What's In the Record
  • Some of the information in immigration records depends on the time period:

    • 1820: Names age, sex, nationality, occupation, a few might include a town of origin

    • 1882 Asked for native country and intended local destination

    • 1891 Last residence

    • 1893 Marital status, if lived in US before, if joining a relative, final destination

      • Social detriments: history of prison, poorhouse, insanity, polygamist

    • 1903 City or town of last permanent residence

    • 1906 Place of birth, height, name and address of relative in old country

  • Other information you can gather:

    • Other names listed on the ship's list, especially those in close proximity

Where to Find The Records

Ancestry Catalog: Search "Immigration"

Ancestry "U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s"

     -Especially good for pre-1820 immigration

     -Includes Peter Coldham's The Complete Book of Emigrants (4 vols.) Covering 1607–1776, it contains almost every reference found in England to English emigrants

FS Wiki: Online US Immigration records

FindMyPast Immigration

Steve Morse One-step webpages – searches many immigration sites at once 

Castle Garden - 1855 to 1890.

Ellis Island - 1892 until 1924

NARA: Genealogy/ Personal History: Passenger Lists

BYU’s Immigrant Ancestors Project           

Immigrant Servants Database - 1607-1820 Immigration – many of the immigrants during this time period came as "indentured servants, redemptioners, and transported convicts." 

  • Learn when your ancestor arrived in America:

    • Check 1900-1940 U.S. Census

      • 1900: year of immigration, number of years in the US, naturalization status (a=alien, pa=1st papers filed, na=naturalized)

      • 1910: year of immigration, naturalization status (a=alien, pa=1st papers filed, na=naturalized)

      • 1920: year of immigration, naturalized or alien, year of naturalization

      • 1930: year of immigration, naturalized or alien

      • 1940: citizenship of foreign born

    • If they were not alive in 1900-1940 censuses, find the immigration year in:

      • Family records

      • County histories

      • Vital records

      • On tombstone

      • Court records

      • Military records

      • Passports

      • Voting registers

      • Ethnic church records

      • State census

      • Land records – government land entry files

  • Thoroughly search U.S. records to establish full identification of the immigrant

    • Full name

    • Birth date or marriage date

    • Ethnicity

    • Religion

  • RECORDS with possible Immigration Information

    • Ethnic newspapers

    • Church records

    • Germans like Lutheran

    • Scots likely Presbyterian

    • Anglican is prior Church of England

    • cemetery records, sometimes head stones list hometown

    • mortuary records – especially if ethnic group

    • city directories

Links to Learn More