New York Emigration and Immigration

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Immigrants Behold the Statue of Liberty.jpg
Arriving immigrants behold the Statue of Liberty.

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door! [1]

Emma Lazarus, 1883

How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Ellis island 1902.jpg

A large number of immigrants coming to the United States landed in New York. There were three different ports in New York City from 1855 to 1954, where passengers landed: Castle Garden, the Barge Office, and Ellis Island. Regardless of whether your ancestor arrived in New York City during the Castle Garden, Barge Office, or Ellis Island period, you can search the same ship manifests.

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

1803-1930 Vol. 2; index only
1802-1930 Vol. 3; index only
1710-1939 Vol. 4; index only
1823-1936 Vol. 5; index only
1624-1941 Vol. 6; index only

Cultural Groups[edit | edit source]

Offices to Contact[edit | edit source]

Although many records are included in the online records listed above, there are other records available through these archives and offices. For example, there are many minor ports that have not yet been digitized. There are also records for more recent time periods. For privacy reasons, some records can only be accessed after providing proof that your ancestor is now deceased.

National Archives and Records Administration[edit | edit source]

  • You may do research in immigration records in person at the National Archives Building, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408-0001.

U.S. Citizenship and and Immigration Services Genealogy Program[edit | edit source]

The USCIS Genealogy Program is a fee-for-service program that provides researchers with timely access to historical immigration and naturalization records of deceased immigrants. If the immigrant was born less than 100 years ago, you will also need to provide proof of his/her death.

Immigration Records Available[edit | edit source]
  • A-Files: Immigrant Files, (A-Files) are the individual alien case files, which became the official file for all immigration records created or consolidated since April 1, 1944.
  • Alien Registration Forms (AR-2s): Alien Registration Forms (Form AR-2) are copies of approximately 5.5 million Alien Registration Forms completed by all aliens age 14 and older, residing in or entering the United States between August 1, 1940 and March 31, 1944.
  • Registry Files: Registry Files are records, which document the creation of immigrant arrival records for persons who entered the United States prior to July 1, 1924, and for whom no arrival record could later be found.
  • Visa Files: Visa Files are original arrival records of immigrants admitted for permanent residence under provisions of the Immigration Act of 1924.[2]
Requesting a Record[edit | edit source]

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society[edit | edit source]

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society will search their indexes and files at no charge. Supply the individual ancestor's name as spelled at the time of arrival and, if known, the year and port of entry and relatives traveling with the ancestor. It also helps to give birth and last known address. Records of Jewish immigrants since 1909 are at:

United Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society Service
200 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10003

Telephone: 212-967-4100

Orphan Out-migration[edit | edit source]

  • From about 1854–1929, some 100,000 homeless children from New York City were "placed out" to families in upstate New York and the midwestern states. They are frequently referred to as the orphan train children.

New York agencies that have records are:

  • New York Children's Aid Society
    Adoption and Foster Home Division
    150 East 45th Street
    New York, NY 10017
    Phone: 212-949-4800
    Fax: 212-682-8016
    (Organized in 1853)
  • New York Foundling Hospital (Catholic)
    590 Avenue of the Americas
    New York, NY 10011
    Phone: 212-633-9300
    Fax: 212-886-4048
    (Organized in 1869 and began placing out children in 1873)
Guide to the Records of the New York Foundling Hospital

Societies[edit | edit source]

Finding Town of Origin[edit | edit source]

Records in the countries emigrated from are kept on the local level. You must first identify the name of the town where your ancestors lived to access those records. If you do not yet know the name of the town of your ancestor's birth, there are well-known strategies for a thorough hunt for it.

Background[edit | edit source]

  • During the 17th century, Dutch trading posts established for the trade of pelts from the Lenape, Iroquois, and other tribes were founded in the colony of New Netherland.
  • Both the Dutch and the British imported African slaves as laborers to the city and colony; New York had the second-highest population of slaves after Charleston, South Carolina. Slavery was extensive in New York City and some agricultural areas. The state passed a law for the gradual abolition of slavery soon after the Revolutionary War, but the last slave in New York was not freed until 1827.
  • In the 1620s and 1630s, the Dutch and Walloons (French-speaking Belgians) settled in the Hudson Valley and on western Long Island.
  • Ulster Scots, or Scotch-Irish, settled near the Hudson River in Orange and Ulster counties in the late 1600s.
  • German "Palatines" came in 1709/10 to the upper Hudson Valley, near present-day Germantown, Columbia County. Many had been lured to America after reading the "Golden Book," published by British authorities, to promote the colonization of America. After arriving in New York and working in the tar and naval stores industries to pay off their passage, they found themselves landless, and in an undeveloped wilderness. The British failed to keep their promise to grant each immigrant 40 acres of land for emigrating. Many ventured to the unsettled Schoharie Valley backcountry and purchased land from Indians. They established seven villages. [3]
  • Large numbers of Irish and Germans came to New York cities in the mid-1800s. The Irish tended to settle in New York and other large cities, such as Albany, and along the canal. Large numbers of Germans settled in New York City, Buffalo, and Rochester.
  • New York was the destination for millions of southern and eastern Europeans, especially Italians and Russian Jews, from about 1890–1910.
  • According to immigration statistics, the state is a leading recipient of migrants from around the globe. New York State has the second-largest international immigrant population in the country among the American states, at 4.2 million as of 2008; most reside in and around New York City, due to its size, high profile, vibrant economy, and cosmopolitan culture. New York has a pro-sanctuary city law.
  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, New York has a racial and ethnic makeup of 55.1% non-Hispanic whites, 14.2% blacks or African Americans, 0.2% American Indians or Alaska Natives, 8.6% Asians, 0.6% from some other race, 2.1% from two or more races, and 19.3% Hispanics or Latin Americans of any race. There were an estimated 3,725 Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders in the state in 2019. Hispanics or Latin Americans of any race were 17.6% of the population in 2010; 2.4% were of Mexican, 5.5% Puerto Rican, 0.4% Cuban, and 9.4% other Hispanic or Latino origin. According to the 2010–2015 American Community Survey, the largest ancestry White American groups were Italian (13.0%), Irish (12.1%), German (10.3%), American (5.4%), and English (5.2%).[4]

