You may have heard the old stories about your great-great-grandparents who left their homeland in search of a new life. Some of these stories may include details about where they were born and how they arrived at their new home. Although these are great stories, as a genealogist, you want to verify this information with documentation.
Often the document you're looking for is an immigration or naturalization record. Immigration records are documents that show when a person moved to a particular country to reside; naturalization records are documents showing that a person became a citizen of a particular country without being born in that country. Sometimes these documents can prove difficult to find, especially if you don't know where to begin looking. Unless you have some evidence in your attic or have a reliable family account of the immigration, you may need a record or something else to point you in the right direction. Census records are one useful set of records. (For more information about census records, see "Counting on the Census," earlier in this chapter.) Depending on the year your ancestors immigrated, census records may contain the location of birth and tell you the year of immigration and the year of naturalization of your immigrant ancestor.
Emigration records — documents that reflect when a person moved out of a particular country to take up residence elsewhere — are also useful to researchers. You find these records in the country your ancestor left; they can often help when you can't find immigration or naturalization records in the new country.
Florida: Hillsborough County Marriage Records
Georgia: Death Certificates, 1919-1927
Kentucky: Death Certificates, 1911-1953 (subscription site)
Utah: Death Certificates from 1905 to 1956
historyresearch.utah.gov/indexes/ West Virginia: Birth, Death, and Marriage Certificates
To find more information on research using immigration records, see the Immigration and Ships Passenger Lists Research Guide at home.att.net/ -arnielang/shipgide.html. For the types of immigration records held by the National Archives, see the Immigration Records page at www.archives. gov/genealogy/immigration/passenger-arrival.html.
You can also check out Chapter 13, "Immigration: Finding Important Immigrant Origins," written by Kory L. Meyerink and Loretto Dennis Szucs, in The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, edited by Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking Ancestry, Inc.). Other sources to refer to include They Became Americans, written by Loretto Dennis Szucs (Ancestry Publishing), and They Came in Ships, Third Edition, written by John Philip Colletta (Ancestry Publishing). Both provide more information about immigration and naturalization within the United States.
Locating immigration, emigration, and naturalization records online can be challenging. But some good news is that the common types of records that genealogists use to locate immigrants — passenger lists, immigration papers, emigration records — have increased in availability on the Internet over the past few years and will likely continue to increase in numbers. A good starting point for determining an ancestor's homeland is to look at census records. (For more information about census records, see "Counting on the Census," earlier in this chapter.) Because a great deal of early immigration and naturalization processing occurred at the local level, census records may give you an indication of where to look for immigration records.
Some examples of online records include the following:
1 Immigration/Naturalization Records: McLean County, Illinois, Immigration
i Passenger Lists: Mayflower Passenger List
If you don't have a lot of details on when your ancestor may have immigrated but have a general idea of the time or place of immigration, you may want to consider looking for information on a comprehensive genealogical index. As you look at comprehensive genealogy sites, you're likely to find these types of records categorized under immigration, naturalization, passenger lists, or by geographical area. If you know more details, try using a genealogically focused search engine or a general Internet search engine.
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