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The AJHS Manuscript Catalog

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society

Type / Call #INSTITUTIONAL / I-096INDIVIDUAL CASE FILES OF REFUGEES ASSISTED BY HIAS IN IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION, BIGRAPHICAL DATA, CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN HIAS AND GOVERNMENT. FIRST GROUP CONTAINS CASES FROM 1930 - 1965. SECOND GROUP COVERS 1960'S - 1977. ALSO CONTAINS INDIVIDUAL ARRIVAL RECORDS, SHIP RECORDS, AND OTHER MISC. RECORDS.
Years1870-1977
LocalityMA, BOSTON
Size248 boxes
ScopeBoston HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society). Under call number I-96, the HIAS records of most importance to genealogical researchers are the individual arrival records. These are arranged alphabetically, for immigrants arriving in Boston, Massachusetts, or Providence, Rhode Island, between 1870 and 1929. There are also incomplete chronological lists of ship arrivals and ships' passenger lists between 1904 and 1953. The records are arranged alphabetically by arrival and by case record, not indexed.

An article on this collection, written by Linda Levine and Edmund Cohler appeared in Avotaynu, Volume II, Number 3, October, 1986, pages 10-11. Recently, Eugene M. Hirshberg, a volunteer member of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston, has recently compiled a comprehensive description of the collection, along with an inventory.

The Boston branch of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society started when an earlier, local group affiliated with New York's Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society in 1913. The name was shortened some time later. In 1977, the local Boston office was closed and all functions transferred to New York. The Boston HIAS records are now at AJHS. The records are stored in 233 numbered Hollinger boxes, with brief description labels. The records of interest to genealogists comprise most of the material and fall into three categories: arrival cards, individual case files, and passenger lists.

Boxes #223-233 are labeled "Boston Hias Box #..., Individual Arrival Records 1882-1929," followed by an alphabetic designation. These boxes contain approx 25,000 cards. Each card is either an individual or family record of arrival, with more or less of the following information listed: ship name or other transport used, age, sex, marital status, next destination, financial arrangements, whether or not detained by U.S. Immigration, relationships, U.S. person responsible for immigrants, etc. The cards are alphabetically arranged, by name.

Individual case files are contained in two groups of boxes, each box labeled "BOSTON HIAS BOX #..., Papers, Individual Cases." Boxes #1-#179 covers the 1920's through the early 1960's; and boxes #181-#210 contain some early records, but are mostly post-WWII, into the 1970's. These boxes contain an estimated 12,000 individual files, filed alphabetically. Each box contains approx. 50-60 files of individual records, by name, alphabetically arranged. In most cases, the original last name given is on the file, but searchers should be aware that spelling and name changes are always a possibility. Many name changes occurred during the correspondence period, and file headings may be by original name, other spelling, Anglicized version, or by the name of the U.S. correspondent making the inquiry. Although most records are European, there are many from Latin America, India, China, Israel, and elsewhere. Each of the individual case files may or may not contain any of the following: Correspondence, Request for Immigration, Certificate of Support by U.S. Residents, Visa Application, Certificate of Good Moral Character, Certificate of Funds Transmitted, etc. Many cases, but not all, resulted in admission to the U.S.

The remaining material, in boxes #180, #211-#222, labeled "BOSTON HIAS BOX #...," contain a variety of passenger lists, ship arrival schedules, lists of DP's (Displaced Persons), correspondence, HIAS information, and administrative files. The recently compiled inventory lists the files in each box.

All AJHS manuscript collections must be accessed in person on-site at the American Jewish Historical Society. For information on how to research the AJHS archival collections, essential information about their Reading Room and Regulations can be found at http://www.ajhs.org/reference/readingrooms.cfm.

The AJHS collections themselves are not available in any electronic form, on this website or elsewhere. The AJHS has been collecting this material for over 100 years, and preserves it in its archives in the original format, be it handwritten, typewritten, or printed. For more information on the AJHS' genealogical holdings see the article "Genealogical Resources at the American Jewish Historical Society".

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