Immigration Records[edit | edit source]

Immigration refers to people coming into a country. Emigration refers to people leaving a country to go to another. Immigration records usually take the form of ship's passenger lists collected at the port of entry. See Online Resources.

What can I find in them?[edit | edit source]

Information in Passenger Lists[edit | edit source]

  • Before 1820 - Passenger lists before 1820 included name, departure information and arrival details. The names of wives and children were often not included.
  • 1820-1891 - Customs Passenger Lists between 1820 and 1891 asked for each immigrant’s name, their age, their sex, their occupation, and their country of origin, but not the city or town of origin.
  • 1891-1954 - Information given on passenger lists from 1891 to 1954 included:
    • name, age, sex,
    • nationality, occupation, marital status,
    • last residence, final destination in the U.S.,
    • whether they had been to the U.S. before (and if so, when, where and how long),
    • if joining a relative, who this person was, where they lived, and their relationship,
    • whether able to read and write,
    • whether in possession of a train ticket to their final destination, who paid for the passage,
    • amount of money the immigrant had in their possession,
    • whether the passenger had ever been in prison, a poorhouse, or in an institution for the insane,
    • whether the passenger was a polygamist,
    • and immigrant's state of health.
  • 1906-- - In 1906, the physical description and place of birth were included, and a year later, the name and address of the passenger’s closest living relative in the country of origin was included.

Information in Passports[edit | edit source]

Over the years, passports and passport applications contained different amounts of information about the passport applicant. The first passports that are available begin in 1795. These usually contained the individual's name, description of individual, and age. More information was required on later passport applications, such as:

  • Birthplace
  • Birth date
  • Naturalization information
  • Arrival information, if foreign born

In-Country Migration[edit | edit source]

Pre-Revolutionary War

  • Before 1775, settlement in New York was confined to the Hudson, Mohawk, Schoharie, and Delaware valleys until after the Revolutionary War.
  • During and after the war, New Yorkers loyal to the King of England emigrated to Canada and elsewhere.
  • The Revolutionary War temporarily halted further expansion into the interior. Once the war was over, and the title to western lands was obtained from the Iroquois in 1786, New Englanders flocked to all parts of the state.
  • In the two decades after the war, 500,000 new settlers came into New York, and the state tripled its population.

Pre-Civil War

  • Before 1861, cities along migration routes such as Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo prospered.
  • Natives of other states such as New Jersey, Connecticut, and Vermont moved to New York in large numbers during the pre-Civil War era.

New York Migration Routes[edit | edit source]

Ellis Island, Castle Garden, etc. · Atlantic Coast Ports · Lake Champlain · Lake Erie · Lake Ontario · Long Island Sound · Hudson River · Mohawk River · St. Lawrence River · Chambly Canal · Champlain Canal · Delaware and Raritan Canal · [1] · Albany Post Road · Catskill Turnpike · Forbidden Path · Great Genesee Road · Great Shamokin Path · Greenwood Road · Hudson River Path · King's Highway  · Boston Post Road · Lake Champlain Trail · Lake Shore Path  · Lehigh and Lackawanna Paths · Minsi Path · Mohawk or Iroquois Trail · New York Turnpikes · Old Connecticut Path

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Emma Lazarus, excerpt from The New Colossus in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 21 March 2012).
  2. "Genealogy", at USCIS,, accessed 26 March 2021.
  3. Henry Z. Jones, Ralph Connor, and Klaus Wust, German Origins of Jost Hite, Virginia Pioneer, 1685-1761 (Edinburg, Va.: Shenandoah History, c1979). FHL Book 929.273 H637j.
  4. "New York (state)", in Wikipedia,, accessed 8 April 2021.