Searching the various online genealogy databases can be time-consuming and even difficult. Names have often changed in spelling or were recorded improperly over the years. While most genealogy databases can search by Soundex, that method is rather primitive and little changed since 1918, when Robert Russell invented the Soundex Code. Today's computers should be able to do better. Thanks to Stephen Morse, your computer can do better right now.
Stephen Morse has found better ways of searching large genealogy databases. His "One-Step Portal" offers many search capabilities not found in the usual offerings from Ancestry.com, RootsWeb, the Ellis Island online database, or the Social Security Death Indexes. The "One-Step Portal" does not have its own databases. Instead, it performs better and more efficient searches of other databases than what the original database providers provide.
Let's take an example that is described on Morse's web site. You can go to the Ellis Island web site to search for the immigration record of the famous composer, Irving Berlin. There's only one problem: this database does not list anyone of that name as ever immigrating to the United States. You can search for information about Irving Berlin on Google or other major general-purpose search engines and learn the following:
- The composer's first name at birth was Israel, not Irving.
- His original surname was either Baline, Berlin, or Bailin, depending upon which source you read.
- He was born in 1888.
- He came to the US in 1893 with his parents.
- His father was Moses Baline, Berlin, or Bailin.
- His mother's first name was either Leah or Lena.
With this information, you can go back to the Ellis Island web site and search again. You are presented with a form that simply asks for first and last name; so, you enter "Israel Bailin" and get a response of "No records found."
If you go to Stephen Morse's One-Step Portal, you will notice search tools available with more capabilities. You can enter the information that you know about Irving in one step: a first name of Israel, a last name that sounds like Bailin or something similar, born in 1888, and arrived in 1893. Click on SEARCH and exactly one immigration record will be retrieved:
First Name: Israel
Last Name: Beilin
Last Place of Residence:
Date of Arrival: September 14, 1893
Age at Arrival: 5y
Ship of Travel: Rhynland
Port of Departure: Antwerp
Manifest Line Number: 0052
His name on the manifest is Beilin, not Bailin, which is why you couldn't find him when searching on the Ellis Island website directly.
Clicking on the link to view the original, hand-written entry, you learn that he was accompanied by his father, Moses Beilin, a Jewish butcher from Russia. Also notice that his mother's name, which was given as Lena or Leah on different web pages, is written on the Ellis Island manifest as Leo! No wonder he was difficult to find in the Ellis Island database, and yet the One-Step Portal found him with ease. Irving Berlin's older brother, Benjamin, is also listed, as are several others listed as "servants" but also having the same last name of Beilin.
There are three One-Step forms for searching for passengers in the Ellis Island database. They are the so-called white form, blue form, and gray form. The white form searches all 25 million passengers in the database; the blue form searches only the 1 million Jewish passengers but provides for added search capabilities; the gray form searches all 25 million with the added capabilities but with some other capabilities missing. Detailed instructions for each are available on the One-Step Portal.
Again, there are no records stored on the One-Step Portal. Instead, that web site searches the Ellis Island database but in better ways than those provided by the Ellis Island Foundation's own programmers.
The Ellis Island searches are free and open to everyone although you may have to pay a fee to view certain pages.
Stephen Morse did not stop with Ellis Island, however. The One-Step Portal also has enhanced searches of:
- Castle Garden and earlier ship arrivals (Castle Garden was the place of entry before Ellis Island opened in 1892)
- Baltimore immigrations
- Boston immigrations
- Galveston immigrations
- Philadelphia immigrations
- San Francisco immigrations
- U.S. Census searches by name
- Brooklyn, NY 1925 Census
- Find almost anyone's birthday (mostly living people)
- Social Security Death Records
- New York Naturalization Records
- New York Incarceration records
- New York City Birth, Marriage and Death records
- Illinois Death Records (pre-1916)
- U.S. Telephone Book Listings
- And more…
Each of these improved searches operates in loosely the same manner as the Ellis Island searches: there are no records stored on the One-Step Portal. Instead, it searches other databases. Most of these additional databases are on Ancestry.com or other for-pay sites. In order to conduct these searches, you must already be a paid subscriber to the primary database. While the One-Step Portal creates improved queries for you, the search is conducted under your user name and password.
One exception to note is the Social Security Death Index (SSDI): it is free and open to everyone. If you have done extensive lookups before in the Social Security Death Index, you already know that there are several SSDI websites, and each one has a different set of limitations.
For instance, the SSDI database on RootsWeb:
- requires at least three characters for partial names
- does not allow you to search on a range of years
- does not allow you to search on age
- does not allow you to search on a foreign last residence
- does not allow you to specify day of month for death
The One-Step Portal solves these limitations and more. It provides more search options than any other SSDI site.
The One-Step Search Portal is a handy tool for almost all genealogists researching American ancestry. If you'd like to try Stephen Morse's One-Step Search Portal, go to http://www.stevemorse.org