Find The U.S. Immigration Ports Your Ancestors Used

The major U.S. immigration ports in the 19th and 20th centuries were New York, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Charleston, San Francisco, and New Orleans, FamilySearch wrote.

What are Legal Ports of Entry?

A port of entry is a location where a person can legally enter the country. Historically, ports of entry were typically seaports. However, some ports were land-based, such as the ones for Canadian and Mexican immigrants. Today, ports of entry are typically international airports, roads, or railways. Border security will check passports, visas, and luggage upon arrival.

How Many Immigration Stations in the U.S. Were There?

From 1513 through 1990, there were more than 70 U.S. Immigration ports in all. From the mid-1800s through the mid-1900s, more than half of the 50 states in America had ports of entry. Ports of entry have become more accessible than ever in recent years, thanks to large airports.

What Were the Major U.S. Immigration Ports?

Virtually all immigrants during the 19th and 20th centuries arrived in America through one of 8 major ports.

New York: Castle Garden, New York’s first official immigration station, was established in 1855. The famed Ellis Island would eventually take over New York immigration in 1892.

Boston: Boston immigration started off slowly, but it picked up speed with the Irish potato famine. Subsidized immigration appealed to many suffering because of famine, and many stayed in Boston with no means of traveling further.

Philadelphia: Ironically, most immigrants that settled in Philadelphia didn’t arrive through Philadelphia’s port of entry. Most that settled there came from the New York port of entry, located just 90 miles away.

Baltimore: Locust Point became an official port of entry in 1706, but it wasn’t until 1868 that the immigration pier was built in preparation to connect the port of entry to the B&O Railroad.

San Francisco: As the largest port on the western coast, San Francisco’s Angel Island was nicknamed the Ellis Island of the west, despite seeing far fewer immigrants pass through it than the actual Ellis Island.

Charleston: Charleston became a port of entry in 1682, but the port was better known as a hub for trade in the south.

New Orleans: Immigration through New Orleans peaked in the early 1800s, processing over 550,000 immigrants in that time. However, the Civil War blocked immigration through New Orleans, and it never picked up again.

Galveston: Between 1865 and 1924, about 200,000 immigrants came through Galveston to enter the United States. The immigration station in Galveston was officially established in 1906, only a few years after a hurricane devastated the area. Between 1906 and 1914, another 50,000 immigrations came to the U.S. through this Texas port of entry.

How Can I Find My Ancestors with Immigration Records?

When you’re looking for your ancestors, knowing your way around genealogy records can make a world of difference. Understanding immigration records is particularly impactful, as they can open the doors to finding your family before they came to the US. You can often find an individual’s name, important dates, hometown, occupation, sometimes the names of family members traveling with the individual, and other helpful clues to finding your family’s origins.

Check our our U.S. Immigration Record Research Guide to get you started on your journey. It provides all the information you need, with helpful tips for understanding and finding different types of immigration records.

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