Friday, April 23, 2010

Migration to the Northwest: The Early Years

While much is said of Westward migration and travel along the Oregon Trail, there's also an interesting story at the "end of the line," settlement of the Pacific Northwest. In his article, "Migration to the Northwest: The Early Years," Alan Smith examines the slow settlement and diverse forces behind the eventual, mass migration. The story of the Pacific Northwest, its dash and daring is played out vividly in my own family, with a Swedish immigrant making his way across the land to settle, first in Seattle, then after heartbreak and hardship, following the gold rush and starting a new life along the upper Yukon River. Its the stuff of Jack London and Robert Service, in real life. As with all pioneer history, the stories are colorful nigh unto unbelievable, but true. And that is one of the driving forces behind our passion for genealogy.

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Friday, April 9, 2010

The Compleat Database: Citizenship Matters

In her article, "The Compleat Database: Citizenship Matters," Judy Rosella Edwards provides considerable detail on researching and interpreting immigration and naturalization records. The key advice is to work backwards, as it true of most genealogical research; that is, work from the most recent information back. If an ancestor were a naturalized citizen, the place to begin would be with naturalization records, of which there are three documents along the paper trail. Also noted is the fact the "third paper" -- the final, certificate of naturalization, might even be noted in the local newspaper, perhaps among the legal notices. Recording this information in the genealogy database is important an important step in tracing an immigrant ancestor's place of origin.

I recently had the opportunity of helping my niece track her Swedish grandfather's immigration and naturalization. It was interesting to note the dates and distance traveled. Her grandfather arrived in the U.S. in 1907, in New York. Applying for citizenship, he filed his Declaration of Intention in 1919, in Seattle, Washington. Interestingly, the Certificate of Citizenship was not awarded until 1942, in Fairbanks, Alaska, some 24 years since he first filed. In all, a 35-year process. Seems immigrants as well as genealogists must practice patience. 

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Useful update on researching immigration records

A recent column on, "Why are genealogists fascinated with our immigrant records and why are they so hard to find?" reviews the methods and resources for researching immigration records. One important point made is that one cannot typically go right to the country of origin and dig into the records, without first narrowing the field place within the country, information usually derived from more recent records and tracing back. The article provides a nice update on researching immigration records and includes some useful links. 

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

"A little-known genealogy service"

This may be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for those researching immigrant ancestors. An article today in the Los Angeles Times, "A government genealogy service lets family history leap off the page," provides a case in point and explains a fairly recent program [2008] that gives researchers more immediate access to immigration records, which may include an entire body of documents.

According to the article, "The documents came from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which runs a little-known genealogy service for relatives wanting to learn more about their family history. . . . In the past, genealogy researchers had to file document requests under the Freedom of Information Act and sometimes waited years for a response.

Under the genealogy program, which started in 2008, requests are usually completed within 90 days. For $20, the government will run a search of the name, as long as the person is deceased. If there are records available, the government charges additional fees for the files. In fiscal year 2009, more than 5,300 requests were made, fewer than expected. In addition to relatives, historians or researchers can also request files.

"It will be a treasure chest for genealogists," said Southern California Genealogical Society President Pam Wiedenbeck. "Oftentimes these files will have information on brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles that will help connect the dots."

For experienced genealogists, the files may open the doors to even more research, perhaps leading people to exact hometowns in their ancestors' native countries. And for those new to genealogy, they may be just the beginning. "For every question you answer you come up with two or three more," Wiedenbeck said."

