Humanities › History & Culture Ellis Island Immigration Center Share Flipboard Email Print nimu1956/Getty Images History & Culture Genealogy Basics Surnames Genealogy Fun Vital Records Around the World American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Kimberly Powell Genealogy Expert Certificate in Genealogical Research, Boston University B.A., Carnegie Mellon University Kimberly Powell is a professional genealogist and the author of The Everything Guide to Online Genealogy. She teaches at the Genealogical Institute of Pittsburgh and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. our editorial process Kimberly Powell Updated April 22, 2019 Ellis Island, a small island in New York Harbor, served as the site of American's first Federal immigration station. From 1892 to 1954, over 12 million immigrants entered the United States through Ellis Island. Today the approximately 100 million living descendants of these Ellis Island immigrants account for more than 40% of the country's population. The Naming of Ellis Island In the early 17th century, Ellis Island was no more than a small 2-3 acre lump of land in the Hudson River, just south of Manhattan. The Mohegan Indigenous group who inhabited the nearby shores called the island Kioshk or Gull Island. In 1628 a Dutch man, Michael Paauw, acquired the island and renamed it Oyster Island for its rich oyster beds. In 1664, the British took possession of the area from the Dutch and the island was once again known as Gull Island for a few years, before being renamed Gibbet Island, following the hanging there of several pirates (gibbet refers to a gallows structure). This name stuck for over 100 years, until Samuel Ellis purchased the little island on January 20, 1785, and gave it his name. American Family Immigration History Center at Ellis Island Declared part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965, Ellis Island underwent a $162 million renovation in the 1980s and opened as a museum on September 10, 1990. Researching Ellis Island Immigrants 1892-1924 The free Ellis Island Records database, provided online by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, allows you to search by name, year of arrival, year of birth, town or village of origin, and ship name for immigrants who entered the U.S. at Ellis Island or the Port of New York between 1892 and 1924, the peak years of immigration. Results from the database of more than 22 million records provide links to a transcribed record and a digitized copy of the original ship manifest. The Ellis Island immigrant records, available both online and through kiosks at the Ellis Island American Family Immigration History Center, will provide you with the following type of information about your immigrant ancestor: Given nameSurnameGenderAge at arrivalEthnicity / NationalityMarital statusLast ResidenceDate of arrivalShip of travelPort of origin You can also research the history of the immigrant ships that arrived at Ellis Island, NY, complete with photos. If you believe your ancestor landed in New York between 1892 and 1924 and you can't find him or her in the Ellis Island database, then make sure you've exhausted all of your search options. Due to unusual misspellings, transcription errors and unexpected names or details, some immigrants may be difficult to locate. Records of passengers that arrived at Ellis Island after 1924 aren't yet available in the Ellis Island database. These records are available on microfilm from the National Archives and your local Family History Center. Indexes exist for New York passenger lists from June 1897 to 1948. Visiting Ellis Island Each year, more than 3 million visitors from around the world walk through the Great Hall at Ellis Island. To reach the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Immigration Museum, take the Circle Line - Statue of Liberty Ferry from Battery Park in lower Manhattan or Liberty Park in New Jersey. On Ellis Island, the Ellis Island Museum is located in the main immigration building, with three floors dedicated to the history of immigration and the important role played by Ellis Island in American history. Don't miss the famous Wall of Honor or the 30-minute documentary film "Island of Hope, Island of Tears." Guided tours of the Ellis Island Museum are available.