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Reception and supervision of immigrants are functions of the federal government, specifically the U.S. Customs Service and the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service or their predecessor agencies. Customs passenger lists (1820-97) and immigration passenger lists (1896-1957) for immigrants arriving at New York City (and partial indexes to the lists) are held by the National Archives; most of the lists are available on microfilm. There are numerous published lists of ship passengers and immigrants who arrived in New York City and other ports prior to the twentieth century. See bibliography.
Between 1848 and 1890 the New York State Commissioners of Emigration (so-called) were responsible for the reception of immigrants entering New York City. The commissioners conducted medical inspections of immigrants, and they regulated port vessels, boarding houses, railroad agents, and other businesses dealing with immigrants. After 1855 the commissioners operated an immigrant reception center at Castle Garden in lower Manhattan, under contract with the Federal government. (This facility was the predecessor to Ellis Island, opened in 1892.) The published annual reports of the Commissioners of Emigration are available in the State Library. However, the records of the commissioners are not in the State Archives or the National Archives, and are presumed to have been destroyed.