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US Immigration through Primary and Other Sources

Collage of Immigration Images

The Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives has essential documents and information on the mass migration of immigrants from primarily European countries to North America.

The immigrants gained access to the United States principally through the north Atlantic ports of entry of the steamship lines. These ports, in order of importance, were New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Through New York at Ellis Island came nearly three-fourths of all our immigrants.

Additional information on Immigration and the social - economic and other factors may be covered under separate topics.

Immigration Stations

Landing Immigrants At Castle Garden (1871)

Castle Garden

America's first official immigration center, Castle Garden welcomed over 10 million immigrants to New York from 1830 to 1892.

Immigrants Landing at Ellis Island in 1902

Ellis Island

The First Immigrant Landed on Ellis Island January 1, 1892. Twelve million immigrants had passed through Ellis Island before it closed as an inspection station in 1954.

Immigrants At The Docks - Boston Massachusetts (1914)


The United States Immigration Station in Boston was formerly on Long Wharf at the foot of State Street. The Immigration Station received immigrants who failed to pass their primary inspection on the docks. The East Boston Immigration Station was an immigration station in East Boston that was built from 1919 to 1920 and operational from 1920 to 1954.

Immigration Topics

Inspection Card for Steerage Passenger and Immigrant to Canada (1912)

Canadian Immigration

Canada’s Attitude Toward Immigration; Reports on Canadian Immigration from the early 1900s and the Canadian Immigration Law from 1910.

Deportation of People Seeking Entry Into The U.S.

Deportation of Emigrants

Articles on the Tragedy of the Excluded Emigrant and Attractive French Woman Deported after Ten Years in America providing insight from a different bias in reporting in the early 1900s.

Steerage FULL Notice from 1892


Articles from the 1800s and early 1900s covering the perspective of the host country or port of origination for immigrants to the United States and Canada.

Immigrant Documents and Documentation

Immigrant Documents and Documentation

Genealogists will find these especially useful in identifying the documents they have in their family heirlooms. Students often find the illustrations and information ideal for completing reports on immigration for school.

Passenger Contract, Hamburg Amerika Line, Breitmann Family 1904

Immigrant Passage Contracts & Tickets

A superb collection of original passage tickets for Transatlantic and other destinations, dating from the 1880s through the 1950s for immigrant passages to America unrivaled for its value as a primary source.

Collage of Immigrant Passenger List Covers

Immigrant Passenger Lists

The GG Archives has an extensive collection of these passenger records in our Maritime Collection. Our largest holdings of ship passenger arrival records are for the Cunard Line / Cunard White Star Line.

The lists of passengers vary considerably between steamship lines in terms of information provided on each passenger. Additionally, on many voyages, each class received a separate passenger list while others combined multiple classes into one or two lists for the same voyage. Newspaper reporters of the era were usually on hand to review passenger arrivals for VIPs and other noteworthy passengers.

Last View of their homeland - An Immigrant Begins their Journey

Immigrant Stories

An assortment of the stories about early immigrants to the United States, their reasons for leaving their homeland and their experiences as new immigrants in the new world.

Steerage Passengers on Deck

Steerage - Immigrant Journeys to Their New Home

On steamships, Steerage (or Tween Decks) and Third Class was the default choice of many immigrants from the 1850s through the 1930s. The conditions varied by steamship line and were likely to be relatively harsh compared to modern standards.

Groups of Immigrants Landing At Ellis Island

Immigrant Types

Explore Immigrant Types, representing different heritages, through period articles written from the viewpoint of when this great influx of immigration and immigrants was happening.

The Detention Room

Immigration Laws and Acts

Series of articles covering immigration legislation from 1882-1922. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882; The Immigration Law of 1907 Including a Brief History Of Immigration Acts; A Summary of the Naturalization Laws of the United States; Immigration Laws From The Viewpoint of National Eugenics; and more!

Immigrant Inspection Card from the RMS Carpathia.

Main Inspection Room at Ellis Island

Inspection of Immigrants

(Medical and Mental)
Articles related to Medical and Mental Inspection Of Immigrants including Disease Quarantine; the Inspection of Immigrants at Ellis Island; Inspection of immigrants at point of origin; Medical and Mental Inspections; and More!

View of Passenger on the Deck of a Steamship

Other Immigration Issues and Problems

Topics covered include The Influence Of Notaries Public Upon Immigrants; Transportation of Immigrants and Reception Arrangements in the 1800s; The Risk Of White-Slavery For Female Immigrants; Necessity Of Passports For Alien Women; The Treatment of Immigrants - A Summary of the Hardships Faced and more.

Soldiers on the deck of Steamships during World War One

War Time Factors In Immigration

Topics covered include Immigration After The First World War, Your Government of the United States Making New Americans, Immigration and The Great War, After The War US Faces Great Eugenic Problem, and More.

Steerage Passengers on Deck

Immigrants in Steerage

On steamships, Steerage (or Tween Decks) and Third Class was the default choice of many immigrants from the 1850s through the 1930s. The conditions varied by steamship line and were likely to be relatively harsh compared to modern standards.


The Immigration Period from 1870

Immigration Archives - We The People

Immigration entered a new phase in the years following the Civil War. Before this time, the immigrants had been of racial strains very closely related to the original settlers of the country.

With the great industrial expansion in America after the war and the opening of many steamship lines between the Mediterranean ports and the United States, new streams of immigration began to set in from Southern and Eastern Europe.  

The change began to be apparent about 1885, but it was not until I896 that the three currents from Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Russia exceeded in volume the contributions of the United Kingdom, Germany, and Scandinavia.

Since 1870, twenty-five million Europeans have come to the United States as compared with possibly one-third of that number in the entire earlier period of independent national existence.

These immigrants had contributed powerfully to the rapid exploitation of the country's natural resources and to the establishment of modern industrialism in America.

A characteristic of the latter-day immigration has been the fact that approximately one-third of the immigrants have returned to their places of origin.

The swarming of foreigners into the great industries occurred at considerable cost to the native workingmen, for the latter struggled in vain for higher wages or better conditions as long as the employers could command the services of an inexhaustible supply of foreign laborers.

Thus, the new immigration has made it easier for the few to amass enormous fortunes at the expense of the many and has helped to create in this country for the first time yawning inequalities of wealth.

Excerpt from Arthur Meier Schlesinger, "The Significance of Immigration in American History," in American Journal of Sociology, Volume 27, Number 1 (July 1921) pp. 71-85.

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