Massachusetts Emigration and Immigration

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Massachusetts Wiki Topics
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Beginning Research
Record Types
Massachusetts Background
Cultural Groups
Local Research Resources

How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

1634-1903 Vol. 2
1635-1909 Vol. 3
1683-1920 Vol.4
1826-1905 Vol. 5
1847-1923 Vol. 6

Cultural Groups[edit | edit source]

Passport Records Online[edit | edit source]

Digital Books[edit | edit source]

Offices to Contact[edit | edit source]

Although many records are included in the online records listed above, there are other records available through these archives and offices. For example, there are many minor ports that have not yet been digitized. There are also records for more recent time periods. For privacy reasons, some records can only be accessed after providing proof that your ancestor is now deceased.

National Archives and Records Administration[edit | edit source]

  • You may do research in immigration records in person at the National Archives Building, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408-0001.
Massachusetts Ports in NARA Records[edit | edit source]

Many of these port records are included in the online records listed above.

U.S. Citizenship and and Immigration Services Genealogy Program[edit | edit source]

The USCIS Genealogy Program is a fee-for-service program that provides researchers with timely access to historical immigration and naturalization records of deceased immigrants. If the immigrant was born less than 100 years ago, you will also need to provide proof of his/her death.

Immigration Records Available[edit | edit source]
  • A-Files: Immigrant Files, (A-Files) are the individual alien case files, which became the official file for all immigration records created or consolidated since April 1, 1944.
  • Alien Registration Forms (AR-2s): Alien Registration Forms (Form AR-2) are copies of approximately 5.5 million Alien Registration Forms completed by all aliens age 14 and older, residing in or entering the United States between August 1, 1940 and March 31, 1944.
  • Registry Files: Registry Files are records, which document the creation of immigrant arrival records for persons who entered the United States prior to July 1, 1924, and for whom no arrival record could later be found.
  • Visa Files: Visa Files are original arrival records of immigrants admitted for permanent residence under provisions of the Immigration Act of 1924.[1]
Requesting a Record[edit | edit source]

Finding Town of Origin[edit | edit source]

Records in the countries emigrated from are kept on the local level. You must first identify the name of the town where your ancestors lived to access those records. If you do not yet know the name of the town of your ancestor's birth, there are well-known strategies for a thorough hunt for it.

Background[edit | edit source]

1600s. Early settlers of Massachusetts generally came from England and Scotland and the other New England states. Plymouth Colony was first settled in 1620. From 1630 to 1642, fifteen to twenty thousand people settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Up to 1880. Significant immigration from other European countries began in the 1840s, when many people came to work in the textile mills. Prior to 1880 about 95 percent of the overseas immigrants to Massachusetts came from Britain, Ireland, and northern Europe. The Irish were the largest immigrant group from the late 1840s through the rest of the 19th century. In the 1870s large numbers of Canadians, especially French Canadians, began to move overland into the state.

After 1880. A significant change in immigration patterns occurred after 1880. A wave of Italian and Portuguese immigration began in the late 1880s and reached its high point just prior to World War I. Russians, Russian Jews, and people from Poland and other Slavic countries came in large numbers in the early 20th century. In 1907, for example, 80 percent of the immigrants to Massachusetts were from southern and eastern Europe.

Cultural Groups[edit | edit source]

  • As late as 1795, the population of Massachusetts was nearly 95% of English ancestry.
  • During the early and mid-19th century, immigrant groups began arriving in Massachusetts in large numbers; first from Ireland in the 1840s. Today the Irish and part-Irish are the largest ancestry group in the state at nearly 25% of the total population.
  • Others arrived later from Quebec, as well as places in Europe such as Italy, Portugal, and Poland.
  • In the early 20th century, a number of African Americans' migrated to Massachusetts, although in somewhat fewer numbers than many other Northern states.
  • Later in the 20th century, immigration from Latin America increased considerably.
  • More than 156,000 Chinese Americans made their home in Massachusetts in 2014, and Boston hosts a growing Chinatown.
  • Massachusetts also has large Dominican, Puerto Rican, Haitian, Cape Verdean and Brazilian populations.
  • Italians form the second-largest ethnic group in the state (13.5%), but form a plurality only in some suburbs north of Boston and in a few towns in the Berkshires.
  • French and French Canadians also form a significant part (10.7%), with sizable populations in Bristol, Hampden, and Worcester Counties.
  • Lowell is home to the second-largest Cambodian community of the nation.
  • Massachusetts is home to a small community of Greek Americans as well. According to the American Community Survey there are 83,701 of them scattered along the state (1.2% of the total state population).[2]

Immigration Records[edit | edit source]

Immigration refers to people coming into a country. Emigration refers to people leaving a country to go to another. Immigration records usually take the form of ship's passenger lists collected at the port of entry. See Online Databases and Resources.

What can I find in them?[edit | edit source]

Information in Passenger Lists[edit | edit source]

  • Before 1820 - Passenger lists before 1820 included name, departure information and arrival details. The names of wives and children were often not included.
  • 1820-1891 - Customs Passenger Lists between 1820 and 1891 asked for each immigrant’s name, their age, their sex, their occupation, and their country of origin, but not the city or town of origin.
  • 1891-1954 - Information given on passenger lists from 1891 to 1954 included:
    • name, age, sex,
    • nationality, occupation, marital status,
    • last residence, final destination in the U.S.,
    • whether they had been to the U.S. before (and if so, when, where and how long),
    • if joining a relative, who this person was, where they lived, and their relationship,
    • whether able to read and write,
    • whether in possession of a train ticket to their final destination, who paid for the passage,
    • amount of money the immigrant had in their possession,
    • whether the passenger had ever been in prison, a poorhouse, or in an institution for the insane,
    • whether the passenger was a polygamist,
    • and immigrant's state of health.
  • 1906-- - In 1906, the physical description and place of birth were included, and a year later, the name and address of the passenger’s closest living relative in the country of origin was included.

Information in Passports[edit | edit source]

Over the years, passports and passport applications contained different amounts of information about the passport applicant. The first passports that are available begin in 1795. These usually contained the individual's name, description of individual, and age. More information was required on later passport applications, such as:

  • Birthplace
  • Birth date
  • Naturalization information
  • Arrival information, if foreign born

In-country Migration[edit | edit source]

Massachusetts Migration Routes[edit | edit source]

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

The FamilySearch Library has additional sources listed in their catalog:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Genealogy", at USCIS,, accessed 26 March 2021.
  2. "Massachusetts: Race and Ancestry", in Wikipedia,, accessed 1 April 2021.