How To Find Ellis Island Ancestor Records

By Diane Haddad Premium

From 1892 to 1924, Ellis Island was host to the largest human migration in modern history. As a result, the Ellis Island Archive contains the passenger lists of more than 51 million people. These immigrants, passengers, and crew members came through both Ellis Island and the Port of New York from 1892 to 1957. While this certainly may be a daunting amount of information to search through, you can find Ellis Island ancestor records less cumbersome by using these resources and tips.

find ellis island ancestor records

Where to search

Passenger lists documenting Ellis Island arrivals grew increasingly detailed over time as laws required more information of travelers. Luckily, there are a few different websites that provide searchable passenger lists. First, you can find these Ellis Island ancestor records online at The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation website (free account registration required). Visitors can’t download images, but you can support the immigration museum by ordering high-quality printed records. Another option is the free Family­Search searchable index, which links to digitized records on the Ellis Island website. Finally, Ellis Island records also are part of the New York passenger list collections at subscription genealogy sites, MyHeritage and Findmypast.

Things to be aware of

Because passenger lists were created at ports of departure, immigrants are recorded by their names in the old country—which might differ from the names they used after arriving in America. These name changes, combined with hard-to-read handwriting, spelling variants and transcription errors, can stymie searches for your relative’s passenger records. Due to this, the One-Step Ellis Island Search Forms give you enhanced search options that can help you locate hard-to-find immigrants (learn more about enhanced search options here). Also remember that passengers who arrived through other ports won’t appear in Ellis Island records.

From the May/June 2018 issue of Family Tree Magazine.


Discover more from Family Tree Magazine on how to skillfully navigate and find Ellis Island ancestor records:

Online Passenger Lists Video Class Web Guide

“Make the Most of Immigration Records” Online Genealogy Course

Genealogy at a Glance: Ellis Island Research

Want to read more about Ellis Island?

Check out our May/June 2018 issue, which contains a beautiful feature article about America’s “Golden Door”!

Holes in History: The Ellis Island Fire (online article)

Ready to Plan Your Trip to Ellis Island? (online article)