For more information about the program, check out

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Genealogy of Communities: Fishing Camps

By definition a camp is defined as "temporary" living quarters. Many of those housed in camps were making their way to a new life, most were single, and women were few. In her most recent article, "The Genealogy of Communities: Fishing Camps," Judy Rosella Edwards explores the nature of fishing camps and suggests ways to back-track individuals who may have been found in these camps. Skilled workers, for example, may be found plying the same trade in their place of origin, as noted on the census. As fishing camps were "a haven for new immigrants," the article suggests ways of narrowing an ancestor's place of origin through ship manifests. Ideas are also provided for tracking an ancestor forward in time, as they build new lives.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Immigration History & the U.S, Part IV: Immigration after 1820

The recording of immigrants into the United State is of a relatively recent history. Awareness of this history, the dates for which records were kept, and the ports active during specific periods can help genealogists narrow their research. In this last of four articles, "Immigration after 1820," Alan Smith delineates this history.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009 Releases U.S. to Canada Border Crossings, 1908-1935

Canada’s leading family history website,, today launched online the indexed and fully searchable Border Crossings: From U.S. to Canada, 1908-1935, which contains more than 1.6 million names from border crossing documents captured at almost 200 entry points over a 27-year period. 

The release of this collection is of great significance to many Canadians whose ancestors immigrated to Canada through the U.S. in the early 20th century. Border crossing records are the official and only immigration records for those individuals who crossed from the U.S.
Along with the Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935, which were launched in September 2008 and contain more than 7.2 million names, the Border Crossings: from U.S. to Canada, 1908-1935 represent the most comprehensive collection of Canadian immigration records ever assembled online.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

History of Early American Ports

In his article, "Immigration History & the U.S., Part III: History of Early American Ports,"Alan Smith provides a background on various U.S. ports, their establishment and role in U.S. immigration. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants set foot on American soil before any attempt was made to document the fact. Understanding more about the formation of these early ports may provide researchers greater insight into the immigration of their own ancestors.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Colonial Period & Immigration

"The colonial period is often the period most researchers are trying to crack. The period leaves 150 years when families came to our shore, most of which were undocumented." In this second of a four-part discussion on Immigration History & the U.S., Alan Smith explores "The Colonial Period of Immigration," suggesting avenues and resources to consider.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Historical Influences on U.S. Immigrants

The subject of immigration is complex due to the social, economic and political issues associated with the topic. Alan Smith discusses these issues in four parts. The first, Immigration History & U.S. Ports, Part One revisits immigration push and pull, those things that drove or encouraged immigration to the United States. It also explores the attitudes with which immigrants were received at various time, which sometimes influenced where immigrants may have settled.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

New Orleans: Destination or Stopover

In her article, "New Orleans: Destination or Stopover" Judy Rosella Edwards provides insight into the where passengers arriving at the Port of New Orleans might have been headed, and shows how passenger lists evolved over time in their level of detail. The article also indicates a German settlement near New Orleans, an area that remains today.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

New Orleans Interments

Death and burial rituals may differ dramatically between countries, among cultures, and among religions. New Orleans, because of its location and varied culture, has always had unique and interesting cemeteries and customs. In her article, "New Orleans Interments," Judy Rosella Edwards explores burial practices in New Orleans during the mid-1800s when disease was rampant, and offers ideas and resources for research.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

New Orleans: Healthy Life in a New World

In her article, "New Orleans: Healthy Life in a New World," Judy Rosella Edwards provides an overview of perils of disease and loss of life faced by emigrants crossing the sea bound for New Orleans, perils faced emigrants bound for any port. The article reports, "It was not until the latter part of the 1800s that ships were required to have a physician on board. Sickness on the larger, more crowded boats could quickly become and epidemic -- and did."

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tribute paid to first Ellis Island immigrant

A recent article in the Daily News reports the "overdue salute" to an Irish woman who was the first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island. The Queens grave site of Annie Moore has been marked with an Irish blue limestone Celtic cross. As a 17-year-old from County Cork, Ireland, Moore was given $10 in gold when she passed through Ellis Island on Jan. 1, 1892, the article said. Historians long believed that the mother of at least 10 moved West and settled in Texas, but a dedicated genealogist debunked the myth while researching a documentary. In 2006, Moore was found in an unmarked grave in the cemetery, buried with six of her children.

