To recap Parts I-III, found below, you’ve interviewed your family, gathered basic family details and charted what you’ve learned. You’ve used free Google searches to find your ancestors in genealogy Web sites. Then, to see what census and IGI records can tell you, you’ve used FamilySearch.com .
Now you’re ready to see what immigration records can tell you. If you are like most Americans, you have at least some ancestors who arrived in America during the periods when records of passengers were kept and are now available to you.
While most Americans have heard of Ellis Island and the 16 million immigrants who arrived there, far fewer know about the Castle Garden immigration station at the tip of Manhattan Island, New York, where many immigrants arrived before Ellis Island was opened. Fortunately, both Castle Garden and Ellis Island have free online databases that you can search for your ancestors.
If your ancestors arrived in New York in the 1800s, check the Castle Garden database for the names of your family. The records in the database stretch from 1820 to 1913.
To continue my own example of the Luehr family, the Castle Garden database shows that four Luhr individuals arrived on the Main on May 26, 1858: John Nicholas, shown erroneously as S. n., his wife Anna Margaretha, shown as Marg., their son John who was just 3 years old, and Peter, the brother of John Nicholas.
If your ancestors arrived between 1892 and 1954, then you will want to search the online database for Ellis Island. It is worth noting that the Ellis Island site also offers a number of free genealogy forms to assist family researchers.
Americans arrived at many other ports, including Boston, Baltimore and New Orleans. Those of us searching for ancestors are fortunate indeed that the Castle Garden and Ellis Island records are available in a free, searchable database on the Web.
This is one in a series of genealogy and family history research ideas to help you find your family and ancestors for modest or no cost.