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# Friday, April 04, 2014
Genealogy News Corral, March 31-April 4
Posted by Diane

  • Genealogy website MyHeritage has added the Jewish Chronicle, the world's oldest continuously published Jewish newspaper, to its SuperSearch subscription collections. MyHeritage has more than 200,000 digitized pages of the London-based newspaper, dating back to 1841.
Additional Jewish records now being added include the Israel Genealogy Research Association databases (1860-1890) and Avelim (Israel death notices). Read more about these additions on the MyHeritage blog.
  • The Statue of Liberty—Ellis Island Foundation (SOL-EIF) said in a fundraising email that it will expand its collection of free ships' passenger lists on the EllisIsland.org website, with help from FamilySearch. The site will add records from 1925 to 1957 to its current collection, which spans 1892 to 1924. Ellis Island was open from 1892 until 1954, but immigration plummeted in 1924 due to the National Origins Act. The site now holds 25 million names; about 11 million are immigrants and others are ships' crew members and Americans returning from abroad.
  • If I could go back to my youth, I would totally beg my parents to let me do this: The National Archives building in Washington, DC, will host summer and fall sleepovers for children ages 8 to 12. Kids will have fun learning about historical records, then spend the night in the National Archives Rotunda.  Registration opens in mid-May. Learn more here.


immigration records | Jewish roots | MyHeritage | NARA
Friday, April 04, 2014 11:40:23 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, November 01, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, Oct. 28-Nov. 1
Posted by Diane

  • FamilySearch also has made some minor updates to the online catalog, mostly to add useful features the old version of the catalog had. But one I'm not crazy about is that when you search, places are now hidden if the library doesn't have any related microfilm, books or other titles.

    I see the benefits of hiding places instead of letting you run a place search that won't have results, but I think negative results can be useful: Then you know that yes, the place does exist, and you need to redirect your search to another repository. Also, sometimes I'll type a place into the catalog just to see the suggested locations. Now, if the library doesn't have anything for a location, it won't be suggested.


FamilySearch | Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records
Friday, November 01, 2013 10:13:05 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, October 08, 2013
Chinese Immigration and Angel Island
Posted by Diane

One of my favorite aspects of PBS' "Genealogy Roadshow" is the mention of historical people and events that have become fuzzy memories for folks who once learned about them in a history class. The show elaborates on some of these people and places, and others have me googling on my phone.

Last night, Genealogy Roadshow was set in San Fransisco's US Mint building, with stories ranging from the 1860 Wiyot Massacre to the 1906 earthquake and fire. The California Gold Rush came up when a guest wasn't related to James Marshall, whose gold discovery in the American River started the rush. 

San Francisco's Chinese community was highlighted when a young Asian-American woman wanted to know about her family and its fabled connection to gangster Big Jim Chen. Researchers weren't able to prove the story because Chen apparently hid his tracks well.

A history segment focused on Chinese immigration and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Here's a little more about Chinese immigration through San Francisco:

Angel Island in San Francisco Bay was the immigration point for many Asians entering the United States between 1910 and 1930 (along with Australians, Candians, Central and South Americans, Russians and others).

The immigration station there served mainly as a place to to detain and interrogate immigrants, mostly Asian, who were trying to enter the country. When the 1906 earthquake destroyed San Francisco birth records, it presented an opportunity to get around the Exclusion Act, which made an exception for the children of US citizens: Chinese who'd naturalized could claim to have had additional children during a visit to China, then sell the "slots" to those wanting to immigrate. 

Immigration officials tried to identify these "paper sons" through lengthy interrogations about the immigrant's home, family and village in China. Visitors to Angel Island still can see some of the poetry detainees carved into the walls as they passed the time.

Nearly 250,000 case files were produced for Angel Island immigrants; they're at the National Archives at San Francisco. UC Berkeley has a database with 90,000 of these immigrants' names and case file numbers.

You also can read some immigrants' stories on the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation website.

You'll find a guide to researching Angel Island ancestors and locating their case files (even if they're not in the UC Berkeley index) in the August 2010 Family Tree Magazine.

You can watch the San Francisco "Genealogy Roadshow" online. Next week's episode takes place in Austin, Texas. That's where my grandfather went to college in the 1920s and '30s, so I'm hoping to pick up some local history.


Asian roots | Genealogy TV | immigration records
Tuesday, October 08, 2013 3:59:14 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, October 01, 2013
Your Ancestor's Immigration Experience and the Ellis Island Myth
Posted by Diane

Many of the guests on last night's "Genealogy Roadshow," filmed in Detroit, had done their own research into family history claims. I love to see all that genealogical interest, and the impact that family history knowledge can have on someone.

The young woman at the center of my favorite story was adopted as part of an open adoption. She knew a lot about her white birth mother's family tree, and little about her African-American birth father's family. All four parents were with her as Kenyatta Berry took her back in time along her paternal line. 

Among the other stories was a woman whose English ancestors founded a royal bookstore that still exists today—but later in that line, a physician ancestor went to jail for murder. The final guest learned she was in fact related to Ponce de Leon.

One thing that surprised me in this episode was the show's handling of a guest's tale of his family name change at Ellis Island, a common belief.

Taylor told the man (I'm paraphrasing) that Ellis Island arrivals were brought into a room with a clerk at a desk, and the clerk may not have spoken the languages of the immigrants. When the clerk asked the passenger's name, he would write down what he'd heard, which often wasn't the spelling the passenger used.

He made it pretty clear that Ellis Island officials didn't deliberately change passenger names because they were hard to pronounce or not American enough.

I've always read, though, that passenger lists were created by shipping line agents at ports of departure, and turned over to US officials after arrival here. US immigrant inspectors would then check off the passengers' names on those lists—they didn't write down any names. Ellis Island also employed translators in a wide range of languages to speak with immigrants. TV shows are often heavily edited, so what was actually said could've been quite different from what ended up on screen.

You can read more about the Ellis Island name-change myth in this article by Marian L. Smith, a historian at the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now the Citizenship and Immigration Service). The New York Public Library has a similar article, with details about how passenger lists were created.

Update: Here's a statement from Josh clarifying his comments on the show.

Many immigrants, like the one in question on last night's show, changed their own names after arrival. Someone could do this legally, but more often, people would just start using the new name.

Two good resources for learning about your ancestor's immigration experience are
Also keep an eye out for the December 2013 Family Tree Magazine, which will have a workbook to help you find your ancestors on passenger lists. Also check out these immigration research resources.

You can watch last night's "Genealogy Roadshow" here. Next week's episode takes us to San Francisco. I'm hoping to see some Gold Rush stories!


Genealogy TV | immigration records
Tuesday, October 01, 2013 2:34:56 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, August 29, 2013
Ancestry.com Offers Free Immigration Records Through Labor Day
Posted by Diane

I just got an email that Ancestry.com is offering free access to its collection of Immigration and Travel records through Labor Day. That includes
  • passenger lists
  • border-crossing records
  • passports
  • citizenship and naturalization records
and more. The records are free through midnight ET on Sept. 2, so right about now would be a good time to start searching and saving. You'll need to sign up for a free Ancestry.com account if you don't already have one.

Access Ancestry.com's free immigration records collection here.

Want to learn how you can become an Ancestry.com power user? ShopFamilyTree.com has our Ancestry.com Ultimate Collection at 63 percent off for a limited time.

Or try our downloadable Ancestry.com Cheat Sheet for a quick-reference guide to the best search strategies, finding the records you need, troubleshooting and more.


Ancestry.com | immigration records
Thursday, August 29, 2013 12:35:20 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Editor's Pick: Find Your Ancestors' Immigration Records Online
Posted by Diane

I still remember the feeling when I finally found my great-grandparents' immigration recorded on a ship's passenger list—and I remember how long and difficult that genealogy search was. (I recapped it for blog readers here.)



If you're having trouble finding an ancestor's immigration record, or you want to start looking, check out our Sept. 26 Online Immigration Records webinar with genealogy expert Lisa A. Alzo. You'll learn:
  • How to find out when your ancestors immigrated.

    Finding my great-grandfather's 1942 naturalization record, which provided his birth name, port of entry, and immigration date, broke open my search. (It turned out his memory of when he and my great-grandmother arrived was off by about a month, but that's not bad for 40 years later.)

  • How to use websites and online tools, such as Ancestry.com, Morse's One-Step web pages and the Elis Island and Castle Garden databases, to aid your search.

    Using Stephen Morse's one-step search tool for Ellis Island immigration records to search records a month at a time helped me overcome indexing problems and my great-grandparents' fibs about their ages, which had made the record hard to find in previous online searches.

  • Where to find records from major US ports of immigration

  • Where to find sources for early immigration

Everyone who registers for the live Online Immigration Records webinar will receive a PDf of the presentation slides, plus access to view the recorded webinar as often as desired.

The Online Immigration Records webinar is Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. ET. Good news! You can save $10 on your webinar registration by signing up before Sept. 19.


Editor's Pick | immigration records | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales | Webinars
Thursday, August 29, 2013 9:49:52 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, March 15, 2013
Ancestry.com, Origins.net Offer Free (for a Limited Time) Genealogy Databases
Posted by Diane

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, two genealogy websites are offering free records for a limited time. Note that you'll need to set up a free account with each site in order to view your search results:
  • UK and Irish genealogy website Origins.net is offering access to its collection of Irish directories from March 16 until March 18 at midnight GMT (that's about 8 p.m. ET in the United States). Recently added is Thom's Irish Almanac and Official Directory for 1845 to 1900. You could learn the person's exact occupation, as well as address and parish of residence. Note that the most "disadvantaged" classes—small tenant farmers, landless labourers and servants—are usually absent from these directories. Learn more about Origins.net's Irish Directories collection and start searching here.
  • Ancestry.com is opening up its US passenger lists and border-crossing records through March 17—search here whether your ancestors came from Ireland or elsewhere. The search here initially netted zero results for my name search on Edward Norris born in 1827, but after I clicked Edit Search to bring up the advanced search window, and then clicked Search again, it worked.


