From Whence the Grass Card Came

This is just the index card.

It’s not the actual record and it’s not the end of my search.. Like any index card, it is a means to an end.

This card was part of an index created to index passenger lists before there were computerized indexes. These cards were microfilmed by the National Archives to facilitate their use in additional facilities and to make it easier for names to be found in the passenger manifests held by the National Archives.

Some may wonder why they were digitized when the manifests have been microfilmed and digitized and indexed (as well. Aren’t the cards duplicating the original records?


From a research standpoint, indexes created years ago can still be helpful. Perhaps the indexer creating the card was better trained in reading the original records, perhaps they were using an image that was easier to read. Sometimes (but not in this case) the index may index a record that is no longer even available.

This index card was obtained at MyHeritage. This is the citation suggested for the image:

Baltimore, Maryland, Passenger List Card Index, 1820-1897 [online database]. Lehi, UT, USA: MyHeritage (USA) Inc.

Johs Grass
Country: United States; State: Maryland; City: Baltimore

Johs Grass
Birth: Circa 1819
Arrival: 1881 – Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Origin: Germany
Ship: Hermann

The information is not in “proper” citation format. That’s not a problem as long as all the information is there. In this case all the information is not there.  What’s missing is that the card was actually in a National Archives microfilm publication: NARA publication M327: Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Baltimore (Federal Passenger Lists), 1820-1897. The title is in the citation information given by MyHeritage. I don’t need all the information off the card in order to cite it, but I do need the information where the card was originally published. MyHeritage was not the original publisher of these cards–the National Archives was. There is adequate information to allow me to know where I obtained this image.

But knowing where MyHeritage got it as well is important. That way I know if I see digital images of NARA publication M327 on another site that I don’t need to search them again for Johs. Grass–I already have it. Knowing exactly what I’ve got and how it came to me is one essential aspect of citation.

It also helps me to save time–by not searching the exact same thing more than once.

In an upcoming post, we’ll look at the actual manifest and see if this is my Johs. Grass or not.

Note: These index cards are also available for free on FamilySearch at




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