Tracing Immigrants Arrival Genealogy

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A genealogy links a family through several generations. Genealogies are valuable because they may mention an immigrant's place of origin and may contain clues about the date of immigration. When trying to find places of origin, genealogies should be one of the first records you search. Some genealogies have information found nowhere else. They can save time and avoid duplication of work. There are several types of genealogies:

Global Indexes and Collections. Databases, such as Ancestral File and the International Genealogical Index at, are important places to search first.

Family Histories. Family histories often go back to the original immigrant and contain information such as ethnic and geographical beginnings. They generally include all that was known of the family at the time it was written. Family histories must be used with care due to possible inaccuracies. Thousands of family histories are listed in the Surname section of the Family History Library Catalog. The catalog does not index every surname in a history but lists the four or five most prominent.

Genealogical Bibliographies and Indexes. The catalogs of genealogical institutions may be useful in finding published genealogies. Among them is—

Kaminkow, Marion J., ed. Genealogies in the Library of Congress: A Bibliography. 2 vols. Baltimore: Magna Carta Book Co., 1972, 1977, 1987. (FHL book 016.9291 K128g.)

Most archives, historical societies, and genealogical societies have similar special collections and indexes of genealogies. Many other kinds of indexes exist. For example, a helpful index that discusses 3,500 immigrants to America before 1657 is—

Colket, Meredith B. Founders of Early American Families. Rev. ed. Cleveland: Founders and Patriots of America, 1985. (FHL book 973 W2cm.)

To find bibliographies and indexes, look in the Family History Library Catalog under—



Genealogical Compendia. Collected lineages are often published in genealogical dictionaries and periodicals. Complete indexes increase the research value of these collections. Many focus on immigrant families. Two such collections are—

Gillen, Mollie. The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet. Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989. (FHL book 994 D3g.)

De Villiers, C.C. Genealogies of Old South African Families = Geslagregisters van die ou Kaapse families. 3 vols. Cape Town: A.A. Balkema, 1966. (FHL book 968 D2v.)

There are dozens of compendia about immigrant families, including—

  • French families to Québec (to the early 1800s).
  • Maine and New Hampshire families (pre-1700).
  • Eighteenth century Germans in New York.
  • Schwenkfelders to Pennsylvania (1731-1737).