Tracing Immigrants Arrival Census

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Most countries periodically take censuses that list much of their populations. Censuses identify where a person was living at a specific time. Look for indexed censuses first. If you know where the immigrant lived during the year a census was taken, you can use unindexed census records.

More recent censuses usually have the most information. For example the 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 United States censuses provide the individual's country of birth, year of arrival, if naturalized, and occupation. The 1920 United States census should list the province (state or region) or city of birth for people (or their parents) born in Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia, or Turkey. Some state censuses, such as the 1925 New York census (which gives the date and place of naturalization) contain more information than federal censuses. Remember that birthplaces given in census records usually refer to the state or country, not a specific town.

Spain and France took some early colonial censuses of areas in North and South America, some of which are more detailed than others. If the census is not in the archives of the former colony, it may be in the archives of the mother country and be more difficult to access. England has no census records for her North American colonies, although some colonies (states) took censuses that still exist.