Finding the Town of Origin

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Do You Know When Your Ancestor Immigrated to the United States?



I know the time period

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Click on the Migration Wave Covering the Year Your Ancestor Came to the United States.


pre-1790

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Intro

During this time period, most voluntary immigrants came from Northwestern Europe, specifically the British Isles and Germany. There were also many African people forcibly brought to the New World as slaves.
Englishmen and women

  • Migrants from England made up eighty percent of the British American population in 1700.[1]

Scotch-Irish People

  • Scottish Protestants that settled in Ireland during the 17th century.[2]
  • Began migrating to the New World in the beginning of the eighteenth century.[3]
  • Typically came to Pennsylvania, through Philadelphia.[4]
  • Settled in Western Pennsylvania, Appalachian regions of Virginia and Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky.[5]

Germans

  • Began migrating to the New World in the beginning of the eighteenth century.[6]
  • Initially settled in Western Pennsylvania, Upstate New York, and the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.[7]
  • Eventually migrated in the Piedmont region of the Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia; and Western Pennsylvania and Ohio.[8]

Africans

  • Most enslaved people came to America from West Africa against their will via the Transatlantic Slave Trade.[9]
  • So many were transported across the Atlantic that by the first census in 1790, people of African descent made up twenty percent of the United States' population.[10]

Major Ports During this Era


Baltimore


Boston


Charleston


New Orleans


New York


Newport


Philadelphia


Savannah


Census Records

Beginning in 1850, the United States censuses listed the birthplace of a person. This information can be helpful in discovering the country of origin. Below is a table with possible immigration information found in the United States Census records.

1850
1860
1870
Birthplace of individual given.
Birthplace of individual given.
Birthplace of individual given, if parents were of foreign birth, and whether or not they're a male citizen of the United States over 21 years of age (this is helpful in knowing whether they have been naturalized or not).

Naturalization Records

Online Naturalization Resources

Since the adoption of the United States constitution, there have been naturalization laws and regulations in place. The naturalization process often took place in county courts. To learn more about the naturalization process read United States Naturalization and Citizenship. These types of courts varied between different states. County naturalization records can often be found in county supreme, circuit, district, equity, chancery, probate, or common pleas courts. Some states also naturalized aliens in state supreme courts. These states include Indiana, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Aliens were sometimes naturalized in a Federal court (U.S. district court or U.S. circuit court) if they resided in a large city.[11]

The naturalization process took a minimum of five years to complete. After living in the United States for 2 years, a declaration of intent could be filed. This was called the "first papers." After another three years, the petition of naturalization could be filed. When this petition was granted, a certificate of citizenship was given. In the 1900 and 1910 United States census records, it is stated whether or not the person is an alien or naturalized. NA stands for naturalized, AL for Alien, and PA for papers.[12]

There were several exceptions to the citizenship rule. From 1790-1922, minor children and wives automatically became citizens when their father or husband did. If an alien woman married a citizen, she gained citizenship in the United States. The reverse was not true for men. If an alien man married a citizen of the United States, he did not become a citizen and his wife lost her citizenship, even if she never left the United States. From 1824-1906, aliens who had lived in the United States for five years before they turned 23, could file their declarations and petitions at the same time. A third exception was for veterans. Beginning in 1862, honorably discharged veterans of the United States could petition for naturalization without filing a declaration of intent. In 1918, aliens currently serving in the military were allowed to petition for naturalization.[13]

Town and County Records and Histories

Online Town and County History Resources

Town and county histories can give important clues to a person's origins. Many of these histories have short biographies of important or founding families in the community. If someone prominent in the community is an immigrant their place of origin will usually be recorded in this biographies; the origins of parents are sometimes listed in biographies of their children as well.

Church Records

Online Church Resources

Church records can include christenings, baptisms, marriage, and burial records. These can give the names of parents and other potential relatives. After coming to the United States, many immigrants stayed near people from their own country and community back home. Many churches kept records in their native language. Looking at the records of other members of the community who immigrated about the same time and from the same country can also give potential clues to the town of origin.

Court and Land Records

Online Court and Land Resources

Court and land records can be helpful in keeping track of a person in the community. These can be helpful in figuring out when a person came into a community, and potentially where they lived before. paragraph of searching the community the person lived



1790-1820

[hide]


Intro

Between the American Revolution and the War of 1812, immigration into the United States slowed considerably. However, it resumed after the War of 1812. This wave of immigration still largely consisted of people from Western Europe. However, a new group of migrants, Irish men and women began coming to American during this time. Additionally, men and women continued to cross the Canadian border into the United States.

