View Full Version : Genealogy Lesson - Immigration Records

05-14-2008, 06:03 PM
(Be sure to see the links at the end for searchable records)

When our ancestors entered the United States through one of the port cities, paperwork was completed to document their arrival.

From early Colonial days until roughly 1820, immigration records were kept by the colony/state where the port of entry was located. Ship captains were not required to present a list to the authorities at the port. Colonies, which later became the states, did have certain requirements and those are those are the records that are available for the early time periods. Often these records are housed at the archives for the state of the port of entry, usually in the state capital.

Since 1820, immigration records have been kept at a federal level in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Copies may also be located in the regional branches of the archives.

Types of records:

Customs passenger lists were kept by U.S. Customs Service and exist for the years 1820 to roughly 1891.

Immigration passenger list were kept by U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. You will often see this as INS. These records exist for the years 1906 to 1957.

From the customs list you might learn: age, gender, occupation, country traveling from, and country of destination. It may or may not list place of birth, last residence, and perhaps a name and address of a relative of someone in the old country.

Many of the passenger lists have been indexed and are available on microfilm from the National Archives, an in major libraries. Films may be ordered through the LDS Family History Library and read in one of their family history centers.

It will be helpful if you know the date your ancestor entered the country and from where they came. This information can be found on the 1920 census in column 13. This information is not always accurate, but in genealogy we learn that it is a good starting point.

Once you know which immigration records your ancestor is listed on, you may want to order a paper copy using NATF Form 81. You may request this form by sending an email to inquire@nara.gov and providing your name and address for the forms to be mailed to. Be sure to specify Form 81


http://www.castlegarden.org (Searchable database of immigrants)
http://www.ellisisland.org (Searchable database of immigrants)
http://immigrantships.net/index2.html "We have over 8000 passenger manifests which have been transcribed by our dedicated volunteers. You can search easily by surname, captain's name, port of arrival/departure or name of the ship. This link will take you to Volume 1, from there you can access all nine volumes. "

**Source- Family History Made Easy

05-15-2008, 06:14 PM
This is interesting Jan. My family did not come via water though, they came across the border from Canada in the mid 1950's, how would I go about obtaining that information?

05-15-2008, 10:10 PM
This is interesting Jan. My family did not come via water though, they came across the border from Canada in the mid 1950's, how would I go about obtaining that information?

The next part of the lesson will be on Naturalization Records. I think you will find your answers there and will try to get it posted more quickly than the last lesson :o Naturalization records contain much of the same information.


05-21-2008, 06:43 PM
Thanks for the great links Jan! I'm just getting into genealogy and will put these links to good use.