Shirley Hornbeck's This and That Genealogy Tips on Immigration and Passports

The first naturalization law was passed March 26, 1790. Naturalization was an option, not a requirement. Prior to 1906 naturalization records were seldom uniform from one court to another and from one era to another. Furthermore these records were created by many different courts and now may be housed in many different repositories. While the rules for naturalization have changed, the basic format has generally been a two step process of "intent" followed by a final "petition", except for veterans of certain wars, who were allowed to do both at once. Minors residing here for five years prior to their 23rd birthday could also complete both steps at once between 1824 and 1906. Naturalization records were not collected by one single entity. A person could "declare intent" in one court and file "petition for citizenship" in a different court. To add to the complexity various courts kept records of differing detail. Some declarations of intent my contain some genealogical data such as original country or place of birth. These records may not contain details about family members. The courts holding naturalization records could be at the county, state or federal level. Children became citizens when their fathers did. Wives, until 1922, likewise became citizens when their husbands did. Further the names of wife and children may not be listed on either application. In general if you are not reasonably sure if, when and where a declaration might have been made, a search is likely to be time consuming and difficult.

The order of the forms filed was Declaration of Intention, Petition for Naturalization, then if the test were successful they received there Naturalization Certificate and were citizens. The waiting period to file a Declaration was 1 or 2 years, the Petition was 5 years, then the test. If your family member was naturalized before September 1906, the records are at the courthouse in the county where they were naturalized. Now if your grandparents were married and he became naturalized before 1922, your grandmother would have automatically become a citizen. Any foreign born children would become citizens also. This was the law. If he was naturalized after 1922, then she would have had to file also.

Modern Records:
Starting in 1906, copies of naturalization papers were collected by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). These records include both immigration and naturalization records. They are more standardized than records of previous eras and include the names of spouses and children, whether they were citizens or not. INS immigration records date from 1897 onward. You can request these files directly. The form needed is G639 and can be requested from your local or regional Immigration and Naturalization Service office or by calling 1--800-870-3676.

Verbal information can be sought at 202-514-2607. The more information you have the more likely your ancestor will be identified even if they were not naturalized. There is no cost for the INS record search. You will need to provide full name and address (or addresses) as a minimum. Further, critical dates, social security number, birthday and place of birth >will help insure a creditable search. The address of the Washington, D.C. INS office is: Immigration and Naturalization Service, 425 I (eye) Street NW > Washington, DC 20536.

Most aliens became citizens within 10 years of the time they were eligible. Before 1906 the records were kept by federal, state and local courts. There is a book that summarizes these records on file for each state: "Locating Your Immigrant Ancestors: A Guide to Naturalization Records" by James C. and Lila Lee Negles. You can obtain this from Everton Publishers, Inc. or your local intra-library loan program.

To become a citizen of the United States by Acts of 1790 and 1796, one had to live in the United States for 5 years and in the state or territory for one year; and had to make a Declaration of Intent three years prior to becoming a citizen. However, naturalization was not required, and many people lived their lives here without naturalization, or after making D of I, not continuing with the procedure. It was purely voluntary. It was not until 1906 that appearance in Federal Court was required - prior to that any court of record could naturalize

As to children, when the father was naturalized, his wife and children were automatically citizens. If a person had lived in the United States for at least 3 years prior to age of 21, he could apply for naturalization directly, without waiting to file the D. of I. A reference source for changes in laws is Gettys, Luella: The Laws of Citizenship in the United States 1934, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois.

Remember, naturalization is voluntary and not all immigrants were/are naturalized. You find many naturalizations dated in the 1940's during WWII when many aliens had to be naturalized to stay in USA.

In your search for your immigrant ancestor, look for Certificates of Citizenship issued to individuals who had completed all the requirements of entry. They were often saved and passed down in families. This certificate may show no more than the name of the immigrant, the country from which he relinquished citizenship, the date of the event and the name of the court where naturalization was finalized. The location of the court is the key to finding additional papers which may provide more detail. Not all aliens were naturalized but if they were, the documents in court records will provide information necessary to trace your ancestor's Americanization. You may find additional information including port of arrival and name of the vessel. Naturalization laws were not made uniform until 1906. Prior to this time, aliens could naturalize in any court but information varied from court to court.

