Tracing Immigrants Arrival Business Records and Commerce

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Business records include many different sources. Their content ranges from giving just a person's name to giving a complete profile, including a summary of professional background, age, birth date and place, the names of parents, and the names of his or her spouse and children. Occupational records include apprenticeship or labor union records and professional associations such as “the Bar” for lawyers and the American Medical Association for doctors. However, relatively few immigrants pursued professional occupations. Records of employment with larger companies may include biographical information about recent immigrants.

Many immigrants were indentured servants, apprentices whose masters paid for their passage in return for labor. Indenture records often mention birthplace or residence. Examples of these kinds of records are—

  • Coldham, Peter Wilson. Child Apprentices in America From Christ's Hospital, London, 1617-1688. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1990. (FHL book 942.1/L1 J2cp.)
  • ——. The Bristol Registers of Servants Sent to Foreign Plantations, 1654-1686. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1988. (FHL book 942.41/B2 W2c.)

You can find similar records in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under [COUNTRY or STATE] - BUSINESS RECORDS AND COMMERCE or under [COUNTRY or STATE] - OCCUPATIONS.

Clues to an immigrant's occupation are in family sources, census records, city directories, and even ship's passenger lists. Local histories, maps, census records, and city directories can help identify nearby businesses or companies that may have needed the immigrant's skills.