Do you have US immigrants among your ancestors? What experience did they have when they first reached America? Were they met with a bustling city, swindlers and thieves, or a hearty welcome? For many early immigrants, New York was the choice gateway into America, the “Golden Door.” Whether your ancestors simply arrived at New York harbor in America’s earliest days, passed through Castle Garden Depot from 1855–1890, or underwent inspection at Ellis Island (from 1892–1954), your ancestors’ immigration records hold lots of clues about who they were, why they came, and what experiences they had.
Before the government took control of immigration, Castle Garden was New York’s landing depot.
Millions of immigrants came through Ellis Island after it opened. Why did it replace Castle Garden?
How did the Immigration Act of 1924 impact US immigration and lead to the close of Ellis Island?
What Were Castle Garden and Ellis Island?
The United States of America offered political and religious freedom, economic opportunities, and a place for families to unite, drawing waves of immigrants beginning in the 1600s. The hope for a new life and the American dream promised a better life, and thousands made the journey to make the US their home.
With so many travelers, many fell ill on overpacked ships. To protect US citizens and immigrants alike, the State of New York opened America’s first immigration station at Castle Garden. Once a military fort on its own artificial island, Castle Garden is now part of the island of Manhattan. More than 8 million people landed here before entering America. The site has also been used as an exhibition hall, as an aquarium, and it is now a national monument.
Floating beneath the copper gaze of the Statue of Liberty in the Upper New York harbor, Ellis Island is America’s first federal immigration station. A national monument with a well-earned place in the history books, Ellis Island replaced Castle Garden as the immigrant landing hub in 1892. From its early origins as a profitable fishing spot to its significant role as a military fort and then immigration station, Ellis Island is a rich source of history, genealogical records, and immigration information. Around 12 million immigrants were processed at Ellis Island at its peak period between 1892 and 1954.
Ellis Island Time Line
Use the Ellis Island time line below to learn the major events that shaped this famous island.
Where Did the Ellis Island Immigrants Come From?
American immigrants throughout US history have come from all around the world. With several ports of entry, tracking down where your ancestors are from and which port they came through can be quite the search. Take a look at which countries Ellis Island immigrants traveled from before they made America their new home.
Famous People Who Passed through Ellis Island
Purportedly forty percent of all US residents can trace their heritage back to Ellis Island. Even if you don’t have a New York immigrant in your family tree, the New York passenger lists are a fascinating source of history. Do you recognize some of these famous people who passed through Ellis Island?