A Guide to Immigration Materials and Resources
Below are links and details of the information including documents, photographs, illustrations, etc. that pertain to US Immigration circa 1880 through 1954.
Certificate or Inspection Card used by the U.S. Immigration Service for Immigrants which indicated that they were vaccinated, disinfested and passed daily health inspections during the voyage across the Atlantic.
Additional Information and Illustrations on this page include:
Immigrant Identification Tag worn on the Outer Garment by immigrants who were processed through Ellis Island.
List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States Immigration Officer at Port of Arrival - Used by immigration officers to record information about all passengers aboard steamships (including US Citizens) for all ports of entry.
U. S. Immigration Station, Ellis Island, New York - 1926 color postcard showing procession of immigrants outside of main building.
Ellis Island Immigration Station, New York, As Seen From An Airplane. Black and white photograph from 1922.
Immigrants Waiting to be Passed For Entry Into the United States, Ellis Island, New York. Black and white photograph from the early 1900s.
Immigrants in 1904 After being processed at Ellis Island. Black and white photograph. Note that the early ID Tags worn on the outer garment were smaller and printed in landscape as compared to 1923.
The Flood From Europe - The Immigration Problem, 1903 - a story based on the report of the Commissioner General of Immigration has been issued for the year, ending June 30th, 1903
Additional Information and Illustrations on this page include:
United States Immigration Island, Ellis Island, New York Harbor - Black and white photograph of the main building in 1903
Aliens Landing from Barges at Ellis Island Station - Black and white photograph of the smaller ships that took the immigrants from the steamships and transported them to Ellis Island. Only US Citizens and visitors (non-immigrants) landed on the piers of New York (or New Jersey).
Aliens Awaiting Admission at Ellis Island Station - Black and white photograph from 1903 that shows women who were awaiting processing at Ellis Island. The style of clothing worn would indicate most shown in this photograph were from the lower (peasant) class.
The Chamberlain, For Use of Boarding Officers, Ellis Island Station - Black and white photograph of the ship that transported immigration officers to the steamships before they entered port. They would complete the preliminary paperwork and sectionalize the passengers (citizens from non-citizens) for ease of processing.
Type of Aliens Awaiting Admission At Ellis Island Station - Black and white photograph shows families entering the processing stations at Ellis Island. By viewing their clothing styles, what can you tell from the photographs?
Table of the number of immigrants to the United States from 1880 to 1903
Aliens Waiting For Tickets at Railway Ticket Office, Ellis Island Station - Black and white photograph showing newly admitted immigrants purchasing rail tickets for destinations spanning the United States. In some cases, tickets to their final destination were purchased from the steamship companies and would speed up the process at this point. See examples of Steamship Tickets from this era for additional information.
The Threshold of America - Ellis Island Immigration Station, 1898 - An article appearing in Harper's Weekly Magazine, February 20, 1898 provides a good summary of the Fire at Ellis Island and the Immigration Station's future.
Additional topics covered included:
The Process For Immigrants - three paragraphs that summarized the process for immigrants in 1898
Illustration of the New Ellis Island Administration building - 1898. Text also describes the other buildings the comprise the Ellis Island Immigration Station.
Typical Immigrants at the Immigration Station at Ellis Island, New York (reprint of photograph previously listed)
Ellis Island Immigration Station - Main Building - Typical Immigrants at the Immigration Station at Ellis Island, New York
Typical Immigrants [families] at the Immigration Station at Ellis Island, New York (reprint of photograph previously listed)
Foreigners at the Immigration Station, Ellis Island - Excellent quality black and white photograph showing immigrants outside of the main building at Ellis Island.
Registration Room, Ellis Island, New York City - 1905 black and white photograph taken from above the registration room looking down at the activities below.
A Summary of the Naturalization Laws of the United States (1907) includes information on the Declaration of Intentions, Petition on Application for Admission, Conditions for Citizenship and an overview of the immigration and naturalization laws in effect in 1907. See also A Summary of the Immigration Laws of the United States from 1882 through 1954.
Interview with the Commissioner of Immigration, 1906 - A reporter questions Commissioner Watchorn about immigration, ellis island, immigrants and more during the height of the early Spring immigration rush at Ellis Island, a rush which brought more than 25000 aliens in one week's time to our shores.
