Genealogy Primer

A Journey of Discovery

For many Americans, finding a family member’s immigration record is a meaningful experience. It’s a tangible link to your past, an artifact of your heritage, and a testament to your ancestor’s hopes and dreams.


Start your search

It’s easy to begin your search from home. SOLEIF’s online Passenger Search database includes some 65 million arrival records of people coming to America through the Port of New York from 1820 through 1957.

To start, you only need a passenger’s last name. But if you can, collect additional facts to increase the odds of finding the records. Helpful information includes your ancestor’s port of departure; the date, or at least the year, of arrival in America; the immigrant’s approximate age at the time of arrival; and who they were traveling with.

Our Family History Center researchers created a series of how-to videos and a downloadable Passenger Search Tips & Tricks Guide to help you along your journey.

Looking for more help? Members at the VOYAGE level and above receive one “Immigration Records Search” session. You will be teamed with one of our research experts to help start you on your genealogical journey!

More Tips and Tricks

Want more strategies for family sleuthing? We recommend these genealogy discovery guides adapted from Megan Smolenyak’s companion book to the hit show “Who Do You Think You Are?”

Start with What You Know                                 Go on a Treasure Hunt

Living Libraries                                                     Chart Your Way

The Name Game                                                   Surround and Conquer

Leave a Trail of Bread Crumbs                          Get Your Sherlock On – Online!

Don’t Believe Everything You Read or Hear

Commemorate Your History

The Wall of Honor

Honor your family and heritage at this unique monument to immigration, joining the Museum and more than 750,000 individuals and families in celebrating who we are and where we came from. The American Immigrant Wall of Honor, located on Ellis Island, is a tribute to immigrants of all eras.

Heritage Documents

Receive a replica of the records documenting your ancestor’s arrival in America. Details typically included on a Ship Manifest are the immigrant’s original name, age upon arrival, occupation, last place of residence, and information about who the passenger is joining. Pair the arrival records with an image of the steamship that transported your family to the shores of America.

Support The Monuments

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation works to preserve and honor two of our country’s greatest landmarks. The Foundation has led more than 200 projects, large and small. Thanks to our supporters, all funds have come from the public. No government funds have been used. Please join us in keeping these treasured monuments for future generations.

National Immigration Museum

Visit Ellis Island to explore the story of who we are as Americans. Exhibits trace human movement from the 1500s to modern times, inspiring guests to examine their own histories and where we all fit in the world. A piece of history itself, Ellis Island is both memorial and museum. By welcoming families and visitors to its doors, we create an opportunity for cultural understanding and forge a continuum with our own heritage.