Ancestry.com | Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records | UK and Irish roots
Friday, March 15, 2013 9:28:52 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, February 07, 2013
Find Polish, Czech & Slovak, and Hungarian Ancestors With New Ultimate Genealogy Collections
Posted by Diane

Update: The Ultimate Polish Genealogy Collection is sold out, and we have just a few left of the Czech and Slovak and the Hungarian collections. Get yours while they're still available!

If you're researching ancestors from Eastern Europe, you've probably encountered your share of name variants, translation troubles, records access challenges and other obstacles.

We've got three new Ultimate Collections to help you overcome these research problems:
Each collection has a Family Tree Magazine expert guide, Family Tree University in-depth independent study course, a 30-minute demo-packed video class, our International Genealogy Passport CD, and a language or records reference book.

Here's what you'll get:
  • expertise on how to research ancestors from Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, or Hungary (depending which collection you opt for)
  • strategies for discovering your ancestor's birthplace
  • where to find records
  • techniques for learning immigrants' original names
  • the best websites and offline resources to use
  • language help
Plus, receive a coupon for 25 percent off any future online genealogy course at Family Tree University.

Only 50 of each Ultimate Collection are available, and to further entice you, they're discounted by 63 percent or more.

Check out our new Polish, Czech and Slovak, and Hungarian ultimate genealogy collections to start finding your Eastern European ancestors today.


immigration records | International Genealogy | Research Tips | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales
Thursday, February 07, 2013 9:08:09 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, February 06, 2013
Ellis Island Immigration Museum Archive Relocated
Posted by Diane

The National Park Service has moved treasures from the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in New York Harbor to a federal storage center due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

Oct. 29, the hurricane flooded Ellis Island and water filled the basement of the Immigration Museum, which houses the Great Hall where millions of immigrants started their lives in the United States.

Fortunately, the water didn't touch the museum's archive of records and immigrant artifacts, which were located elsewhere in the building. But it did knock out the island's electricity, wreaking havoc on the museum's carefully controlled climate and causing mold to grow on the artifacts and condensation to build up on walls.

You can learn more about the move and see photos and a video in this TribecaTribOnline article.

Both Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty (on nearby Liberty Island) remain closed. Park Service plans call for reopening, but a date is yet to be determined.  You can get updates on the Statue of Liberty Hurricane Sandy Recovery page.


Historic preservation | immigration records | Museums
Wednesday, February 06, 2013 11:06:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, November 14, 2012
LIFE Shares Rare Ellis Island Photos
Posted by Beth


LIFE has released rare photographs from Ellis Island taken by one of its preeminent photographers, Alfred Eisenstaedt. His photos, some never seen before, chronicle a day in 1950 when political bureaucracy had delayed the processing of immigrants looking to step onto American soil.

Eisenstaedt, who was also an immigrant, captures scenes that mirror those in Ellis Island photos taken decades in the early 1900s.

Interested in tracing your immigrant ancestors? Then be sure to check out our 101 Best Immigration Websites


immigration records | Photos
Wednesday, November 14, 2012 9:27:10 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, November 02, 2012
Genealogy News Corral, Oct. 29-Nov. 2
Posted by Diane

  • FamilySearch has announced its US Immigration and Naturalization community indexing project is halfway to its goal of creating a free online collection of US passenger lists, border crossing records, naturalization records, and other immigration documents. Two months into the project, 85,000 volunteers have indexed more than 15 million records.

    FamilySearch hopes to have 30 million records indexed by the end of the year.  You can see what's been indexed so far and register to help out at FamilySearch.org/immigration.
  • According to Ancestry.com, actor George Clooney is Abraham Lincoln's half-first cousin five times removed through Lincoln's maternal grandmother, Nancy Hanks. Then men also share a home state of Kentucky: Clooney was born in Lexington; Lincoln, in Hardin County.

    Most genealogists understand such connections aren't really big news—with every generation, each of us has exponentially more cousins, and some of them are bound to be famous (others are bound to be deadbeats)—but writing this little blurb let me gaze at photos of George Clooney.
  • Speaking of making money doing genealogy, the Board for Certification of Genealogists is offering new video testimonials from professional researchers to help you decide if certification is right for you. The site also has posted an hour-long seminar about what you can expect from the certification process (and what's expected of you). 


Ancestry.com | Celebrity Roots | FamilySearch | Genealogy societies | immigration records
Friday, November 02, 2012 11:28:10 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, September 05, 2012
Finding Female Ancestors, Searching Online and More: Tips From Virtual Genealogy Conference Experts
Posted by Diane

We're holding live, free Facebook and Twitter chats with our Family Tree University Virtual Genealogy Conference expert presenters to give you sneak peeks at the genealogy tips you'll get from this online family history conference.

We've got three chats to go:
  • Today, Wednesday, Sept. 5, at 4:30 p.m. ET, join our Tweet-up on Twitter with Gena Philibert-Ortega, who'll be talking about social history and tracing immigrants (we'll be using hashtag #FTUVC).
  • Stop by our Facebook page Thursday, Sept. 13, at 1 p.m. ET to get Rick Crume's advice on tracking down ancestors in UK civil registration records and Ireland's Griffith's Valuation.
Remember to translate the chat times into your time zone. You don't have to be a Facebook or Twitter member to see the chats, but you must be a member to post a question.

The chats we've already had are chock-full of research help! Here's where to find them:

The Family Tree University Fall 2012 Virtual Genealogy Conference, taking place online Sept. 14-16, gives you access to 15 video classes, live chats, our exclusive conference message board, and our virtual exhibit hall (where you can win prizes by being part of our exhibitor scavenger hunt).

To learn more, visit FamilyTreeUniversity.com. (Pssst!: You can save $50 on conference registration with coupon code FTUVCFACEBOOK.)


Family Tree University | Female ancestors | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records | Research Tips | Social History | Social Networking
Wednesday, September 05, 2012 12:34:13 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, August 24, 2012
Genealogy News Corral, August 20-24
Posted by Diane

  • Now that the 1940 Census Community Project is complete (just a few states remain to be processed) FamilySearch's next big volunteer indexing project is the US Immigration & Naturalization Community Project, which will make passenger lists, naturalization records, and other immigration-related records free to search on FamilySearch.org. If you want to participate, visit familysearch.org/immigration to learn more about the project.
  • British genealogy subscription and pay-per-view website FamilyRelatives.com has relaunched itself in an upgraded beta website. The site's new "at-a-glance" design should help users easily find the site's record collections.

    And in September, it'll launch Family Tree Connect, social networking features such as photo-sharing, personal calendars, family tree building and cloud access.
  • FamilyRelatives.com has more than 850 million records from more a dozen-plus countries including Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, New Zealand, United States and the "Rest of the World" (ROW). Records include parish records; births, marriages and deaths; military records, trade directories and more.


Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | Genealogy societies | Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records | UK and Irish roots
Friday, August 24, 2012 2:14:19 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Latest FREE Family Tree Magazine Podcast Focuses on American Ancestors
Posted by Diane

Tune in to the July 2012 Family Tree Magazine Podcast for tips on researching the genealogy of your American ancestors. Host Lisa Louise Cooke and Family Tree Magazine experts talk about:
You can listen to the free Family Tree Magazine Podcast through iTunes or on FamilyTreeMagazine.com.

census records | immigration records | Military records | Podcasts | Research Tips
Wednesday, July 18, 2012 9:24:40 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, May 25, 2012
Genealogy News Corral, May 21-25
Posted by Diane

  • Ancestry.com updated its collection of U.S. Marine Corps Muster Rolls. This collection, which contains records from 1798 to 1958, now contains more than 39 million records. They include muster rolls (regular lists of those present in a given unit), unit diaries and personnel rosters.
  • The National Archives at San Francisco has officially opened to the public more than 40,000 Alien Files or A-Files on immigrants to the United States. The case files were originally created at immigration offices in San Francisco; Honolulu; Reno, Nevada; Agana, Guam; American Samoa and other US territories. The records were transferred to the National Archives from US Citizenship and Immigration Services in 2009. Millions more A-files will eventually be opened to the public—the files are closed for 100 years after the birth date of the person named in the records.
A-Files created at other immigration offices are kept at the National Archives facility in Kansas City, where 300,000 cases were opened to the public in 2010. 
  • A DNA study of Melungeons—a dark-skinned, mixed-heritage group historically residing in Appalachia—has found genetic evidence that these families descend from sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin. Researchers think the population mixing could have happened among black and white indentured servants in mid-1600s Virginia.
According to an Associated Press article, the finding has been controversial among Melungeons, some of whom believe they have Portuguese or American Indian ancestry. Read more about the findings (and how researchers thinks the claims of Portuguese heritage arose) in this news article.


Ancestry.com | Genetic Genealogy | immigration records | Military records | NARA
Friday, May 25, 2012 1:21:29 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Titanic 100th Anniversary: Genealogical and Historical Resources
Posted by Diane

This weekend marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Four days into her maiden Atlantic crossing, at 11:40 pm on April 14, the ship collided with an iceberg. She sank less than three hours later. Of the 2,223 passengers and crew on board, 1,517 died.

The 705 survivors were taken aboard the Carpathia, which docked in New York City April 18. (I've seen sources numbering survivors anywhere from 700 to 710, but I most often found 705.)

Several parts of the world are observing the anniversary: Belfast, where Titanic was constructed; Southampton, England, whence she departed and home to most of her crew; Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the dead were transported and 150 victims rest; and the United States, where the ship was to dock in New York.

This is a great time to learn more about the Titanic and those on board, especially if a passenger or crew member is on your family tree. These are some of our favorite Titanic genealogy and history resources:

  • Encyclopedia Titanica: Find lists of victims and survivors, crew, deck plans, research articles and more.

  • Partial Manifest of Titanic Survivors: These manifests, completed on the Carpathia, name survivors from second- and third-class cabins.

