American Family Immigration History Center. Explore Your Family History at Ellis Island.  
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Preparing for a Search
To make your search more successful and efficient, you'll want to prepare before you begin. Speak to family members; look through family photograph albums; write down everything you remember about the passenger you want to find.
To find out more, click one of the questions below.
What Can I Expect to Find?
How Should I Prepare to Search at the Center?
How Should I Prepare to Search on the Web?
What Can I Expect to Find?

You may find some passengers quickly and easily. Others may take time--or even be impossible--to locate. Not every immigrant gave an accurate answer to every question. Race, religion, and nationality were often confused by those filling out manifests. Many countries' borders have changed; many immigrants also changed their names after entering the U.S.

Language problems, misunderstandings, and everyday human error are all part of the historical record.

How Should I Prepare to Search at the Center?

Search sessions at the Center have time limits--so it's especially important to be as prepared as possible for your visit.

Information to gather before conducting a search: the passenger's first and last names; approximate year of arrival at Ellis Island; "ethnicity" (which may include, race, nationality, and religion); approximate age on arrival at Ellis Island; ship of travel; port of departure; and whether the passenger traveled with other family members.

An important tip: Develop alternatives. Memories--and the record itself--may be in error. Consider alternate spellings of the passenger's name and alternate names of countries.

How Should I Prepare to Search on the Web?

Searching on the Web, your time is your own. You can pause in your search and conduct some online research. You can also pursue a search you began at the Center.

Information to gather before or while conducting a search: the passenger's first and last names; approximate year of arrival at Ellis Island; "ethnicity" (which may include, race, nationality, and religion); approximate age on arrival at Ellis Island; ship of travel; port of departure; and whether the passenger traveled with other family members.

An important tip: Develop alternatives. Memories--and the record itself--may be in error. Consider alternate spellings of the passenger's name and alternate names of countries.




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