October 25, 2016

Emigration Records With an E: When Your Ancestors Left the Country

emigration records assist genealogists

Traveling ancestors created records when they left the country of their origin and when they arrived at their new residence. We often talk about immigration, with an I, but have you researched your ancestors emigration records with an E?

When our ancestors traveled from one place to another, they became two types of migrants. First, they were Emigrants with an E, and then, they were Immigrants with an I. Emigration with an E means someone exiting a country and immigration with an I means someone coming into it. Let’s learn more about emigration…with an E.

I live in a country that doesn’t have much in the way of historical emigration records, but other countries do. I have to remember these emigration records when I start looking overseas for my relatives who were crossing the pond to live here.


Swedish parishes kept emigration records which are now on Ancestry dating back to 1783. According to the database description, this record set is pretty complete, representing about 75% of those who actually left the country. These rich records can provide place of origin, destination, and the date and place of departure.

sweden emigration record

For a time, the U.K. also kept outward passenger lists of those leaving the U.K. ports for destinations outside of Europe. The lists include British citizens and those traveling through the U.K. These passenger lists no longer survive for the years before 1890, but they are on Ancestry for the years of 1890-1960. Of course, while writing this post I just had to take a moment to do a bit of searching myself, and that lead to this genealogy gem: my husband’s grandfather, and his parents embarking at Liverpool in 1912!

UK emigration record

I also spotted this interesting item in the database description. Quoted from the U.K. National Archives website:

“Between 1890 and 1920, among the highest tonnage of ships were leaving British ports bound for North America. Many passengers were emigrants from Britain, Ireland, and Europe. European emigrants bound for America entered the United Kingdom because traveling steerage was less expensive from a British port than from a port in Europe. The shipping companies imposed restrictions on passengers registering; passengers had to have British residency of six weeks to qualify. Many passengers too impatient to qualify for residency changed their names to avoid detection.”

A name change would certainly present a challenge, but it’s very good to know to be on a look out for that situation. This is another example of why it is so important to read the description of the databases you search.


A quick search of Ancestry’s card catalog shows emigration collections for Prussia, Switzerland, a few parts of Germany, Jewish refugees from several nations in Europe, and an interesting collection of Dutch emigrants who came to North America with the help of the Canadian and Dutch governments.

Another excellent resource is the FamilySearch Wiki. You can search for the name of the country and the word emigration (with an e) to find out more about your targeted area. I typed in Hungary emigration and found the following information.

FamilySearch Wiki on emigration records

Did your emigrant (or immigrant) ancestor generate records in the country he or she left from as well as the country he or she entered? Remember to check!

MORE GEMS ON IMMIGRATIONFamily History Genealogy Made Easy Podcast

Assisted Immigration to Australia: Queensland Passenger Lists

Immigration and Naturalization Records for Family History, Part I

Immigration and Naturalization Records for Family History, Part II


Illuminating Time-Lapse Videos Show Our Changing World

Visualize with time lapse videos for genealogy

Time-lapse videos first intrigued me as a child when I watched a little seed grow into a beautiful flower in a matter of seconds. Now, illuminating time-lapse videos and tools are helping genealogists visualize our changing world.

Last month, animator Max Galka published a time-lapse map of the history of urbanization over nearly 6,000 years in just three minutes.

Mr. Galka mentions on his blog that tracking urbanization occuring before the mid-20th century was a difficult task – until recently. A team of Yale researchers published a collection of urban population data dating back to ancient times which helped Galka create his video. Their collection was quoted to be a “clean, accessible dataset of cities, their locations, and their populations over time.”

I was surprised how quickly things changed and found it amazing still how many places in the world are yet to be “urbanized.”


Time-lapse Video Covering Immigration to the U.S. Since 1820

Again, Max Galka presented an amazing animation of immigration to the United States. This creation shows the countries that sent the most people to the U.S. since 1820.

The U.S. is a nation of immigrants, says Galka. As each dot flies across the page, it represents 10,000 people who immigrated to the U.S. In the bottom left corner, Mr. Galka lists the three top countries where immigrants are coming from at any given time. I was stunned as the map lit up in Russia and Africa only fairly recently. It is clearly shown that the U.S. is indeed a nation of immigrants in this colorful time-lapse video.


Time-lapse Tools for Genealogy

As a genealogist, I am constantly in search of county records. So many times, county lines or boundaries changed. I even have one family that lived on the same farm, but technically resided in three different counties over a period of about 50 years. We can’t possibly know when each county of any given state was formed or created, until now that is.

One of my favorite tools for discovering county changes over time is the Map of US.org website. You can find a map of each of the 50 states and run the interactive formation sequence. For example, I can find the Ohio map.

