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This question was brought about by the fact that some of my ancestors immigrated from Russia to New York in the 1880's. The source I have for that fact is a citizenship application. Was Ellis Island the only operating immigration inspection station in New York at the time? If not, what other stations were there?

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No. During the 1880s, immigrants entering New York Harbor went through the state-controlled facility at Castle Garden.

Between August 1, 1855 and April 18, 1890, Castle Garden was the original immigration station before Ellis Island opened. It handled about 8 million immigrants before the Federal Government took charge of the immigration process. The CastleGarden.org will let you search by name and time period.

While Ellis Island was under construction, the Barge Office at the Battery was used for processing immigrants.

Ellis Island opened in 1892. Between January 1, 1892 and November 1954, over 12 million immigrants entered the US through Ellis Island (timeline). You can search the ships' manifests transcribed from 1892 to 1924.

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An earlier facility in New York was called Castle Garden. It processed immigrants from 1855 to 1890. It was replaced by Ellis Island to handle a larger volume of immigrants.

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  • So Castle Garden was the only operating station in NY at the time? – American Luke Oct 14 '12 at 17:30
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Just to clarify what the previous two answers are saying, if your ancestors came to NYC in the 1880s, they did not come through Ellis Island. They came through Castle Garden.

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If your ancestor migrated before 1892, you will want these New York Passenger List records from Family Search which predate the transfer from Castle Garden on Manhattan to Ellis Island.

Be aware that this is old-school genealogy that involves scanning the images for a name, not just typing into a search box!

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  • Is there something in these lists not included in Ancestry's NY ship manifests from this time period? – TAH Oct 14 '12 at 4:33
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    Since both providers say that their data is drawn from the same source (NARA publication M237: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897), there may not be significant differences. But since use of FS is free, I would cross-check to look for transcription errors or other variations. – Fortiter Oct 14 '12 at 5:32
  • JustinY, I have created a meta question meta.genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/1127/… You will probably want to express your view. – Fortiter Oct 14 '12 at 14:20
  • Although I don't know about this specific time period, I know from experience and reading that Ancestry has uploaded manifest images out of order and even left out images, usually the first and last pages in a run. I know of one instance where they left out a entire ship's voyage entering San Francisco in 1954. I do not know how careful and inclusive FamilySearch has been uploading their manifest images. – Inspector 8 Dec 18 '13 at 7:39

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