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How do you locate immigration records?

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Quick Answer

It is possible to locate immigration records at the National Archives Building in Washington or through some regional National Archives and Records Administration facilities, according to the National Archives. Some libraries, as well as online sites such as Ancestry.com, have NARA immigration microfilms. Castle Garden and the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation have online searchable databases. Interested parties can order records online or use the National Archives Trust Fund Form 81 to receive the records by mail.

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Full Answer

No prior arrangement is required to visit the National Archives Building in person and examine the microfilm archives during regular research room hours. Before visiting NARA regional facilities, call or check the online microfilm catalogue to verify availability of immigration records, advises the National Archives.

Libraries with large genealogical collections have some NARA microfilm publications. Ancestry.com, a subscription-based database, has indexed passenger lists from ships arriving in New York between 1820 and 1957. Castle Garden's database covers immigrants arriving between 1830 and 1892. Ellis Island has an online database of arrivals to New York from 1892 and 1924, says the National Archives. The database has more than 51 million passenger records, claims the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.

NARA maintains passenger lists of vessels that arrived between 1820 and 1982. Before 1820, the U.S Government did not require captains or masters of arriving vessels to provide passenger lists to government officials. NARA, however, has microfilm publications for vessels arriving in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, between 1800 and 1819, and in New Orleans, Louisiana, between 1813 and 1819. Arrangement of the records is by the port of arrival, reports the National Archives.

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