Time lapse video

The Ohio map begins in 1788. It indicates the one county in the Northwest Territory (today’s Ohio) at that time. Washington County was formed as the original county of the Northwest Territory and was created from part of Illinois County, Virginia. That’s another reason I love these interactive maps. With the creation of each county, the map indicates from which parent county or counties it was formed. This is a great help for genealogy research. When I can’t find my targeted ancestor in the county I thought they should be in, I can determine when the county was formed and from what parent county or counties it was formed from. Then, I can quickly determine the other locations that may have records I need.

In addition to the interactive time-lapse maps, each state has a list of other helpful maps that may be of interest to you. For example, the map links for Oregon include the Historical Maps of Oregon, a set of beautiful old maps that can be viewed or downloaded.

Maps can give us a bigger picture of our county, our state, our country, and even the world. These tools help us picture our ever-changing world. What impacted you the most while watching these videos? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!

If you feel inspired to learn more about map visualization, you will enjoy Lisa’s Google Earth video. Lisa was an early pioneer of genealogical data visualization and has been teaching genealogists how to use the free software for the last several years. You can watch the free Google Earth for Genealogy video here or check out her revised and updated e-book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox 2nd Edition to learn even more tips and tricks for Google genealogy research.

More Gems on Videos for Genealogists

Genealogy Tech Tips with Lisa Louise Cookegenealogy videos on YouTube

How to Create Captivating Family History Videos

Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel


Celebrating Freedom and Records Access: 50 Years of FOIA and Genealogy

FOIA turns 50 FOIA and genealogy Happy July 4th–and Happy 50th to the Freedom of Information Act! Read more about the FOIA and genealogy records we can access because of it.

Today we in the United States celebrate our Independence Day with grateful hearts and parades. Well, genealogists with U.S. ancestors have an extra reason for fireworks: today marks 50 years since Congresss signed the Freedom of Information Act into law, and the U.S. became one of the first nations to open its records to the public.

The Freedom of Information Act

The FOIA opens certain kinds of information about the federal government and certain information created by the federal government. It doesn’t apply to everything, including documents that relate to national security, privacy and trade secrets. The FOIA also only applies to documents created by the federal government, not state or local governments.

Since it was passed, the FOIA has continued to be expanded and amended. Over the years, the numbers of FOIA document requests has skyrocketed, too. In the first five years after the FOIA passed, it only resulted in about 500 total requests for information–that’s an average of just 100 per year. Last year alone, there were more than 700,000 requests!

The FOIA and Genealogy

So, of course we have to ask the question: how well do FOIA and genealogy go together? As it turns out, quite well. My favorite FOIA request is for an ancestor’s Social Security application (the SS-5 form). This is the form that generated the assignment of a relative’s Social Security number and was the first step to receiving any Social Security benefits. It’s what the very limited information on the Social Security Death Index comes from, as well as the much-richer (but not comprehensively available) Social Security Applications and Claims database at Ancestry.com. That was released last year and caused a LOT of us to do a serious genealogy happy dance.

But if you want to see everything in that SS-5 application, you should order an image copy of the original (you can now also order a computerized abstract of it, which is cheaper but might not get everything right). Here’s what an SS-5 application looks like:

Osby Johnson SS5 FOIA and genealogy

This one confirms the names of an African-American man’s parents–parents who survived slavery and left few other records of their existence. This man was part of the first generation in his family to legally learn to read and write. His signature is on the record.

You can also access other key 20th-century genealogy records that haven’t made it online yet–and in some cases, haven’t even been sent to the National Archives yet.

These include the following (with links to where to learn more):

There is some fine print on some of these records request procedures, so read carefully what records are there, what you’re allowed to order and how to request it. Happy Independence Day–and Happy FOIA anniversary!

More FOIA and Genealogy Gems

Social Security Death Index SSDI FOIA and genealogy Try This Now! U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index

Search the SSDI for Your Family History

Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 21 about military record requests through FOIA

We Dig These Gems: New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records onlineHere’s our weekly roundup of new genealogy records online. Which ones mention your ancestors? Think Australian, British, Czech, German, Irish and the U.S. (Illinois, New Jersey and Texas).

AUSTRALIA IMMIGRATION. A new collection of passenger lists for Victoria, Australia (1852-1924) is now browsable for free on FamilySearch.org.

BRITISH MILITARY. Findmypast.com has released over 900,000 Royal Navy and Royal Marine service and pension records (1704-1919). Transcripts and images may divulge personal details along with the particulars of a person’s military service, next of kin, payment and more.

CZECHOSLOVAKIA HOLOCAUST. A new database of selected Holocaust records for Prague, Czechoslovakia (1939-1945) is available at Ancestry.com, as is an update to a companion database of Czech Holocaust records for the same time period, both from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

ENGLAND – SURREY. Ancestry.com has posted various new records collections for Sutton, Surrey, England: Church of England vital records spanning 1538-1812; more Church of England births and baptisms (1813-1915), marriages and banns (1754-1940) and deaths and burials (1813-1985); tax collection rate books (1783-1914) and electoral registers (1931-1970).

