United States Border Crossings from Mexico to United States (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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United States Border Crossings from Mexico to United States, 1903-1957 .
This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
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Record Description
Record Type Emigration and Immigration
Record Group RG 85: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service
Collection years 1903-1957
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
National Archives and Records Administration

What is in the Collection?

This database contains an index of aliens and some citizens crossing into the U.S. from Mexico via various ports of entry along the U.S./Mexican border between 1903 and 1957.

Many of the records are arranged alphabetically. Others are arranged chronologically, then by manifest number. Chronologically-arranged records usually have a related alphabetical index. Alphabetically-arranged records are filed by surname, then by first name, subject to special rules. Double names are filed as if the second part of the double name was not there. For example, Jimenez De San Miguel, Petra, is filed among other persons named Jimenez, Petra. Castro, Maria de los Angeles, is filed among other persons named Castro, Maria. Montalvo-Hernandez, Jose, is filed among other persons named Montalvo, Jose. Surnames like De La Huerta are filed under Huerta.

Separate cards or “card manifests” for each person were used at the ports of entry along the Mexican border. These cards contained the same information as was collected on traditional ship passenger arrival lists, such as full name, age, sex, marital status, occupation, point of arrival in the United States, and final destination. 

As would be expected, Mexican nationals comprised the vast majority of alien arrivals at the U.S./Mexico land border. However, Europeans also entered the U.S. through these ports, as well aliens from elsewhere in the world. For example, Syrians and large numbers of Japanese entered at Eagle Pass, Texas, in 1906 and 1907. Japanese, Turkish, Syrian, Guatemalan, and Korean citizens, in addition to many Europeans, entered at Laredo, Texas, 1903-1907. Citizens of Japan, Palestine, Syria, Canada, and the Philippine Islands are among those who entered at Brownsville, Texas. A scattering of U.S. citizen arrivals are also found in these records. 

This collection contains an index of people crossing from Mexico into the United States via various ports of entry along the USA-Mexican border, between the years 1903 and 1957. 

This database was created to facilitate the research of ancestors who crossed the Mexican border. The original customs records were maintained primarily for statistical purposes.

This index, taken from the card manifests, is a reliable source for finding ancestors who crossed the Mexican border and entered into the United States between 1903 and 1957.

Collection Content

Information found on the Ancestry’s Mexican border crossing database includes:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Birth date
  • Birthplace
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity or nationality
  • Port of arrival
  • Arrival date

The short forms (index cards) usually contain the following information:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Citizenship ("nationality")
  • Race
  • Last place of residence
  • Destination
  • Port and date of admission
  • Status as immigrant or non immigrant. The number annotated to the right of the person's name or gender is generally the "real" manifest number that is used, along with the date of arrival, to locate the person's statistical manifest--which contains additional information--in a separate series of card manifests. Sometimes, information was simply typewritten onto a blank card instead of a form.

The manifest usually contains the following information:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Place of birth
  • Physical description
  • Occupation
  • Ability to read and write and in what language
  • Place of last permanent residence
  • Destination
  • Purpose for entering U.S.
  • Intention of becoming a U.S. citizen or of returning to country of previous residence
  • Head tax status
  • Previous citizenship
  • Name and address of the friend or relative whom the alien intended to join
  • Persons accompanying the alien
  • Name and address of the alien's nearest relative or friend in the country from which he or she came
  • If the alien had ever been in the U.S. in the past, the dates and places of such residence or visitation are indicated.

How Do I Search the Collection?

To begin your search it is helpful to know:

  • Your ancestor's given name and surname
  • Some identifying information such as residence, age, estimated immigration year, and/or family relationships

Search the Collection

To search the collection by name:
Fill in the requested information in the boxes on the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the individuals in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to look at the information on several individuals comparing the information about them to your ancestors to make this determination. Keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names, or variations of their name, throughout their life.
  • If your ancestor used an alias or a nickname, be sure to check for those alternate names.
  • Even though these indexes are very accurate they may still contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.

For tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line article FamilySearch Search Tips and Tricks.

The database is an index in alphabetical order. There are two types of cards that can be found. One is an short form (index card). These short forms, while valuable, do not contain as much information as can be found on the manifest. If you find a short form (index card) for your ancestor, be sure to try to locate the longer manifest form. Usually the information found in these records will identify the place and date of birth of the ancestor which allow for further research in the records of that place.

What if I Can't Find Who I'm Looking For?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for alias names, nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • Search the records of port cities along the border.
  • Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals that may be your ancestor.

How You Can Contribute

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citing this Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.

Collection Citation

"United States, Border Crossings From Mexico to United States, 1903-1957." Database. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2016. Citing " Border Crossings: From Mexico to U.S., 1895-1957." Ancestry.com. www.ancestry.com : 2006. NARA record group 85. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for United States Border Crossings from Mexico to United States, 1903-1957.