Finding and Understanding Immigration Records

As your family history research progresses, eventually you’re going to find relatives from other countries. At this point, immigration records can be immensely useful.

The trick? Finding these records and understanding them. Here’s how.

1. Passenger manifests

Because most of our ancestors came over on a boat, one of the first places to look are the passenger lists, aka immigration records and/or ship manifests.

You’ll be looking for ships coming to the United States, Canada or your respective country. It’s important to know that the lists collected at the National Archives are for ships that sailed to the United States from 1820 to the 1940s, and to Canada from 1865 to 1935. They’re on microfilm. You can also find some of this information at larger libraries, LDS & Family History Centers (Latter Day Saints) or via archives and genealogy membership websites.

2. Immigrant Ships

You can always check online but many databases available to search through today, have paid membership access only.

3. The Ellis Island Foundation

This organization enables budding genealogists to search by ship or passenger name. They’ve listed more than 22 million immigrants who arrived between 1982 and 1924 to the Port of New York at Ellis Island.

When people arrived on board, notations were made on the passenger manifest by immigration officials. Knowing and understanding these notations can help you decipher relevant family tree information. Here are some of the relevant notations.

Indications of naturalization

* The letter C followed by numbers is the person’s naturalization certificate number. This may have been entered while verifying immigration for a naturalization petition.
* A number in the Occupation Column might indicate the naturalization process was initiated. These numbers are often followed by the date of the verification.
* C/A or c/a – Stands for Certificate of Arrival and indicates that the naturalization process was initiated with a Declaration of Intention.

All three of the above can help you find more documentation about where your ancestors originated. Once you have a city or boundary within their originating country, you can begin searching that country for relevant family information.

If you see the name crossed out with or without another name written in it means the name was officially changed. This can be valuable information in your genealogy search as many times our ancestors shortened their names when immigrating to the United States and Canada.

Once you’ve tracked down immigration records you will likely have a country of origin. This is the beginning of the next phase of your genealogy research project.

The more information you have about the origin of your ancestors, the better. A birthplace is the ideal place to start because it gives you the most basic starting point and some of the most pertinent information.

Once you know where your ancestor was born, it’s often easier to find out where they go from there. While researching immigration records can be a time consuming process, much of the information is out there and available. It takes a bit of patience and perseverance but it can be well worth the effort.

Previous articles:
  What Is Genealogy?
  Why is Genealogy Important?
  What To Do When You Have A Common Surname
  Do I Need The Help Of A Professional Genealogist?
  How to find free basic genealogy information
  Understanding Birth Records In Genealogy Research
  Understanding Death Records In Genealogy Research
  How Accurate Is Census Information And Will It Help Me In Finding My Family Members?

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About the Author Admin

Internet Specialist by trade and passionate about my family's history, I set out to try and reconnect the many lost connections with my paternal family.

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