  • Sinking the Myths: Get the truth behind Titanic legends, including the “unsinkable” claim.

  • RMS Titanic: The companion website to traveling artifact exhibitions is from the company that has conducted seven research expeditions to the site of the disaster.

  • Sinking of the RMS Titanic: Get a play-by-play of the disaster, including iceberg warnings that never made it to Titanic’s bridge.

  • Titanic in Nova Scotia: Read about passenger burials in three Halifax cemeteries.

  • Titanic Stories: Learn about the ship’s construction in Belfast.

  • Ancestry.com RMS Titanic records: This subscription sites have added Titanic fatality reports from the Halifax Coroner, a Titanic graves list, Titanic outward passengers, deaths at sea, and crew records. Better yet, the Titanic records are free through April 15.

  • FindMyPast.co.uk Titanic records: This British subscription/pay-per-view site recently published a collection of maritime birth, marriage and death records, which name Titanic crew members and passengers who died at sea. Also new are the White Star Line officers' books containing service records of officers and commanders on the Titanic and other White Star Line vessels.


Ancestry.com | Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records | NARA | Social History | UK and Irish roots
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 8:50:00 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, October 14, 2011
Genealogy News Corral, October 10-14
Posted by Diane

  • Archives.com is sharing an interesting infographic for Family History Month, showing US immigration numbers through the years and stats on the origins of immigrants from 1910 to 1919 and from 2000 to 2009, among other information. Check it out on the Archives.com blog.  
  • British genealogy site GenesReunited has added more than 35 million baptism, marriage and burial records for England and Wales dating back to 1538. The parish records include Boyd's Marriage Index 1538-1840 and Boyd's 1st Miscellaneous Series 1538-1775, supplied by the British Society of Genealogists. You can view the records on a pay per view basis or Genes Reunited Platinum members can add one or more of the record sets to their package.
  • The Federation of Genealogical Societies announced its new board members and directors, including George G. Morgan (Family Tree Magazine’s Document Detective columnist) as Vice-President Membership, Curt D. Witcher as Vice-President Development, Loretto “Lou” Szucs as Director, Kim Kasprzyk as Treasurer, Polly Fitzgerald Kimmitt as Director, Angela Walton-Raji as Director and Randy Whited as Director.
  • The National Genealogical Society also announced a new board member: Teresa Koch-Bostic, of Mineola, NY, a professional genealogist in addition to her extensive background in business.

Family History Month | Genealogy societies | immigration records | Photos | UK and Irish roots
Friday, October 14, 2011 11:53:56 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Friday, September 23, 2011
Genealogy News Corral: September 19-23
Posted by Diane

  • JSTOR, a service providing digitized academic journals through libraries, is making articles published prior to 1923 in the United States and 1870 elsewhere free to anyone. This includes nearly 500,000 articles from more than 200 journals, about 6 percent of JSTOR’s total content. This web page has more information. You can start searching here. To just see the free stuff, make sure the “Include only content I can access” box is checked.

My search on Civil War and Missouri, for example, resulted in matches including “Reminiscences of the Civil War” by Richard Taylor in the University of Iowa’s Jan./Feb. 1878 North American Review. (Thanks to Sharon DeBartolo Carmack for the heads-up about this service.)

  • New records on FamilySearch.org this week come from US states including California, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, New York, Oregon and Vermont, as well as Mexico, Canada, the Czech Republic and elsewhere. See the full list of additions and link to the collections here. Remember that not all of these collections are indexed, so you may need to browse. 
  • The New England Historic Genealogical Society is releasing the seventh and final volume of Robert Charles Anderson’s Great Migration Series: Immigrants to New England 1634—1635. (This latest volume includes all immigrants whose surnames start with T through Y.) It’s available now at GreatMigration.org. The Great Migration series includes a total of 10 volumes; three for the years 1620 to 1633, and seven volumes for 1634 to 1635. You also can subscribe to the GreatMigration.org website to get online or quarterly newsletters.

FamilySearch | Free Databases | immigration records | NARA
Friday, September 23, 2011 11:25:45 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Brick Wall Tips From the Virtual Conference
Posted by Diane

It was a busy Family Tree University Virtual Conference weekend for us and for our Virtual Conference instructors, Supermoderators Thomas MacEntee and Nancy Hendrickson, and the conference attendees. Thanks to all participants for a great event!

If you missed it, you can order the Virtual Conference video classes for on-demand viewing at ShopFamilyTree.com

One of my favorite parts of the conference was the live chats, which buzzed with research tips, questions and inspiration. For example, Thomas’ Saturday evening chat, Pick Thomas’ Brain: Ideas on Creative Approaches to Genealogy, was chock full of advice.

I’ve pulled some comments from the chat to share here (I made some edits and added topic headings so the Q&A is easier to follow).

On brick walls:

  • Thomas: First, very often I think what we call a brick wall isn't really a brick wall . . .

  • Joan: What do you mean by a brick wall not being a brick wall?
  • Thomas: To me it is a matter of perhaps not having all the right tools at one's disposal. Or it could be a matter of going back and rechecking spelling, surname variations, etc.
  • Allison FTU: A true brick wall is when you have exhausted every possible avenue for research and there is no more information

In many cases, what we refer to as a brick wall is really just an exhaustion of ideas

  • Patricia: A Brick Wall to me is having a timeline just end with no leads. Just solved 2 of my brick walls by reviewing current finds in detail as if I was looking at the finds for the first time.

On ancestral adoptions:

  • Terri: My brick wall is my grandmother, born and adopted in 1900. I thought her SS application might help, but she apparently fibbed on the application! Gave her adopted info as official

  • Kerry: I've used church records to find babies who were baptized prior to their adoption. Not all were adopted at birth.

  • Allison FTU: If you know what area she was born in, you might try guardianship records.

  • Terri: Are guardianship records civil records, private institutions, what?

  • Allison FTU: Guardianships are typically court records. So you do need to know which county to look in.

On going beyond well-known resources:

  • Carol: I have a line that went to Nebraska. FamilySearch and Ancestry seem to have nothing and GenealogyBank only later years. Any links for Nebraska?
  • Thomas: What time period? Were they Homesteaders?
  • Carol P: Late 1800s to early 1900s

On ordering ancestors’ vital records:

  • Mary Ann: When I look for birth, marriage, and death certificates in the US, I am taken to sites where it is free for 7 days and then you pay. Is there a good site to find these certificates?
  • Thomas: I personally don't recommend those sites. In most cases, if you know how to order them directly from the state or county, it is better and cheaper. What do others think?
  • Mary Ann: Yet, the states’ [vital records office websites] are sending me to those sites.
  • Kerry: I totally agree; I'd much rather order directly from the source.
  • Terri: I have seen some states that use a private online payment service for their records, but there's generally an option to pay the vital records office directly.
  • Kerry: Some states (Minnesota, for instance) house records at the state historical society, and you can order (and in some cases, view) them online.
  • Thomas: Did you know that some societies have a vital records service where they will, for a much cheaper fee, pull the records? Illinois State Genealogical Society does this for Illinois Death Certificates.
  • Mary Kay: Or borrowing microfilm from your local FHC.

On hard-to-trace immigrants and F.A.N. clubs:

  • Christine: Ancestor arrived in 1750 from Rotterdam, based on PA baptism records which are German Lutheran—don't have a clue where to start across the pond. Strategy much appreciated....

how to get from point of departure (Rotterdam) in 1750 to where he might have lived...

  • Thomas: Have you tried the F.A.N. club approach? Friends, Associates, Neighbors?

Elizabeth Shown Mills uses that F.A.N. club term all the time.

Last night on my radio show, Gail Blankenau from Omaha who specializes in German Parish Records used the term "10 up and 10 down" meaning always go up 10 lines from what you've found and down 10 lines as well.

  • Allison-FTU: Christine, have you heard of something called manumission records?

In Germany during the time period, emigrants had to pay a tax to be released from serfdom. The resulting records are manumissions

There's an often-referenced index to German manumissions by Werner Hacker ... let me see if i can find a link

  • Christine: Would they have been microfilmed by the Family History Library?

On online research tools:


Family Tree University | FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | immigration records | Research Tips | Social Networking | Vital Records
Tuesday, August 23, 2011 9:50:10 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Monday, June 27, 2011
Pointers for Finding Your Ancestors' Naturalization Records
Posted by Diane

Fitting that July 4, the day we commemorate adoption of the Declaration of Independence, is a popular day for citizenship swearing-in ceremonies. Big ones happen every year at Monticello, the Virginia home of Declaration of Independence author Thomas Jefferson, and at Seattle Center, among other places.

(My immigrant great-grandfather, who wasn’t naturalized on the Fourth of July, gives his birthday on most records as July 4, 1881—I don’t know if he was actually born that day, or he just knew it was a big day in his new country.)

Here are some pointers on finding your ancestors’ naturalization records:

  • Not all immigrants became citizens, and some waited until long after they first arrived in the United States. Typically, men who were birds of passage (they traveled between their homeland and America several times before settling here) didn't rush to become citizens.
  • Your ancestor could file papers at any courthouse. He could even begin the process in one court and finish it another. Aliens more often applied at county and state courts than at the federal level because the fee was usually lower and it was often closer to home. To find naturalization records before 1906, you’ll need to check municipal, county, state and federal courthouses where the immigrant lived. 
  • After 1906, courts had to file copies of naturalizations with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now US Citizenship and Naturalization Services, or USCIS). You can order copies of these records for your ancestor from the USCIS Genealogy Service
  • Online sources of naturalization records and/or indexes to naturalization records for various parts of the country include subscription sites Ancestry.com and Footnote.com, and the free FamilySearch.
  • Many naturalization records and the indexes have been microfilmed. Search for them in the Family History Library Catalog by running a Place search for the state and county (the city, too, if it's a large urban area), then look under Naturalization and Citizenship. You can rent film through a branch FamilySearch Center near you.