The National Archives and its eleven branches are natural starting places for obtaining naturalization information. It should be noted that it was usually required that an alien be a resident of this country for at least five years. The Declaration of Intention or "first papers" were completed and filed with a court soon after the immigrant arrived in this country. You might find these in port cities. After the five years stay in America, the immigrant was required to go to court once more and file his "final papers". It was not necessary to do this in the same court as the "first papers". Certain groups of people were naturalized without filing a Declaration of Intention. Wives and children of naturalized males generally became citizens automatically. Those who served in the U. S. military forces also became citizens after an honorable discharge. Military records then become another source of information.

Over a million immigrants came to the colonies before 1820 but few were recorded on passenger lists. Most of the known lists have been published and many have been indexed in Filby's Passenger and Immigration List Index and Supplements (11 volumes) but you must know the full name, approximate age and date of arrival, also their nationality.

Passenger Lists are available at the National Archives and at some of its branches. They consist of custom passenger lists, transcripts and abstracts of customs passenger lists, immigration passenger lists and indexes to these lists. The Family History Center and most large genealogical libraries will have the Index to the Passenger Lists. The records were created by captains or masters of vessels, collectors of customs and immigration officials at the port of entry. They document a high percentage of the immigrations between 1820 and 1914 when most immigrants came to the U.S. Most came through the port of New York and Ellis Island and there is an Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York 1897-1902 however there is no index for New York arrivals for the period 1847-1896. An Alphabetical index of passenger lists for 1902-1943 has been microfilmed. Unless an exact date of arrival is known, it may take many hours of searching the lists of ship arrivals.

For more specific information on passenger lists, naturalization records, military records and other collections, consult the Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives. To search the U. S. Customs Passenger Lists in the National Archives after 1820, you must know the full name, age, approximate date of arrival and port of entry. You may find in these records the name, age, sex, occupation, country of origin, port of departure, destination, date of arrival, name of the vessel. Immigration lists or "ship manifests" which began being used in 1883 give more detailed information. You can request a search of the Passenger Arrival Records by requesting Form 81 from the National Archives or e-mail your request for the form to:

The National Archives has custody of millions of records relating to persons who have had dealings with the federal government. Including but not limited to: Censuses, Land Records, Naturalization Records (after 1906), Passenger Lists, Passport Applications, Claims for Pensions and Bounty Land, etc. You can learn more about NARA at: or http://www.nara/gov/genealogy/

Go here for information on Emigration, Ship Lists and other resources on the Internet:

Go here for information on Naturalization and Related Records in the NY State Archives:

Naturalization records consist of many papers since this was a three step process and you must request all the papers. Here is what I request either via e-mail or snail mail to the proper Regional Archive (listed below).

Alien Records
Declaration of Intention (first papers)
Oath of Allegiance
Certificate of Naturalization (Final papers)

You must tell the Archives the following about your ancestor and this can be done via e-mail (see below list)
Name of Ancestor: (variations of name also)
Birth date or close estimate:
Country of Birth:
Date of Entry:
Port of Entry:
Name of Spouse: if known
Names of Children: if known
Your full name and address.

They will search their records and get back to you within one or two days to let you know the cost to send you the copies. (No cost if they do not find anything). (Usually $5.00 per person searched and found)

Here are the addresses (Mid-Atlantic Region covers Allegheny and surrounding counties plus..WVA and other areas)

National Archives-Northeast Region (Boston), 380 Trapelo Road, Waltham, Massachusetts 02154-6399, Phone: 617-647-8100, Fax: 617-647-8460
Hours: 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., 1st Saturday of each month
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont

- ---------------------------------------------------------------------- National Archives-Northeast Region (Pittsfield), 100 Dan Fox Drive, Pittsfield, Massachusetts 01201-8230, Phone: 413-445-6885, Fax: 413-445-7599
Hours: 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m., Wednesday
Microfilm only

- ---------------------------------------------------------------- National Archives-Northeast Region (New York), 201 Varick Street, New York, New York 10014-4811, Phone: 212-337-1300, Fax: 212-337-1306
Hours: 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m., 3rd Saturday of each month.
New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands

- ---------------------------------------------------------------- National Archives-Mid Atlantic Region, 900 Market Street, Room 1350, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107-4292, Phone: 215-597-3000, Fax: 215-597-2303
Hours: 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p. m., 2nd Saturday of each month
Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia

- ---------------------------------------------------------------- National Archives-Southeast Region (Atlanta), 1557 St. Joseph Avenue, East Point, Georgia 30344-2593, Phone: 404-763-7477, Fax: 404-763-7033
Hours: 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 8:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m., Tuesday
Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee

- ----------------------------------------------------------------- National Archives-Great Lakes Region (Chicago), 7358 South Pulaski Road, Chicago, Illinois 60629-5898, Phone: 312-353-0162, Fax: 312-353-1294
Hours: 8:00 a.m.-4:15 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 8:00 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Tuesday

Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin - ----------------------------------------------------------------- National Archives-Central Plains Region (Kansas City), 2312 East Bannister Road, Kansas City, Missouri 64131, Phone: 816-926-6272, Fax: 816-926-6982
Hours: 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., 3rd Saturday of each month
Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska

- ------------------------------------------------------------- National Archives-Southwest Region (Fort Worth), 501 West Felix Street, Building 1, P.O. Box 6216, Fort Worth, Texas 76115-3405, Phone: 817-334-5525, Fax: 817-334-5621
Hours: 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., Monday-Friday
Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas

- -------------------------------------------------------------------- National Archives-Rocky Mountain Region (Denver), Denver Federal Center, Building 48, P.O. Box 25307, Denver, Colorado 80225-0307, Phone: 303-236-0817, Fax: 303-236-9354
Hours: 7:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, 7:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Wednesday
Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming

- --------------------------------------------------------------------- National Archives-Pacific Region (Laguna Niguel), 24000 Avila Road, 1st Floor East, P.O. Box 6719, Laguna Niguel, California 92607-6719, Phone: 714-360-2641, Fax: 714-360-2644
Hours: 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., 1st Saturday each month (Microfilm research only)
Arizona, Southern California, and Clark County, Nevada

- ---------------------------------------------------------------------- National Archives-Pacific Region (San Bruno), 1000 Commodore Drive, San Bruno, California 94066-2350, Phone: 415-876-9009, Fax: 415-876-9233
Hours: 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, 8:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m., Wednesday
Northern California, Hawaii, Nevada except Clark County, the Pacific Trust Territories, and American Samoa

- -------------------------------------------------------------- National Archives-Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle), 6125 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, Washington 98115-7433 Phone: 206-526-6507, Fax: 206-526-4344
Hours: 7:45 a.m.-4:00 p.m., Monday-Friday, 5:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., 1st Tuesday of each month
Idaho, Oregon, and Washington

- -------------------------------------------------------------- National Archives-Pacific Alaska Region (Anchorage), 654 West Third Avenue, Anchorage, Alaska 99501-2145, Phone: 907-271-2441, Fax: 907-271-2442
Hours: 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Monday-Friday, Call for Saturday hours

Through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) you can write to Immigration and Naturalization in Washington, DC and request a file on anyone who was born before 1897 and naturalized after September 1906. You need to call this telephone number, and ask for one or two copies of Form G-639: 1-800-870-FORM. When you get the form in the mail, make a photocopy or two, then if you need one sometime you will have it. You can copy just the front of the form for what you are needing. The form has many questions on it but all that is necessary is full name, date of birth (exact or approximate) and place of birth (country). Any other information you receive will just aide in the search, the more the better. After you mail it, you will receive a letter from INS telling you they have received your request. Keep the letter, it has a CO number on it and if you need any further correspondences with INS, you need this number. After about 3 months, you will receive the file if it is found or another letter that states the file was not found.

Records after 1906 for naturalization and 1897 for immigration are held by the INS. You may request copies of these files via mail with form G639. Early naturalization records (pre 1906) were maintained at various courts in all states. The type of information in these early records is not standard. These files are more difficult to locate because they may be part of records held by numerous judicial entities. In some cases these records have been moved to other repositories. Please visit the National Archives web page on naturalization records for more detail about their holdings:

It is very important that family historians understand that they can retrieve post 1906 records by mail. They need not employ anyone. Records prior to 1906 are generally much more complex to find. I have prepared a document to answer these questions and act as a guide.

Check out these web sites - - and

The history of immigration spans American history. This movement of people ultimately brought 42 million immigrants into this country. The government passed no immigration laws until 1819 and even then they only covered the standard for steerage conditions on sailing vessels and made provisions that limited immigration records must be kept. Not until 1882 were immigration regulations made at all uniform. During the peak years of immigration, from about 1900 to 1914, as many as 5,000 people a day were processed through Ellis Island.