Table of the Number of Immigrants Rejected - shows the number of persons rejected by the steamship companies of their own accord in the six months ended December 31 of 1905, excepting the number rejected by the North German Lloyd Line, which covers the calendar year of 1905.
Table of the Number of Immigrants Admitted and Debarred For Fiscal Year 1905 (July 1904 - June 1905) and Fiscal Year 1906 (July 1905 - February 1906 only).
Photograph of Debarred Immigrants awaiting return to their country of origin - Not merely the dangerous elements are refused admission, but those who for reasons of ill health of mind or body, or inability to work, are likely to prove a hindrance rather than a help.
Immigrant Identification Card, United Stated Department of Labor for Non-Quota Immigration Visa - 1928 - Image of front and reverse side of ID Card carried by a Peruvian Immigrant.
An Immigrant's Story - A brief biography of a Norwegian immigrant who came to America in 1913. An inspirational story about the life of an amazing man of deep personal faith whose life was marked by the tragedy of his parents' early deaths, his wife's death in 1938, and the poverty, anxiety, and suffering of the depression and war years.
The Hopes of the Hyphenated - 1916 with Illustrations from 1898 and 1903. A lengthy article by George Creel primarily covers the process and treatment of immigrants form 1905 to 1914.
The Slow Road To Citizenship
The Immigrant's First Impression and Treatment
Employment Bureaus for the Immigrants
Difficulty Earning A Living Wage
Literacy Amongst The Immigrants
Immigrants as Second Class Citizens
Neglect, Stupidly, and Oppression
The Immigrant Reform
The Potential For Immigration Policy Success
Farming, Underrated by Immigrants
Making the Melting Pot Work
Solutions for an Overburdened Judicial System
The Education of Our Future Citizens
Health and Medical Assistance for Immigrants
The Integration of the Immigrants
Unity, Purpose and Dynamic Direction - Federal Policy
The Head Tax Equation
illustration of the New York Detention Room showing immigrants waiting behind a linked fence barrier.
Illustration of The Board of Special Inquiry, Ellis Island depicting an immigrant appearing before the Board that made decisions on accepting or debarring immigrants.
Illustration of newly arrived Immigrants walking in the city of New York (Captioned: The First Freedom in the New World)
Illustration of the Registry Department at Ellis Island - where immigrants passed through on their way to gaining entrance to the United States. The inspections took place in the Registry Room (or Great Hall), where doctors would briefly scan every immigrant for obvious physical deformities or diseases. This illustration depicts an immigration inspector reviewing the ship's manifest and record book where information on all immigrants were recorded.
Illustration of the The Registry Desk at Ellis Island. The immigration inspectors would interrogate each immigrant while seated behind the Registry Desk that held the ships' Manifest (passenger list).
Illustration - Serving Soup to Immigrants on the Roof Garden at Ellis Island.
Illustration - The "Deported Pen" at Ellis Island - shows a group of immigrants awaiting deportation at Ellis Island. The deportation pen contained aliens that were scheduled for deportation back to their country of origin.
Inspection Card for Immigrants and Steerage Passengers - (1913) This card was carried by the immigrants to avoid detention at Quarantine and on Railroads in the United States. It certified that they had been vaccinated against small pox and could best be described as their traveling papers.
Second Class and Steerage Accommodations - 1893 - Brief discussion of the Cunard Line's accommodations for the lower classes. Immigrants most often traveled to their new homeland in these two classes.
Illustration of the Ladies Saloon (Second Class)
Illustration of the Children's Dining Saloon - Second Class
Images of Accommodations on Board the Steamships of the Cunard Line (1902) Photographs of the Lower class accommodations catering to the immigrant trade.
Photograph of the Second Cabin Dining Saloon. Campania and Lucania. - Long rows of tables and stationary chairs.
Photograph of the Second-Class Dining Saloon : Umbria and Etruria. Two long rows of Tables with stationary chairs.
Photograph of the Second Cabin State Room: Campania and Lucania. Bunk beds and a relatively fancy wash basin area.
Photograph of the Second Cabin Two-Berth Room : Ivernia and Saxonia. - More basic than your typical stateroom but roomier than the third class.
Photograph of the Second Cabin Four-Berth Room: Umbria and Etruria. - Two bunk beds on both side with a middle wash basin.
Photograph of the Second Cabin Ladies' Room: Campania and Lucania.
