Tracing Immigrants Arrival History
Published histories of the town, county, or region where an ancestor lived are often the key to identifying his or her national and ethnic origin. Histories of churches, schools, and industries may mention immigrants. In addition, they often identify records that may include the immigrant ancestor. If an ancestor was among the area's founding families or was a prominent citizen, a local history may have an account of his or her life.
Local histories include less prominent immigrants as well. Immigrants often considered it a mark of success to have a biographical sketch in the typical local histories of the nineteenth century, even if they had to pay to be included. Immigrants could be on lists of early settlers into a valley, members of a founding church, original town settlers, landholders, or school teachers. Bibliographies of local histories are available for most countries, states, and provinces. The Family History Library has an excellent collection of local histories.
Histories are available for many ethnic and religious groups. Many immigrants were part of an ethnic community in their new country. Many were also members of a religious group. Histories of smaller ethnic and religious groups often identify all or most of the members of that group. Excellent examples include—
- Ulvestad, Martin. Nordmændene i Amerika [Norwegians in America]. 2 vols. Minneapolis: History Book Company's Forlag, 1907-10. (FHL book 973 F2u.)
- Rosicky, Rose. A History of Czechs (Bohemians) in Nebraska. Omaha, Neb.: Czech Historical Society of Nebraska, 1929.
Histories also exist for most religious groups. A good example is—
- Holsinger, Henry R. History of the Tunkers and the Brethren Church.... North Manchester, Ind.: L.W. Shultz, 1962. (FHL book 286.5 H741h.)
Even histories of larger ethnic and religious groups, such as Germans or Episcopalians, can provide valuable background information about migration and settlement patterns.