Prior to 1855, ships carrying passengers to the United States simply left them at the wharf, stranded, to be attacked by thugs and criminals and made prey by con men. The public feared the diseases that the immigrants brought with them and immigrants were ousted by society in general.

Before Ellis Island, Castle Garden, an old fort on the lower southern tip of Manhattan (now Battery Park), was designated in 1855 as an immigrant receiving station under state supervision. This center enabled the U.S. Government to keep better track of its immigrants. Clerks would record the names, nationalities, and destinations of immigrants. Physicians would give routine checkups and physicals to ensure that the immigrants were healthy.

When the new federal law was passed in 1882, Castle Garden continued to operate under contract to the U. S. Government, but by 1890, it's facilities had long since proved to be inadequate for the ever-increasing number of immigrant arrivals.

After a government survey of potential locations, a 27 acres parcel of land called Ellis Island was the site chosen to establish an entirely new U. S. immigration station. The history of Ellis Island tells us that the Dutch had originally purchased the land from the Indians and established the colony of New Amsterdam. It had a succession of owners before the American Revolution when Samuel Ellis bought and linked his name to it. New York purchased Ellis Island in 1808 and in turn sold it to the federal government who wanted to build a fort on it. Fort Gibson was fortified just before the War of 1812 but it saw little action during the war. It was used primarily as a munitions depot until it was transformed in 1892 into an immigration center. Construction began in 1890 and hundreds of workers labored at a large three-story reception center, hospital for the ill and quarantined immigrants, laundry facility, a boiler-house and an electric generating plant. Smaller buildings included a dormitory, restaurant and baggage station. Over the years, ballast from ships dumped near Ellis Island built it up, and the landfill and completion of sea walls brought it to it's present size. When it was completed and dedicated on Jan 1, 1892, it was a self-contained city.

Annie Moore from County Cork was the first person processed at Ellis Island from the SS NEVADA and she was presented with a ten dollar goldpiece. The ships CITY OF PARIS and the VICTORIA were also processed that day. Passenger lists for these and hundreds of other vessels which entered New York and other American ports have been preserved on microfilm and are available for those who wish to trace their ancestor's passage to America.

The life of the first station at Ellis Island was short. All the pine-frame buildings burned to the ground in a disastrous fire on June 15, 1897. Construction began immediately to replace the structures with fireproof buildings of brick, ironwork and limestone trimmings. It took 2-1/2 years to complete and the station reopened again in Dec 1900.

Emigration became a topic of conversation in communities all over Europe. The United States promised fulfillment of grand dreams which could no longer be kept alive in their native lands. For some it meant religious or political freedom; for others, freedom from conscription. For the majority it meant opportunity and the chance to improve their economic conditions. However, rumors had circulated about those who were denied entry because they looked suspicious or did not promptly answer the questions of immigration inspectors. The joy and excitement of reaching the "promised land" was mingled with the terrible dread of being rejected. Most had sold all their possessions and property, often going into debt to finance their journey. Yet they came by the millions.

Passengers of "means" escaped the rigors of the Ellis Island ordeal by being processed aboard the vessel itself, then delivered directly to Manhattan. The poorer classes sat sometimes three to four days in the crowded harbor awaiting their ship's turn to disembark passengers. Once on the island, they were closely observed by Inspectors who looked for the ill and infirm, empty stares indicating feebleminded and shortness of breath of those who climbed the stairs to the registry hall. The room looked like a stockyard with it's metal pipe partitions which were later exchanged for benches.

The Registry Hall was frequently referred to as the "Hall of Tears". It was filled to the walls with would-be Americans wearing numbered tags pinned to their clothes awaiting the battery of legal and medical examinations and hoping to be allowed to stay. Some family members might be accepted and others rejected. The painful decision to stay or return with a loved one had to be made on the spot. Some could not face the disgrace or ruin of deportation and it is estimated that as many as 3000 immigrants committed suicide. To enter the U. S. the immigrants knew that one must be disease-free and create the impression that they could make a living.

The first doctors they saw made a quick examination and noted any suspicions with a chalk mark on the right shoulder of the immigrant. People thus marked were held back for further examinations by a second group of doctors. Trachoma, a potentially blinding and highly contagious eye disease, was the most common reason for detaining an immigrant. Most though got a clean bill of health and only about two percent were turned back.

