Virginia Emigration and Immigration

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How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

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.
Virginia Port Records at the NARA[edit | edit source]

The Family History Library and the National Archives also have incomplete passenger lists for the following ports.

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]

Virginia Colonial Records Project at the Library of Virginia[edit | edit source]

The Virginia Colonial Records Project at the Library of Virginia can help Americans trace their European immigrant origins. Scholars visited United Kingdom and other European archives searching for references to colonial-era Virginians. Their 14,704 records survey reports contain half a million names of persons and ships which are searchable at the Library's web site. They also microfilmed about two-thirds of the records they located. The 963 reels of microfilm are held at the Library of Virginia and are available for interlibrary loan. The Library's About the Virginia Colonial Records Project provides more information.

Virtual Jamestown[edit | edit source]

The Virtual Jamestown Archive is a digital research, teaching and learning project that explores the legacies of the Jamestown settlement and "the Virginia experiment."

Germanna Foundation Library[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]

  • The original European settlers came in the early 17th century from the midland and southern counties of England.[2] They first settled in Virginia's tidewater (coastal plain).
  • Many colonists had connections to Barbados.[3] The earliest Africans to Barbados came in 1619. Starting in 1680, large numbers of Africans were captured and brought as slaves to Barbados.
  • It has been estimated that 75% of white colonists arrived in bondage as indentured servants or transported convicts.[4]
  • Small landholders moved westward to the Piedmont, where they were joined by a new wave of English and Scottish immigrants.
  • In the early 1700s, French Huguenots arrived. Their settlement, in King William Parish, near Richmond on the James River, was known as Manakin Town.[5] They and many of their descendants lived in Henrico, Goochland, Cumberland, and Powhatan counties.
  • German workers were imported between 1714 and 1717 to work iron furnaces in the Piedmont area.
  • A group of Germans created a settlement called Germanna in early eighteenth-century Virginia. Germanna Foundation Library maintains a visitor's center with genealogical library. They work to promote historic preservation as well as family history information and research.
  • During the 1730s and 1740s, a large number of settlers of Ulster Scot and German descent moved southward from Pennsylvania down the Allegheny Ridges into the Shenandoah Valley.


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 Immigration[edit | edit source]

Many settlers from Maryland and Pennsylvania migrated down into Virginia during the colonial period. The Great Valley Road, which passed through the Shenandoah Valley was a popular route.

Many Virginians moved to Georgia immediately after the American Revolution.[6]

Virginia Migration Routes[edit | edit source]

Atlantic Coast Ports · Chesapeake Bay · James River · Potomac River · Rappahannock River · York River · Chesapeake and Ohio Canal · Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad · Cumberland Road (or National Road) · Fall Line Road (or Southern Road) · Great Indian Warpath · Great Trading Path · Great Valley Road · Kanawha Trail · King's Highway · National Road (or Cumberland Road) · New River and Southern Trail · Occaneechi Path · Old Cherokee Path · Old Northwestern Turnpike · Pamunkey-New River Trail · Pioneer Road · Richmond Road · Richmond-Williamsburg Road · Saura-Saponi Trail · Secondary Coast Road · Fall Line Road (or (Fall LIne Road) · Upper Road · Wilderness Road · Wilmington, Highpoint, and Northern Trail

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

Many additional sources are available listed in the FamilySearch Library catalog:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Genealogy", at USCIS,, accessed 26 March 2021.
  2. David Hackett Fischer, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989). FHL Book 973 H2fis.
  3. David L. Kent, Barbados and America (Arlington, Va.: C.M. Kent, 1980). FHL Book 972.981 X2b.
  4. Wesley Frank Craven, White, Red, and Black: The Seventeenth-Century Virginian (Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia, 1971).
  5. "Manakin Town: The French Huguenot Settlement in Virginia 1700-ca. 1750," National Humanities Center Resource Toolbox. Becoming American: The British Atlantic Colonies, 1690-1763,, accessed 23 June 2012.
  6. John Frederick Dorman, "Review of Research in Georgia," in The Virginia Genealogist, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Apr.-Jun. 1981):147. Digital version at American Ancestors by NEHGS ($). FHL Book 975.5 B2vg v. 25 (1981)