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The Search for Swiss Roots
The Search for Swiss Roots

Immigration & Travel Records

Passenger arrival records can contain many important facts. 
They also represent a decision by an immigrant to establish a new life in a new world. That decision is why you are here searching today.
Passenger arrival records can include:
Nationality, place of birth;
Ship name and date of entry to the United States;
Age, height, eye and hair color;
Profession; Place of last residence;
Name and address of relatives in the U.S.
Ellis Island was the gateway for millions of immigrants to the United States from 1892 until 1954.
You can make a passenger search via the The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.
Please note that the 1900-1930 U.S. federal censuses did ask for the year of immigration.
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Nearly 22 million people were processed through Ellis Island, but many others arrived through other U.S. ports, or Canada, which was often a cheaper route.  The National Archives has a good page on U.S. Records of Immigration Across the U.S. - Canadian Border, 1895-1954 (St. Albans Lists).
The five major U.S. arrival ports for immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries were: New York, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New Orleans. You can use these links to find information about the available indexes for these ports.
Some immigrants arrived at a number of smaller ports. You can find a list of nearly every U.S. arrival port at: US Ports of Arrival & Their Available Immigration Records 1820-1957.
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) forms vary and their titles include: Primary Inspection Memorandum; Manifest; Record of Registry; and Land Border Departure Record. the questions asked  generally includes:
  • Name
  • Age
  • Birth date
  • Birthplace
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity/nationality
  • Names of individuals accompanied by
  • Name of nearest relative or friend in former country
  • Name of nearest relative or friend at destination