You can see how I found my great-grandfather’s naturalization records here

Other naturalization records how-to resources from Family Tree Magazine include:


immigration records | Research Tips
Monday, June 27, 2011 4:30:50 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Friday, June 17, 2011
Genealogy News Corral, June 13-17
Posted by Diane

  • The renowned genealogy portal site Cyndi’s List has been upgraded with improved navigation, a custom database, and a custom administrative interface to make using the site quicker and easier for both visitors and Cyndi. Visit the site at CyndisList.com.

Genealogy societies | Genealogy Software | Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records | UK and Irish roots
Friday, June 17, 2011 11:38:07 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Thursday, January 27, 2011
FamilySearch Adds Naturalization, Border-Crossing Records
Posted by Diane

FamilySearch’s latest records update includes 3 million new U.S. naturalization records and Ancestry.com’s indexes for US border crossings from Canada to the United States  and Mexico to the United States. Previously, these collections were available online only through subscription-based sites. (You can find the records on microfilm at National Archives facilities, the Family History Library and many large genealogy libraries.)

See the FamilySearch website for a list of the rest of its recently added records. If you don’t want to search all the records on the site using the search form on the home page, here’s how to find the individual databases:

  1. Scroll down on the FamilySearch home page to Browse By Location and click the world region of interest.

  2. In the filter links on the left side of the page, click the country. (That’s as narrow as you can get when it comes to places at this time.) In the center of the page, you'll see an alphabetical list of all databases pertaining to that country.

  3. Below the place filters, you can use other filters to narrow the database list by year range and type of record.

  4. Once you’ve narrowed as much as you can, look for the database title in the alphabetical list in the center of the page. (Most US naturalization records are separated into databases for the relevant states, so they're alphabetized under state names for those.)

Using your browser’s Find function (Control+F or Apple+F) to search for a word in the title of the database you need will help you sidestep some inconsistent titling that can make a few collections hard to find.

For example, Revolutionary War pension records are in the database “Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Applications Files,” listed with the Rs, but Revolutionary War service records are in the database titled “United States, Revolutionary War Compiled Service Records, 1775-1783”—listed with the Us.

Also, “United States, Index to Naturalizations of World War I Soldiers, 1918” isn’t listed near the naturalization records from US District Courts, which are alphabetized by the name of the state the records are from, or with the WWII records in “United States, World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942.”

I noticed those WWI soldier naturalizations don’t show up when you use the Migration & Naturalization or Military Records filter (but they are included in the Court Records). I sent a comment about it; if you find a categorization or other quirk, you can comment using the orange Feedback tab on the right side of the site's pages.


FamilySearch | Free Databases | immigration records | Military records
Thursday, January 27, 2011 10:15:21 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, September 10, 2010
Genealogy News Corral: Sept. 6-10
Posted by Diane

  • Today (Sept. 10) marks the 20th anniversary of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum opening in 1990. More than 35 million people have visited the museum, which highlights the immigrant experience and the growth of America during the peak immigration years of 1880 to 1924. You can read more about the museum on the Ellis Island website.
For help searching online for your Ellis Island ancestors, download our Ellis Island Web Guide from ShopFamilyTree.com or use the book The Family Tree Guide to Finding Your Ellis Island Ancestors (on sale for $12.99).
  • Pay-per-view genealogy website ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk was officially relaunched with a new look and and new search features, including search results plotted on maps, to make it easier for you to find ancestors. The site offers records dating to the beginning of civil registration in Scotland in 1855, as well as parish records dating back as far as 1538.
  • FamilySearch’s army of volunteer indexers have started work on the 1930 census, currently the most recent US census available to researchers. As with several other FamilySearch census indexes, volunteers will start with Ancestry.com indexes and create a second comparison index from scratch, then arbitrate discrepancies to reduce errors. FamilySearch also will extract additional fields of census data for improved searchability. You can read more about this project on the FamilySearch blog.


census records | FamilySearch | immigration records | UK and Irish roots
Friday, September 10, 2010 10:03:28 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, September 03, 2010
Genealogy News Corral: Aug. 30-Sept. 3
Posted by Diane

  • Wondering whom to thank for your Monday off work? Historians disagree on who should get credit for Labor Day. Most think it’s either Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, or Matthew Maguire, a machinist, secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, NJ, and secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. Read more Labor Day history on the US Department of Labor website.
  • The National Archives in Kansas City has opened to the public 300,000 Alien Case Files (A-Files) for individuals born in 1909 and earlier. This is part of the group of immigration records transferred last year from the US Citizenship and Immigration services to the National Archives. The files themselves date from 1944 and later, but the records remain closed until 100 years after the birthdate of the subject of the file.
The files aren’t online; you can search NARA’s Archival Research Catalog for your ancestor’s name to see if there’s a file on your ancestor (after clicking a name in the search results, click Scope and Content for a few more details about the subject of the record). You can access the records in person or order copies from NARA.
Just choose an alphabetical range and you’ll be linked to an index page listing the vital events within that range. You can use your web browser’s Find function to look for a name. Once you’ve found the name, publication and date, click the Quick Links to Newspapers link to find the image of the page with the information you need.


immigration records | NARA | Social History | Vital Records
Friday, September 03, 2010 1:59:28 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, September 02, 2010
Research Ancestry.com Immigration Records Free Through Labor Day
Posted by Diane

Subscription genealogy site Ancestry.com is making its entire US Immigration Collection searchable free through Labor Day, Sept. 6. (You’ll need to register for a free account to access full search results.)

The freebie celebrates the site’s release of more than 1,700 recorded oral histories from immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island. Starting in the 1970s, the National Park Service recorded of immigrants recalling the lives they left behind, why they left and the journey to America. Before now, the stories were available only to Ellis Island Immigration Museum visitors. The Ellis Island Oral History Collection will remain permanently free on Ancestry.com.

Also part of the immigration collection are nearly 2 million new US naturalization record indexes dating from 1791 to 1992, part of Ancestry.com's World Archives Project. The indexes cover the states of Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington.

And the Boston Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1943, database has been enhanced with nearly 2 million records documenting crew members on ships who arrived in Boston.

Of course, Ancestry.com's Immigration Collection also has virtually every available passenger list for US ports, as well as the Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, a good resource for tracing early immigrants.

Get tips for beating brick walls in your immigrant ancestor research on FamilyTreeMagazine.com.

For help searching Ancestry.com, use Family Tree Magazine’s Ancestry.com Web Guide, available on our Web Guides CD from ShopFamilyTree.com.

Update: Ancestry.ca, the Canadian sister site to Ancestry.com, also is offering its immigration records free through Sept. 6. Here, you'll find Canadian passenger lists and border-crossing records, among other resources.


Ancestry.com | Free Databases | immigration records
Thursday, September 02, 2010 9:01:29 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Help Finding Your Ellis Island Ancestors!
Posted by Diane



It took me two years to find my great-grandfather in Ellis Island’s passenger database. I finally found him after getting his naturalization papers, then using the arrival date reported in those papers and Steve Morse’s passenger search to browse records by month.

It turns out my ancestor was listed under a short form of his birth name—not the name he used in America—and both he and his wife made themselves two years older.

(You can read the long version of my immigrant ancestor search saga here.)

Almost half of all Americans have a relative who immigrated through Ellis Island, making its passenger records a key source for linking your family tree to the old country. But if your ancestors fibbed, used an unfamiliar name, didn’t arrive when you think they did, or were mistranscribed in the passenger database, you’ll have a hard time finding them. 



Our July 21 webinar will help you overcome these challenges by sharing the secrets to finding your ancestors in a sea of records. Presenter Lisa A. Alzo will show you how to identify Ellis Island immigrants, take you around the EllisIsland.org website, and demonstrate tools to help you search efficiently.

Click here to register for the live webinar Ellis Island: Find Your Ancestor in a Sea of Online Records.

And we're giving registered attendees $25 off our Family Tree University course Tracing Immigrants: How to Research Your Family’s American Arrivals.

Click here to view all FTU courses.

Editor's Pick | immigration records | Webinars
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 1:57:15 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Taking Our Own Research Advice
Posted by Diane

Picking up research tips is among the fringe benefits of working for Family Tree Magazine. And the advice works! Here are two examples from my genealogy search:

For our August 2010 article on church records research (subscribers start getting this issue at the end of May), Sunny McClellan Morton interviewed Catholic records expert Ann McRoden Mensch.

Then and there (doing genealogy on the job is another fringe benefit), I went to Mensch’s Local Catholic Church and Family History Genealogical Research Guide, surfed around until I found information on the Cleveland archdiocese, clicked a link and filled out the archives’ online request form.

(Update: the Catholic research guide has moved since the August issue went to press. Many links to state information on the new site don't seem to be working, but see the Comments on this post for instructions on how to access the old site.)

A few weeks later, I received in the mail a copy of a funeral register from my great-grandfather’s church in Cleveland, showing his name (it's hard to make out here, but he's third from the bottom).



Last year, while editing our November 2009 federal records article by David A. Fryxell, I realized that that same great-grandfather—who wasn’t yet naturalized in 1940—would’ve had to register with the government under the Alien Registration Act.

That day, I requested his Alien Registration form (form AR-2) from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service’s online Genealogy Program. The record, showing his first name as “Fablo,” supports my case that the “Fadlo Hadad” I found on a 1900 passenger list is the right guy.

Our November 2009 issue is available in ShopFamilyTree.com; it’s also digitized on our 2009 annual CD.

Family Tree Magazine Plus members can access Fryxell’s article on our website.

Church records | Family Tree Magazine articles | immigration records | Research Tips
Wednesday, May 19, 2010 3:02:13 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Get Better at Genealogy With Family Tree University Online Classes
Posted by Diane

You can improve your genealogy research skills and make progress in your family tree quest, even on your busy schedule.