Major Ports during this Era


Baltimore


Boston


Charleston


New Orleans


New York


Philadelphia


Census Records

Beginning in 1850, the United States censuses listed the birthplace of a person. This information can be helpful in discovering the country of origin. Below is a table with possible immigration information found in the United States Census records.

1850
1860
1870
1880
1890
Birthplace of individual given.
Birthplace of individual given.
Birthplace of individual given, if parents were of foreign birth, and whether or not they're a male citizen of the United States over 21 years of age (this is helpful in knowing whether they have been naturalized or not).
Birthplace of individual and parents.
The majority of this census was destroyed and there are very few records remaining. Birthplace of individual and their parents, number of years in the United States, whether or not the person was naturalized, whether or not they had their naturalization papers taken out, if they did not speak English then what language.

Naturalization Records

Online Naturalization Resources

Since the adoption of the United States constitution, there have been naturalization laws and regulations in place. The naturalization process often took place in county courts. To learn more about the naturalization process read United States Naturalization and Citizenship. These types of courts varied between different states. County naturalization records can often be found in county supreme, circuit, district, equity, chancery, probate, or common pleas courts. Some states also naturalized aliens in state supreme courts. These states include Indiana, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Aliens were sometimes naturalized in a Federal court (U.S. district court or U.S. circuit court) if they resided in a large city.[14]

The naturalization process took a minimum of five years to complete. After living in the United States for 2 years, a declaration of intent could be filed. This was called the "first papers." After another three years, the petition of naturalization could be filed. When this petition was granted, a certificate of citizenship was given. In the 1900 and 1910 United States census records, it is stated whether or not the person is an alien or naturalized. NA stands for naturalized, AL for Alien, and PA for papers.
[15]

There were several exceptions to the citizenship rule. From 1790-1922, minor children and wives automatically became citizens when their father or husband did. If an alien woman married a citizen, she gained citizenship in the United States. The reverse was not true for men. If an alien man married a citizen of the United States, he did not become a citizen and his wife lost her citizenship, even if she never left the United States. From 1824-1906, aliens who had lived in the United States for five years before they turned 23, could file their declarations and petitions at the same time. A third exception was for veterans. Beginning in 1862, honorably discharged veterans of the United States could petition for naturalization without filing a declaration of intent. In 1918, aliens currently serving in the military were allowed to petition for naturalization.[16]

Vital Records

Online Vital Record Resources

Vital records are birth, marriage, and death records. These records can be helpful in providing a residence, possible relatives, and the names of spouses and parents. Vital records were usually kept at the county level. Search the county's FamilySearch Research Wiki page to see when these records began to be kept.

Town and County Records and Histories

Online Town and County History Resources

Town and county histories can give important clues to a person's origins. Many of these histories have short biographies of important or founding families in the community. If someone prominent in the community is an immigrant their place of origin will usually be recorded in this biographies; the origins of parents are sometimes listed in biographies of their children as well.

Church Records

Online Church Records Resources

Church records can include christenings, baptisms, marriage, and burial records. These can give the names of parents and other potential relatives. After coming to the United States, many immigrants stayed near people from their own country and community back home. Many churches kept records in their native language. Looking at the records of other members of the community who immigrated about the same time and from the same country can also give potential clues to the town of origin.

Newspapers

Online Newspapers Resources

Newspapers can be helpful in giving information about communities and local events. They often list births, marriages, death notices, obituaries, and the coming and going of people in the community.

Court and Land Records

Online Court and Land Resources

Court and land records can be helpful in keeping track of a person in the community. These can be helpful in figuring out when a person came into a community, and potentially where they lived before. paragraph of searching the community the person lived



1820-1880

[hide]


Intro

During the 1820s-1880s, the United States received a huge influx of immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Scandinavia, and China. Many of these immigrants came because of economic or civil unrest at home, the cheap farmland available in the United States, or because of the California Gold Rush. Some immigrants, especially those who were unskilled laborers, stayed on the East Coast where the industrial revolution was bigger.

Major Ports During this Era

The Top 5 Major Ports

Census Records

Beginning in 1850, the United States censuses listed the birthplace of a person. This information can be helpful in discovering the country of origin. Below is a table with possible immigration information found in the United States Census records.

