Nearly everyone living in America comes from ancestors who have immigrated to America from another country. If you are not 100% Native American then you have immigrant blood running through your veins. That means that at least one or more of your blood lines can be traced to another country. With that in mind, most of us will most likely find the New York Passenger Lists of some value as a valuable resource when researching our ancestry.
The New York Passenger Arrival Lists (1892-1924) is a name index to 25 million people (not just immigrants) who arrived in America through Ellis Island in New York from 1892 through 1924. In addition, this index includes a link to arrival lists at the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Web site.
General Information about These Records
Passenger arrival lists, known as customs manifests, date back to 1820. However, the first official emigration station for New York was Castle Garden, located at the tip of lower Manhattan. Congressional action in 1891 resulted in federal immigration officials recording each immigrant’s arrival. After January 1892, passengers arriving in New York debarked at Ellis Island, located east of Manhattan in the New York Harbor. From 1892 to 1924, almost all immigrants entered the United States through the port of New York.
The passenger arrival list was used by legal inspectors at Ellis Island to cross-examine each immigrant during a legal inspection prior to the person being allowed to live in America. Only two percent of the prospective immigrants were denied entry.
The information was supplied by the immigrant or a traveling companion (usually a family member). These indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned. In some cases, inaccurate information may have been given by the immigrant in hopes of avoiding problesm with entry into the country.
The lists consist of large sheets of paper divided into columns and rows. They are usually typewritten and occupy two pages. When you select an image to view, sometimes the manifest includes more than one page and, when you use the “click to enlarge manifest” link, the image that appears is not always the first page of the record. You may need to click on the “previous” or “next” links to view the remaining pages of the full manifest.
The card index to passenger lists includes the following information:
- Name of immigrant
- Accompanied by
- Last permanent residence
- Port of entry
- Name of vessel
- Date of arrival
Passenger lists, particularly later lists, include the following information:
- Names of immigrants and close relatives
- Birthplaces, former residences, and intended destinations
- Marital status
- Nationality and race
- Date of arrival
- Port of departure
Tips to Keep in Mind
- If your ancestor had a common name, be sure to look at all the entries for a name before you decide which is correct.
- Continue to search the passenger lists to identify siblings, parents, and other relatives in the same or other generations who may have immigrated at the same time.
- If your ancestor has an uncommon surname, you may want to obtain the passenger list of every person who shares your ancestor’s surname if they lived in the same county or nearby. You may not know how or if they are related, but the information could lead you to more information about your own ancestors.
- Arrival lists was used by legal authorities to gather personal information about immigrants prior to the person being allowed to live in the United States.
- The information was supplied by the immigrant or a traveling companion (usually a family member). Incorrect information was occasionally given, or mistakes may have been made when the clerk guessed at the spelling of foreign names.
- When you select an image to view, sometimes the manifest includes more than one page, and when you use the “click to enlarge manifest” link, the image that appears is not always the first page of the record. You may need to click on the “previous” or “next” links to view the remaining pages of the full manifest.
Related Web Sites
- NARA Passenger and Crew Lists, 1897-1957 Collection Description
- NARA New York Passenger Arrival Records,1820-1957
- NARA Reference Report New York Passenger Lists, 1897-1957
- The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.
- Ellis Island JewishGen has advanced search tools and access to lost manifests.
- Ellis Island WikiMedia Commons
- Ancestor Search
Note: Much of the content for this blog was taken from the FamilySearch Wiki page on using New York Passenger Arrival Lists. Thanks to the authors of this wiki page for their excellent research.