Overview of Immigration Research
| Using Immigration Records
This article is part of a series.
|Overview of Immigration Research|
|Immigration Research Approaches|
|Major Settlements, Immigration, and Naturalization|
|American Sources for Documenting Immigrants|
|Using the Ellis Island Database|
|Foreign Sources for Immigration Records|
|List of Useful Immigration References|
We are all descended from immigrants. Whether they came to America in prehistoric times via the Bering Strait or later on ships or airplanes, at some point in history, every person’s ancestors came from somewhere else. And almost everyone has a strong desire to know why, when, and from where their ancestors emigrated. Most of us begin with the simple goal of finding “Old Country” origins. Yet the quest usually does not end when that discovery is made. Once we begin tracking ancestors back in time and across continents, we are often drawn so deeply into the story that it’s difficult to stop searching. There are always a few more relationships to be proved and details to be learned. And when finally discovered, the ancestor’s homeland takes on a fascination of its own. We find ourselves intrigued with histories and cultures, wanting to know as much as possible about “our people.” Scarcely any phase of family history research is as fascinating as tracking immigrant origins—and scarcely any phase is as challenging.
Knowing the immigrant’s birthplace or last place of residence before emigrating is essential to finding more information in the native land. Yet, unless the ancestors arrived relatively recently in the United States, family origins may have been forgotten. Because most foreign records are kept at the town level, discovering the name of a native town, county, or parish is an important goal. Without that information, it is impossible to know where to conduct research in the country of origin.
Every American hoping to link generations and reach back in time will ultimately be faced with immigration questions. The twofold purpose of this chapter is to facilitate the search for immigrant origins by (1) identifying the principles of immigration research, and (2) describing a vast body of American sources that document immigration.
The sources described in this chapter focus on the original records most likely to provide key immigration information about ancestors and other relatives who came to North America, specifically the United States. Many such sources have been indexed, abstracted, or transcribed into books, and in recent years, onto CD-ROMs and Web pages. The growing body of published immigration sources is the subject of an extensive chapter, “Immigration Sources,” in Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records, edited by Kory L. Meyerink.
Principles of Immigration Research
There is no “universal” record source that can be counted upon to provide the name of an immigrant’s ancestral home. Rather, there are dozens of records that may, depending on the time period and ethnic nature of the family, provide the necessary information. For this reason, it is important to follow certain principles when researching an immigrant ancestor. These principles include
- identifying the immigrant clearly,
- learning the historical background,
- using the right research approaches,
- searching American records thoroughly first, and
- knowing the process of immigration.
Het identificeren van de Immigrant
Het vermogen om individuen en gezinnen met succes is sterk verbeterd traceren als onderzoekers beginnen met het maken van alles in het werk om alles mogelijk te informeren over de immigrant of familie met behulp van Amerikaanse record bronnen leren. Een onmiddellijke zorg moet zijn om de volledige naam van de immigrant en de namen van zoveel andere gezinsleden mogelijk bij te leren . Het is soms nodig om de levens van alle immigrant kinderen op te sporen , om de kritische aanwijzingen dat zal precies vertellen waar de immigranten werd geboren te verkrijgen.
=== === Biografische informatie
Duidelijk een immigrant te identificeren in de administratie van het land van waaruit de persoon kwam, je moet weten :
De volledige naam . Voornamen en familienamen ( achternamen ) zijn noodzakelijk . Het is nuttig om te leren alle immigrant voornamen , zoals Johann Wilhelm Karl Hummel. Sommige individuen ging door een tweede naam, een bevestiging van naam of een bijnaam. Niet alleen zal het leren van de volledige naam te helpen aan een persoon in de registers van het land van herkomst te identificeren; soms de naam alleen , of een deel van de naam , kan een aanwijzing voor de immigrant oorspronkelijke land of regio.
Een datum . Een geboortedatum is beter , maar een datum van het huwelijk , een record van een religieuze gebeurtenis, militaire versie, of andere dergelijke informatie kan substituut voor een geboortedatum , zolang het evenement vond plaats in het land van herkomst . Een volledige datum (dag , maand en jaar) moet worden gezocht , maar soms is het mogelijk om een individu te identificeren met alleen het jaar van een evenement.
