Tracing Immigrants IntroductionEdit This Page
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Tracing Immigrant Origins Introduction
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. Learning about your family's history and experiences can be a source of enjoyment and education for you and your family.
Tracing immigrant origins can be one of the hardest parts of family history research. Even if you know which country your family came from, it can still be hard to identify a specific hometown or birthplace.
See Coming to America: Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors in the FamilySearch Learning Center.
Using This Set of Wiki Pages
This set of Wiki pages is a reference tool. It has several features to help you learn about sources and strategies to find an immigrant's hometown.
This set of Wiki pages is divided into three main parts. You may use these parts separately or together. “Part 1. Search Strategies” describes the five basic steps you can use to find an immigrant's place of origin. “Part 2. Country of Arrival” describes tactics and record types for records created in the immigrant's new country. “Part 3. Country of Origin” describes the tactics and record types from his or her homeland.
Records Selection Tables
Both part two (Country-of-Arrival) and part three (Country-of-Origin) have a “Records Selection Table.” These tables can help you choose the record type that might contain the information you need. The search tactics are listed in an order that best helps you if you know little about the immigrant. Select the tactic(s) and record type(s) that best fit what you already know.
The best approach is usually to start searching records created in the immigrant's new country, especially if you know little about the immigrant. For a few countries, it is easier to use country-of-origin records. This set of Wiki pages usually identifies such countries. To verify information found in country-of-arrival records, use country-of-origin records.
Other Sets of Wiki Pages
This set of research pages is most helpful when used with other available FamilySearch Wiki pages. These Wiki pages tell you what information is in each record type and the availability of records for specific countries. State and provincial pages can also help.
FamilySearch CatalogTheFamily History Library has most of the records mentioned in this set of Wiki pages. The key to finding a record in the Family History Library's collection is the FamilySearch Catalog. The catalog describes the library's records and provides the call numbers. The FamilySearch Catalog is also availableon the Internet and at each Family History Center. At the library and at most centers you can also search the catalog on computer.
The FamilySearch Catalog has eight major searches:
To find the call numbers of the records described in this outline, you will most often use the Place Search. The paragraph headings in this outline that describe types of records, such as “Church Records,” are the same as the topics found in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog.
Catalog entries are generally written in the same language as the records they describe. However, the description also includes a brief English summary of the contents.
The Place Search lists records by area. Records relating to an entire country, such as passenger lists, are listed under the country name. Most records are listed under the specific place. For example, in the Place Search look for—
- The place where your ancestor lived, such as—
- UNITED STATES
- OHIO, HAMILTON
- OHIO, HAMILTON, CINCINNATI
- The record type you want to search, such as—
- UNITED STATES - CENSUS
- OHIO - GENEALOGY
- OHIO, HAMILTON - NATURALIZATION AND CITIZENSHIP
- OHIO, HAMILTON, CINCINNATI - CHURCH RECORDS