Registration is now open for the first online course offerings from Family Tree Magazine’s newest educational endeavor, Family Tree University. Choose from these courses:
Courses start May 10 and last four weeks (after which we’ll begin offering courses on even more topics). Each self-paced course has four to six lessons that are “released” at regular intervals over the four weeks.

Once you’re registered, you’ll receive your student login and password via e-mail, with instructions on how to access Family Tree University’s virtual campus. Then, you just log on at your convenience to review each lesson (online or in a PDF you can print out) and complete an exercise or quiz to practice your skills.

The professional researcher who’s instructing your class will provide feedback on your assignments. (Meet the instructors here.)

In your “classroom,” you’ll also have access to the required readings for that lesson, a library of resources for further learning, a message board where you can talk with other students and your instructor, and a “journal” where you can communicate privately with your instructor.

You can save 15 percent off your first course by entering the discount code LAUNCH15 when you register. Tuition is regularly $99 per course.

To learn more and register for a course, go to FamilyTreeUniversity.com. We’ll see you in class!

census records | Family Tree University | immigration records | Land records | Photos | Research Tips | Vital Records
Wednesday, May 05, 2010 10:27:47 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, April 02, 2010
Genealogy News Corrral: March 29 to April 2
Posted by Diane

  • Tonight on “Who Do You Think You Are?” watch actress Brooke Shields reconnect with her royal past. Take note of the new episode schedule, which inserts a repeat and a bye week:
April 2: Brooke Shields
April 9: Sarah Jessica Parker (Repeat)
April 16: No episode
April 23: Susan Sarandon
April 30: Spike Lee
  • The Brigham Young University library has posted data from the Mormon Immigration Index CD (originally published in 2000) in a searchable database. Data come from immigrants’ accounts, passenger lists and other resources documenting Europeans (especially from the British Isles) who became Mormons and immigrated to the United States.
  • For those of you who are LDS church members, the subscription family tree site OneGreatFamily is launching a new web site called OneClickTempleTrip.com that taps into “New FamilySearch” for a quick and easy way to identify ancestors you can take to the temple for ordinance work. (New FamilySearch is a family tree site available to many LDS members; it eventually will become available to the public.)


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | Free Databases | immigration records
Friday, April 02, 2010 11:41:28 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Finding Immigration Records With One-Step Search Forms
Posted by Diane

Finding an ancestor’s immigration record is the goal of many a genealogist, which is why I’m selecting an excerpt from Rick Crume’s February 2007 Family Tree Magazine article on Stephen P. Morse’s One-Step search site for this week's “Best of” installment.

Morse has searches for many sites, but his Ellis Island search forms are among the most popular. I have a soft spot for them: I found one of my ancestors by using the Gold form to search passenger lists month-by-month around the arrival date given on a naturalization record.

Just before the issue was printed, Morse's Gold form replaced the old Blue and Gray forms. That's about the only time we've had to say "Stop the presses!" 
When Ellis Island launched its database of New York City passenger arrivals from 1892 to 1924, genealogists viewed it as the greatest advancement since pedigree charts. The ability to freely search records of 22 million immigrants, passengers and crew—and view digital images of the lists—was a huge research boon. But as great as the site was, people became frustrated with its limitations: Searching on just first name, last name and gender wasn’t adequate for finding everyone’s immigrant ancestors.
Those limitations inspired the first One-Step tools. Although EllisIsland.org has since expanded its search options (they now include features that debuted on the One-Step site, such as name-spelling flexibility, birth year, ship name, town of origin and ethnicity), Morse’s White and Gold Ellis Island search forms still offer extra options for ferreting out hard-to-find immigrant ancestors. For instance, the Gold Form lets you search for town names that sound like your search term; both forms let you search on port of departure and age.
By default, both forms hunt for matches that start with your search term. That way, if you search on Glasgow in the town field, you'll catch both Glasgow and Glasgow, Scotland—whichever way it was recorded.
A key distinction between the forms: The White Form employs the same search engine as the Ellis Island site. The Gold Form uses a different search engine, which works faster when you search on name fragments.

Morse advises using the Gold Form for most searches, and the White Form when you need a “fresh perspective” for your search.
Morse unveiled the Gold Form to provide maximum flexibility in searching all 25 million people in the Ellis Island database. It melds the best of his old Blue and Gray forms, offering added parameters for searching all the records—including traveling companion, exact arrival date and marital status. Want to search for everyone from a particular village? Specify the town, but leave the name fields blank.
Family Tree Magazine Plus members can read the entire article, which covers many of Morse's other One-Step searches, on FamilyTreeMagazine.com.

Related resources from Family Tree Magazine:


Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records
Wednesday, March 10, 2010 1:42:11 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, February 11, 2010
Family History TV: Faces of America
Posted by Diane

Did you watch "Faces of America" last night on PBS?

Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates, who’s hosting the four-part series, describes it as a show about immigration in the United States. (See clips in our previous blog  post.)



If you missed it, you can watch it here.

You don’t see genealogical research happening, but that’s not really what this show is about. Instead, you see how family history shapes the lives of several well-known Americans of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Mario Batali became a chef after growing up on his Italian grandmother’s oxtail ravioli (which Gates prepares with Batali). Yo-yo Ma’s parents were struggling musicians from China. Louise Erdrich, who’s already researched her family tree, incorporates her maternal Chippewa heritage into her novels.

In last night’s episode, focused on immigrants in 20th-century America, Gates asks each person what they knew about their ancestors, and what family history means to them. He presents cast members with an article, photograph or record, sometimes revealing surprising information.

Figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi learned that her maternal grandfather was the only Asian in the 100th Infantry Division during World War II, and was decorated as the unit’s best soldier—while his wife and relatives were being imprisoned with other Japanese-Americans in internment camps.

My ears perked up during the previews for next week’s episode, about the “century of immigration,” when Gates tells Queen Noor of Jordan how her great-grandfather immigrated to America in 1891 from Damascus, Syria—where my paternal ancestors came from.

Read more about the cast and their family trees on the Faces of America website. You also can comment on the profiles and add stories from your own family history.

Related resources from Family Tree Magazine:

Genealogy Events | immigration records | Social History
Thursday, February 11, 2010 9:36:13 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Resources for Tracing Hispanic Roots
Posted by Diane

Today’s the start of Hispanic Heritage month, honoring the histories of the United States’ 46.9 million residents of Hispanic origin, who according to the Census Bureau make up the nation's largest ethnic minority.

About 64 percent of the country’s Hispanic residents have a Mexican background; 9 percent are Puerto Rican; 3.5 percent, Cuban; 3.1 percent, Salvadoran; and 2.7 percent, Dominican.

Four Hispanic surnames ranked among the 15 most common last names in the 2000 US census: Garcia (placing eighth with 858,289 occurrences), Rodriguez (ninth), Martinez (11th) and Hernandez (15th).

Researching Hispanic roots? Here are some places to start:
  • Our online Hispanic Heritage Toolkit has resources and tips for learning about Mexican, Spanish, Portuguese, Basque, Central and South American ancestors.
See our advice for research in the Caribbean, too.
The site also has a growing collection of church, civil registration and census records from the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Besides researching your Hispanic roots, here are a couple of other ways to mark the occasion:
  • PBS is airing "Latin Music USA," a documentary series, Mondays, Oct. 12 and 19, from 9 to 11 p.m. ET.


Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | Hispanic Roots | immigration records | International Genealogy
Tuesday, September 15, 2009 9:50:25 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Friday, September 11, 2009
$10 Off Our Upcoming Immigration Webinar
Posted by Allison

Just a reminder that today's the last day to take advantage of the early bird rate on this month's webinar, Online Immigration Records: Retracing Your Ancestors' Journey on Sept. 22.

The discounted price of $39.99 expires at midnight tonight. After that,  registration will cost $49.99.

If you haven't participated in one of our webinars, you could think of it as a "souped up" online genealogy seminar. Besides participation in the live event—which you can attend in your jammies if you want—you get a link to the recording so you watch the session as many times as you'd like, a PDF of the presentation slides and an e-book of related how-to guides for further reading.

Diane will be hosting the immigration webinar, which starts at 7 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Central/5 p.m. Mountain/4 p.m. Pacific. You'll find more details on the registration page.


Genealogy Events | immigration records | Webinars
Friday, September 11, 2009 4:53:15 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, September 02, 2009
If Your Ancestor Was an Alien
Posted by Diane

I got a letter from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Friday. For a split second I was worried—like if you get an unexpected letter from the IRS. But then I remembered that way back in May I'd requested the case file number for my great-grandfather’s alien registration.

I was inspired to put in my request back in May, when I was editing our November 2009 article on getting federal government records. (This issue goes on sale next week at newsstands and FamilyTreeMagazine.com.)

In the paragraphs on the USCIS genealogy service, David A. Fryxell explained how the Smith Act of 1940 required non-citizens age 14 or older to register as aliens. I remember putting what seemed like dozens of semicolons in the long list of what the "AR-2" form asked of registrants:
  • biographical information such as name, name at arrival and occupation
  • relatives' names
  • physical description
  • arrival date, place and ship name
  • membership in clubs and organizations
  • whether and where citizenship papers had been filed
  • any arrests
... and more. AR-2 forms date from August 1940 to March 31, 1944. I put together the pieces and realized that my great-grandfather, who immigrated in 1900 and declared his intention to become a citizen in 1942, would've had to register. Maybe I'd get some clues for stretches of time when I can’t find records on the family.

I stopped my editing immediately and took four minutes to send my online Genealogy Program request. (A benefit of this job is that doing a little research counts as verifying information.)

USCIS staff are working through a request backlog. As soon as I got the AR-2 file number Friday, I sent off my request for a copy of the form. (Because I’m moving, I'm having it sent to my parents. I told them not to worry if they get a letter from the USCIS with my name on it.)

I wish you could order both the number and the record at the same time, but alas, it’s a two-step process that takes a total of $55 and about six months.

