|First and second pages of NY passenger list of Taormina|
with names crossed off, Jan 28, 1914
What it generally meant was that the individual got on the ship but didn't get off at that port of arrival. This could have been because the individual died while on board, but it could also mean that they simply remained on board until disembarking at a secondary port of call. This was the case with some of my ancestors, who arrived in New York on January 28, 1914 on board the Taormina, but their names are crossed off so they didn't got off the ship there. There is then a second passenger list from their arrival in Philadelphia a couple days later on January 30, 1914 where their names were not crossed off.
|Australia Domenica Scioli was born and died on board the ship she was|
named after in 1880 - while it notes she died, her name is not crossed off
As for the idea that crossing off passengers from the list could mean they never boarded to begin with, this just isn't possible, at least not until there was a record kept of who had purchased tickets produce in their name. Otherwise, the person compiling the ship's passenger list had no way of knowing who had purchased a ticket or who intended to board, so the list could only be compiled from the names of people who did actually board the ship.
|First and second pages of Philadelphia passenger list of|
Taormina with names of those crossed off in NY,
Jan 30, 1914
So if you see an ancestor or relative whose name is crossed off on a passenger list, don't assume they died on board, or never boarded to begin with. Do some more investigating to see if the ship carried onto another port of call where they might have disembarked. If you're not finding anything by searching for the person's name, try searching by the arrival year and the ship's name. The arrival port officers were working off of the ship's records, which meant the handwriting could sometimes be misinterpreted and copied incorrectly (this doesn't mean a misspelling was a permanent name change). And of course, there's always the digital transcription which could be incorrect too and preventing you from finding the record by the individual's name. This also works for when you may have gotten an individual's immigration data from a naturalization record but can't find the passenger list by searching by name. Of course, by the time of naturalization, the individual may have been misremembering the exact details of their immigration so if you don't find the passenger list by the arrival date and ship name, you may need to make use of wildcards in the name. You can use a '?' in place of a letter, or an '*' in place of several letters but you must have at least three real letters in there for it to work.