Een plek van herkomst . Uiteindelijk , moet u bepalen de specifieke plaats ( stad of parochie) waar de immigrant is geboren of hebben gewoond voordat ze naar de Verenigde Staten. Dit is de focus van allochtone origine onderzoek voor de meeste onderzoekers . Soms is het mogelijk om de specifieke stad te leren van records in het vaderland , maar je moet proberen om het bepalen van de Amerikaanse records.
Een relatieve . Familierelaties , vooral ouders - zijn belangrijk. Hoe meer je weet over een familie als een geheel , hoe makkelijker het is om correct de immigrant te identificeren bij het bijhouden van zijn of haar geboorteland. Als het niet mogelijk om de vaders naam te ontdekken , de moeder of de naam van een echtgenoot , broer, zus of andere naaste familielid ( oom, tante ) als een vervanger te zoeken. Niet alleen zal deze informatie helpen bij het identificeren van de persoon in de eigen administratie , maar u wellicht in staat om meer over de plaats van een broer of zoon van herkomst te leren dan over de voorvader die het voorwerp is van uw zoekopdracht . Veel van de bronnen in dit hoofdstuk besproken zou de naam van de inheemse dorpen van enkele familieleden , maar niet onder uw directe voorouder.
Terwijl sommige records misschien niet specifiek aan te geven waar de persoon vandaan komt, zouden ze zijn aanwijzingen dat zal leiden tot anderen totdat u een record dat uiteindelijk blijkt de stad van herkomst. Als op alle mogelijke , leren het volgende over de immigrant :
Familie verhalen , tradities en erfstukken . Verrassende aanwijzingen kunnen overleven in familietradities , brieven, dagboeken , tijdschriften , religieuze records , ansichtkaarten , foto's, plakboeken, en aandenkens die zijn opgeslagen door de jaren heen . Gekoppeld aan een basiskennis van de immigrant thuisland - waaronder het toonaangevende industrie van de inheemse wijk, gemeenschappelijke bezigheden , namen van de nabijgelegen steden, rivieren , bergen en andere kenmerken van het gebied - een familie verhaal, een traditie of een erfstuk zou kunnen bieden de doorbraak die de exacte allochtone afkomst.
Vrienden en buren . Veel immigranten reisden samen of afgewikkeld onder vrienden uit hun geboorteland. Wanneer een bepaalde immigranten niet kan worden gelokaliseerd , track buren en kennissen. Als je hun plaats van herkomst te vinden, te zien of uw voorouder is in de buurt. In Duke University Library in Durham, North Carolina, is een kasboek bij de persoonlijke papieren van Zacharias Johnston. Het omvat geld uitgeleend aan familieleden en naaste medewerkers van de tijd dat de familie Johnston Ierland verliet , kunnen hun aanvankelijke nederzetting in de buurt Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, om hun te stoppen in Augusta County, Virginia, van hun verblijf in Lexington, Virginia, net ten zuiden van de Augusta County Line . Dezelfde namen verschijnen en weer. De hele groep verliet Ierland in 1709 en bleven samen ten minste tot Zacharias is overleden in 1800. Ze worden geregistreerd , samen met hun specifieke townland in Ierland , in dat kleine kasboek . Deze families trouwden meer dan tien keer in die eeuw. Voor andere voorbeelden van deze aanpak , lees Hank Z. Jones Jr ' s " Het vinden van het voorouderlijk huis van een Palatine Voorvader : De zaak van Martin Zerbe , " in Pennsylvania Genealogische Magazine , en : "De Braun en Loesch Gezinnen: buren in Duitsland en Amerika ", in het kwartaalverslag van de Pennsylvania Duitse Vereniging Cite error: Closing
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Between 1607 and 1790, early European immigration was mostly from Britain (England, Scotland, Ulster Ireland, Southern Ireland, Wales) and Germany. However, the largest number of immigrants were the forced immigrants from Africa, who accounted for approximately 40 percent of the colonial immigrants to the future United States. Based on a careful review of current demographic studies by immigration historians, the approximate distribution of immigrants before 1790 was as follows (see figure 9-4):
Before 1790, North America’s Anglo population was confined to the area east of the Appalachian Mountains, with only a scattering of Americans over the line along the frontiers. However, as the numbers of immigrants continued to climb, the frontiers had to be constantly pushed back, eventually bringing the immigrants to the Rocky Mountains and northern plains states. During the last two hundred years of immigration to the United States, the numbers of immigrants have risen and fallen in response to conditions in America as well as abroad.
