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Resources

Resources to help you create a visual tale of your family’s history by answering:

Who came over?

When did they come over?

What country did they come from?

What made them leave their homeland?

What port did they leave from?

What (ship) brought them here?

Where did they land?

Where did they end up?

Additional Resources

 


Answering:
Who came over/who were the “first-gen” ancestors in your family history?

Searching for your first generation immigrant ancestors

  • First stop: family lore. Collect what information you can about who came over when and from where.
  • See <https://www.archives.gov/research/genealogy> for an overview of how to search for your ancestry
  • Consult <https://www.cyndislist.com> (web - collection of sources on immigration to the US) or the collection of one-step resources compiled at <http://stevemorse.org/>
  • Consider using one of the many ancestry-search websites. For a review of some options, see, for instance, <http://www.toptenreviews.com/services/home/best-genealogy-websites/>
  • One you have a name, determine whether the ancestor is a “first-gen” by, e.g., checking census records for parents who crossed earlier
  • Try also to find any relations who may have made the same trip with this person (spouse, parents, children, etc.), e.g., by using the name of the first-gen to search the Ellis Island, Ancestry, or other ship lists to find the group he/she came with.

 


Answering:
When did your first-gens come over?
What port did they leave from?

Searching for information about when and from where your first-gen’s crossing occurred

  • Collect family memories about dates and the departure places of your first-gen’s crossing.
  • See the John Colletta book “They Came in Ships” <http://ancestralfindings.com/they-came-in-ships-finding-your-immigrant-ancestors-arrival-record/> for an overview of how to search for records of your ancestors’ arrival dates and places, as well as the ship that brought them here.
  • Use the Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation https://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/. It has searchable records that provide the names of ships, the ship arrival dates, departure dates, and ports of departure.
  • Consult the numberous ancestry organizations that provide search support for the immigration voyage. For a review of some options, see, for instance, <http://www.toptenreviews.com/services/home/best-genealogy-websites/>
  • Consider using the US National Archives, which has microfiche of ship arrivals and departures, the lists of passengers who arrives, their ports of origin, and the begin and end dates of the voyage of the arriving ship.
  • Consider foreign sources. There are often records of departures in the municipal archives of specific ports, e.g., Bremen, in shipping museums, and in national records.

 


Answering:
What country did they come from?

Searching for your ancestor's country of origin

  • Always check family lore first.
  • The ancestor’s name is often a very good indicator of his/her country of origin. See <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_most_common_surnames> for a searchable listing of first and last names with their associated nationalities
  • If you find the passenger list containing the first-gen, it will indicate his/her nationality
  • The census will (often? always?) indicate nationality

 


Answering:
What made them leave their homeland?

  • Collect family memories/find family records that directly indicate the historical, social, and/or personal reasons that brought your first-gen here.
  • Search for the historical forces at work at the time of the crossing. Research the history of your first-gen’s country of origin around the time of the voyage (e.g. try to understand the circumstances in the country from about 10 years before to about 5 years after the voyage)
  • Search for analyses of population shifts
  • See the John Colletta book “They Came in Ships” <http://ancestralfindings.com/they-came-in-ships-finding-your-immigrant-ancestors-arrival-record/> for an overview of how to search for records of your ancestors’ arrival dates and places, as well as the ship that brought them here. 

 


Answering:
What (ship) brought them here?

Searching for information about what ship brought your first gen to their new shores

  • Your earliest-crossing relations came over on some physical mode of transport. It is highly recommended that you find what this was, because it will add significant “pop” to your commemorative design.
  • You may not know the exact vessel that carried your first-gen to his/her new shores, but you almost certainly know or can guess the mode of that transport. After 1960, most immigration was by airplane. But before that it was mostly by ship, and before 1950 overwhelmingly so.
  • To find what ship, use the resources that are increaslingly available as searchable online databases. Since the first immigrants to the US for most US families came through the Port of New York, a good place to look is:
  • Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation <https://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/>
  • There, look for your “first-gen”, find the voyage he/she took, and if found, go to the Ship column for that voyage. The ship name will be listed there. (You may click the link to retrieve an image of the ship, but there are a couple of things to be aware of wrt this link –be warned that the ship you see may not be the correct ship, but also be apprised that if you order the ship image, the person filling the order may know enough to contact you about getting an image of the correct ship)
  • Moreover, if all else fails, you can skip the ship and just order an “ArrivalMap” instead of a “RelationShip” product, or, more appealingly, you can use the correct type of ship appropriate to the time and place of the voyage you are depicting. Examples are in the Gallery.

 


Answering:
Where did they land?

Searching for information about your ancestor's port of entry

  • Always check family lore first. Collect family memories about the ship, dates, and places of your first-gen’s voyage.
  • Many people don’t know the port at which their first-generation arrived in their new lands. But, as mentioned on the ”From where did they actually leave?” page, the routes of immigration are well known, so the most probable ports of arrival can often be inferred from a family’s destination or even current residence.
  • See the John Colletta book “They Came in Ships” <http://ancestralfindings.com/they-came-in-ships-finding-your-immigrant-ancestors-arrival-record/> for an overview of how to search for records of your ancestors’ arrival dates and places, as well as the ship that brought them here.
  • In addition, there remain the many existing records of both at the emigration and immigration points, so the port of arrival or of departure of a specific individual or group may be determined or confirmed by consulting those records.
  • Consider using the US National Archives, which has microfiche of ship arrivals and departures, the lists of passengers who arrives, their ports of origin, and the begin and end dates of the voyage of the arriving ship.
  • But, if all else fails, you can just use the best-guess arrival port, as in the examples in the Gallery.

 


Answering:
Where did they end up?

Searching for more detailed information about your ancestor's final destination in their crossing voyage, and their initial destination in their new homeland

  • Once your earliest-crossing relations arrived, they headed to some specific place that became their first residence in their New World. Obtain recollections about where the first-gen first lived. (It will likely payoff, as well, to record subsequent moves, since these form follow-up stories in the history of this lineage).
  • Consult Census records for the earliest occurrence of your first-gen after his/her arrival.
  • Use the Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation https://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/. It has searchable records that provide the names of ships, the ship arrival dates, departure dates, and ports of departure.
  • Consult the numerous ancestry organizations that provide search support for the immigration voyage. For a review of some options, see, for instance, <http://www.toptenreviews.com/services/home/best-genealogy-websites/>
  • Consider using the US National Archives, which has microfiche of ship arrivals and departures, the lists of passengers who arrives, their ports of origin, and the begin and end dates of the voyage of the arriving ship.
  • Consider foreign sources. There are often records of departures in the municipal archives of specific ports, e.g., Bremen, in shipping museums, and in national records.

 


Additional Resources

Contact professional services for help

jimaworks’ associates

Background information to help build context for the immigration event

  • American Immigration, by Maldwyn Allen Jones (book on the phenomenon of immigration)
  • American Nations (book on impact of main immigrant cultures on US history and contemporary culture)
  • Albion's Seed (book on four waves of English immigration to the US)