"She stands for the countless hundreds of thousands of Irish people who crossed the Atlantic and settled here in New York," said Niall Burgess, Irish consul general. Ellis Island was the gateway to America for more than 12 million immigrants. As many as 5,000 people a day passed through the processing center at its peak in the early 1900s.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Arts in New Orleans

Continuing her series on New Orleans, in "The Arts in New Orleans," Judy Rosella Edwards reminds us of the great traditions in entertainment that take their roots from New Orleans and its diverse population. The article sheds light on researching ancestors who may have been among the many performers who came and went in New Orleans.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Ethnicity of New Orleans Immigrants

Immigrants arriving at the Port of New Orleans in the mid-nineteenth century defy stereotype, suggests Judy Rosella Edwards in her article, "The Ethnicity of New Orleans Immigrants." While the Acadian and Creole populations may be most commonly associated with Louisiana, many others passed through the city gates, some stayed, others were on their way elsewhere. "There was clearly a Jewish presence prior to the mid-1800s," and many others. The article highlights a number of useful resources for researching the diverse groups entering this important southern gateway.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In her continuing series on New Orleans, Judy Rosella Edwards presents "New Orleans Immigrant Origins," suggesting resources and providing insight into the ethnic origins of those arriving at the Port of New Orleans in the mid- to late-1800s. It was interesting to note that a research group interested in German immigration had transcribed complete passenger lists of vessels carrying German passengers, even if only one passenger on board was German. A boon for other researchers, as well. Although not everyone who passed through New Orleans remained, it was an important point of immigration.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New online resource for U.S. immigration services

A recent article on announced a new program started by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to streamline the process of finding information — but the convenience comes at a price. The USCIS Genealogy Program is a fee-for-service program; a single index search is $20 and record requests are charged additional fees.

The USCIS has records dating back to the late 1800's documenting the arrival and naturalization of millions of immigrants, and also has records of people naturalized citizens between 1906 and 1956. According to the article, the new program replaces a Freedom of Information Act process that was required to get the information. USCIS reported receiving over 40,000 requests for historical records in the last four years. For more information, visit the USCIS web site.

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Orleans Occupations, Part II -- a pattern emerges

In the second of her series on New Orleans, "New Orleans Occupations, Part II," Judy Rosella Edwards adds to her previous discussion on early occupations. The article explains the pattern emerging from a study of those occupations and what that can mean to your genealogical research.

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Friday, June 6, 2008

Chinese-Canadian wiki now online

An article in the Vancouver Courier, "New wiki adds branches to family tree research," reports Chinese-Canadians searching for their roots now a new wiki to help them and others research their ancestors and tell their stories.The Vancouver Public Library and Library and Archives Canada have partnered to sponsor the Chinese-Canadian history wiki, a collection of web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content. According to the article, the silver lining to measures once meant to exclude Chinese immigrants from Canada is that the personal records required by the government back then can be used to create a portrait of the early Chinese-Canadian community in Canada.

The article itself is enlightening on the issues. For example, as reported byJanet Tomkins, genealogy librarian at the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library, in the 1891 census records for the city of Victoria, for every single person of Chinese origin, "it was just put 'Chinaman' for every single one. So those people are nameless, and Victoria had the biggest Chinese community back then." In 1885 the federal government imposed a head tax on Chinese immigrants in an effort to exclude Chinese from entering the country; as a result of this registration, a listing of Canadian-born Chinese was produced; this Chinese Immigration List forms the basis of the Chinese-Canadian history wiki, called Chinese-Canadians: Profiles from a Community. The wiki only includes those born prior to 1901, for privacy reason. For those not familiar, "wiki" sites offer an opportunity for readers to participate and post information to the site.

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Collaboration brings online access to over 600 databases

In a press release this week, Genealogical Publishing Company, the world’s largest publisher of immigration records in book form, has partnered with, Inc, to make their databases available on

Genealogical Publishing Company has 2,000 titles featuring content from early Colonial America to the Civil War. Some of these titles include Donald Lines Jacobus’ Families of Ancient New Haven, a three-volume work that covers every family in pre-Revolutionary New Haven, Connecticut, and Robert Barnes’s British Roots of Maryland Families, which establishes the origins of hundreds of pre-eighteenth-century Maryland families.

“While many of our books contain genealogical source records, a considerable number contain lineage records and other linked material. These titles combined include about 15 million people. The descendants of these 15 million people number in the hundreds of millions today. Our partnership with FamilyLink will enable many, many Americans to go back and trace their family to some of these early immigrants,” said Barry Chodak, President of, Inc., parent of Genealogical Publishing Company.

More than 600 databases from Genealogical Publishing Company will be launched periodically over the next few months at

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Who Are the Scotch-Irish?

While we've all heard the term "Scotch-Irish" or "Scots-Irish," we may not know exactly what it means or to whom it refers. In her article, "Who are the Scotch-Irish," Melissa Slate revisits the history of the Northern Ireland and explains events prompting immigrations to the U. S. in the early 1700s.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Researching the origin of immigrant ancestors

When researching your family, especially in the United States, you will eventually come across an immigrant ancestor. Learning more about that ancestor before they came to America can present many challenges. In her article, "Origins of Immigrant Ancestors," Karan Pittman provides some general information on researching immigrant ancestors, with an emphasis on records and resources for England.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Ancestry releases Mexico Border Crossing Collection

Very significant for those with Mexico heritage, announced in a press release yesterday, its Mexico Border Crossings Collection, the "first and only" online collection of border crossing records for individuals who crossed the U.S. - Mexico border between 1903 and 1957. This new collection, which includes more than 3.5 million names, is the latest addition to's Immigration Records Collection, which also includes the largest online collection of U.S. ship passenger list records featuring more than 100 million names from 1820 to 1960. These border crossing records primarily document early 20th-century Mexican immigration to the United States. During the first 30 years of the 1900s, more than 1 million Mexicans immigrated to the United States as a result of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, job opportunities during WWI and U.S. agricultural advances.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Ancestry offering access to Ellis Island records, through April 30 has also announced, to honor the 100th anniversaries of the largest year and single day of immigration through Ellis Island, it is offering free access to the only complete online set of Ellis Island passenger arrival records (1892-1957) from April 12 to April 30. In addition, is inviting users to relive the remarkable journeys of their gateway ancestors at the click of a mouse at -- an interactive, multimedia tour of this national landmark. More than 11,500 immigrants passed through America's "Golden Door" on April 17, 1907, the single-day record. In total, some 1 million immigrants would come through the island in 1907 alone, making it the busiest year in Ellis Island's 60 years of operation.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Ancestry releases Canadian Border Collection

Great news and one more place to check -- online -- for those who have not yet found their immigrant ancestor in U. S. passenger lists. In a recent press release, announced announced the release of a new Canadian records collection, offering 4 million names of individuals who crossed the U.S.-Canadian border between 1895 and 1956. These historical records are the latest addition to's Immigration Records Collection, which also includes more than 100 million names from the largest online collection of U.S. passenger lists, spanning 1820 to 1960.

An often-overlooked, but major U.S. immigration channel, the U.S.-Canadian border typically offered easier entrance to the United States than sea ports such as Ellis Island. This new collection includes immigrants who first sailed to or settled in Canada before continuing to the United States as well as U.S. and Canadian citizens crossing the border. Among the busiest ports of entry on both sides of the border were Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Detroit, Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto.The border crossings also contain a surprising number of nationalities with Russians, Italians and Chinese among the most common nationalities of people crossing the U.S.-Canadian border.

While you do pay to access the records, you can search the records without charge. To learn more about the collection, see Border Crossings: From Canada to U. S., 1895-1956.

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