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Immigration Records

Using Immigration Records for Genealogy Research
When searching passenger arrival and immigration records, there are many factors to consider in order to successfully locate your immigrant ancestor. The peak period of American immigration occurred between 1892-1924, with the majority of these arrivals coming through the Port of New York at Ellis Island. As the number of arrivals increased, so too did the controls imposed upon steamship companies bringing passengers to American ports.

In general, the later your ancestors arrived in America, the more detail you should be able to obtain. This will hold true for both first-time arrivals, as well as for American citizens returning home from abroad. Since many passengers made multiple trips, you should be sure to evalutate each arrival for new or different information.

Listed below are the various items you may find recorded on an original ship manifest. Expect variations in handwriting from one manifest to the next (typewritten records become common about 1917/1918). Items in bold have been transcribed as part of the Ellis Island online database and appear on our commemorative Passenger Record.

— Passenger Lists and Immigration Records Online —
First Name (Optional)

Last Name

Ship Name (Optional)
Approximate Year of Arrival  from to      

Beginning in 1892:
Port of Departure
• Date of Departure
Port of Arrival
Date of Arrival
Name of Ship
Line Number (as assigned)
Passenger Name
Age (Years/Months)
• Calling (Occupation)
• The Country of Citizenship
• Native Country
• Whether can read or write
• Intended Destination or location
• Number of pieces of baggage
• Location of Compartment or space occupied.
   Specify whether forward, amidships or aft
• Date and Cause of Death
• Whether Visitors only, or intending to be permanent settlers

Appearing by 1893:
• Last Place of Residence
• Citizen of USA

Appearing by 1894:
• Marital Status

Appearing by 1897:
• Final Destination in US (State, City or Town)
• Whether Having a Ticket to Final Destination
• Who paid for passage
• Whether in possession of $30 (or more/less)
• Whether in US before (and when)
• Whether going to join a friend/relative and their address
• Ever in prison/almshouse/supported by charity
• Polygamist
• Whether under contract (express or implied) to labor in the US
• Condition of health (Mental and Physical)
• Deformed or cripled (nature and cause)

View sample manifests from January 1892 (below left) or October 1899 (below right).

Ellis Island Passenger List, Port of New York, 1892 Ellis Island Passenger List, Port of New York, 1899

Appearing by 1906:
• Declaration of cash now $50 (previously $30)
• Race or People

Appearing by 1907:
• Passenger Name now appears separated as Family Name / Given Name
• Personal Description (Height, Feet/Inches)
• Complexion
• Color of Eyes/Hair
• Marks of Identification
• Place of Birth (Country, City/Town)
• Name and address of nearest relative/friend in country of origin
• If previously in US (1897), how many years and where
• Anarchist

Appearing by 1917:
• Purpose for coming to the US

Appearing by 1924:
• Immigration Visa Number (and place and date of issue)

By the end of 1907, nearly all passenger manifests required two-page forms to accomodate the additional reporting requirements for each passenger.  Click on the miniature manifest images immediately below to view a sample two-page manifest from November 1919: 1919 (Page 1) at left and 1919 (Page 2) at right.

Ellis Island Passenger List, Port of New York, 1919 Ellis Island Passenger List, Port of New York, 1919

— Passenger Lists and Immigration Records Online —
First Name (Optional)

Last Name

Ship Name (Optional)
Approximate Year of Arrival  from to      

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