Once you have located your ancestors within the United States and discover that they Immigrated or traveled into or out of the USA; now you can get started on your Immigration Information Quest!
Before you begin, you will need a Research & Source Record form that you can find and print for free under the forms tab (or there are many other great research source forms out there to use). You will also need your research handy to reference birth dates, family members and census records to make sure of your “match” when you discover it.
Ready? OK… Let’s begin with immigration records.
There are a few sites I love to use when I am searching for any immigration records. I will outline each in its own post, otherwise each will be too long and can be confusing!
- Ellis Island: Ellis Island is in New York and is the port at which millions of immigrants (as well as US citizens who traveled to and from their homeland) entered the United States from many other countries. Ellis Island contains detailed records called “ship manifests”. They contain information about individuals who entered through this port. You can use the search engine provided at http://libertyellisfoundation.org/passenger to search for your ancestor.
Once you get onto this FREE webpage, you can type in the first name or initial and last name of your ancestor. Then search! This site can be a little putsy to search on. You may have to experiment with spellings for both first and last name.
When you come across a name that you think could be a match to your ancestor, please make sure of your “match”. Ask yourself the following questions…
- Does the name match? If yes, continue to the next question. If no… explain why… Does it sound the same and is spelled differently? Is the first name different, but the last name matches? Could it be a translated name (example Giuseppe is Italian, but in America, it translates to Joseph)? Could it be a long name, and you know your ancestor by a shortened version (example Fransecoantonio shortened to Frank or Tony)? If this is not the case, it could be that this is not your ancestor! Does the age and approximate birthdate/year match? If yes, continue to the next question. If no… explain why… Do you think the birth year that is listed is wrong? Do you think the birth year you have is wrong? It could be that this is not a match!
- Is anyone listed as traveling with them? Look at the other people listed on the same manifest. Are there any names you recognize from your research so far? Any spouse or children listed? If they have family listed with them this is a great indicator as to if this really is a match for your ancestry. Does the spouses name match up? Do the children’s names and ages match up?
- Where are they coming from and where are they going? The ship manifest you are looking for may or may not list the last residence or birth place for your ancestor. It may or may not list where they are going to in the US. These can be important clues that can help you further your research. Make sure they are traveling from the country you know they are from. Make sure you look over the section that states if they are going to a relative. If they are traveling from Italy (just like you thought), but they are traveling to see their father in Pennsylvania and your family has settled in St. Paul, MN, be very cautious. Unless I had other significant clues to indicate this could be a match, I would count it as not a match.
- Does the date of their travel match any other documentation you have obtained? Many times, I have obtained a (mostly) accurate date of when my ancestors immigrated to the US from locating that information on US or state census records. In most cases the actual immigration date should be a close match (maybe off by a year or two) from the census record. If this is not the case, it may not be a match!
On a personal research note, I have an ancestor that I think I have the correct immigration record for. However, there is NO information on the record other than the date and his name (traveling alone), so… I do not count it as absolute truth, because I just don’t know. I hope you do not run across this type of record in your searches, but if you do, please be cautious with it.
If you have been able to answer most (hopefully all) of the above listed questions with a “YES” answer, CONGRAULATIONS! It can be so exciting to find this match in your tree! If not… don’t lose heart! Keep plugging away and stay tuned to get some more tips on great sites to help you figure out your ancestry!
There can be a wealth of information found in an immigration record! Read over them carefully and don’t be afraid to let a record go. Not all the records you view will be matches!
Thanks for reading! Happy searching!