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Immigration and Naturalization Papers

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Surname/tag: Immigration
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Most people in the United States have ancestors who came here from other countries over the past 400 or so years. Finding when and where your ancestors came to the USA may be the key to finding out where they were born and how they got to America.

Immigration records vary over the past four centuries. Most of the folks who settled in Jamestown, Virginia and Plymouth, Massachusetts in the early 1600s are well documented. Check out the Puritan Migration Project on wikitree for details.

Most immigrants into Colonial America were Protestant, as Great Britain made Catholicism illegal by 1690. This ended in 1776 with the formation of the United States of America. Roman Catholics as well as Protestants and Jews have been coming to our shores ever since. Poverty, famine, war, or just the hope for land and a new life brought thousands of settlers from Europe to the United States in the 1800s.

The largest group of immigrants to come to America came between 1900 and 1910. After that time, some restrictions were passed by Congress limiting the number of immigrants from each country. Who can come to America and how many from each country is now a political issue.

But before 1920, almost anyone who wanted to come to our United States could come over. They would be required to register with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, if they were deemed healthy enough to be admitted to the USA, and it would take them at least five years to gain citizenship. During that time period, they needed to learn English and become self-supporting in most cases.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service has kept records of those who came to the United States and their process of naturalization. Those who choose not to become citizens were required to register as "Resident Aliens".

Recently the name of the Immigration Service has changed to U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services and is part of the United States Department of Homeland Security. You can learn more at: https://www.uscis.gov/history-and-genealogy/our-history. The do not hold genealogy records.

Ellis Island

Ellis Island was a major port of immigration to the United States. Ellis Island is managed by the National Park Service today.

National Archives

The United States National Archives has information about immigration and also a large collection of ship passenger lists and some airline passenger lists.

Online Records

For information about immigrants and passenger lists, please see: https://www.nps.gov/elis/learn/education/finding-arrival-records-online.htm

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This website written by: Sharon Centanne, Genealogy Research Instructor and Internet Trainer

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