Besides AR-2 forms, the Genealogy Program also gives you access—for a fee—to naturalization certificate files (Sept. 27, 1906, to March 31, 1956), visa files (July 1, 1924, to March 31, 1944), registry files (March 2, 1929, to March 31, 1944) and immigrant files (April 1, 1944, to May 1, 1951; these are being transferred to the National Archives 100 years after the birth of the immigrant named). See the USCIS genealogy page for more on making your request.


immigration records | Research Tips
Wednesday, September 02, 2009 12:57:59 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, July 31, 2009
Did Your Immigrant Ancestors Sail the Red Star Line?
Posted by Diane

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation folks sent us a note on behalf of a future museum in Antwerp, Belgium, about the history of the Red Star Line.

The Red Star Line was a steamship company that transported thousands of European immigrants across the Atlantic between 1873 and 1935. Museum organizers are looking for individual stories and original photos that'll bring personal history to the museum.

If you know or are a descendant from a person who sailed the Red Star Line from Antwerp to settle in the United States, please e-mail museum staff

The museum is slated to open in 2012, but the Web site is already up and running.

Read more about the Red Star Line, get a list of ships and see photos on RedStarLine.eu. You can view postcards of ships and 1908 menu cards here.

The Belgian Roots Project explains how Red Star Line was a trade name, not a corporation. Scroll down the linked page for a fleet list, then click a ship name for a list of voyages and links to free passenger lists, when available.


immigration records | International Genealogy | Museums
Friday, July 31, 2009 8:53:03 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Search Canadian Passenger Lists Free Through July 3
Posted by Diane

To celebrate Canada Day, subscription genealogy data service Ancestry.ca—the Canadian sister site to Ancestry.com—is making its collection of passenger lists from Canadian ports free through July 3.

The lists cover 1865 to 1935 and include names of more than 5.6 million individuals. An estimated 37 percent of Canada’s population has ancestors in the lists. US residents also may have relatives who arrived in Canada, then later traveled south to settle in the States.

See the full announcement here.

Access the Canadian passenger list collection here.

Canada Day, formerly Dominion Day, is July 1. It celebrates the anniversary of the British North America Act of 1867, which united Canada as a country of four provinces.


Canadian roots | immigration records
Wednesday, July 01, 2009 8:43:55 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, June 05, 2009
Genealogy News Corral, June 1-5
Posted by Diane

Got several genealogy news items to cover this week, so without further ado:
Get more details on the site in this Genealogy Insider blog post.
  • Millions of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services' alien case files (also called A-files) dating from 1944 and later were signed over to the National Archives (records will be relocated to the National Archives’ San Francisco and Kansas City facilities later this year).
Henceforth, USCIS can forward files 100 years after the birth date of the person whose file it is. The USCIS press office tells me you’ll still be able to order the 1944-to-1951 A-files through the USCIS Genealogy Program (through which you also can order naturalizations and alien registrations).
  • Subscription site Ancestry.com is letting you preview upcoming changes to the family tree pages—to see them, click Family Trees on Ancestry.com's home page, then click the light blue bar at the top that says “Check out the new look.” (You must have a tree on Ancestry.com to see the preview.)
The new look will make pages load faster, be easier to navigate and display more information, says Kenny Freestone on the Ancestry.com blog. Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings describes the changes in detail.

Ancestry.com | Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records | UK and Irish roots
Friday, June 05, 2009 1:46:42 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, June 01, 2009
Finding Ancestors' Border-Crossing Records
Posted by Diane

Entry laws tightened today for those crossing the US/Canadian or the US/Mexican border on land—now you must have a passport or an acceptable equivalent to get across.

It’s a bit more of a hassle, but at least future genealogists will have records. Plenty of our ancestors immigrated, then up and moved across the border. Some went back and forth several times.

Border-crossing records start later than ship passenger lists. Here's a rundown of what's available:

Canada to the United States
Until 1895, border crossings from Canada to the United States weren’t recorded at all. Thereafter, most border crossings are on microfilm known as the St. Albans lists (after the Vermont town where the US Immigration and Naturalization Services had its main office), with geographic coverage varying by year:
  • 1895-June 1917: All border crossings
  • June 1917-July 1927: Crossings east of the North Dakota/Montana state line
  • After July 1927: Crossings east of Lake Ontario
Other 1895-and-later crossings also are microfilmed. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Web site has a handy list of the film. They’re digitized in the subscription site Ancestry.com’s immigration collection, too.

United States to Canada
Ancestors crossing to Canada weren’t recorded until April 1908. Even then, those considered returning Canadians, or who crossed where ports didn’t exist or were closed, weren’t listed. Library and Archives Canada has records; see the Canadian Genealogy Centre for information.

They're also on Ancestry.ca.

Mexico to the United States
Microfilmed records for ancestors who entered the United States from Mexico—which includes many Asians, Syrians and South Americans, as well as US citizens returning home—start as early as 1903 at some ports. Records begin later for other ports. NARA has an online guide and list of film. These records also are on Ancestry.com.


immigration records
Monday, June 01, 2009 3:20:34 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Ellis Island Hosts Stars, Expands Museum
Posted by Diane

Our lucky New York-based colleague Guy LeCharles Gonzalez attended the Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards yesterday. He got the scoop on the latest Ellis Island exhibits and rubbed elbows with the stars (well, at least he was in the same room).

Here’s Guy’s report:

Emilio and Gloria Estefan (below) accepted the inaugural B.C. Forbes Peopling of America Award in a star-studded 8th Annual Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards ceremony yesterday, hosted by actress Candice Bergen in the historic Great Hall on Ellis Island.



The awards celebrate the lives and work of individuals who immigrated to America and their descendants; with the Forbes honor going to those who arrived through a port other than Ellis Island. It reminds us that America continues to be the destination for those seeking freedom, hope and opportunity.

Accepting the award alongside her husband, musician Gloria Estefan noted the common denominator shared with the day’s other honorees—Joe Namath, Eric Kandel and Jerry Seinfeld—that no matter where they or their families had come from, or when, they all sought to escape some form of tyranny. In America, they’d found a home where they could live freely and pursue their dreams.

Sponsored by the Forbes family in honor of patriarch B.C. "Bertie" Forbes, the Peopling of America award is also named for the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation's newest project: the Peopling of America Center.  

The center will expand the Ellis Island Immigration Museum to include the entire panorama of the American immigrant experience—from native American groups to today's New Americans, whose numbers are growing exponentially.

The new center is an ambitious $20 million effort to make Ellis Island even more compelling and relevant for the coming decades, with the goal of telling all of our stories about being and becoming Americans.

Its precursor, the Peopling of America exhibit, is in the Great Hall's former Railroad Ticket Office, where immigrants could make travel arrangements to their final destinations in the United States. Several displays visually chronicle the more than 60 million people who’ve come to the United States, voluntarily and by force, since 1600.

This map details sources and destinations of the Atlantic slave trade:



This exhibit compares immigration (blue arrows) to emigration (red arrows) by decade:



Other displays include an interactive Map of Diversity, which can show the number of people in each state who claim a certain race or ancestry (based on US census data); maps and charts of historical immigration patterns; and the American Flag of Faces, a "living and interactive exhibit" to which anyone can add a photo (names and captions are searchable online).

See more photos of the ceremony and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum here.


Celebrating your heritage | immigration records | Museums | Social History
Wednesday, May 20, 2009 11:16:27 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, May 08, 2009
"Today Show" Visit Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty
Posted by Diane

The "Today Show" broadcast today from Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. The Ellis Island video features a “walk-through” of immigrants’ experiences with host Meredith Vieira and Save Ellis Island director Judith R. McAlpin. Here’s the video.


Another clip shows the anchors’ also climbed inside the Statue of Liberty to announce the crown will re-open to the public July 4. Read and watch on the Today Show site.

Also read our article (from the November 2008 Family Tree Magazine) about the immigrant hospital on Ellis Island.


immigration records | Videos
Friday, May 08, 2009 10:00:02 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Ancestry.ca Adds Border Crossings into Canada
Posted by Diane

Those who used the May 2009 Family Tree Magazine article on immigrants to Canada will be pleased to learn that Ancestry.ca, sister site to Ancestry.com, has added border-crossing records from the United States to Canada between 1908 and 1935. (Thanks to Dick Eastman for the tip.)

The database may hold the key for "missing" immigrant ancestors. Between 1901 and 1914, more than 750,000 people entered Canada over the US border. Many were European immigrants who originally settled in the American West.

Americans also routinely crossed the border to visit friends and family.

But this database isn’t available with the $155.40 US-focused Ancestry.com subscription, reports Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings. You need an Ancestry.ca or a World Deluxe subscription to access it.

Note Canadian citizens returning home weren’t recorded, nor were those who had a Canadian parent. And Lisa A. Alzo, who wrote our May 2009 article, says those who crossed where ports either didn’t exist or were closed wouldn’t be listed.


Ancestry.com | Canadian roots | immigration records
Wednesday, April 22, 2009 2:59:15 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Ellis Island Honors Immigrants' Contributions
Posted by Diane

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation announced the recipients of this year’s Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards, to be celebrated at a luncheon May 19. You’ll probably recognize them:
  • Eric R. Kandel, MD, won a Nobel Prize in 2000 for his studies in the molecular basis of memory. He immigrated from Vienna as a child in 1939, after Germany annexed Austria.
  • Football legend and Hall of Fame member Joe Namath’s father and maternal grandparents immigrated from Hungary.
  • Jerry Seinfeld, of course, is a comedian, television star and producer. I also credit him with helping “Seinfeld” fans instantly bond over entire conversations consisting solely of quotes from the show. His maternal grandparents came from Syria.
  • Gloria and Emilio Estefan, formerly of the band Miami Sound Machine and now, respectively, a singer and music producer, will receive the BC Forbes Peopling of America Award. Both fled Cuba with their families after the rise of Fidel Castro.
The awards honor immigrants (through Ellis Island or another port) and their descendants who've made significant contributions to the American experience. Read more about the honorees at EllisIsland.org.


Celebrating your heritage | immigration records
Tuesday, April 14, 2009 3:06:48 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, March 13, 2009
Genealogy News Corral
Posted by Diane

It’s Friday and time to round up the week’s genealogy news bits.
  • From Research Buzz’s Tweet yesterday, the National Library of Scotland has two new resources. One is a digital archive of images including WWI photos, Walter Macfarlane’s collection of genealogies of ancient Scottish families (compiled around 1750), and items from the first printing presses in various Scottish towns.
The library's new digital maps collection gives you access to high-resolution images of more than 6,000 county, town and military maps dating from 1560 to 1935.
Ancestry.com also added more city directories covering 1935 to 1945, which you can use as a kind of 1940 census substitute. (Don’t be alarmed—the 1940 census isn’t missing. It’s just not yet available, and won’t be until 2012, when we’ll all have a big party outside the National Archives.)
  • Dick Eastman and others have blogged and Tweeted about the New York Times' Immigration Explorer Map. Choose a foreign-born group and a year, and see  where in the United States people from that group were congregating at the time.  It's fun to play with, and if your ancestors have gone missing  for a span of time, you might get some clues for where to look.

Ancestry.com | Genealogy Industry | immigration records | UK and Irish roots
Friday, March 13, 2009 2:42:03 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Chinese Canadians Profiled on Genealogy Wiki
Posted by Diane

Canada’s Vancouver Public Library (which started the Chinese-Canadian Genealogy Web site) and Library and Archives Canada have created a genealogy wiki centered around the country’s Chinese Immigration List.

The list bears the names of Canadian-born Chinese who registered with the government as required by the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923. Designed to curtail Chinese immigration to Canada, the act joined a procession of laws levying head taxes on Chinese immigrants. The regulations were finally lifted in 1947.

The wiki contains transcribed information on 461 people recorded on the list, covering the years from Won Alexander Cumyow’s birth in 1861 to Lee Kang Gee’s birth in 1900 (both were born in British Columbia, where most of Canada's Chinese residents lived).

Researchers with more details on any of the 461 individuals can help build their profiles—see the Participate page to get started.

You can search 98,361 names from Canada's General Registers of Chinese Immigration at the online Canadian Genealogy Center.

See the May 2009 Family Tree Magazine (now mailing to subscribers; on sale March 10) for more help researching immigrants to Canada from all over the world.


Asian roots | Canadian roots | Free Databases | immigration records
Tuesday, February 17, 2009 2:27:10 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, February 09, 2009
Finding Ancestors on Passenger Lists: What Can Go Awry (and How Not to Let It)
Posted by Diane

I’m 90 percent sure my long search for my immigrant great-grandparents' passenger list has come to an end. A few small but significant details dragged out my search—maybe my “lessons learned” will help you.

I’d searched passenger lists on Ancestry.com, the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild, Ellis Island and the Canadian Genealogy Center. I tried crazy name variations, no names and 10-year arrival windows. Once, I realized I was on the 75th page of search results.

Since my ancestors tooled around the South for years, I decided they must’ve immigrated through Galveston and the 1900 hurricane ruined their records.

Then last week’s naturalization record discovery provided a port and date of arrival (New York, Oct. 15, 1900), and my great-grandfather’s name in Syria: Fadlallah.

But I still couldn’t find the passenger list!

So I went to Stephen Morse’s enhanced one-step search for Ellis Island, where you can search by date (rather than just year). First I entered the search terms straight from the naturalization papers. Nothing. I tried other months in late 1900. Nope.

Then the key step: I removed the first name and searched a month at a time. Fadlo Hadad jumped out on a Nov. 4 list. My great-grandfather used Fadlow on his WWI draft registration, and made it his son’s middle name. Could it be a short form of Fadallah? (If anyone’s in the know on this, feel free to comment.)



Beneath Fadlo on the record was wife Maria. My great-grandmother Mary also shows up in various records as Mattie and Marianna. The Ellis Island indexer kindly recorded her as Maria Hadad rather than wife. I probably came across this record early in my research and discounted it because I didn’t recognize Fadlo.

The 10 percent uncertainty level comes from the name, their ages—17 and 21, both two years too old, according to other records—and the origin of Turkey (albeit with the last residence Arabo, as the ship’s Neopolitan clerk recorded it). I do have another record giving Turkey as my Syrian ancestor’s homeland, and I haven't found any other Fadlos or Fadlows close to my ancestor's age in US records.

But I still couldn’t find Fadlo in Ancestry.com’s immigration collection. I searched on Maria Fadlo, and Maria showed up, indexed as Maria Fadlo Wife. Below her in the results was her husband, indexed with Hadad as the first name, Fadlo as the last.

Another look at the list—the ship’s clerk switched from recording passengers last-name-first to recording them first-name-first. The Ancestry.com indexer transcribed exactly what was on the record; the Ellis Island indexer did some genealogical deduction.

So, my lessons learned:
  • Look for evidence of different names your ancestor may have used, and repeat searches as you learn more.
  • Search different databases.
  • Try last-name only searches.
  • Search for women on the first name wife (another lady on the list was recorded the same way).
  • Try switching the first and last names in your search.
  • If you have a rough idea of an arrival date, browse by date.

immigration records | Research Tips
Monday, February 09, 2009 9:05:41 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [9]
# Monday, February 02, 2009
Genealogical Lightning Strikes Twice
Posted by Grace

Diane wasn't the only one getting lucky with Footnote in the office today—I found my great-grandfather's naturalization papers in Footnote's Northern Ohio naturalizations collection!

My great-grandfather's witnesses on his petition for naturalization have opened up a few new avenues into discovering Wasyl's life. (I don't recognize either of the names.) I feel lucky to have found such a great photo of him—I only have one other—and a signature, to boot? Goldmine!



I had a little fun with Google Maps, too—it turns out that Diane's great-grandfather and my great-grandfather lived a mere 2 miles from each other on Cleveland's West Side around 1940. Maybe they once met!


Family Tree Firsts | Footnote | immigration records
Monday, February 02, 2009 3:45:40 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Naturalization Records Found—O Genealogy Joy!
Posted by Diane

My grandfather’s resume says his father was naturalized in 1944 in Cleveland. So a couple of years ago, I sent off a Freedom of Information Act request for those records to the Citizenship and Immigration Service. No dice.

Then when I noticed the subscription records site Footnote was posting citizenship papers from the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern District, I started eyeing the “percent completed” bar as it ticked upward.

Every once in awhile, I’d search. Still nothing. I wondered if my grandfather fibbed, thinking he’d have a better chance at a job if his dad were a citizen. (Grandpa made himself 10 years younger on the same resume.)

Friday I tried again. I clicked on a match, even though the first name was all wrong. And it was my great-grandfather! His address and birth date; his wife’s death information; and the kids’ names and birth dates confirmed it. Looks like his name in Syria was Fadlallah. I knew him only as Mike in US records—I guess if you're gonna Americanize your name, you might as well go all the way.

Best of all, his picture’s on the 1942 declaration of intention (also called “first papers”). I’d never seen him.



Also part of the file was an oath sworn by two associates and a 1944 petition for naturalization (“second papers”).

Naturalization papers state the immigrant’s date and port of arrival, and ship name (though I’m pretty sure my great-grandparents didn’t really sail on the SS Unknown). Now it’ll be a piece of cake, I thought, to find them on a passenger list.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Aside from getting creative with passenger list searching (I’m going to try Steve Morse’s Ellis Island One-Step Search), here are some things for follow-up:  
  • Naturalization papers give birthplaces for the applicant's children, so I'll look for birth records for my great-unces and great-aunt. 
  • The declaration of intention says my great-grandfather filed first papers in Cleveland in 1918—they would’ve expired without being followed up by second papers within seven years. I didn't find a 1918 record, so I'll look into what's going on with that.
  • Research the guys who swore oaths on my great-grandfather’s behalf.
See FamilyTreeMagazine.com for guidance on locating your ancestors' naturalization records.

Footnote's naturalization records collection is here.

Family Tree Firsts | Footnote | immigration records
Monday, February 02, 2009 9:42:12 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, January 29, 2009
Ellis Island Hospital Documentary Airs in February
Posted by Diane

Forgotten Ellis Island, a documentary based on film producer Lorie Conway’s book of the same name about the immigrant hospital at America’s busiest port of arrival, is set to air on many PBS stations Feb. 2 at 10 p.m. (It'll air Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. in some places.)

See the Forgotten Ellis Island Web site and check local TV listings for updates. (The online schedule for our PBS affiliate let me set up an automatic e-mail reminder.)

I interviewed Conway for the November 2008 Family Tree Magazine, and the Ellis Island hospital is among my favorite topics I’ve covered. Conway shared photos and stories of immigrants treated there, revealing the hospital’s history and how the staff handled patients' varying cultures, languages and illnesses—while trying to balance a mission of humanity with a duty to protect the US population from diseases.

As mentioned in the November 2008 article, patient records are missing except a few documents scattered in other files.  The hospital buildings are under the care of Save Ellis Island and awaiting restoration.


Family Tree Magazine articles | immigration records | Social History
Thursday, January 29, 2009 11:42:11 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, December 29, 2008
In Case You're Wondering (Genealogy FAQs)
Posted by Diane

At Family Tree Magazine, we hear many of the same family tree-related questions over and over. I thought I’d answer a few of them here.

You’ll find even more FAQs (and the answers) on our Web site.

Q. How am I related to … [insert description of relative]?

A. It depends who’s the most-recent shared ancestor between you and the relative in question, and how many generations lie between each of you and that ancestor. Find an explanation here and a chart to help you figure it all out here.

Q. We’ve always heard we’re related to [fill in the famous name—John Brown, Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln are common ones]. How do we know for sure?

A. Lots of families have stories like this, and they’re not all true. To find out about yours, carefully research your family tree using reliable sources. You’ll also need to find the family tree of the person you might be related to (link to several famous trees here) and compare the trees to find people common to both.

