2001
New York’s Ellis Island Genealogy Records Released

“New York’s Ellis Island Genealogy Records Released,” Ensign, July 2001, 76

New York’s Ellis Island Genealogy Records Released

On 17 April Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke at the dedication of the American Family Immigration History Center, a state-of-the-art historical and genealogical facility on New York City’s Ellis Island. Elder Nelson was joined by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton and Ellis Island Foundation founding chairman Lee Iacocca.

Years after Ellis Island was abandoned, concern over decay of the landmark led to the inclusion of the island as part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965. Private citizens then formed the Ellis Island Foundation, which, with the U.S. National Park Service, is dedicated to preserving the island’s unique buildings and history.

In 1985 the foundation asked the Church for assistance in making the immigrant records of Ellis Island more accessible to the public. More than 12,000 volunteers from 2,700 Church units in the U.S. and Canada, and a group of 100 family history missionaries at the Church’s Family History Library, logged more than five million hours during seven years, extracting the records from ship passenger manifests and entering them into the database.

The result is the new history and genealogy center, which houses a 22-million-record database of every immigrant who legally entered the United States through Ellis Island and other New York ports between 1892 and 1924, peak immigration years. In the center, users can search for their ancestors and create Web-based genealogical scrapbooks.

Also on 17 April, the database of immigrant records was made available on the Internet at www.EllisIslandRecords.org. The site was extremely popular immediately upon opening, registering some 26 million successful hits in its first week alone, equaling 27,000 hits per second.

The collection, which includes at least one ancestor of an estimated 40 percent of all Americans, was released on 17 April because it is the anniversary of the day Ellis Island processed the most immigrants ever—11,747 on 17 April 1907.

Elder Russell M. Nelson addresses dignitaries and others gathered at the genealogical center’s dedication. (Photography courtesy of Church Public Affairs.)

Some 12,000 Church volunteers extracted 22 million records from ship passenger lists and entered them into the Ellis Island database. (Photography courtesy of Church Public Affairs.)