Indiana Emigration and Immigration

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

Early. The earliest European settlers in Indiana were Frenchmen, who came in the early 1700s to what are now Fort Wayne, Lafayette, and Vincennes. American settlement began before 1800 and increased substantially after the War of 1812, when the Indians were removed from their lands. The earliest American settlers came mainly from Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Maryland. Beginning about 1830, many settlers came from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. Eventually, settlers from the middle Atlantic states and Ohio outnumbered those from the Southern slave states.

Indiana did not attract as many overseas immigrants in the mid-nineteenth century as other Midwestern states. Over half of those who came to Indiana directly from overseas were of German origin, with the Irish a distant second. Most of the present Indiana population is of English, Scottish, Irish, or German descent.

Before 1850 most immigrants reached Indiana by a water route, such as the Ohio River. In 1816, when Indiana was admitted as a state, the population was concentrated in three areas: in a band along the southern boundary of the Ohio River; along the Wabash River between its junction with the Ohio River and Terre Haute; and along the Ohio-Indiana state line.

Most of the settlers were still in the southern half of the state by 1850, but after that date, as railroads were built and industrialization took place, the northern cities and counties began to fill. Around 1900, East Chicago, Gary, and South Bend attracted Polish and other eastern and southern European immigrants.

Iowa was the favorite destination of those leaving Indiana in the 1850s, but by 1880 more were leaving Indiana for Illinois, Kansas, and Missouri.

For additional information on pre–1850 migration patterns and the location of settlers from specific states and regions within the individual Indiana counties, see:

Rose, Gregory S. "Hoosier Origins: The Nativity of Indiana’s United States-born Population in 1850." Indiana Magazine of History 81 (September 1985): 201-202. (FHL book 977.2 B2im vol.81.) This article contains maps and charts showing Indiana counties, the nativity of the population of each county, and the migration routes into Indiana.

For migration settlements from Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, see:

Rose, Gregory S. "Upland Southerners: The County Origins of Southern Migrants to Indiana by 1850." Indiana Magazine of History 82 (September 1986): 242-63. (FHL book 977.2 B2im vol.82) This article discusses the migration into Indiana from the upper southern states and shows the states of birth and previous residences of Indiana settlers prior to 1850.

Lang, Elfrieda. "An Analysis of Northern Indiana’s Population in 1850." Indiana Magazine of History 49 (March 1953): 17–60. (FHL book 977.2 B2im vol.49) This includes charts and graphs showing the nativity and age distribution of residents in the individual counties.

Lang, Elfrieda. "Ohioans in Northern Indiana before 1850." Indiana Magazine of History 49 (December 1953): 391–404. (FHL book 977.2 B2im vol. 49) This report shows where Ohio settlers settled in northern Indiana.

Lang, Elfrieda. "Southern Migrants to Northern Indiana before 1850." Indiana Magazine of History 50 (December 1954): 349-56. (FHL book 977.2 B2im vol.50) In addition to showing the migration routes from the south into northern Indiana, this article shows where the settlers came from in the southern states.

Major Ports of Entry

Evansville was made a United States port of entry in 1856, but there are no passenger lists. Evansville was the gateway to Indiana for overseas immigrants coming by way of New Orleans. There are passenger lists available on microfilm through the National Archives and the Family History Library from New Orleans for 1820 to 1952, and indexes for 1820 to 1850 and 1853 to 1952. After about 1857, when the railroads were completed, the majority of immigrants arrived through eastern ports, such as New York.

More information on immigration sources can be found in the Family History Library’s Tracing Immigrant Origins Research Outline  and the United States Research Outline.

Publications Listing Immigrants

There are many publications that list immigrants from different countries, such as Czechoslovakia, Germany, Greece, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Russia, Scotland, and Sweden. Many of these publications are indexed in:

Filby, P. William. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. For a full citation see the "Emigration and Immigration" section of the United States Research Outline.

Online Resources

Indiana Statewide Naturalization Index:

Floyd County naturalizations and List of emigrants to Liberia:

Madison County:

Orange County: