Illinois Emigration and Immigration

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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.


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.

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

See Tracing LDS Families Research Outline 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–?. (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. (FHL book 973 B2ng)

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. (FHL book 977 W2f)

To learn more about migration into the Illinois area, see:

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 book 977.3 B2is; film 1954961.)

Dollarhide, William. Map Guide to American Migration Routes, 1735–1815. Bountiful, Utah: AGLL Genealogical Services, 1977. (FHL book 973 E3d.) This includes a place-name index.

See the "Minorities" and "Naturalization and Citizenship" sections for further information.

Other sources on emigration and immigration can be found in the Family History Library Catalog by using a Place Search under:



Maps of several migration trails into Illinois and other states are found in The Handy Book for Genealogists (FHL book 973 D27e). This well-known reference is described in the United States Research Outline.