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.
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.
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 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!
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