A great site I would like to share with you for your immigration search is Castle Garden. Castle Garden was the first immigration center in America. Castle Garden was open before Ellis Island and welcomed many immigrants arriving between 1820-1892.
There are a few options for searching the Castle Garden records. Some of them may be found on Ancestry.com, although I am not certain of this.
You can search directly from the Castle Garden website at www.castlegarden.org. At this site you can do a search for your ancestor. I have noticed that with this site, you have to be pretty specific with names, as it has not recognized similar sounding names as well as other search engines I have come across. Through Castle Garden, you will not be able to view the actual manifest online. Rather you will view a transcribed version.
Another option that I use regularly is http://stevemorse.org/ellis/cg.html. This site allows you to use soundex to broaden your search and provides you with a better variety of possible leads. This search engine allows you to search differently, but directs you to www.castlegarden.org for your results. * I believe the stevemorse site also allows you to search the Ellis Island records as well, although I have not looked into that much.
I have found that the Castle Garden information can be difficult to navigate and I do often receive an error message when attempting to connect with the search results. It is also difficult to confirm a match to your ancestors unless you e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and provide them with the appropriate reference numbers and dates.
Sometimes it can be tricky to track down immigration records without having a paid subscription to www.Ancestry.com , or another subscription based website. Another site that is FREE and easy to navigate (once you know what to do) is www.familysearch.org. Family Search contains a significant list of immigration records as well as loads of other records. This is really a great resource.
If you are looking for immigration records on www.familysearch.org where ancestors entered at a specific port, you can simply scroll to the section on the main page that says “Find a Collection”, type in your request (ie: Boston passenger lists)… once I start typing this, the site suggested three different collections for me to browse. Some will provide an index of lists and not the actual ship manifest for viewing, and others will allow you to view the entire ship manifest and search by ancestor’s name.
Between this Family Search site, Castle Garden, and Ellis Island, you should be able to discover your family’s immigration information!
Even though these sites can take time to sort though and provide some level of frustration at times, they can be wonderful tools and provide you with some valuable information about your family’s past.
As I have stated in other posts, be cautious with the results you find. Make sure you are not assuming a match to your ancestor, but really confirm it with the facts you know. For some questions to ask your self during your immigration research, please see the Immigration Information Quest part 1.
Thanks for reading. Happy searching!