Ethnic Research

  • They key to most ethnic group research is to identify the immigrants original name and family's home village
  • To become a US citizen involved three steps:
    • 1) Sign a Declaration of Intention,
      • Clues in the Declaration of Intention can point you to your ancestors immigration information, family members and residence.
      2) Petition for Naturalization, and
      3) Take the Oath of Citizenship.
    • To request copies of these records, visit this link.
  • Surnames were often changes during immigration. A free Surname Variation Chart can be found online through Family Tree Magazine.
  • Prior to 1820, US passenger arrival records are spotty.
  • From 1820 to 1891 the arrival ports of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and New Orleans maintained detailed customs lists
  • In 1891 the US Office of Immigration standardized passenger manifets, adding details such as previous residence, marital status, final destination, etc.
  • Ellis Island opened in 1892 and closed in 1954.
    • Over 70% of U.S. immigrants came through Ellis Island.
    • Almost half of Americans today have an ancestor who arrived at Ellis Island.
    • A fire in 1987 destroyed thousands of Ellis Island records.
  • During WWI, from 1917 to 1918, German, Japanese and Italian nationals were requred to file an Enemy Alien Registration Affidavit.
  • From 1924 to 1944 U.S. embassies began issuing visa's. Visa's were filed at the INS and copies can be ordered through USCIS.
  • During WWII, from 1940 to 1944, aliens older than 14 had to register at the local post office or upon entering the country. These Alien Registration (AR-2) Forms can be ordered through USCIS.
  • During WWII, "enemy aliens" and their US citizen relatives were incarcerated within the U.S. in internment cams. A database of inmate files can be found at here.

  • Ancestry has a section for Immigration and Travel
    • From the search drop down box, choose card catalog. You can click the Immigration and Travel link on the left hand side of the page to review the entire collection.
  • Boston Passenger Manifests
  • Bremen Passenger Lists
  • Visit Castle Garden for immigration records from 1820-1892 (prior to the opening of Ellis Island)
    • Hint: Try using variations of the name and ship's spelling.
  • Cook County Clerk contains searchable database of naturalization records from 1871 - 1929.
  • Ellis Island American Family Immigration History Center
  • Galveston Immigration Database
  • Hawaii State Archives Digital Collections
    • Covers Chinese, Japanese, and Portuguese passengers from Hawaii from 1843-1900
  • Immigration History and Research Center and Archives contains a large database of ethnic newspapers, oral histories and personal papers
    • Hint: Immigrants names were not changed at Ellis Island. Immigration clerks never recorded names, they simply checked against a list filled out at the port of departure
  • Immigrant Ship Records
  • Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930
  • Historical Society of Pennsylvania The Back Institute
    • You are able to search their collection online, but will need to visit in person or order documents to actually view them.
      • Collections span the 17th to the 2th century.
      • Includes family papers, business and organizational records, newspapers, photographs, postcards, etc…
  • Library and Archives Canada - covers 6 Canadian ports from 1865 - 1922
  • The Ship's List - contains immigration information for Canada, the United States, Australia and South Africa
  • Steve Morse contains tools for finding immigration records, census records, vital records, and for dealing with calendars, maps, foreign alphabets, and much more.