1850
1860
1870
1880
1890
Birthplace of individual given.
Birthplace of individual given.
Birthplace of individual given, if parents were of foreign birth, and whether or not they're a male citizen of the United States over 21 years of age (this is helpful in knowing whether they have been naturalized or not).
Birthplace of individual and parents.
The majority of this census was destroyed and there are very few records remaining. Birthplace of individual and their parents, number of years in the United States, whether or not the person was naturalized, whether or not they had their naturalization papers taken out, if they did not speak English then what language.
1900
1910
1920
1930
1940
Birthplace of individual and parents, year of immigration, years in the United States, whether or not naturalized. Birthplace of individual and parents, year of immigration, naturalized or alien, whether they speak English or if not what language, Birthplace and mother tongue of individual and parents, year of immigration, naturalized or alien, year of naturalization, whether or not they spoke English. Birthplace of individual and parents, language spoken at home before coming to the United States, year of immigration, whether or not naturalized, whether able to speak English. Birthplace of individual, Citizenship status for those foreign-born, where the individual lived in 1935 (this is especially helpful if the person immigrated around this time).

Naturalization Records

Since the adoption of the United States constitution, there have been naturalization laws and regulations in place. The naturalization process often took place in county courts. To learn more about the naturalization process read United States Naturalization and Citizenship. These types of courts varied between different states. County naturalization records can often be found in county supreme, circuit, district, equity, chancery, probate, or common pleas courts. Some states also naturalized aliens in state supreme courts. These states include Indiana, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Aliens were sometimes naturalized in a Federal court (U.S. district court or U.S. circuit court) if they resided in a large city.[17]

The naturalization process took a minimum of five years to complete. After living in the United States for 2 years, a declaration of intent could be filed. This was called the "first papers." After another three years, the petition of naturalization could be filed. When this petition was granted, a certificate of citizenship was given. In the 1900 and 1910 United States census records, it is stated whether or not the person is an alien or naturalized. NA stands for naturalized, AL for Alien, and PA for papers.
[18]

There were several exceptions to the citizenship rule. From 1790-1922, minor children and wives automatically became citizens when their father or husband did. If an alien woman married a citizen, she gained citizenship in the United States. The reverse was not true for men. If an alien man married a citizen of the United States, he did not become a citizen and his wife lost her citizenship, even if she never left the United States. From 1824-1906, aliens who had lived in the United States for five years before they turned 23, could file their declarations and petitions at the same time. A third exception was for veterans. Beginning in 1862, honorably discharged veterans of the United States could petition for naturalization without filing a declaration of intent. In 1918, aliens currently serving in the military were allowed to petition for naturalization.[19]

Vital Records

Vital records are birth, marriage, and death records. These records can be helpful in providing a residence, possible relatives, and the names of spouses and parents. Vital records were usually kept at the county level. Search the county's FamilySearch Research Wiki page to see when these records began to be kept.

Town and County Records and Histories

Town and county histories can give important clues to a person's origins. Many of these histories have short biographies of important or founding families in the community. If someone prominent in the community is an immigrant their place of origin will usually be recorded in these biographies; the origins of parents are sometimes listed in biographies of their children as well.

Church Records

Church records can include christenings, baptisms, marriage, and burial records. These can give the names of parents and other potential relatives. After coming to the United States, many immigrants stayed near people from their own country and community back home. Many churches kept records in their native language. Looking at the records of other members of the community who immigrated about the same time and from the same country can also give potential clues to the town of origin.

Newspapers

Newspapers can be helpful in giving information about communities and local events. They often list births, marriages, death notices, obituaries, and the coming and going of people in the community.

Court and Land Records

Court and land records can be helpful in keeping track of a person in the community. These can be helpful in figuring out when a person came into a community, and potentially where they lived before. paragraph of searching the community the person lived



1880-1930

[hide]


Census Records

Beginning in 1850, the United States censuses listed the birthplace of a person. This information can be helpful in discovering the country of origin. Below is a table with possible immigration information found in the united States Census records.

1890
1900
1910
The majority of this census was destroyed and there are very few records remaining. Birthplace of individual and their parents, number of years in the United States, whether or not the person was naturalized, whether or not they had their naturalization papers taken out, if they did not speak English then what language. Birthplace of individual and parents, year of immigration, years in the United States, whether or not naturalized. Birthplace of individual and parents, year of immigration, naturalized or alien, whether they speak English or if not what language.
1920
1930
1940
Birthplace and mother tongue of individual and parents, year of immigration, naturalized or alien, year of naturalization, whether or not they spoke English. Birthplace of individual and parents, language spoken at home before coming to the United States, year of immigration, whether or not naturalized, whether able to speak English. Birthplace of individual, Citizenship status for those foreign-born, where the individual lived in 1935 (this is especially helpful if the person immigrated around this time).



