What Is Genealogy
Why Study Genealogy?
How Far Can You Go?
3rd Party Stories
Cite Your Sources
Discovering Your Immigrant Ancestors
All Americans, except those descended only from Native American forebears, have immigrant ancestors. These ancestors link us to another country and culture. The founders of our families in America, and in some case the ancestors from whom we receive our surnames as well, are often our most elusive forebears. And yet it is natural to be very curious about them. We want to know who they were. When and where were they born? Where did they live in the "Old World"? When did they come to America? Whom did they marry? When and where did they die?
In addition to this basic genealogical data, we are eager to discover the circumstances surrounding their immigration. Were they fleeing war or persecution? Were they running from starvation? Did they come as slaves or indentured servants? Were they attracted to the New World by a sense of adventure or the alluring promotions of railroad and land companies offering land and promising instant prosperity?
Whatever motivated them, Europeans, Asians, and Africans came to America in astonishing numbers, beginning with early 17th century Spanish and English settlements in Florida and Virginia and culminating in the massive flood of people from eastern Europe in the decades around 1900. Altogether some fifty million people immigrated to America. The peak year, exactly three hundred years after the settlement at Jamestown, was 1907, when the nation accepted 1,285,349 new inhabitants. The genealogist's task is to identify among this great flood of people the handful or several hundred (of 17th century) individuals and couples who began our own particular family lines.
The search for immigrant ancestors will employ many of the methods and sources that have proved helpful in tracing other generations. Like the native-born American, the immigrant leaves behind a trail of documents through which his personal history can be traced. As is the case with American-born ancestors, part or all of the trail may sometimes been destroyed. But what is distinctive about the immigrant is that his history begins outside the United States. To discover much about his early life, you may have to learn a foreign language and become familiar with local records in the country where your family originated.
Information about our immigrant ancestors was often recorded while they were in transit from the Old World to the New. You may be able to find information in the ship's records on which they took passage to America, in data recorded by customs officials as they entered the country, or in naturalization records. It also worth looking out for some more unusual sources, such as a published list of indentured servants or a missing persons column in a foreign-language newspaper.
Following the basic method of all genealogical inquiry, the search for your immigrant ancestors starts from the known and proceeds to the unknown. You need to be sure that your earliest known ancestor in any given line was indeed an immigrant, not the son, grandson, or great-grandson of an earlier settler. You also should aim to exhaust all family and American sources before consulting foreign records, because, even if you have the exact place of origin (county or province, and country), using foreign records can be immensely frustrating.
Copyright © 2006-2022, Answers 2000 Limited
CERTAIN CONTENT THAT APPEARS ON THIS SITE COMES FROM AMAZON SERVICES LLC. THIS CONTENT IS PROVIDED 'AS IS' AND IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE OR REMOVAL AT ANY TIME.
CERTAIN CONTENT THAT APPEARS ON THIS SITE,COMES FROM AMAZON EU S.à r.l. THIS CONTENT IS PROVIDED 'AS IS' AND IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE OR REMOVAL AT ANY TIME.
Disclosure: Our company's websites' content (including this website's content) includes advertisements for our own company's websites, products, and services, and for other organization's websites, products, and services. In the case of links to other organization's websites, our company may receive a payment, (1) if you purchase products or services, or (2) if you sign-up for third party offers, after following links from this website. Unless specifically otherwise stated, information about other organization's products and services, is based on information provided by that organization, the product/service vendor, and/or publicly available information - and should not be taken to mean that we have used the product/service in question. Additionally, our company's websites contain some adverts which we are paid to display, but whose content is not selected by us, such as Google AdSense ads. For more detailed information, please see Advertising/Endorsements Disclosures
Click privacy for information about our company's privacy, data collection and data retention policies, and your rights.
In Association With Amazon.com
Answers 2000 Limited is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
In Association With Amazon.co.uk
Answers 2000 Limited is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.
As an Amazon Associate, our company earns from qualifying purchases. Amazon, the Amazon logo, Endless, and the Endless logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.
All trademarks are property of their respective owners.
All third party content and adverts are copyright of their respective owners.