Friday, April 10, 2015

I is for Immigration

I think the reason I enjoy genealogy and family history as much as I do is that I love history and geography. I also enjoy reading, researching and puzzles. All that comes in handy with genealogy, especially when your ancestors are the more recent arrivals to Canada and the United States (late 1800s and early 1900s). With Irish, Norwegian, Slovenian and Swedish in my family tree, I get to spend quality time researching emigration and immigration records! The registers, indexes, ships' manifests, arrival documents, newspaper articles, citizenship paperwork, photographs and family stories all tell the tale of travel from the Old World to the New World.

I use both emigration and immigration events/facts with my Legacy database. One of the reasons is that it is quite easy to find emigration records for my Norwegian and Swedish ancestors. There are great church and government records that kept track of the people and many times those leaving were given copies of their church records to deliver to their new parishes/churches on arrival in the United States.

the emigration register and the immigration record

whether you use the list or the report version of the chronology report,
be sure to add all the information and then go beyond the documents

The emigration records are also known as the "leaving" records. I find it useful to find out where they left from, where they might have stopped along the way (early travel was often through England - arriving on the east coast, traveling by train to the west coast and then traveling across the Atlantic to Canada or the United States). The immigration records are also known as the "arriving" records. Depending on when and where your ancestors arrived, the records can be next to nothing or lines in a ship's manifest, images or photographs and receipts.

  • Since my 3rd great grandfather left Ireland for Newfoundland, there was no immigration paperwork - due to the timing, he was a British subject so it was just considered travel from one part of the British Empire to another.
  • When my 3rd great grandmother left Ireland for the United States, she and her daughters first immigrated to Canada - the passage was cheaper and there were no financial or medical exams, again they were British subjects. I know they traveled through the Great Lakes region but have no found their papers yet!
  • When my 2nd great grandparents left Sweden (in their 50s) with their grown children, they arrived in New York and knew exactly where they were going - Wright County, Minnesota - where several of their neighbors and my 3rd times great granduncle has already settled and purchased farmland. Their records leaving and arriving were easily found.
  • When my 2nd great grandparents and their two young children left Norway they traveled to Canada first and months later continued on to the United States (again headed for Minnesota). Their records for leaving and arriving were a bit trickier until I found the Canadian connection. 
  • When my great grandparents (individually and unbeknownst to each other) left Austria/Slovenia for the United States, they each arrived at Ellis Island (and then traveled by train across the country to Washington - enclaves of Slovenians and coal mines). Finally I got to do some Ellis Island research - I even have pictures of the ships they traveled on.
  • When my grandfather immigrated to the United States from Newfoundland, he did so twice (his first arrival through Boston, Massachusetts was not done through the proper channels; his second arrival through Minot, North Dakota was his golden ticket!).
  • My grandmother who was born in the United Stated, immigrated to Canada in the early 1900s with her father and her siblings (a story for another day or letter!).
Between my direct line ancestors and all the extended family, we have examples of emigration and immigration records from early on through the 1940s. Be sure to document the immigration story of your ancestors - and go behind the documents. What did the trip cost, how did they raise the funds, where did they leave from, who did they travel with, how long did the trip take, how far a distance was the trip, what was the ship or train or plane like, where did they arrive, what were their first months like, did they stay in contact with family at home, did they become citizens, did they learn the language, did they return home? Learning about their immigration story will make you even more grateful to them for making the trip! 

Tack - Takk - Hvala - & Go raibh maith agaibh to my Swedish, Norwegian, Slovenian and Irish ancestors for making the trip, changing your lives, and meeting up once you arrived - we are here because you got on those ships!


  1. Sounds like we're both migration fanatics Tessa. You have certainly used a variety of sources...can you please rub some of your luck on my elusive German's migration (emigration or immigration would do)...I've only been looking for nearly 30 years. Good luck with the A to Z.

    1. Pauleen - that almost has to be the case when you end up in The United States or Australia (I don't know about you but we don't have any Native American ancestors so we arrived late to the party). Interesting that you have German roots - that is a hard one both with the language and the fact that the country as we know it was not united until the more recent past. Add all that back and forth in the various wars (we get that with the Austria/Slovenia thing) and you have your work cut out for you. 30 years of looking - you are dedicated! I will send good genealogy thoughts your way. Thanks for reading and joining the conversation. You all just finished your Congress - hope you get a bit of downtime.


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