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Twigs & Trees with Rhonda: Ellis Island Soon to be Online
by Rhonda R. McClure

March 08, 2001
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Researchers of immigrant ancestors know that they have a few steps in getting to the passenger list. If they are lucky, their ancestor arrived during the years that were indexed. Even if they did, sometimes the cards are impossible to read, thus rendering the index useless. Researchers everywhere have hoped for an easier way.

For a long time researchers have been playing the "If Only Game..." You know, "If only the records were indexed..." or "If only I could access this information from home..." Well that time is almost here, and it promises to be an exciting time.

Accessing Ellis Island records made easier.

What's Going On?

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation has announced the impending opening of the American Family Immigration History Center. According to the announcement, it is scheduled to open in April 2001. The physical Center will be at Ellis Island, but there will also be some information available online through the Internet.

While you are encouraged to visit the center after it has opened, it is nice to see that the foundation has incorporated the Internet and its technology into this project. This offers access to the valuable information from the center to those who cannot physically visit.

What You'll Find

The American Family Immigration History Center will offer the following:

Passenger Arrival Records — In this part of the Center the records of more than 22 million immigrants, passengers and crew members who entered through the Port of New York and Ellis Island between 1892 and 1924 are, for the first time, available in an electronic database providing easy access. The information from these documents will include:

  • Immigrant's given name
  • Immigrants surname
  • Ethnicity
  • Last residence (town & country)
  • Date of arrival
  • Age at arrival
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Ship of travel
  • Port of departure
  • Line number on manifest

Immigration History Exploration — This software program will offer a presentation entitled "The Immigrant Experience." It will include six vignettes covering the stories of people who successfully researched their family histories and the motivation behind the desire to search for their families' roots. It will also include a presentation entitled, "The Peopling of America," which will include global migration facts and maps.

Internet Access — Access to all of the Center's programs will be available over the Internet. That is, an individual will be able to:

  • Research, access and download family immigration records.
  • Electronically scan and enter family documents, photos and records into a dedicated file in the Family History Scrapbook area (available to Foundation members only).
  • View the Immigration History Exploration presentations.
  • Order passenger manifests, ships' photos, Family History Scrapbooks or other products.

How the Center Works — Eleven computer kiosks located throughout the Ellis Island Immigration Museum will show a presentation highlighting the research activities available in the American Family Immigration History Center and offering a preliminary search to ascertain if an individual's records are included in the database. Also included will be cost, scheduling and reservation information. Reservations can be arranged prior to a visit via telephone (212-883-1986) or e-mail.

In Conclusion

The Center is scheduled to open in late April 2001 at Ellis Island, and on the Internet at Plans for the future include expanding the database to include passenger arrival records from additional years and ports of entry.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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