Once the doctors had passed an immigrant, they then proceeded to the registration clerks where names were always a problem. This is where names were twisted as most immigrants could not spell their name so clerks jotted down names as they sounded. Some name changes were deliberate when immigrants took new names for themselves knowing they had a better chance of getting a job. Once they were passed through here, they went to the baggage room to claim their belongings. Then they went to the money exchange desk where they exchanged their money for American dollars. Next to the railroad agent where they purchased a ticket to their destination. If they were bound for other than New York, they traveled by barge to New Jersey rail stations and from there they entered the mainstream of America.

At the end of WWI, many Americans were eager to see immigration restricted. The Immigration Act of 1917 carried a demand for a literacy test and reduced significantly the number of arrivals but only for a short time. The number of arrivals in New York soon climbed again and 500,000 immigrants entered through the Port in 1921. The government then enacted newer and more powerful methods of exclusion in 1921 and again in 1924. Soon the traffic through Ellis Island subsided to a trickle. A final revision of the "National origins" quota system went into effect in 1929 and the maximum number of all admissions was reduced to 150,000. As a result, in Nov 1954, the last immigrant and the last detainee left Ellis Island and the immigration center was declared as surplus property by the General Services Administration (GSA).

Ship arrival records had to be filed with the local Custom House. It is estimated that only about 40 percent of those records have survived and were turned over to the National Archives. All ships passenger lists which have survived have been microfilmed. Those microfilm copies for the Port of New York between 1846 and 1907 are not indexed. All other ports are indexed. Many immigrants before 1891-92 entered through cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, Charleston, New Orleans and cities on the west coast of the U.S.A.

Restoration of Ellis Island began in 1982 with the renovation of the Great Hall. A genealogy exhibit where visitors will be able to search for immigrant information is planned. A computer will retrieve data on individuals including the name of the vessel on which they arrived, port of origin, arrival date in New York and other relevant details. It is expected that the number of tourists visiting the reborn Ellis Island will be the same each day as the average number of immigrants who passed through its days of operation as a receiving station.

The genealogical treasure house of the world, the Genealogical Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) is engaged in the most active and comprehensive genealogical program known to the world. Micro filming is the center of this genealogical operation. Trained specialists throughout the word are micro filming documents; land grants, deeds, probate, marriage, cemetery, parish registers and have accumulated over a millions rolls thus far. They are available in Salt Lake City and through branch libraries across the country. At the present time there is an extraction program being worked on by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where the subject is the records of Ellis Island from 1892-1924. The finished product will become part of Family Search which is the program that includes the IGI, Ancestral File etc. held at Family History Centers. The LDS extraction statistics for 1997 show Ellis Island had 3,553,067 individual entries. Approximately 28% of the Ellis Island project has been completed. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of county naturalization before 1930 for many states and it has most federal court naturalization records before 1930.

If an immigrant ancestor arrived at the port of New York before 1892 (from 1855 on), they would have been processed through the existing facility at Castle Garden, since Ellis Island had not yet opened (which it did in 1892).

Passenger lists are only partially available at Ellis Island as what Ellis Island has at the historical site on their computer is only a fraction (by comparison) of the holdings at the U.S. National Archives (NARA) regional branches. Each regional branch of NARA has microfilms of those existing passenger lists which originated at a location geographically nearest that branch---in other words, the Boston records are in the Massachusetts regional branch, the New York records are in New York, etc. You can certainly visit or contact Ellis Island and search their computer for records, but if anyone wants to do more wide-ranging passenger list research (to insure that your ancestor is not overlooked), visiting the Archives is strongly recommended.

Please note that whichever processing facility served the immigrant, if the records were still in existence when the Archives did their filming, they will be in the appropriate Archives' branch. You don't need to worry whether it happened to be Ellis Island, Castle Garden, or some other port altogether (and there were several on the East coast alone).

Where records are available, it is quite possible to reconstruct the history of an entire family. Finding these records, however, is only the beginning of the project. If the person whose ship you are looking for became naturalized, then you should be able to find the name of the ship from that persons naturalization papers. (Remember, women became naturalized citizens with their husbands prior to 1923.)

If your ancestor was naturalized prior to 1906, you may have to search several places before you find naturalization papers. Before that date, a person could apply to a local, state or federal district to become naturalized. Contact the local courts, state courts and federal district courts in the area where your ancestor lived. In some cases, the court will still have the records, in others, the records may have been transferred to a local library or archive. Federal District Court Records may have been transferred to the National Archives.

