Tennessee Emigration and Immigration

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How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Tennessee, being entirely inland, has no seaports. Immigrants would have initially arrived at a port on the coast. To search those records, see United States Immigration Online Genealogy Records. Most foreign-born immigrants arrived at the ports of New Orleans, New York, or other Atlantic and Gulf ports. The major port of entry for the Mississippi River was New Orleans.

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.

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]

European. Pre-statehood settlers of Tennessee generally came from Virginia and the Carolinas by way of the Cumberland Gap and other land routes. Some settlers from Pennsylvania and New England poled keel boats from the Ohio River up the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers. Most of these early settlers were of English and Ulster Scottish origin, although some were of German, Irish, and French ancestry.

Tennessee continued to attract settlers from the Atlantic Coast into the 1830's and received Irish and German settlers during the European immigrations beginning at that time. However, most of the overseas immigrants preferred the industrialized North rather than the agricultural South.

African. The African-American population comprised about 10 percent of the total population in the first federal census and is only a little above that percentage today. For information on African-Americans in Tennessee, see African American Resources for Tennessee.

Native American. The Chickasaw and Cherokee Indians had nearly all been exiled from the state by 1839. For further information on the tribes and their records in Tennessee, see Indigenous Peoples of Tennessee.

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.
Again, Tennessee, being entirely inland, has no seaports. Immigrants would have initially arrived at a port on the coast. To search those records, see United States Immigration Online Genealogy Records. Most foreign-born immigrants arrived at the ports of New Orleans, New York, or other Atlantic and Gulf ports. The major port of entry for the Mississippi River was New Orleans.

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]

  • Many settlers moved from Tennessee to areas further west, most notably to Arkansas and Texas.

Free native-born Tennesseans, alive in 1860, who had left the state, most popularly resettled in:[2]

State Persons Born in Tennessee
Missouri 73,594
Arkansas 66,609 
Texas 42,265 

Tennessee Migration Routes[edit | edit source]

Cumberland River · Mississippi River · Tennessee River · Avery's Trace or Nashville Road  · Black Fox Trail · Bolivar and Memphis Trail · Catawba Trail · Chattanooga-Willstown Road · Chickasaw Trail or Natchez Trace · Cisca and St. Augustine Trail or Nickajack Trail  · Cisco and Middle Tennessee Trail · Cumberland and Great Lakes Trail · Cumberland and Ohio Falls Trail · Cumberland Trace · Georgia Road  · Federal Road · Great Indian Warpath · Great South Trail · Great Trading Path · Great Valley Road · Jackson's Military Road · Jonesboro Road · Kentucky Road · Lower Warpath or West Tennessee Trail · Mississippi and Tennessee River Trail · Nashville Road or Avery's Trace  · Nashville-Saline River Trail · Natchez Trace or Chickasaw Trail  · Old Cherokee Path · Tennessee, Ohio and Great Lakes Trail · Unicoi Trail · West Tennessee Chickasaw Trail · Wilderness Road

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

The FamilySearch Library has additional sources listed in their catalog:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Genealogy", at USCIS, https://www.uscis.gov/records/genealogy, accessed 26 March 2021.
  2. William O. Lynch, "The Westward Flow of Southern Colonists before 1861," The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Aug. 1943):303-327. Digital version at JSTOR ($).