U.S. Immigration Records Research Guide: Passenger Lists, Naturalization, and More

July 15, 2020  - by 
immigrants getting off a ship

Our immigrant ancestors often created documents that were especially valuable for genealogy. Passenger lists, border crossings, naturalizations, and passports are just a few. Though these record sets were difficult to access in the past, they are easily found online today. Let’s take a look at what some of these immigration records can tell us and where to find them.


Passenger Lists and Passenger Arrival Records

Danish immigrants

The most important thing to know about a passenger list is when it was created. In some cases, the passenger list may have been created at the time of arrival in the United States. At other times, the passenger list could have been created at the port of departure.

Between 1820 and 1902, list of passengers were typically referred to as a customs passenger list. After 1893, the lists were referred to as immigration passenger lists.


United States Border Crossing Records

Immigrants in Canada

Recording arrivals at land borders, such as the borders between the United States and Mexico and Canada, were not required by early immigration acts. Immigration records of arrivals at the Canadian border began in 1895 and at the Mexican border in 1906. Card manifests for each person were used to record information about arrivals in the United States across land. These cards contain information similar to the information on passenger lists.


Naturalization Records

a family of immigrants who needed naturalization records.

Naturalization in the United States began in 1790 and has changed significantly over time. The naturalization process created records that are filled with information about our ancestors. The amount of information varies depending on the time period. The court in which the naturalization took place also varies depending on when your ancestor naturalized.


Make a list of your immigrant ancestors, and then use the resources you’ve learned about in this article to find the immigration records for each of them. You may find that you break down a brick wall or two!

Amie Tennant

Amie Bowser Tennant is a genealogy researcher, writer and presenter.She writes blog articles and other content for many top companies and societies in the genealogy field. Her most treasured experience is working as a consultant for family history. Amie lives with her husband and three children in Ohio, surrounded by many of her extended family.

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Comments

  1. I love the in depth hints regarding our ancestors. I have lots of “walls” when it comes to my Austrian, Romanian and German ancestors. Thank you so much!