Immigrant Processing Centers for New York City

Ellis Island, Castle Garden and the Barge Office

Were your ancestors processed at the immigrant station on Ellis Island? If they landed in New York, they were processed at one of the following locations, depending on when they arrived...

Prior to August 1855, New York did not have an immigrant processing center. See the text below.

August 3, 1855 - April 18, 1890: Castle Garden

April 19, 1890 - December 31, 1891: the Barge Office

January 1, 1892 - June 14, 1897: Ellis Island

On the night of June 14-15, 1897, the building on Ellis Island was destroyed in a fire. The immigration ship passenger lists were also lost in the fire, but separate customs passenger lists were kept elsewhere and were NOT lost in the fire.

From June 15-20, 1897, the immigrants were inspected on Manhattan piers.

June 21, 1897 - December 16, 1900: the Barge Office

A new building on Ellis Island opened on December 17, 1900.

December 17, 1900 - July 1924: Ellis Island
  Elllis Island & Manhattan
General View, Looking East - Ellis Island, New York Harbor, New York County, NY, Photographed by Jack E. Boucher/Historic American Buildings Survey, 1978.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS, Reproduction number HABS NY,31-ELLIS,1--1. Click the image for a larger view.

Castle Garden was located on the southwest tip of Manhattan in Battery Park while the Barge Office was located on the southeast tip. Before the Castle Garden center opened in 1855 the passengers simply got off the ship onto whatever wharf they had landed on in Manhattan. There was no central processing center. They were recorded on ship passenger lists beginning in 1820. It should be noted that the ships never actually landed at Ellis Island. They landed at Manhattan and the passengers were ferried over to the island for processing. Generally only steerage passengers went to Ellis Island for inspection. Most of the first and second class passengers were allowed to leave the ship soon after docking. All passengers, however, were listed on the ship manifest (or passenger list).

On January 1, 1892, a 17-year-old Irish girl named Annie Moore became the first person to be processed at Ellis Island. She had arrived in New York on the steamship Nevada with her two younger brothers. She was presented with $15 in coins.

Beginning in July, 1924, prospective immigrants were pre-inspected at U.S. embassies overseas. They were inspected again at the port of arrival before leaving the ship.

Ellis Island was named for Samuel Ellis, who owned the island in the 1770s. Today Castle Garden is known as Castle Clinton National Monument.

Castle Garden/Castle Clinton National Monument History from the National Park Service
Ellis Island Immigration from the National Park Service
"Fire on Ellis Island," New York Times, June 15, 1897
They Came in Ships by John P. Colletta, Ph.D., revised 3rd edition. Orem, Utah: Ancestry, 2002.
"Last Day of Castle Garden (Fun Begins at the Barge Office about Future Immigrants)," New York Evening World News, April 18, 1890, page 3.
125th Anniversary of Annie Moore and Ellis Island by Megan Smolenyak

Thanks to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Historian, Marian Smith, for her help with this article.

Emigrants arriving at Ellis Island, 1903
Stills from the Thomas A. Edison, Inc. film: Emigrants Landing at Ellis Island, 1903; Courtesy the Library of Congress

New York Passenger Records 1820-1957 | Genealogy Websites

Photograph of the Barge Office | Photograph of Castle Garden

Photograph of Ellis Island | Scan of Annie Moore's Passenger List

The Ellis Island Website is part of the German Roots Family of Genealogy Websites
German Genealogy Resources

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compiled by Joe Beine [Contact]
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