The ethnicity of immigrants also changed considerably over time (table 9-1). Between 1820 and 1855, Ireland contributed the largest single group of immigrants. Germany, especially Prussia, contributed 20 percent of the immigrants during those years. A smattering from other parts of Europe and an introduction of people from China and Mexico rounded out the population.
Before 1885, most European immigrants originated north of the Alps and west of the Elbe River. After 1885, the so-called New Immigration came from southern and eastern Europe, with the largest number of immigrants from Italy and Russia (mostly Jews). These immigrants concentrated in urban centers where jobs were available and where synagogues, churches, neighbors, and immigrant aid societies cushioned the immigrant experience. Most of these families were too poor to buy land when they arrived in America, and many heads of family had skilled and semi-skilled occupations.
In 1910, Russian immigrants comprised 20 percent of the foreign population of New York State and 25 percent of New York City; immigrants from Austria and Hungary comprised 12 percent and 14 percent, respectively; and Italians comprised 17 percent of the foreign population in New York, 18 percent in the city. By 1910, one-fourth of the foreign-born population of New York City had arrived within the previous five years; they spoke a variety of languages, practiced a variety of religious customs, and demanded a wide range of food.
By the time of the 2000 census, immigrants had come to the United States from virtually every country on the earth. That census revealed that English ancestry no longer prevailed. German was the leading ancestry, followed by African American; Irish was third, followed by English. The others comprising the top ten were Hispanic, Italian, French, Polish, American Indian, and Dutch. The following tables identify each ancestry group with more than 1 million claimants in 2000.
|1790 U.S. Ancestry (Based on Evaluated 1790 Census Figures)|
|Ancestry Group Number||(1790 Estimate)||Percentage of Total|
|Swedish and other||20,000||0.5|
|Total U.S. population||4,000,000||100|
Meyerink based this table largely on the analysis of 1790 census data by Thomas L. Purvis in “The European Ancestry of the United States Population, 1790,” William & Mary Quarterly, 3rd series, 41 (1): 85–. There has been much discussion about the ethnic stock of colonial America as various scholars have tried to use the 1790 census to arrive at precise figures. This cannot be done precisely, as the method depends on assigning every 1790 head of household to one, and only one, ancestry based on the presumed origin of the surname. American ancestry, even in 1790, was not always from only one race or nation. At that time many Americans already had five to seven generations in America, including ancestors from different countries.
Purvis and others have been criticized for their methodology in determining these figures (e.g., Akenson, same issue, p. 102–), but this is the best estimate available and is defended by Purvis (in the same issue). While not specifically accurate, the numbers are surely close. However, Purvis and earlier studies focused only on the white population in 1790. Meyerink has rounded Purvis’s figures to the nearest percent (to account for the lack of precision), then adjusted them (to the nearest half-percent) to include the non-white (i.e., African and limited [eastern] Native American) population. The actual census count (including African Americans) for the area enumerated was 3,929,625, but did not include the Northwest Territory and areas under French or Spanish control (upwards of 50,000 people), nor most Indian tribes. Hence the rounded figure of 4 million.
