Illinois Emigration and Immigration

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United States Gotoarrow.png Illinois Gotoarrow.png Illinois Emigration and Immigration

Dutch Windmill in Fulton, Illinois

Immigration and Migration

Pre-statehood settlers of English and Ulster Scots descent came from Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Kentucky by way of the Ohio River, where they joined a few hundred Frenchmen already in the area. The first blacks came to Illinois in 1719 with the French, but their numbers remained few until after the Civil War. Indian tribes relinquished their last remaining Illinois lands shortly after the Black Hawk War of 1832.

When Illinois became a state in 1818, most of the population lived near the waterways of southern Illinois. During the 1830s and 1840s, most settlers came from New York and New England by way of the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes or on the National Road. They settled the central and northern counties. Overseas immigration of the 1840s and 1850s was composed mainly of Germans and Irish. After the Civil War they were joined by Austrians, Hungarians, Russians, Scandinavians, Italians, and Poles.

Iowa was the destination of many who left Illinois in the 1850s. Illinois families also helped settle Kansas and Nebraska. Others joined the California gold rush or traveled the Oregon Trail to the Pacific Northwest.

The abundance and availability of land attracted the most Swedish immigrants, especially Illinois and Minnesota. For further reading, see: Swedish American: Illinois History.


Major ports of entry for immigrants who settled in Illinois include New Orleans, New York, and Canadian ports. Records of passengers have not been found for the ports and harbors in Illinois.

Emigration and Immigration

The article United States Emigration and Immigration lists several important sources for finding information about immigrants to this country. These sources include many references to people who settled in Illinois. Tracing Immigrant Origins introduces the principles, research strategies, and additional record types you can use to identify an immigrant’s original hometown.

See Tracing LDS Ancestors for records of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in Illinois.


Some helpful published sources about Illinois immigrants include:

  • Wyman, Mark.Immigration History and Ethnicity in Illinois: A Guide. Springfield, Illinois: Illinois State Historical Society, 19–?. Other libraries (WorldCat) FHL Book 977.3 A1 no.293
  • White, Elizabeth Pearson. "Illinois Settlers and Their Origins." National Genealogical Society Quarterly (Washington, D.C.: The Society) vol.74, no.1 (Mar. 1986): 7–17.Other libraries (WorldCat) FHL Book 973 B2ng v.74
  • Freund, Hanns Egon. Emigration Records From the German Eifel Region, 1834–1911: with Major Emphasis on Those Emigrants Whose Final Destinations Were Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan. Crystal Lake, Illinois: McHenry County, Illinois Genealogical Society, 1991. Other libraries (WorldCat)FHL book 977 W2f

Learn More

Rubincam, Milton. "Migrations to Illinois, 1673–1860." In Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. (Springfield, Illinois: The Society) volume 4, number 3 (Oct. 1972):127–34. FHL Film1954961 [1]item FHL Book 977.3 B2is]

  • Dollarhide, William. Map Guide to American Migration Routes, 1735–1815. Bountiful, Utah: AGLL Genealogical Services, 1977. (Family History Library book FHL book 973 E3d.) This includes a place-name index.
  • The Handy Book for Genealogists (Family History Library book FHL book 973 D27e). This well-known reference is described in the United States article.Includes maps of several migration trails into Illinois and other states.

See the Ethnic Groups and Naturalization and Citizenship sections for further information.

Immigration information can be found on state, county and local levels. Links to county pages appear below. Additional resources for Illinois immigration may be found in the Illinois-Emigration and Immigration and Citizenship topic page of the Family History Library catalog (FHLC). Copies of records on FHL microfilm and microfiche can be ordered for viewing at Family History Centers. Also find Illinois immigration resources available at other libraries (WorldCat). Explore how to search WorldCat and the FHLC.