Immigration Records are some of the richest genealogy record sets and can provide excellent clues as well as data about your ancestors. Specifically, when they came to America, or traveled but did not immigrate. Emigration records can tell you when they left their homeland and can direct you when they might have immigrated if you are having trouble finding the immigration record.
What types of information are available in these records? First of all, let me clarify that naturalization records are a related type of record. You can discover online naturalization collections and records available via links on this website on the Naturalizations Page. In the Petition for Naturalization record for example, where and when the applicant arrived in the U.S. is stated. And the Certificate of Arrival is another immigration document used in the naturalization process.
Here’s an article that will list the information available: 45 Reasons to Research Immigration Records
Regarding immigration – it bears repeating – not EVERYONE came through Ellis Island. It was open between 1892 and 1954. Approximately 12 million people came through that immigration station. The highest year was 1907 when just over 1,000,000 people came through. For immigrants landing at the U.S, ports in the 19th century and early 20th century, the busiest ports were New York, Baltimore, Boston, New Orleans, and Philadelphia. There were almost 100 ports that were used by immigrants to enter the U.S., via the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes.
It is also helpful to review emigration records as well. It sometimes occurs that an immigration record is not available online for a variety of reasons, but you might find some useful information from emigration records where one of you’re ancestors embarked on their journey to America.
Here are a few free online sites that have online emigration records available.
Denmark – The Digital Danish Emigration Archives
Norway – Digital Archives – Emigrant Records
Germany – Oldenburg Emigrants Database
Ireland – Irish Famine Emigrants 1846-1851 database
Russia – Russians to America Passenger Data File, 1834 – 1897
Germany – Germans to America Passenger Data File, 1850 – 1897
Italy – Italians to America Passenger Data File, 1855 – 1900
Germany – Hamburg Passenger List
Also listed are passenger lists for travel that may not have been immigration-related. I have discovered interesting clues and information from non-immigration travel records as well.
Below are links to Free Online Immigration and Travel Collections. The first set is general nationwide collection links, followed by the collection links for the specific state.
Note: Some of the links listed below take you to a FamilySearch Collection of digital images. Near the bottom of the page under Film/Digital Notes is the name of each sub-collection. If there is a camera icon at the right of the name (in the Format column) then the collections’ images are browsable. If there is a camera with a key icon, it is only available at a Family History Center or affiliated library. If there is a film reel icon, then it is only available in microfilm format, not digital. To take full advantage, please make sure that you are logged in to FamilySearch. The results may be different if you are signed in, rather than not.
- Emergency Passport applications issued abroad, 1877-1907 ; Indexes, 1874-1918
- Germans from Russia, Miscellaneous Passenger Manifests
- Immigration of Germans to the United States, created, ca. 1977 – 2002, documenting the period 1850 – 1897
- Immigration of Italians to the United States, created, ca. 1977 – 2002, documenting the period 1855 – 1900
- Immigration of Russians to the United States, created, ca. 1977 – 2002, documenting the period 1834 – 1897
- Index to Mennonite Immigrants on United States Passenger Lists, 1872 – 1904
- Index to Naturalizations of World War I Soldiers, 1918
- Index to Naturalizations of World War I soldiers, 1918
- Index to the Passenger Lists to the United States from Oct. 1, 1819 to Sept. 30, 1820
- Japanese Immigrants to the United States (from BYU Idaho) , 1887-1924
- Mormon Migration Database, 1840-1932
- New York, Castle Garden
- New York, Ellis Island
- Passenger and Immigration Lists Index : a guide to published records of more than 720,000 Immigrants who came to the New World between the sixteenth and the mid- twentieth centuries
- Passenger Lists from Ireland
- Passenger Lists of Ships coming to North America, 1607-1825
- Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving in the United States register
- Pilgrim Ship Lists Early 1600’s – Several Arrival States
- Special Passports 1829-1897 ; Indexes, 1829-1894
- Supplemental Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Atlantic & Gulf Coast Ports (excluding New York)
- Swedish Passenger Arrivals in U.S. Ports, 1820-1850
- U.S., German Immigrants, 1712-1933 (free Index, images require a subscription)
- United States Immigration, Ship Arrivals & Passenger Lists
- United States, border Crossing from Canada to United States, New Brunswick, Records of Aliens Pre-Examined at Saint John, New Brunswick, Prior to Admission at the U.S.-Canada Border, 1917-1942
- United States, Border Crossings from Canada to United States, 1894-1954
- United States, Border Crossings from Canada to United States, Land Border Entries and Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 1894-1905
- United States, Border Crossings from Canada to United States, records and certificates of aliens pre-examined at Winnipeg, Manitoba prior to admission at the U.S.-Canada border, 1917-1954
- United States, Border Crossings from Canada to United States,, 1895-1956
- United States, Border Crossings from Mexico to United States,, 1903-1957
- United States, Eastern US Ports, Passenger Lists
- United States, Famine Irish Passenger Index, 1846-1851
- United States, Germans to America Index, 1850-1897
- United States, Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild
- United States, Index to Alien Case Files, 1940-2003
- United States, Index to Passenger Arrivals, Atlantic and Gulf Ports, 1820-1874
- United States, Index to Passenger Lists, 1820-1940
- United States, Italians to America Index, 1855-1900
- United States, Japanese Americans Relocated During World War II, 1942-1946
- United States, Japanese Immigration Index
- United States, New England, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1911-1954
- United States, Passport Applications, 1795-1925
- United States, Passport to Paradise : the Copenhagen “Mormon” Passenger Lists
- United States, Russians to America Index, 1834-1897
District of Columbia
- Abstract of Reports of aliens made to the clerk of the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia 1801-1829
Good Luck and Happy Hunting!