Earlier studies attempting to discern America’s colonial “ethnic stock” include: American Council of Learned Societies, “Report of the Committee on Linguistic and National Stocks in the Population of the United States,” Annual Report of the American Historical Association, 1931, vol. 1 (Washington, D.C.: 1932), as well as A Century of Population Growth, 1790–1900 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1909).
|2000 U.S. Ancestry (groups with more than two million)||Ancestry||2000 count||Percent|
|TOTAL U.S. POP||281,421,906||N/A|
The Value of History
Millions of immigrants from all over the world have brought unique customs and great diversity to the United States. And while certain principles of research may be applied to almost any country, there comes a time in every investigation when something of the specific history and the customs of the place from which our ancestors emigrated must be understood. Immigrants’ experiences were not isolated. Groups were forced to leave by religious oppression, famine, agricultural and industrial revolution, the threat of conscription, and war. Other groups were lured by the American dream—the idea of commoners being able to own their own land.
From the documented and well-studied experiences and patterns of a national group, we can begin to understand the motives and individual histories of our own ancestors as they molded their destinies by leaving behind all that they had known. With an understanding of the customs and regulations of the time in which our ancestors traveled, we can know what kinds of records may have been created. Some of these record sources are unique to particular groups and might be the sole means of discovering the specific origins of ancestors.
America’s immigration history is two-sided. To search records successfully, it is most helpful to study the newcomer both as emigrant (leaving the old country) and immigrant (coming to America). A brief outline of almost any nation’s history can be gleaned from a standard encyclopedia, but the deeper the understanding you have of a specific group of people, the more likely you are to find clues to continue a search and to understand the personalities of individuals. For example, how might an ancestor’s life have been radically changed by the pogroms in Russia? Nicholas V. Riasanovsky addresses that and a number of other issues that a diligent researcher should know about the country in A History of Russia. Riasanovsky describes and illustrates the cultural, economic, geographical, and social aspects of “Russia before the Russians,” “Appanage Russia,” “Muscovite Russia,” “Imperial Russia,” and “Soviet Russia.”
If you want to know more about living conditions and concerns of your British grandparents from 1830 to 1902, for example, a book like G. M. Young’s Victorian England: Portrait of an Age will provide an unusual degree of detail. Histories of this sort abound, and they provide not only the necessary background information for the researcher, but they also enhance appreciation of the lives of ancestors who lived in times very different from our own.
Besides learning something of the history of an ancestor’s national group, it is beneficial for the family historian to understand what occurred after an immigrant arrived in the United States. Were entrance records kept on this side of the ocean? Where might an immigrant have chosen to live immediately after his or her arrival? Where did others of the same nationality settle, and what kinds of documents survive from ethnic communities? Was the immigrant likely to have been naturalized? If so, where and when?
Researchers will find a rich storehouse of printed material to expedite their immigration research. Consider such important immigration sources as Roger Daniels’s Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life, Philip Taylor’s The Distant Magnet: European Emigration to the U.S.A., and Oscar Handlin’s Immigration as a Factor in American History, which cover the emigration experience and its broadest implications; or the histories of particular groups, such as James G. Leyburn’s The Scotch-Irish: A Social History, Rowland Tappan Berthoff’s British Immigrants in Industrial America, 1790–1950, Andrzej Brozek’s Polonia Amerykaska: The American Polonia, Albert Camarillo’s Chicanos in a Changing Society: From Mexican Pueblo to American Barrios in Santa Barbara and Southern California, 1848–1930, and Jay P. Dolan’s The Immigrant Church: New York’s Irish and German Catholics.
History journals and dissertations often provide even more detailed discussions of why people emigrated, when and how they traveled, what they did when they got to the United States, and what kinds of records will divulge their individual names and personal facts. Not only do writings such as Oliver MacDonagh’s “The Irish Famine Emigration to the United States,” in Perspectives in American History, Robert Swierenga’s “Dutch Immigrant Demography, 1820–1880,” in Journal of Family History, or Paula Kaye Benkart’s “Religion, Family, and Community Among Hungarians Migrating to American Cities, 1880–1930,” provide critical insights in themselves, but they will usually point to original and often obscure records used by the authors to prove their theses.
Ethnic and Religious Groups
It would be impossible to cite all of the sources valuable for immigration research, but the determined researcher will find an abundance of published material on specific ethnic and religious groups available in or through public, university, and private libraries. Because every national and religious group of people can be considered an ethnic group, “ethnic” is an important subject heading to consider when searching any library catalog.