GERMANY – HESSE CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. Nearly 300,000 indexed names have been added to a free online collection of civil registrations for Frankfurt, Hesse, Germany (1811-1814, 1833-1928).

IRELAND CHURCH. The initial phase of a fantastic new collection of Irish Quaker church records has been published at Findmypast.com. Over 1.3 million Irish Quaker records are there now, including births, marriages, deaths, school and migration records, many dating back to the mid-1600s.

UK VITAL EVENTS. Ancestry.com has added new collections of UK births, marriages and deaths recorded in far-flung places or unusual settings: at sea (1844-1890); with the Army and Navy (1730-1960); and as registered by British consulates (1810-1968).

US – ILLINOIS BIRTHS. About 160,000 indexed names have been added to a collection of Cook County, Illinois birth certificates (1871-1940). Cook County includes the city of Chicago.

US – NEW JERSEY MARRIAGES. Over 100,000 names are newly-indexed in a free online collection of New Jersey marriage records (dating to 1670!) at FamilySearch.org.

US – TEXAS IMMIGRATION. About 860,000 indexed names have been added to a free existing database of Laredo, Texas passenger arrival manifests (1903-1955) at FamilySearch.org.

share celebrate balloonsThere are literally millions of new genealogy records online every week. It’s hard to keep up, so will you help us spread the word? Thanks for sharing this list on your favorite social media site.

U.S. Passport Applications for Genealogy: Find Immigrant and Traveling Ancestors

passport applicationsHave you ever thought to use passport applications for genealogy–to search for your immigrant or traveling ancestors?

Passports were issued in the U.S. beginning in the late 1700s, but weren’t required except during times of war until 1941. These records can be an excellent place to learn an immigrant’s date of arrival, the arrival ship and date of naturalization (if naturalized).

Two Quick Tips for Researching U.S. Passports for Genealogy

  • Passports expired every few years, so people reapplied. You may find multiple applications for those who traveled abroad more than once. Subsequent applications will refer back to a prior one.
  • In earlier years, look for married women and minor children in group passports issued under the name of the head of household.

Where to Find Passport Applications

Passports Genealogy


A Page of History: Passport Applications  by Phil Golfarb

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 124 interview with author Phil Goldfarb on the history of passport applications and celebrity passport stories. Available to Genealogy Gems Premium members.

Family History Made Easy podcast for free, step-by-step beginner and back-to-basics genealogy education

Share BoldThanks for sharing this post with your genealogy buddies and on your local society social media channels.

Assisted Immigration to Australia: Queensland Passenger Lists


Drawing of migrants disembarking from a ship, ca 1885. From Cassell’s Picturesque Australia vol. 3, edited by E. E. Morris : Melbourne : Cassell & Co. Ltd., 1888, opp. p. 222. Wikimedia Commons image.

Did you know that the British government has not only encouraged many people to leave Britain, it has helped them do it? This is known as “assisted immigration.” It has affected millions of our relatives’ lives, both of original migrants and their descendants.

Australia received a LOT of new residents through assisted immigration from the 1830s clear through the late 1900s. Fortunately, passenger lists kept on these folks can help you find your relatives who participated. Some of these lists have come online, including for arrivals in Queensland.

Now you can search Queensland passenger lists for assisted immigrants (1848-1912, with over a quarter million records) in two ways:

Learn more about immigration to Australia at FamilySearch. You’ll find a fun published family history about an early Australian immigrant family on our Genealogy Gems Book Club page: The Worst Country in the World: The True Story of an Australian Pioneer Family.

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Here’s a Google tip for finding datasets. Often you’ll hear about NEW datasets available on major genealogy websites, as I did from FindMyPast for the above collection. But sometimes that same data (perhaps in a slightly different format) is already available for free on another site. The big genealogy websites procure data from lots of other sources that may already host it online. Yes, it’s convenient to search all these databases in one central site like FindMyPast. But don’t subscribe to a site for the sake of ONE collection without Googling the name of the dataset first. That’s what I did in this case, and I found it online at the Queensland State Archive.


Finding Naturalization Records: Where are the Women?

Women’s suffragists demonstrate in February 1913. Photographer unknown. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

Women’s suffragists demonstrate in February 1913. Photographer unknown. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

We’re nearing the completion of the enormous Community Indexing Project of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Records. Already finding naturalization records is a lot easier: we can search newly-created indexes to millions of naturalization records at FamilySearch.org. But often we don’t find the women we’re looking for.