After September 27, 1906, copies of naturalization papers were sent to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in Washington, DC. If your ancestor was naturalized after this date, you can write to: INS, 425 Eye Street NW, Washington, DC 20536.

For emigrants through Ellis Island and Castle Gardens - check out these sites:

Thanks to Carla Heller,, for the following: "Below are some links to various Web sites which offer information on Ellis Island, some of which also have details on the Castle Garden immigrant processing facility in New York City, the predecessor to Ellis Island. Here are a few historical facts on both facilities.

(Please note: both Ellis Island and Castle Garden are the names of *immigrant receiving facilities,* NOT port locations. Both served *only* passengers arriving at the port of New York. Contrary to popular misconception, New York was *not* the ONLY East Coast port of arrival for European immigrants---though it was certainly the busiest and most popular. In terms of East Coast arrivals, immigrants might also have arrived from European ports at Philadelphia, Boston, and Baltimore, Maryland in addition to New York.

*U.S. PASSENGER ARRIVAL RECORDS AND INDEXES ARE AVAILABLE FOR RESEARCH THROUGH THE U.S. NATIONAL ARCHIVES (NARA) REGIONAL BRANCHES AND THE LDS FAMILY HISTORY LIBRARY.* Records are kept ACCORDING TO THE PORT CITY OF ARRIVAL: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, etc. It makes no different whether your ancestor was processed through the receiving facilities at Castle Garden or Ellis Island, or arrived *before* these facilities were in operation, or arrived *elsewhere* than New York. *RECORDS* for all of these are still found through NARA and the LDS Library.)

For immigrants arriving *prior* to 1855, there was no official reception *facility.* Until Castle Garden was ready to receive them in 1855, disembarking passengers were permitted to leave the ships directly into the Manhattan wharf area where the ships docked.

Castle Garden was the name given to a circular, fortress-like building located on the tip of Manhattan Island, in an area known as "the Battery." It had originally been a military station some years prior to its conversion to an immigration processing facility, which received its first immigrants 1 August 1855. It continued to receive and process immigrants arriving in the port of New York until mid-April, 1890.

From 19 April 1890 until 31 December 1891, immigrant processing and reception was temporarily transferred to the New York Barge Office, until the newly-built Ellis Island, situated separately within New York Harbor, opened its doors on 1 January 1892. (The Barge Office again temporarily fulfilled this task from 14 June 1897 through 16 December 1900, due to a fire which burned the new, wooden Ellis Island structure to the ground on 14 June 1897. A more fire-resistant Ellis Island was rebuilt over this 3-year hiatus and reopened 17 December 1900. It officially ceased operations in 1954. Today, the facility at Ellis Island has been completely restored and is open to the public as a historical site. "

The following are Web sites contain information about either or both:

There were no burials on Ellis Island (1892-1954), and none at Castle Garden (1855-1892) (which was located on the southern tip of Manhattan at Battery Park). However, there was evidently an island elsewhere in the New York harbor area which was the site of a "State Immigrant Hospital," and there was an adjoining burial ground. The island where this hospital was located was called "Ward's Island" (now called "Great Barcut Island" in New York). The State Immigrant Hospital and burial grounds on Ward's Island were operating at least during the latter part of the Castle Garden era, from about 1880. It may have been operating before that. Starting in 1892, since Ellis Island had its own hospital located within the buildings which housed its immigrant processing facility, the Ward's Island hospital may have no longer been used. Ward's Island was given as a name for what is now or also called Randall's Island, which is at the juncture of the Harlem River and East River. It is one of the anchor points for the Triborough Bridge, and has a stadium on it. It is unlikely that the hospital or access to the former burial ground still exist (unlike the facilities at Ellis Island, which were restored and turned into a museum open to the public).

If you are interested in obtaining death records for persons who died in the New York City area (including Ward's Island), existing records for the time period in question are available through the New York City Municipal Archives. See their Web site at:
Included in these records are persons who died before 1948 in New York City (Manhattan), one of the four surrounding boroughs (Brooklyn, Kings, Queens and the Bronx), or the islands in New York Harbor under the jurisdiction of the city of New York---such as Ward's Island. Note that the New York City Municipal Archives handles early records; records of deaths occurring after 1948 are maintained separately by the New York City Department of Health. For these, see the Web site at:

PLEASE NOTE THAT THESE AGENCIES HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH PASSENGER LISTS OR IMMIGRATION INFORMATION. Contact them only if you are seeking copies or a search of vital records (such as death certificates).

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