Probably one of the most definitive and useful background sources for all ethnic groups is Stephen Thernstrom’s Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. This reference work, found in most large libraries, includes the basic information about the multitude of people who make up the population of the United States. It is a succinct, authoritative treatment of the origins and histories of 106 ethnic groups; it includes twenty-nine thematic essays, eighty-seven maps, and a critical bibliography for each section. Among the many important points made by the Encyclopedia is the fact that few ethnic groups are evenly distributed throughout all regions of the United States. There is a definite tendency for ethnic groups to concentrate in some areas and to avoid others. Though somewhat dated, the depth and scope of the work and the many specialized bibliographies make the Encyclopedia a very useful source for ethnic research.
If religion was a catalyst that sent many an immigrant from his or her homeland, it was also the glue that bound ethnic communities together in the new country. The immigrant church and synagogue were extensions of Old World traditions and provided forms of assistance that were often an integral part of immigrants’ lives. Records kept by religious institutions can be among the most useful in tracing immigrant origins. It is not uncommon for immigrant church registers to note the foreign birthplaces of those baptized, married, confirmed, transferring in or out of a church, or buried. Native towns or parishes are sometimes listed for sponsors or witnesses of religious events as well. The records of religious organizations, such as schools, orders, newspapers, orphanages, hospitals, old people’s homes, and fraternal organizations are other potential sources for biographical information that may be otherwise hard to find for an immigrant. Methods and sources for finding immigrant church records are discussed in the church series and Jewish records are discussed in Jewish American Research.
- Kory L. Meyerink, ed., Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1998).
- These numbers are based on a careful reading of the works of major American immigration historians, including Bernard Bailyn, Voyagers to the West (New York, Knopf, 1986); David Cressy, Coming Over: Migration and Communication between England and New England in the Seventeenth Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Roger Daniels, Coming to America (New York: Harper Collins, 1990); Marcus Lee Hansen, The Atlantic Migration, 1607–1860 (New York: Harper and Row, 1940); and Maldwyn Allen Jones, American Immigration (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960).
- John F. Vallentine, “Tracing the Immigrant Ancestor,” Genealogical Journal 3 (1974): 5.
- Peter Roberts, The New Immigration: A Study of the Industrial and Social Life of East Europeans in America (Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1970).
- Philip Taylor, The Distant Magnet: European Emigration to the U.S.A. (New York: Harper and Row, 1971).
- From: U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000, table DP-1 and DP-2
- Franco-American comprises French (except Basque), French Canadian, and Acadian/Cajun. Hispanic does not include those specifically claiming Mexican, Puerto Rican, or other country specific ancestry.
- Franco-American comprises French (except Basque), French Canadian, and Acadian/Cajun. Hispanic does not include those specifically claiming Mexican, Puerto Rican, or other country specific ancestry.
- Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, A History of Russia, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1969).
- G. M. Young, Victorian England: Portrait of an Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964).
- Roger Daniels, Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life (New York: Harper Collins, 1990); Taylor, Distant Magnet; Oscar Handlin, Immigration as a Factor in American History (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1959); James G. Leyburn, The Scotch-Irish: A Social History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1962); Rowland Tappan Berthoff, British Immigrants in Industrial America, 1790–1950 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1953; reprint, New York: Russell and Russell, 1968); Andrzej Brozek, Polonia Amerykaska: The American Polonia (Warsaw, Poland: Interpress Publications, 1980); Albert Camarillo, Chicanos in a Changing Society: From Mexican Pueblo to American Barrios in Santa Barbara and Southern California, 1848–1930 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979); Jay P. Dolan, The Immigrant Church: New York’s Irish and German Catholics (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975).
- Oliver MacDonagh, “The Irish Famine Emigration to the United States,” Perspectives in American History 10 (1976): 357–446; Robert Swierenga, “Dutch Immigrant Demography, 1820–1880,” Journal of Family History 5 (Winter 1980): 390–405; Paula Kaye Benkart, “Religion, Family, and Community Among Hungarians Migrating to American Cities, 1880–1930” (Ph.D. dissertation, Johns Hopkins University, 1975).
- Stephen Thernstrom, Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1980).