1930-1965

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1965-2000

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I do not know the time period

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Click on the different record groups to learn what clues they can give and how to search them.


United States Census Records

[hide]


Census Records

Below is a table with possible immigration information found in the United States Census records.

1850
1860
1870
1880
1890
Birthplace of individual given.
Birthplace of individual given.
Birthplace of individual given, if parents were of foreign birth, and whether or not they're a male citizen of the United States over 21 years of age (this is helpful in knowing whether they have been naturalized or not).
Birthplace of individual and parents.
The majority of this census was destroyed and there are very few records remaining. Birthplace of individual and their parents, number of years in the United States, whether or not the person was naturalized, whether or not they had their naturalization papers taken out, if they did not speak English then what language.
1900
1910
1920
1930
1940
Birthplace of individual and parents, year of immigration, years in the United States, whether or not naturalized. Birthplace of individual and parents, year of immigration, naturalized or alien, whether they speak English or if not what language, Birthplace and mother tongue of individual and parents, year of immigration, naturalized or alien, year of naturalization, whether or not they spoke English. Birthplace of individual and parents, language spoken at home before coming to the United States, year of immigration, whether or not naturalized, whether able to speak English. Birthplace of individual, Citizenship status for those foreign-born, where the individual lived in 1935 (this is especially helpful if the person immigrated around this time).

Beginning in 1850, the United States censuses listed the birthplace of a person. This information can be helpful in knowing the country of origin. These earlier census records can also give clues as to when a family immigrated to the United States if some of the children were born in their homeland country and some in the United States. This is helpful in narrowing down the year of immigration. As noted in the table, some of the later censuses provide an estimated or exact year of immigration as well. NOTE: The immigration years can vary from census to census, especially if the person immigrated as a child and did not remember the year exactly.



United States Naturalization Records

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Vital Records

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Newspapers/Histories

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Migration Routes/Communities

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  1. Wikipedia contributors, "English Americans," in "Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Americans, accessed 29 October 2019.
  2. Wikipedia contributors, "Scotch-Irish Americans," in "Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scotch-Irish_Americans, accessed 29 October 2019.
  3. Wikipedia contributors, "Scotch-Irish Americans," in "Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scotch-Irish_Americans, accessed 29 October 2019.
  4. Wikipedia contributors, "Scotch-Irish Americans," in "Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scotch-Irish_Americans, accessed 29 October 2019.
  5. Wikipedia contributors, "Scotch-Irish Americans," in "Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scotch-Irish_Americans, accessed 29 October 2019.
  6. Wikipedia contributors, "German Americans" in "Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Americans, accessed 29 October 2019.
  7. Wikipedia contributors, "German Americans" in "Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Americans, accessed 29 October 2019.
  8. Wikipedia contributors, "German Americans" in "Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Americans, accessed 29 October 2019.
  9. Wikipedia contributors, "African Americans" in "Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Americans, accessed 29 October 2019
  10. Wikipedia contributors, "African Americans" in "Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Americans, accessed 29 October 2019
  11. "Naturalization Records," in Research Our Records, National Archives, https://www.archives.gov/research/naturalization/naturalization.html, accessed 26 November 2019.
  12. "Naturalization Records," in Research Our Records, National Archives, https://www.archives.gov/research/naturalization/naturalization.html, accessed 26 November 2019.
  13. "Naturalization Records," in Research Our Records, National Archives, https://www.archives.gov/research/naturalization/naturalization.html, accessed 26 November 2019.
  14. "Naturalization Records," in Research Our Records, National Archives, https://www.archives.gov/research/naturalization/naturalization.html, accessed 26 November 2019.
  15. "Naturalization Records," in Research Our Records, National Archives, https://www.archives.gov/research/naturalization/naturalization.html, accessed 26 November 2019.
  16. "Naturalization Records," in Research Our Records, National Archives, https://www.archives.gov/research/naturalization/naturalization.html, accessed 26 November 2019.
  17. "Naturalization Records," in Research Our Records, National Archives, https://www.archives.gov/research/naturalization/naturalization.html, accessed 26 November 2019.
  18. "Naturalization Records," in Research Our Records, National Archives, https://www.archives.gov/research/naturalization/naturalization.html, accessed 26 November 2019.
  19. "Naturalization Records," in Research Our Records, National Archives, https://www.archives.gov/research/naturalization/naturalization.html, accessed 26 November 2019.