Pennsylvania Emigration and Immigration

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Online Resources[edit | edit source]

1727-1855 Vol. 2
1684-1907 Vol. 3
1727-1911 Vol. 4
1764-1840 Vol. 5
1753-1860 Vol. 6 Philadephia only
1754-1761 Vol. 6 Unspecified Port Pennsylvania

Cultural Groups[edit | edit source]

Passport Records Online[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.

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]

  • By June 3, 1631, the Dutch had begun settling the Delmarva Peninsula by establishing the Zwaanendael Colony on the site of present-day Lewes, Delaware. [2]
  • Starting in 1638, Swedes and Finns settled between present-day Wilmington, Delaware and Philadelphia, and small settlements in West New Jersey. New Sweden claimed and, for the most part, controlled the lower Delaware River region (parts of present-day Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) but settled few colonists there. In 1655, the Dutch took possession of all New Sweden.[3][2]
  • In 1642, Englishmen from New Haven, Connecticut built a blockhouse at Province Island (now Philadelphia Airport) but were promptly driven out by the Dutch and Swedish. In 1664. as part of the Second Anglo-Dutch War the British forced New Netherland into submission. By 1670, the English, Irish, and Welsh predominated in the area. They settled mostly in Philadelphia and the eastern counties.[4]
  • Germans began coming to Pennsylvania in large numbers at the end of the 1600s. Pennsylvania was the top destination for German immigrants arriving in Colonial North America.[5]
  • Scots-Irish started coming in large numbers after 1718. They settled first in the western Chester County area (later Lancaster county) and moved west over the Susquehanna River valley and Cumberland Valley area and later pushed into the western Pennsylvania counties of Westmoreland, Fayette, Washington, Greene, and Allegheny.
  • It was estimated that 3000 to 4000 Irish immigrants arrived at the port of Philadelphia in the decades before and after the Revolution.[6]
  • Some French Huguenots from New York migrated to Pennsylvania and settled in Berks and Lancaster counties. [7]
  • Swiss Mennonites began to settle in Lancaster county about 1710.

Slaves and Indentured Servants[edit | edit source]

Ship masters paid duties for importing African slaves into the colony.[8] Many people came to Pennsylvania and the other colonies as indentured servants. [9]

  • In the 1870s, Pennsylvania attracted large numbers of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. These included Slavs, Poles, Italians, Jews, Russians, and Greeks.
  • During the 19th and especially the 20th centuries, African Americans from the southern states also moved to Pennsylvania in large numbers.
  • Pennsylvania's Hispanic population grew by 82.6% between 2000 and 2010, making it one of the largest increases in a state's Hispanic population. The significant growth of the Hispanic population is due to immigration to the state mainly from Puerto Rico, which is a US territory, but to a lesser extent from countries such as the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and various Central and South American nations, as well as from the wave of Hispanics leaving New York and New Jersey for safer and more affordable living.
  • The majority of Hispanics in Pennsylvania are of Puerto Rican descent, having one of the largest and fastest-growing Puerto Rican populations in the country. Most of the remaining Hispanic population is made up of Mexicans and Dominicans. Most Hispanics are concentrated in Philadelphia, Lehigh Valley and South Central Pennsylvania. [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 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]

During the colonial period, many immigrants lived temporarily in Pennsylvania before resettling elsewhere in the colonies - particularly those of German and Scotch-Irish background. Many went to the backcountry regions of Virginia and North Carolina.[10]

Pennsylvania Migration Routes[edit | edit source]

Beaver and Erie Canal · Bethlehem Pike · Braddock's Road · Burd's Road · Canada Road · Centre Turnpike · Culbertson's Path · Cumberland Road · Delaware River · Fall Line Road  · Forbes Road · Gist's Trace · Great Indian Warpath · Great Island Path · Great Shamokin Path · Great Trail · Great Valley Road  · King's Highway · Kittanning Path · Lake Erie · Lake Shore Path · Lehigh and Lackawanna Paths · Gist's Trace · Minsi Path · National Road  · Ohio River · Pennsylvania Road · Philadelphia Lancaster Turnpike · Philadelphia and Reading Rail Road · Great Valley Road · Pennsylvania Railroad · Schuylkill Canal · Fall Line Road · Tuscarora Path · Union Canal · Venango Path

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Genealogy", at USCIS,, accessed 26 March 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Pennsylvania", in Wikipedia,, accessed 8 April 2021.
  3. "New Sweden" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 7 November 2008).
  4. Wayland Fuller Dunaway, "The English Settlers in Colonial Pennsylvania," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 52, No. 4 (Oct. 1928):317-341. For free online access, see WeRelate.
  5. Marianne Wokeck, "The Flow and the Composition of German Immigration to Philadelphia, 1727-1775," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 105, No. 3 (Jul. 1981):249-278. For free online access, see WeRelate.
  6. Edward C. Carter, "A 'Wild Irishman' Under Every Federalist's Bed: Naturalization in Philadelphia, 1789-1806," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 94, No. 3 (Jul. 1970):331-346. For free online access, see WeRelate.
  7. Wayland Fuller Dunaway, "The French Racial Strain in Colonial Pennsylvania," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 53, No. 4 (Oct. 1929):322-342. For free online access, see WeRelate.
  8. Darold D. Wax, "Negro Import Duties in Colonial Pennsylvania," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 97, No. 1 (Jan. 1973):22-44. For free online access, see WeRelate.
  9. Sharon V. Salinger, To Serve Well and Faithfully: Labor and Indentured Servants in Pennsylvania, 1682-1800 (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1987; Family History Library book FHL book 974.8 E6ss. It includes the names of some individuals who were indentured servants. The sources Salinger used can provide examples of the kind of records to search to find out information about these individuals.
  10. Wayland Fuller Dunaway, "Pennsylvania as an Early Distributing Center of Population," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 55, No. 2 (Apr. 1931):134-169; William H. Gehrke, "The Beginning of the Pennsylvania-German Element in Rowan and Cabarrus Counties, North Carolina," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 58, No. 4 (Oct. 1934):342-369. For free online access to both articles, see WeRelate.