Q. Why can't I find my ancestor on the Ellis Island Web site?

A. Ellis Island, open from 1892 through 1924, was the busiest US port of immigration, but it wasn't the only one. Cities all along the coasts received immigrants, including Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Galveston, San Francisco and others. Your ancestor may have arrived at one of these ports, or before Ellis Island opened, or overland from Canada or Mexico. See a list of ports and existing records for each on the National Archives Web site.
 
Q. My daughter learned she and her fiancé share an ancestor. Can they still marry?

A. It’s common for spouses to share an ancestor somewhere back in time—in fact, all states allow marriage between second or more-distant cousins. See a summary of state laws governing cousin marriages at the National Conference of State Legislatures.


Celebrity Roots | immigration records | Research Tips
Monday, December 29, 2008 10:48:05 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Free Database of the Week: Cook County Naturalization Records
Posted by Diane

If your immigrant ancestor settled in Chicago or the surrounding area, here's one for you:

Cook County, Ill. (home of Chicago), has posted a database of transcribed information from declarations of intention filed in the county’s circuit court between 1906 and 1929.

A declaration of intention, sometimes called “first papers,” was the first step toward becoming a US citizen.

Records are still being added. So far, the database contains information from more than 150,000 of the 400,000 declarations of intention filed. A grant from the National ArchivesNational Historical Publications and Records Commission funds the project.

The search is pretty flexible: You can search on a name or part of a name, birthdate, birth place, occupation or other parameters. My search on Syria as the country of birth netted 94 matches.

Click on a match to see the date the intention was filed, birth information, occupation, current residence, port of departure for the United States and date of arrival.

To order the original declaration of intention (for a search fee of $9, plus photocopying charges), click the How to Order link at the bottom of the page.

See Family Tree Magazine's online guide to learn more about finding your ancestors’ naturalization records.


Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 1:54:43 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Friday, September 19, 2008
Free Database of the Week: Immigrants' Deaths in Quarantine
Posted by Diane

After perusing the November 2008 Family Tree Magazine article on the book and documentary Forgotten Ellis Island, reader Joan Griffis tipped us off to a free resource: a listing of immigrants who died in quarantine before reaching Ellis Island.

Hoffman and Swinburne Islands, located in New York’s outer harbor, had hospitals that served as quarantine stations in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Most of the sick were immigrants whom medical inspectors removed from ships before they arrived at Ellis Island.

Griffis sent us a link to researcher Cathy Horn’s listing of 418 people who died at the quarantine stations from November 1909 through June 1911. Their names and death information come from death certificates in Richmond County, NY.

You can search the names or browse them. Check out the background information about the quarantine stations, too.


Free Databases | immigration records
Friday, September 19, 2008 4:39:20 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
101 Best Web Sites: Free Immigration Info and Swedish Records
Posted by Diane

Here are the two 101 Best Web Sites picks we're highlighting this week:
  • Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild: This guild of volunteers has tirelessly transcribed more than 8,000 passenger manifests, many from less-famous ports. Search by surname, captain's name, port of arrival or departure, and ship name.
And there's more: The guild’s Compass section offers how-to help for researching immigrants; a new adoption section has advice for adoptees and birth parents who want to reunite with their biological family members.
  • Genline: Genline delivers images of 16 million-plus pages of church records (virtually everything available) to your computer. Subscriptions start at about $23 for 20 days. You also can go to the resources section to learn Swedish terms you’ll encounter in your research and get how-to articles.
Link to the rest of our 101 list on FamilyTreeMagazine.com.


Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records | International Genealogy
Friday, September 19, 2008 3:10:07 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Ancestry.de Subscription Price Drops
Posted by Grace

German genealogy blog Abenteuer Ahnenforschung pointed out today that the price of Ancestry.de's basic membership has been lowered to 9.95 euros a year—about $14.65. (For comparison's sake, Ancestry.com's US-only membership package costs $155.40 a year.)

If your family history research focuses on Germany—and you've got a good grasp on the language—this is a total steal. The records available to Ancestry.de subscribers (as well as Ancestry.com users with a World Deluxe Membership) include German city directories from 1797-1945 containing 32 million names, and soon 100 years of Deutsche Telekom phone books with an estimated 70 million names. Time to brush up on your Deutsch...


Ancestry.com | immigration records | International Genealogy
Wednesday, August 27, 2008 5:27:46 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, June 10, 2008
New One-Step Search Tools Promise Better Results
Posted by Diane

Over at Tracing the Tribe, Schelly Talalay Dardashti blogged about new features on Stephen P. Morse’s One-Step Web Pages.

If you’re not familiar with him, Steve Morse is a kind of genealogical folk hero who creates handy Web tools including highly flexible search forms for third-party genealogical databases.

His newest database search tools include phonetic name matching, which finds variant surname spellings based on how a name is pronounced rather than how it’s spelled, so you get fewer false hits. Dardashti says Morse's Ellis Island Gold form passenger search  and the Dachau concentration camp search will soon feature phonetic matching.

Morse has a long list of tools on his home page, so here, I'm linking directly to several of the new ones:
Stop by the One-Step site to see more database searches, language transliterators, date converters and other goodies. You can learn more about the tools and how to use them in the February 2007 Family Tree Magazine, and see FamilyTreeMagazine.com for some of our interview with Morse.


Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records
Tuesday, June 10, 2008 2:21:46 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, May 23, 2008
USCIS Genealogy Service to Handle Citizenship Record Requests
Posted by Diane

A rule published in last Thursday’s Federal Register announces the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly the INS) will set up a fee-based Genealogy Program for responding to historical naturalization records requests. The rule takes effect Aug. 13.

Currently, requests are processed through the Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act (FOIA/PA) program, which according to the agency, delays fulfillment.

The new program's fees will be $20 for an index search, $20 for record copies from microfilm, and $35 for copies of paper records.

USCIS initially proposed charging $16 to $45 in April 2006. During the ensuing public comment period, the agency received 33 comments, 28 of them positive and many addressing fee levels. You can see a comments summary in the Federal Register announcement.

Records you can request through this program include:
  • Naturalization Certificate Files (C-Files) dated Sept. 27, 1906, to April 1, 1956
  • Alien Registration Forms on microfilm from Aug. 1, 1940 to March 31, 1944.
  • Visa Files from July 1, 1924, to March 31, 1944
  • Registry Files, from March 2, 1929 to March 31, 1944. These records document the creation of immigrant arrival records for persons who entered the United States prior to July 1, 1924, and for whom no arrival record could be found later.
  • Alien-Files (A-Files) numbered below 8 million (as in A8000000). A–files were the official file for all immigration records after April 1, 1944. A–numbers ranging up to approximately 6 million correspond to aliens and immigrants who were in or entered the country between 1940 and 1945. A-numbers from 6 to 7 million date from about 1944 to May 1, 1951.
Documents dated after May 1, 1951, even if they’re in an A–File numbered below 8 million, are still subject to FOIA/PA restrictions.
Starting Aug. 13, you’ll be able to submit requests and credit card fee payments through the USGIS Web site on Form G–1041. For records naming someone born less than 100 years ago, you’ll have to prove the person is deceased.

To request an index search, you’ll need to supply the immigrant’s full name and date and place of birth (at least as specific as a year). To request copies of records, you’ll need to provide a file number.

Before the naturalization process was centralized under INS Sept. 27, 1906, local and federal courts kept citizenship records. See the May 2008 Family Tree Magazine and FamilyTreeMagazine.com for tips on finding pre- and post-1906 naturalization records.


Family Tree Magazine articles | immigration records | Public Records
Friday, May 23, 2008 1:26:46 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, March 04, 2008
NARA Posts Free Passenger Indexes Online
Posted by Diane

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has added passenger lists of Russian, German and Italian immigrants to its free Access to Archival Databases (AAD) service. (Irish passenger lists already were available here.)

Each collection consists mostly of immigrants who identified their nationality as Russian, German or Italian and arrived at the ports of New York, Boston, Baltimore, New Orleans or Philadelphia during the 19th century.

The database for each nationality also contains some names of immigrants from other places. For example, 90 percent of people in the German records said they were from Germany or a “German” area—the other 10 percent came from elsewhere.

The data are from passenger list indexes created by the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies. Keep in mind they’re not complete listings of all Russian, German, Italian or Irish immigrants.

For each collection, you'll see a Manifest Header Data File and a Passenger Data File. The search isn't the most intuitive we've ever seen, so get started with these tips:
1. From AAD, click Passenger Lists under Genealogy/Personal History. Then, click the Search button to the right of a Passenger Data File to look for an ancestor. (NARA calls the search terms you enter “values.”)
2. In your results, click View Record on the left to see first and last name, age, sex, occupation, last residence, destination and other information.
3. Use the ship manifest identification number to determine the port of arrival. Click View the FAQs and scroll to the chart showing ports and the range of manifest numbers assigned to each port’s records.
If you think you've found an ancestor, you can search the database for his or her passenger manifest identification number. That lets you see all passenger records from that ship—handy for finding traveling companions.
In the Manifest Header Data File, you can search for all ships with a particular manifest identification number, ship name, departure port or arrival date. For example, say you know your German ancestor arrived March 16, 1846. Click the Search button next to the German Manifest Header Data file and enter 03/16/1846 in the Arrival field. You'll get all the ships included in this database that arrived that day. Then you can go back to the Passenger Data File and search for the passengers on each ship.

I highly, highly recommend reading the FAQ document—each database has its own, linked at the top of the search screen. It’ll help you search the databases and understand your ancestor’s record.

Some places of origin or other data are difficult to interpret. You’ll want to see your ancestor’s orginal passenger list, which you can do on microfilm at major genealogy libraries, NARA facilities and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History Library. You can view records online through the subscription Web site Ancestry.com.


Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records | International Genealogy | Libraries and Archives
Tuesday, March 04, 2008 10:21:37 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]