"I am very excited about this partnership. I'm happy to partner with FamilyLink.com, Inc. because they provide a service that is affordable and easily accessed on the Internet. Knowing who came before you is a heart's desire, and it is information that is important for all of us to know," said Patty MacFarlane McCormack, Founder, Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild.
The ISTG records include information such as surname, captain's name, port of arrival/departure, and name of the ship.
"When our content acquisition team came across the ISTG records, we were looking for records from Portugal. Not only did we find records from Portugal, but passenger lists from more than 35 countries. These lists are invaluable to family historians to help locate their ancestors," said Yvette Arts, Director, Content Partnerships, FamilyLink.com, Inc.
McCormack claims the success of the site should be attributed to the 500+ people who have volunteered work on these lists over the years, including the 250 that are currently volunteers.
"I'm blessed to have volunteers who are so totally dedicated to this cause. I could not do this without them. I coordinate the overall effort, but my volunteers are some of the most dedicated people in the world," McCormack said. "Our mission statement: ‘Bringing Our Ancestors Home: Reuniting Our Families' really sums up what we are all about. People find their ancestors on our site, and they write to us. We then include any other information they can provide directly to a link on the passenger list. They are so grateful for the work we do, and we hear it every day. It is what keeps us going."
ISTG has helped thousands of individuals since McCormack began asking for volunteers to help with the transcription of the passenger lists in 1998.
At the time, McCormack was affiliated with RootsWeb's Ships List. There were many online discussions regarding how scarce passengers lists were on the Internet. Because of this, McCormack wrote to a few individuals on the listserv and told them she wanted to start a group to help bring an increased number of passenger lists online. The idea was not received very warmly. In fact, some individuals on the listserv sent discouraging remarks.
"I heard, ‘It has been tried many times before. It has always failed. You won't be able to do it. It will cost too much money, and it is impossible.' Really that is all I needed to hear, and I was determined to make it happen," McCormack said.
McCormack sent out a new email and received 20 responses from individuals who wanted to help. Not long after, 14 lists were posted on the Web from the volunteers' work and were part of the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild site.
"Transcribing manifests, with their hard-to-read handwriting, and bringing them to life online is a labor of love" said Pam O'Day, ISTG charter member and surname coordinator from Havre de Grace, MD. "My own contribution to the Guild is to upload the surnames from the manifests into alphabetic files for ease in researching. Our work will not be done until the last available manifest has been transcribed."