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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.
- Hamburg Passenger Lists how to use the lists and indexes
- Germans from Russia research strategies, and record types
- Ancestry.com ($) passengers, naturalizations, convicts, passports, border crossings, ship images, crew lists, colonists, and aliens
- FrancoGen links to early French Canadian immigration sources
- Tracing Family History: Canada Immigration and Citizenship Genealogy Guide has links to other resources.
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?
- Huguenots (French Protestants) settled Florida in 1564, 43 years before Jamestown.
- The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to the United States.
- More people have come from Italy and Germany to America than from any other nations.
- More immigrants arrived at Philadelphia than at New York City prior to 1800.
- More than 3/4 of American colonists arrived as indentured servants, convicts or slaves.
- The U.S. National Archives has both Canadian and Mexican border crossing records.
- Library and Archives Canada has border crossing records of Americans into Canada.
- Some American colonists had their last will and testament sent back to England for probate.
- Up to 90 percent of Irish and Greek immigrants went back home from America.
- What Passenger Lists Are Online overview of United States and International links, and which ones require payment
Passenger lists and/or indexes
- One-Step All New York Stephen P. Morse's excellent search tool for ALL 1820-1957 New York City passenger arrivals
- One-Step Ellis Island explains Stephen P. Morse's various excellent search tools for 1892-1924 New York City arrivals
- One-Step Castle Garden links to Stephen P. Morse's various excellent search tools for 1855-1891 New York City arrivals
- Ellis Island Record Search Ellis Island's site including search index 1892-1924, manifest images, history, photos and more
- Castle Garden index of New York City passenger arrivals 1820-1913 (no images)
- Immigrant Ships Transcriber's Guild transcripts and index of over 10,000 ships' passenger lists
- Immigrant Servants Database indexes indentured servants who came to the colonies
- Immigrant Ancestors Project (BYU) indexing efforts focusing on France, Germany, England, Ireland, Italy, and Spain
- Immigration History Research Center (Univ of Minn.) research on international migration, archives to document immigrant and refugee life
- WorldVitalRecords over 40 million names in over 100 immigration and travel databases
- Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society immigrant records English and Russian HIAS arrival cards since 1909 copies for a fee
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
- BLM-GLO Land Patent Index search homesteads, and other land records by state, applicant's name, or land description
- Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System about 1/10 of Union soldiers were recent immigrants; some military records may give hometown
Immigrant heritage societies
- American Historical Society of Germans from Russia chapters, contact info, conventions, contribute to their database, news, products, research materials, services, and village lists
- Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center at Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois studies of Swedish immigration to North America, the communities the immigrants established, and the role the immigrants and their descendants have played in American life
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.