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New York Citys Castle Garden, today known as Castle Clinton National Monument, was Americas first official immigration center. At this site, an educational project of The Battery Conservancy, you can search a database of 11 million immigrants from 1820 through 1892, the year Ellis Island opened.
This Chicago-area site contains 150,000 and counting of the more than 400,000 first papers filed by immigrants wishing to become US citizens at the Circuit Court of Cook County between 1906 and 1929. You can search on a persons name or part of a name, birth date, birthplace, occupation or other parameters.
Although filled with fundraising gimmicks and requiring registration to view results, this site remains free in its core mission: access to 22 million records of passenger arrivals through the port of New York (1892 to 1924). You also now can browse or search by ship.
Cant find your kin at Ellis Island or Castle Garden? Your next stop should be this volunteer-transcribed collection of more than 11,000 passenger manifests, plus other special projects.
Although Steve Morse has come up with clever ways to search everything from census files to birthdays, about half his one-step searches simplify your quest for immigration answers. In addition to multiple ways to search Ellis Island and Castle Garden records, this site tackles other popular entry ports such as Baltimore, Galveston and San Francisco. (Note that you still need a subscription to access records that are on Ancestry.com.)
Since 1999, this site has been serving up passenger lists, now numbering some 3,000 pages and growing every month. Its also a good source to learn more about the ship your ancestors arrived on; it might even include a picture.
Family Tree University understands that tracing your immigrant ancestors offers a unique set of challenges and obstacles. To ensure that you uncover the most accurate information about your ancestors, try FTU’s popular course Tracing Immigrants: How to Research Your Familys American Arrivals.
From the September 2010 Family Tree Magazine