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Chapter 5:
By Jo Anne Sadler - 2003

Port of New York Passenger Records

Through a joint venture with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints and the Ellis Island Foundation, the Port of New York Federal Custom Declarations/Passenger Manifests for the period 1892-1924 are now available online through -

There are no surviving Ellis Island records; the Immigration logs were destroyed in a fire in the 1920's. In processing immigrants, the Inspectors utilized the Federal Custom Declarations/Passenger Manifests provided by the ship captains to process the immigrants and referred to the names as provided on the lists.

Only Third Class passengers were processed on Ellis Island; First and Second Class were processed aboard the ship. If you find someone on this website, it does not necessarily mean that they were admitted to this country on Ellis Island. After 1924, all passengers entering the Port of New York were processed aboard ship and Ellis Island became a detention center and subsequently closed entirely in 1954.

Ellis Island also had a fire in the original wooden building on June 15, 1897 and was closed for reconstruction for over three years. It did not reopen in the present main building until December 17, 1900. Arriving passengers during this period were processed at the Barge Office in New York Harbor. If you find passengers during this period, they were not processed on Ellis Island.

I was able to find an ancestor who arrived in 1893. I printed out the information from the website; I then obtained a copy of the original passenger manifest at a local Family History Center. It turned out that of 478 steerage passengers, only 219 got off at the Port of New York, the rest of the passengers went on to disembark at the Port of Baltimore. The website did not reflect this information. If I had not secured the original record, I would have incorrectly assumed that my ancestors entered this country at the Port of New York and were processed at the Ellis Island Immigration Center.

This site is not a simple search engine, it has several components, i.e., passenger search, description and picture of the ship, passenger manifest, file annotations, family scrapbook. You must register with the site to access the records. There are four levels of registration offering different benefits; the first level is free and does provide access to the records.

The National Park Service, operator of Ellis Island and the Statute of Liberty, has a very good history of Ellis Island on it's website -

While the Internet provides great shortcuts and is a wonderful resource, it should always be considered a secondary resource. My experience is a good example of the necessity of verifying information with the original records.

Jo Anne Sadler, January 16, 2002 (revised)

Sources: Ellis Island Foundation -
Ellis Island Records -
National Park Service -

Try also Steve Morse's search engine websites that link directly to the Ellis Island database and for one thing eliminate the very tedious registration process. AND This links directly (with permission) to the Ellis Island database and has several different search options/shortcuts that may help you. You can also separately search for ship's pictures.

Jo Anne Sadler has written several research articles for the Southern California Genealogical Society Journal, The Searcher. This is an updated, shorter version of her article regarding the New York Passenger Records. It originally appeared in the November/December 2001 issue.


Hunting Passenger Lists -

 -  Chapter 1:   Emigration Records - Sources (By Børge Solem & Trond Austheim)
 -  Chapter 2:   Canadian Records (1865-1935) (by Sue Swiggum, Trond Austheim & Børge Solem)
 -  Chapter 3:   Searching the Canadian Immigration Records Database (by Annette Fulford - 2002)
 -  Chapter 4:   US arrivals - Customs Passenger Lists (by Sue Swiggum, Trond Austheim & Børge Solem)
 -  Chapter 5:   Port of New York Passenger Records, (By Jo Anne Sadler, 2003
 -  Chapter 6:   Norwegian Emigration Records (By Børge Solem)
 -  Chapter 7:   The British Board of Trade outbound passenger lists (By Debbie Beavis)

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