Immigrant Fascination: Shore to Shore

Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.

One of the primary goals family history researchers, regardless of the country they are in, is to discover their immigrant ancestor(s) -- at one point in its history, every family, it seems, came from someplace else. To know more of these hardy souls who left their homes to adventure, often at great risk, is the immigrant fascination. This series explores not only the experience of these men, women, and children as they ventured into the unknown, but also explores what we need to know in researching, what records to consider at each point, and where to find those records.

The immigration experience was not the same for all people, and may have differed between time periods, places, and people. The voyage was not free and not without peril, and life in the new land may not have been as imagined -- or as promised. The records of these immigrants as they journeyed along this path are rich and varied; to help researchers understand these foundations and discover their unique heritage is the focus of "The Experience."

The process of emigrating (leaving) one country to go to another, was variously documented and through various sources; fortunately, many of these records have survived and, over time, are being gathered. An examination of these sources and where such records can be found is the subject of "Departure."

The ocean voyage was long and perilous: food was rationed, death and disease was common, and mutinies occurred. Among the records documenting the voyage are the surviving journals, diaries and letters of those on board the vessel. For insights into some of these collections see, "Oceanic Passage."

In the manner of ocean travel before 1820, often aboard merchant ships, passengers lists were not a priority, and of those taken, few survive. While it may present a bigger challenge, other records do exist. For the U.S., some of the best records for documenting immigrant ancestors can be found after 1820. For insights into these records and resources see, "Arrival."

Not all immigrants who came to America applied for citizenship; it was not required and for some not necessary. For those that did apply, the process of naturalization created several documents of benefit to researchers, with valuable information on place of origin, place of departure, and other information. Researching naturalization records is the subject of Citizenship.

Lost and elusive records are the challenge of genalogy. Determining an ancestor's place of origin can be elusive goal, indeed, sometimes never resolved in the lifetime of a researcher. To aid researchers in their quest, the strategies of professional researchers are brought to bear on the matter in "Success in Spite of Record Loss."

The breadth and depth of this series makes is useful for anyone researching an immigrant ancestor, raising question to stimulate thinking and directing the researcher to a range of excellent resources. Even in the face of record loss, there is encouragement and alternate avenues to explore.

This wiki article is locked. If you have additional information (or a correction) that you would like to share, please send us a note.

<< Archived Materials

What's New in Genealogy ... Today!
click to view original photo