Let's talk about our ancestors who came across on the 'boat's of yesteryear!
I have ancestors, Rev. Joseph Smedley and his family, who sailed months later, who came from England to the U.S. via the Ship Arab into Pennsylvania. His wife and 6 of their children arrived in the U.S. via the Brig Agenora in Mar 1830 into New York. It took some time and searching in order to find them, their ship, and the actual dates of their arrivals. Also, in finding the arrival of the children, we were able to see which children were actually born in England, as at that point in the searching we had not yet located each child's birth records.
What are some of the things you can get from searching these records:
1. Place of Birth
2. Place of Residence
3. Physical Characteristics (Height, Hair and Eye color)
5. Ship Name and Entry Into the U.S.
6. Date/Year of Birth
As you can see, this can be valuable information in your search for your family and where your origins are. Besides having historical significance, this to me, is very fascinating and an area I can get lost in reading about.
Please be aware that, as in the title of this, sometimes the records are referred to as Immigration Records and some sites as Ship Passenger Arrival Records, so when you are doing your searches check both areas for this information. As someone who indexes records, please be aware that misspelling happens, transcription errors happen, so sometimes searching the ship can assist you in your search.
Where can you find these records? Well there are many search able sites online like Ancestry, National Archives, Castle Garden, Ellis Island , The Ships List, to name a few. Ancestry is a paid subscription site with a wealth of information, the others are free to a point, some records are still not indexed but are on microfiche.
Out of the box thinking here, lets say you find or know the ship your family arrived on, try to Google that ship name as opposed to your family name, also into Wikipedia the same with the ship. Many of the coastal arrival ports posted in the local papers when the ships arrived, so you may be able to look up the city you know in which they arrived, the local newspaper of that time and be able to further pinpoint the actual arrival date of the ship. Also, you can check the port at which they left for the local papers as well showing when the ship left port.
I hope this helps a bit in your search for your family!