Photograph of the Second Cabin Smoke Room: Campania and Lucania. Special smoking rooms were a requirement as smoking was generally prohibited elsewhere on the ship due to fire safety concerns.
Photograph of the Second Cabin Smoke Room : Umbria and Etruria.
Photograph of the Third-Class Two Berth Room: Campania and Lucania. Narrow bunk beds and a small wash basin area is typical accommodations for the immigrant of that era.
Photograph of the Third-Class Four-Berth Room: Campania and Lucania. Typically used by immigrant families or same gender single immigrants.
Photograph of the Third-Class Smoke Room: Ivernia and Saxonia. In appearance, they look like folding tables set up in a very plain looking setting.
Photograph of the Third-Class Dining Room on the Ultonia. - One very long table - nothing fancy here. This is quite typical of what the average immigrant would have encountered at the turn of the Twentieth century for 3rd class / steerage accommodations.
Third Class / Steerage Accommodations on board the Cunard Sister Ships Laconia and Franconia circa 1912. Extremely rare photographs from a short lived steamship that were both sunk during World War 1.
Photograph of the Four-Berth Room in Third Class / Steerage - Ludvig Gjønvik of the Gjenvick-Gjønvik Family emigrated from Trondhjem, Norway in 1913 and likely stayed in a four-berth room as depicted here.
Photograph of the Dining Room, Third Class / Steerage - smaller tables compared to the accommodations from a decade earlier, but still quite plain.
Photograph of the Ladies' Room, Third Class / Steerage - Live plants on every table provided a more pleasant environment for the immigrant women.
Photograph of a portion of the Galley where Tea and Coffee was prepared
Photograph of a Corner of the Kitchen - a rare look into the galley of the Laconia and Franconia.
Old Dominion Views of Third Class Areas of the Steamship New England circa 1900 - Photographs of the accommodations most likely encountered by the majority of immigrants traveling on the Dominion Line between Europe and North America.
Photograph of the Third Class Dining Room - looking forward on the steamship "New England" depicts many rows of tables in a rather plain setting.
Photograph of the Third Class Bedroom with Two Berths on the Steamship "New England" - Note the view of the ultra-thin mattresses and the pattern designs on the bedspread.
Photograph of the Third Class Smoking Room on the Steamship "New England" - quite plain with small wood tables - note the bench that surrounds the sides of the room.
Second Cabin, Steerage and Regular Service of the Hamburg America Line - 1890 - descriptive text from this travel brochure offers a glimpse of what the immigrants encountered in the late nineteenth century.
Third Class Accommodations - Scandinavian American Line - 1917 - The Scandinavian American Line does a good job at describing the accommodations for the third class patrons who were primarily immigrants from Denmark, Norway and Sweden that operated between Copenhagen and New York.
Photograph of the Third Class Promenade Deck, SS Oscar II looking aft - many immigrants on board getting some fresh air.
Second Saloon and Third Class Accommodations, Anchor Line Brochure from 1902 This brochure offers information on the accommodations but no photographs.
Section on Second Saloon Accommodations that briefly described the accommodations in the Second Saloon including a "liberal supply of well cooked provisions."
Section on Third Class Accommodations briefly describing the accommodations including how they separate the men and women and "A liberal supply of provisions, properly cooked" is included.
Section on Baggage Stipulations and Restrictions - Answers how much stuff could the immigrant bring with them.
Table of Second Cabin Rates by Ship, stated in US Dollars.
Table of Third Class Rates by Ship, at a price that included Bedding and Eating Utensils - in US Dollars.
Listing of the 1902 Rates Converted to 2007 Dollars using the Consumer Price Index. - We did your homework for you.
Prepaid Passage Certificate - Third Class - Derry [Londonderry] to Rochester PA - 1903 - An Irish immigrant family comes to America using this prepaid certificate (voucher) - Image of this remarkable certificate appears on that page as well.
In The Third Class to North America, 1938 Brochure - Hamburg-America Line - This brochure was produced a few years before the start of World War 2 and depicts the conditions that immigrants of this era would have encountered.
Photograph of Third Class Passengers relaxing on the deck
Photograph of the ship's cooks preparing a meal for their third class passengers - very rare photograph of the crew.
Photograph of the Third Class Dining Room - considerable improvement over the accommodations of the previous decades - tables for four have replace the long tables.
