Family History Day 4!

Immigration & Naturalization

You’ve checked the internet, you’ve checked local repositories, and you’ve found your immigrant ancestor…the person/persons who made the voyage to America from…somewhere.

Finding passenger lists online:  Ellis Island probably sounds familiar but did you know that immigrants began coming through this entry point in the year 1892?  From 1820-1892, immigrants entering New York City came through Castle Garden.  You can search records at both sites.  New York City was not the only port of entry…there were over 300 official ports of entry into America, by land and by sea!  Try searching Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco, even Canada!  Also, do a search for passengers leaving a country, such as Ireland during the Potato Famine or Germans to America.  More information can be found on this FamilySearch wiki!


The above is an example of a record I found on Castle Garden for my 3rd-great-grandfather.  Since this gave the ship’s name and date of passage, I was able to search for the original manifest.

Finding passenger lists in books:  There are many, many books available regarding passenger lists and bibliographies.  I suggest the series by William Filby and Mary Keysor Meyer.  This is an index of over 4,588,000 names found in more than 2,500 published sources: Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 15 vols.  This is an index of published passenger lists. The first three volumes are a combined alphabetical index printed in 1981. Supplemental volumes have been issued annually.

Naturalization Records:  Found at your county clerk’s office.  However, they are being sent to the Indiana State Archives to be digitized.  Check their online searchable database for naturalization records and more.  There were a number of reasons immigrants became citizens, to own a business, to vote, etc.  There were also laws passed that they needed to follow to become a citizen, including intent and residency.  They had to file a declaration of intent and after a certain amount of time they could take this declaration to the court wherever they had been living for the stated amount of time, along with providing three witnesses to vouch for their good character.  So, your immigrant ancestor could file his declaration in one state and be naturalized in another.   On the 1910 census, there is a column stating alien or naturalized citizen.  If naturalized, they added what year that took place.

mayer-paul-declare-to-intent-signatureMy 2nd-great-grandfather’s naturalization record, found in Wayne County, Indiana (they still have their naturalization records on site at their courthouse).  Note his signature near the bottom of the page above the date.  That is the only example of his handwriting I have and also confirms how he spelled his name.