Tracing Immigrant Origins

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Revision as of 18:49, 14 July 2014

News and Events

Tracing Immigrant Origins Part 1 of 3

Search Strategies

Part 2 of 3
Country of Arrival
Search Tactics
Record Selection Table
Record Types
Part 3 of 3
Country of Origin
Search Tactics
Record Selection Table
Record Types

For Further Reading

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Immigrants came by ship, by rail, in wagons, and on foot.
Durango Silverton RR.jpg
Immigrants came by ship, by rail, in wagons, and on foot.

Value. These Wiki pages introduce the principles, search strategies, and record types you can use to identify an immigrant ancestor's original hometown. These principles apply to almost any country. Finding an immigrant ancestor's place of origin is the key to finding earlier generations of the family. It provides access to many family history resources in that home area. Once you know a former place of residence or a birthplace, you may be able to add more generations to your pedigree. Read more of the Introduction . . .

Research Sequence. The best approach is to start searching records created in the immigrant's new country, especially if you know little about the person. Only rarely is it better to use country-of-origin records first.

Key Immigration Links

Featured content

Country of Arrival Obituaries. Obituaries are an excellent source of biographical information about immigrants. In addition to names and death dates, you can learn about surviving family members, church affiliations, spouses, parents, occupations, burial places, and hometowns in the old country. Even if a place of origin is not given, an obituary may provide additional research clues, such as the date or ship of immigration or traveling companions. Much of this information cannot be found in other sources. For many immigrants, an obituary is the only “biographical sketch” ever written about them.

Did you know?

Other external links


Passenger lists and/or indexes

National Archives collections

  • Library and Archives Canada 15 Canadian immigrant name indexes, passenger lists before 1865, 1865-1935, ocean arrivals 1919-1924, border entries 1919-1924, after 1935, immigrants from Russia, British home children orphan immigrants, passports, and citizenship papers
  • U.S. National Archives ship passenger arrival records and land border entries 1800-1819, 1820-1959, links to immigration databases

Other resources likely to list immigrants

Immigrant heritage societies

A wiki article describing an online collection is found at

  • New York, Northern Arrival Manifests shows over 1 million cards in Soundex order for passengers arriving north of New York City in New York State at Buffalo, Lewiston, Niagra Falls, Rochester, Hogansburg, Malone, Morristown, Nyando, Ogdensburg, Rooseveltown, and Waddington.