Photograph of the Third Class Smoking Room with Bar - the environment for third class travel has changed as this room looks quite inviting and pleasant compared to the cold looking rooms of previous decades.
Photograph of the Third Class Ladies Parlor which again depicts a much warmer atmosphere for social interaction for the travelers and immigrants of this era.
Photograph of the Children's seating area - they ate separately from the adults - something that was more common in first and second class of previous decades.
Photograph of the Third Class Dance Floor - Couples tripping the light fantastic to the beat of the ship's orchestra or band (not shown).
Photograph of children playing on deck reserved for the Third Class passengers.
Photograph of the Third Class Lounge and dance floor - a room of wicker furniture makes this a casual environment.
Photograph of a Third Class Cabin - comfortably furnished with running water and good lighting. The baths / showers were located in centralized locations on each deck of the ship.
Vaccination - Protected Identification Card - American Line SS City of Berlin - 1893 - UK Immigrant, I. Kilgarriff received this card from the Surgeon onboard the SS City of Berlin of the American Line on a voyage from Southampton, England to New York.
Anchor Line Brochure: Special Attractions for Excursion Season 1911 - Although not specifically for the immigrant trade, this brochure offers a wealth of information and a photograph of the Anchor Line Wharf at Pier 64 at New York showing a large group of people waiting for the arrival of the ship.
Steamship Berths Assignment for Foreign Passenger Steamship Lines at Boston Harbor (1914) - If your ancestors immigrated to America via Boston, here are the wharf that the ships would have docked at circa 1914.
Steamship Ticket, Steerage Passenger Contract - 1880 - Sweden to America, Cunard Line. Actual steamship contract for a Swedish Immigrant with English translation.
Steamship Ticket German Immigrant - Rotterdam to New York - 1895 - Cunard Line - This is the original steamship contract for passage for a German Immigrant, Heinrich Hermes, a 21 year-old laborer who undertook the voyage in steerage.
Agent Record of Third Class Outward Steamship Ticket, 1912 - This is an Agent's Record of a Third Class -Steerage Ticket for one adult and one child from Liverpool, England to New York on the Cunard Steamship SS Laconia (I)
Steamship Ticket - Contract for Passage - Norwegian Immigrant - 1913 - Ludvig Gjønvik was a Norwegian Immigrant to the United States in June 1913 arriving in Boston on board the RMS Laconia (I) as a passenger in Steerage - Third Class.
Photograph of Norwegian Immigrant Ludvig Gjønvik
Photograph of the Cunard Line Agency in Trondheim, Norway where the immigrant purchased his ticket in 1913.
Steerage Ticket for Passage, Swedish Immigrant, Sweden to America 1914 - This is a passenger contract for a voyage from Gothenburg, Sweden to Boston, Massachusetts for Alfred Person, 19 years of age, traveling alone. He paid SEK 178.50 for Steerage / third class accommodations. English translation appears at the bottom.
Inspection Card for Immigrants and Steerage Passengers - 1913 - Immigrants keept this Card with them to avoid detention at Quarantine and on Railroads in the United States.
Photo 7: Third Class Dining Room - Long Tables prevail.
Photo 8: Third Class Smoking Room - Booth style seating arrangements
Photo 9: Third Class Promenade Deck - On the lower deck
Passenger List, SS Lessing, Hamburg American Line, 24 August 1881 - This passenger list provides the name, who they traveled with and their point of origin (City, Region or Country). There were 113 Cabin Passengers listed and 381 Steerage Passengers listed. A German to English Word Translation List appears below the list of passegners.
Second Cabin, Steerage and Regular Service of the Hamburg America Line - 1890 - Provides one to two paragraph descriptions of the typcial accommodations for the lower class passengers.
Steamship Ticket, Immigrant Family - 1904 - Hamburg American Line - This is an original steamship contract, List 16, No. 9/14, Berzeichniß No. 540/54 dated 6 July 1904 Between the Hamburg America Line and The Breitmann Family consisting of two adults and four children of Russian Hebrew descent, for third class passage from Hamburg to New York aboard the SS Hamburg.
S. S. Meteor im Geirangerfjord / Meteor in Geiranger Fjord - View of immigrants and tourist passengers on deck of a German "feeder" steamship that stopped at the Norwegian coastal cities and proceeded to (typically) Hull, England. Incredibly detailed photograph of its day. (Photo 096: Near bottom of page.)
