Woburn, Ma. Photo obtained from request at

Because I felt confident my 2nd great-grandmother would probably take a similar route as the family members who had arrived before her, instead of looking broadly in the "Immigration and Travel" database on Ancestry, I focused on the New York Passenger Lists. I figured she might arrive soon after her husband, so I inputted her arrival as 1902 +/- 5 years. I attempted many different combinations for "Seva" and "Sheva," including the wildcard symbol (*), which soon led me to my second find of the day!

Excerpt of entry for my 2nd great-grandmother "Shewe Klein," Line 5, found on She sailed on the SS Vaderland from Antwerp, Belgium, and landed at Ellis Island on 14 Sep 1903.

I couldn't believe it. I had found my 2nd great-grandparents in less time than it took me to write this post. Genealogy is not a sprint, it's a marathon. With new methodologies, I was able to overcome these brickwalls and add these wonderful records to my collection.


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