Saving Ellis Island Manifests

Genealogists familiar with the Ellis Island database are probably also familiar with the fact that one can't copy the images of the original manifests that are on that site. Well, copying manifest images is permitted, and this article tells you how to do it. Ordinarily one can right click on any image in a Web browser window and the browser will pop up a little menu with a number of choices including "Save image...". But if one right clicks on an Ellis Island manifest image, the browser pops up a message saying "This function is disabled!" as in this screenshot. After reading this article, you'll be able to reply, "Ha! That's what you think!"

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, or "SOLEIF" as they refer to themselves, try to prevent visitors to their Web site from copying original manifest images. But according to the terms of service on SOLIEF's Web site, ", copy, store [or] print...any Information solely for your personal, non-commercial use...". They even capitalize the word "Information" so you know they're serious! =) They note that you also must agree not to "download, copy, or store any Information for non-personal use, including, but not limited to, posting or making available such Information on an internet website, whether in isolation or as part of a collection of Information". I am not a lawyer and I don't even play one on television, so I'll leave it up to you and your legal experts to decide how to play nice with these terms and whether or not their terms of service can abrogate your Fair Use rights.

The Instructions

Once you have a manifest image page open and enlarged, the manifest image is displayed in a browser window with a title like "Manifest Enlarger". The instructions below start from that point. Scroll through these instructions until you find the browser you use. They're most complicated for Internet Explorer and Safari users. Given that Internet Explorer has the added disadvantages of being insecure and not displaying some Web sites properly (like this one), I recommend that you try a browser other than Internet Explorer for following these instructions and for everyday use as well. Opera and Firefox are excellent, free alternatives -- they're both more secure than Microsoft's product, and Opera is especially fast.

Firefox 1.x

Firefox is my browser of choice.

If for some reason you can't or don't want to follow these steps, you can follow the steps for Netscape and they'll work for you, too. But the steps below are a whole lot easier because you only have to go through them once.

    1. If you're using Windows: with the manifest window open, go back to the main Ellis Island window and select Tools/Options... from the menu. Firefox displays the Options dialog.
    2. If you're using Mac OS X: with the manifest window open, open the Preferences pane from the Firefox menu.
    1. If you have Firefox 1.0x, click the "Web Features" icon.
    2. If you have Firefox 1.5, click the "Content" icon.
  1. Click the "Advanced..." button next to the checkbox that says "Enable JavaScript"
  2. Disable the option that allows scripts to "Disable or replace context menus" as in this screenshot.
  3. Click OK. Firefox returns you to the Options dialog; click OK there, too.
  4. Switch back to the manifest window if you're not there already.
  5. Right click on the manifest. The message that says "This function is disabled!" still appears, but the Firefox context menu appears immediately after. Select "Save Image As..."

There's no need to undo the settings change you made here; it won't interfere with your Web browsing and it doesn't pose a security risk.


Safari is Apple's default browser.
  1. From the Safari menu, open the Preferences pane.
  2. Click the "Security" icon.
  3. UNcheck "Enable Javascript" as in this screenshot.
  4. Close the Preferences pane.
  5. Switch back to the manifest window.
  6. Hit ⌘-R (Command-R) to reload the page.
  7. Right click on the manifest image. Safari pops up a context menu that includes the option "Save Image to the Desktop".

Note: The changes you made disabled Javascript for Safari, which means that the Ellis Island site (and others) won't work anymore. Repeat steps 1 - 3 to re-enable Javascript. If you have a bunch of manifests that you want to save, you'll have to repeat these steps for each one. Note that Firefox and Opera don't have that restriction, so if you have a lot of manifests that you want to download, it'd be worth your while to download Firefox or download Opera.


Netscape is AOL's version of Mozilla Firefox.

My instructions for Netscape take a different approach compared to the other browsers listed on this page. That's because the approach described below works with all versions of Netscape and is less of a pain in the arse than messing around with Netscape's Javascript options. ("All versions of Netscape" means "all versions available when I wrote this in January 2006". It also works in Firefox, on which Netscape is based.)

These instructions only work for Netscape 6.0 and newer. If you're using a 4.x version of Netscape, I commend your loyalty and patience but urge you to switch to something newer!

  1. On the manifest window, right click on the above below the title bar and above the image. Netscape responds with a popup menu of about a dozen options, including "Save Page As...". Do not click on the manifest image itself or all you'll get is the "This function is disabled!" message. I have a screen shot that shows the safe click zone.
  2. Select File/Save Page As...
  3. Enter a filename and make sure the "Save As Type" is "Web page, complete" as in this screenshot. Click Save. For this example, we'll assume that you save to your Desktop and you use the filename foo.html.
  4. Get the Netscape window out of the way (minimizing it is fine) so you can see your Desktop, or open whatever folder to which you saved foo.html. There you'll find a new folder called foo_files. Open that folder.
  5. Inside foo_files you'll find another folder called zoomMan_data. Open that folder. Inside you'll find a file called tif2gif.gif. That's your manifest image. Move it somewhere else. You probably also want to rename it. I developed a naming convention of LastnameFirstnameYearOfEmigration.gif and it works for me pretty well.
  6. Once you've move your manifest GIF file somewhere else, you can delete the file foo.htm and the folder foo_files from your Desktop.

Konqueror and Opera

Opera is the fastest browser in the West.
Apple based their flagship browser on Konqueror.

Konqueror and Opera users have nothing to worry about. If you right click on a manifest image while using one of these browsers, you'll see a normal popup menu instead of the "This function is disabled!" message. It's like having a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card. =)

I tested Konqueror 3.5.4 under FreeBSD 6.0, Opera 8.5 under OS X and Opera 7.54 under Windows.

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer is the virus creator's best friend!
  1. With the manifest window open, go back to the main Ellis Island window and select Tools/Internet Options... from the menu. IE displays the Options dialog.
  2. Click the Security tab. Select the "Internet" content zone if it isn't already selected.
  3. Click the "Custom Level" button at the bottom. IE displays the "Security Settings" dialog.
  4. Scroll down to the section on Scripting. Find and disable the "Active Scripting" option as in this screenshot.
  5. Click OK. IE returns you to the Internet Options dialog; click OK there too.
  6. Switch back to the manifest window.
  7. Hit Ctrl+R to reload the window. IE will reload the page, this time with Javascript turned off.
  8. When the page is done loading, right click on the image. IE will display a normal context menu that includes an item called "Save Picture As..."

Note: The changes you made disabled Javascript for IE, which means that the Ellis Island site (and others) won't work anymore. Follow steps 1 - 4 to re-enable Active Scripting (Microsoft's name for Javascript, I guess). If you have a bunch of manifests that you want to save, you'll have to repeat these steps for each one. Note that Opera and Firefox don't have that restriction, so if you have a lot of manifests that you want to download, it'd be worth your while to download Opera or download Firefox. They're free! They're fast (especially Opera)! They're safer than IE!


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All contents © 2020 Philip Semanchuk under a Creative Commons License.