Austrian Immigrant Inspection Card - 1912 - Hamburg Amerika Linie - Fine example of an Immigrants and Steerage Passengers' Inspection Card issued by the Hamburg America Line for an Austrian Immigrant on board the SS President Grant that departed from Hamburg, Germany on 24 April 1912.
Passenger List, SS Cleveland Hamburg American Line, December 1926 - Digitized Third Class Passenger List (primarily immigrants) for the 10 December 1926 Westbound Voyage of the Steamship Cleveland of the Hamburg America Line from Hamburg, Germany to New York via Boulogne-sur-Mer and Southampton.
Passenger List, SS Thuringia, Hamburg American Line, September 1927 - Digitized Third Class Passenger List (primarily immigrants) for the 14 September 1927 Westbound Voyage of the Steamship Thuringia of the Hamburg America Line from Hamburg, Germany to New York.
Immigrant Steamship Ticket, Third Class - 1927 - Hamburg-America Line - English translation of a passenger contract for a 37 year-old German woman immigrant.
Passenger List, SS Hamburg, Hamburg American Line, April 1929 - Digitized Tourist-Third Cabin and Third Class Passenger List (primarily immigrants) for the 19 April 1929 Westbound Voyage of the Steamship Hamburg of the Hamburg America Line from Hamburg, Germany to New York.
Dr. Edward Jenner (1749-1823) Introduction and Brief Biography - Edward Jenner was an English country doctor who pioneered vaccination. Jenner's discovery in 1796 that inoculation with cowpox gave immunity to smallpox, was an immense medical breakthrough and has saved countless lives.
Provisorist Anordning 1867 - Provisional Emigration Law of Norway - This is probably the most important document in the Norwegian emigration history. This is an original print of the temporary emigration passenger act passed in March 1867.
Nowegian Bank Note - Loan for Norwegian Immigrant to U.S. - 1913 - The underclass citizens of Norway often had help from relatives in Norway or the United States to help pay for the Passange to the U.S. Saving up the equivalent of about 3 months' wages for an common laborer would have seemed like a daunting task.
Contract for Tourist Class Passage on the Italia SS Rex 1935 - considerably more colorful than contracts of previous decades, it is unknown if this person was a toruist or immigrant.
Passenger List, Norddeutscher Lloyd Bremen, SS Ems 1885 - Digitized Cabin and Steerage Passenger List for the 3 June 1885 Westbound Voyage of the Ems of the Norddeutscher Lloyd Bremen Steamship Line from Bremen, Germany to New York. 577 Steerage Passegners (Immigrants) were listed including their poin of origin.
List of Foreign Gold, Silver and Bank Notes Exchange Rates - 1889 - Their equivalent in American money, intrinsic value, without regard to rate of exchange.
Second Cabin Passenger Accommodations of Norddeutscher Lloyd Steamships - 1889 - Drawings and descriptive text describe the second cabin section of a typical steamship of the North German Lloyd line in 1889.
Illustration 1: Second Cabin Saloon
Illustration 2: Second Cabin Stateroom
Illustration 3: Second Cabin Deck
Norddeutscher Lloyd Bremen Prepaid Passage Receipt - 3rd Class Voyage, Bremen to New York - Great example of a prepaid ticket used to bring a German immgrant from Bremen to New York in 1891.
Passenger List, Norddeutscher Lloyd Bremen, SS Lahn 1894 - Digitized list of steerage passengers that brought immigrants from Bremen to New York in late August 1894.
Second Cabin Accommodations - Scandinavian American Line - 1917 - Descriptive text and photographs of second cabin accomodations.
Photo 1: Corner of the Second Cabin Dining Room, SS Oscar II, Hellig Olav and United States
Photo 2: Second Cabin Smoking Room, SS Oscar II, Hellig Olav and United States
Photo 3: Second Cabin Lounge, SS Frederik VIII
Photo 4: Second Cabin Four Berthed Stateroom, SS Frederik VIII
Photo 5: Second Cabin Ladies' Room, SS Hellig Olav and United States
Third Class Accommodations - Scandinavian American Line - 1917 - Dexriptive text of the accommodations many Scandinavian immigrants encountered in their voyage to the new world just after World War One.
Photograph of the Third Class Promenade Deck, SS Oscar II with many immigrants on the deck.