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 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.
Below are state by state links to a page that lists links to immigration and travel collections that are available for free to search and browse.
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, listed by state are links to Free Online Immigration and Travel Collections. Preceding the state by state lists are collections that are for the entire country:
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.
(Updated August, 2020; recently added links are in BOLD):
Lists of Aliens Arriving at Brownsville, Del Rio, Eagle Pass, El Paso, Laredo, Presidio, Rio Grande City, and Roma, Texas, May 1903-June 1909, and at Aros Ranch, Douglas, Lochiel, Naco and Nogales, Arizona, July 1906-December 1910
District of Columbia
Alphabetical card Manifests of Alien Arrivals at Alexandria Bay, Cape Vincent, Champlain, Clayton, Fort Covington, Mooers, Rouses Point, Thousand Island Bridge, and Trout River, New York, July 1929-April, 1956
Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, 1897-1942; Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, June 16, 1897- June 30, 1902 ; Index (soundex) to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, July 1, 1902-July 1, 1948
The Original Lists of Persons of Quality: Emigrants; Religious Exiles; Political Rebels; Serving Men Sold for a Term of Years; Apprentices; Children Stolen; Maidens Pressed; and Others Who Went from Great Britain to the American Plantations, 1600-1700
Lists of Aliens Arriving at Brownsville, Del Rio, Eagle Pass, El Paso, Laredo, Presidio, Rio Grande City, and Roma, May 1903-June 1909, and at Aros Ranch, Douglas, Lochiel, Naco and Nogales, Arizona, July 1906-December 1910
Washington, Manifests of alien and selected U.S. Citizen arrivals at Anacortes, Danville, Ferry, Laurier, Lynden, Marcus, Metaline Falls, Northport, Oroville, Port Angeles, and Sumas, Washington, 1917-1956
Good Luck and Happy Hunting!