Family History: Genealogy Made Easy
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Republished May 6, 2014
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 30: Immigration and Naturalization Records for Family History, Part 2
This episode continues last episode’s conversation about immigration and naturalization records. With me again is Stephen Danko, PhD, a genealogy lecturer and a very popular blogger. In today’s show Steve and I talk more about passenger lists, and some of the ramifications of an immigrant being detained or deported. We cover the multi-step naturalization process and you’ll hear about a fantastic find in naturalization papers–so fantastic that other researchers at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City wanted a copy!
Here are my favorite take-away points from this episode:
There were no requirements to keep passenger lists in the U.S. before 1820, or in Canada before 1867. (Many people originally arrived in one or the other of these countries, then migrated across the border, which was essentially unregulated before the 1890s.) There may have been records kept, but you’re not going to find them easily.
The passenger lists we’re most familiar with were filled out in the port of departure, then surrendered to U.S. government officials upon arrival. But other records were maintained at the port of departure. Departure information from European ports is often available on microfilm at the Family History Library, on Ancestry.com or other websites. Some of the passenger steamship lines themselves kept departure lists, like the White Star Line or the Red Star Line, and these are on microfilm. Here’s an excellent article on Passenger Departure Lists of German Emigrants, 1709-1914. Look for resources specific to other countries in genealogical guides under the headings “emigration” or “departure lists.”
Immigrants who were deported or even detained for further investigation, the steamship line had to pay the bill. If they were detained or they went back, the date and ship of deportation may be indicated on the passenger manifests.
Naturalization was a multistep process. The “first paper” is the declaration of intent. After a certain period of time, they applied for their petition for naturalization (“second papers”). Eventually they received their certificate of naturalization. After 1926, there may also be a certificate of arrival. (See Episode 29.)
Naturalization records may be at the county level or may be in federal court. Increasingly these are coming online. Meanwhile, some are easier to track down than others. Most Massachusetts naturalizations are available on microfilm and at the Massachusetts State Library. Some books
Many 20th-century naturalizations are packed with family information. Steve shared an example for one of his relatives. Her naturalization had her name, birthdate and birthplace, name of her husband and date of her marriage, her husband’s birthplace and date, the names of all her children, her date of arrival and the ship she came on! Some later naturalizations also have photographs. Microfilmed files may also have the certificate of arrival.
Updates and Links
About 70 million immigration and naturalization records have been indexed in recent years through an enormous community indexing project led by FamilySearch. Check out their site (below) to see what records are searchable now.