Beginning Research in United States Immigration and Emigration Records
- 1 What are United States immigration and emigration records?
- 2 What time periods and locations do they cover?
- 3 What can I find in them?
- 4 How do I access them?
- 5 Offices to Contact
- 6 Search strategies
What are United States immigration and emigration records?[edit | edit source]
Immigration refers to people coming into a country. Emigration refers to people leaving a country to go to another. The records usually take the form of ship's passenger lists collected at the port of entry.
What time periods and locations do they cover?[edit | edit source]
- The port of Boston,was the leading trading and passenger port 1630 to 1750.
- The port of Philadelphia was founded in 1682 and rivaled the port of Boston for a short time.
- The port of New Orleans was founded by the French in 1718, controlled by Spain from 1762 to 1803, then sold to the United States.
- The port of Baltimore, founded in 1729, was the best protected deep water port and the closest East Coast port to the Midwest.
- The port of New York was not the leading port until the Erie Canal opened in 1825. From 1855 through 1890, immigrants arriving in New York came through Castle Garden. Castle Garden processed approximately eight million immigrants.
- Smaller ports are found in several other states.
What can I find in them?[edit | edit source]
- Passenger lists before 1820 included name, departure information and arrival details. The names of wives and children were often not included.
- Customs Passenger Lists between 1820 and 1891 asked for each immigrant’s name, their age, their sex, their occupation, and their country of origin, but not the city or town of origin.
- Information given on passenger lists from 1891 to 1954 included:
- name, age, sex,
- nationality, occupation, marital status,
- last residence, final destination in the U.S.,
- whether they had been to the U.S. before (and if so, when, where and how long),
- if joining a relative, who this person was, where they lived, and their relationship,
- whether able to read and write,
- whether in possession of a train ticket to their final destination, who paid for the passage,
- amount of money the immigrant had in their possession,
- whether the passenger had ever been in prison, a poorhouse, or in an institution for the insane,
- whether the passenger was a polygamist,
- and immigrant's state of health.
- In 1906, the physical description and place of birth were included, and a year later, the name and address of the passenger’s closest living relative in the country of origin was included.
How do I access them?[edit | edit source]
The records have been collected, digitized, indexed, and published by several organizations. A list of online links is available at U.S. Immigration Online Genealogy Records.
- One-Step Webpages by Stephen P. Morse effectively searches the records of the major ports at the same time.
- Ancestry.com has a vey thorough collection of emigration and immigration records. ($)
Offices to Contact[edit | edit source]
National Archives and Records Administration[edit | edit source]
- The National Archives (NARA) has immigration records for arrivals to the United States from foreign ports between approximately 1820 and 1982. The records are arranged by Port of Arrival (See Part 5).
- Order copies of passenger arrival records with NATF Form 81.
- You may do research in immigration records in person at the National Archives Building, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408-0001.
- Some National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) regional facilities have selected immigration records; call to verify their availability or check the online Microfilm Catalog.
- Most Baltimore passenger lists are on microfilm at the Maryland Historical Society and the Baltimore City Archives.
- Libraries with large genealogical collections, such as the FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and the Allen County Piblic Library also have selected NARA microfilm publications.
Maryland Ports in NARA Records[edit | edit source]
- Annapolis, Maryland, 1849
- Baltimore, Maryland, 1820-1897 and 1891-1957
- Havre de Grace, Maryland, 1820
- Piney Point, Maryland, 1950-1956
U.S. Citizenship and and Immigration Services Genealogy Program[edit | edit source]
The USCIS Genealogy Program is a fee-for-service program that provides researchers with timely access to historical immigration and naturalization records of deceased immigrants. If the immigrant was born less than 100 years ago, you will also need to provide proof of his/her death.
Immigration Records Available[edit | edit source]
- A-Files: Immigrant Files, (A-Files) are the individual alien case files, which became the official file for all immigration records created or consolidated since April 1, 1944.
- Alien Registration Forms (AR-2s): Alien Registration Forms (Form AR-2) are copies of approximately 5.5 million Alien Registration Forms completed by all aliens age 14 and older, residing in or entering the United States between August 1, 1940 and March 31, 1944.
- Registry Files: Registry Files are records, which document the creation of immigrant arrival records for persons who entered the United States prior to July 1, 1924, and for whom no arrival record could later be found.
- Visa Files: Visa Files are original arrival records of immigrants admitted for permanent residence under provisions of the Immigration Act of 1924.
Requesting a Record[edit | edit source]
- Web Request Page allows you to request a records, pay fees, and upload supporting documents.
- Record Requests Frequently Asked Questions
Search strategies[edit | edit source]
- You will usually find several possible entries for immigrants with similar names and ages. Learn everything you can so you can distinguish your ancestor from others of the same name. Knowing your ancestor’s full name, approximate date of arrival in the United States, approximate age on arrival to the United States, the likely port of arrival, the name of their spouse, their religion, and their occupation will all help in identifying your ancestor in passenger lists.
- Many immigrants traveled in groups or settled among friends and relatives from their native land. Knowing the names of some relatives, neighbors and friends of your ancestor will help identify him on a passenger list.
- Remember it wasn’t uncommon for one member of the family to come to the United States first and send for the rest of the family after getting established.
- It is important to understand that many immigrant names were misspelled, misunderstood because of heavy accents or the lack of the ability to speak English, or Americanized. A name may have been lengthened or shortened. Search each index creatively for name variations