Let’s look at why. But I’ll warn you, the reasons aren’t pretty. In the past, women had very few legal rights. None could vote. Married women had even fewer rights. Typically their legal identity disappeared when they married, enveloped by their husband’s. Married women did not handle legal matters in their own name, own property or keep their own money. Sometimes they did not even have legal liability for their actions. This was known as the legal principle of coverture.

In 1855, a law was enacted establishing that women who weren’t ineligible for other reasons (like race) were automatically made citizens when their husbands were naturalized. There was no extra paperwork or court costs. Their husbands’ papers (in combination with their marriage records) served as proof of the women’s citizenship, even though before 1906, you will not usually find the women’s names even listed on their husbands’ applications.

This represented a step forward for most married women, but not all. If a husband didn’t naturalize, the wife couldn’t naturalize without him. On the flip side, if a U.S.-born woman married a foreigner, she often lost her U.S. citizenship, whether or not she left the country. This problem wasn’t fully resolved until many years later; learn more about the laws and resulting paperwork in this article by the National Archives.

Naturalization laws were not applied evenly, and some women got their citizenship anyway. Eventually, as women won voting rights in various states in the early 1900s, men who applied to naturalize were sometimes denied because their wives, who would be granted citizenship and therefore voting privileges, didn’t speak English or meet other requirements. Men complained that their wives’ nationalities were getting in the way, a problem women had lived with for years!

Check out this interactive timeline on women's right to vote in the U.S.

Check out this interactive timeline on women’s right to vote in the U.S.

In 1922, women gained the right to naturalize independent of marital status. If their husbands were already citizens, they didn’t have to file declarations of intentions (the first step in the paperwork process), just a petition (the second step in the process). Otherwise, they had to fill out both sets of papers. Eventually even this link to their husbands’ citizenship disappeared, and they just filled out their own entirely separate paperwork.

My Great Grandmother’s Petition for Naturalization

What about unmarried women and widows? They could apply for naturalization, but in especially before the 1900s, they sometimes didn’t if they had no property. They could not vote and the law didn’t always treat them equally. They saw little benefit in investing the funds and time in applying for citizenship.

It’s fascinating how much we can learn as family historians about the status of women by the way they were handled in the records we research. The history of women in naturalization records reminds us to look past the paperwork to the reasons and intentions behind it. Unless we really understand the history of the laws and the culture at that time, we can’t be sure that we have exhausted all of the options.





A New Place to Look for Your Immigrant Ancestor’s Passenger List

By S.MacMillen (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Monument to Scottish Immigrants, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By S.MacMillen (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Been looking for an immigrant ancestor to the United States? See if they’re among the nearly 3 million passengers to Boston or the nearly 850,000 passengers to Philadelphia recently added to FamilySearch.org.

The time period covered by these indexes includes an enormous wave of immigrants, mostly from southern and Eastern Europe. Italians, Portuguese, Russians (including Jews), Poles, Slavs and more entered the U.S. by the millions. Record content varies, but may include ports of departure and entry, age, birthplace, gender, marital status, occupation, citizenship or last country of resident, contact information for loved ones in the Old World or in the U.S., intended destination, and even a physical description. Images of the actual record can be viewed.

Also new at FamilySearch are nearly 1.5 million indexed records from the Mexico, Distrito Federal, Civil Registration, 1832-2005, collection and over half a million indexed records from the Hungary Catholic Church Records, 1636-1895, collection. See the table below for the full list of updates. Search these diverse collections and more than 3.5 billion other records for free at FamilySearch.org.


Indexed Records

Digital Images


England, Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, Parish Registers, 1603-1910 35,896 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
Germany, Prussia, Brandenburg, Eberswalde, City Directories, 1890-1919 0 2,836 New browsable image collection.
Hungary Catholic Church Records, 1636-1895 572,243 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
Mexico, Distrito Federal, Civil Registration, 1832-2005 1,452,770 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
Netherlands, Limburg Province, Church Records, 1542-1910 0 131,396 New browsable image collection.
Russia, Samara Church Books, 1869-1917 88,149 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
Ukraine, Kyiv Orthodox Consistory Church Book Duplicates, 1840-1845 129,110 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
U.S., Florida, Marriages, 1830-1993 1,012,025 720,622 Added indexed records and images to an existing collection.
U.S., Iowa, State Census, 1905 1,445,414 0 New indexed record collection.
U.S., Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1891-1943 2,829,077 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
U.S., Massachusetts, State Vital Records, 1841-1920 755,766 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
U.S., Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Passenger Lists, 1883-1945 874,690 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.

Brazil Immigration Cards Among New Finds At FamilySearch.org

brazil_flag_perspective_anim_300_clr_3734Nearly a million indexed records and images in the Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965, collection are among newly-posted data in FamilySearch’s ever-growing free digital archive. The cards were issued by Brazilian consulates around the world and presented upon arrival in Brazil by visitors and immigrants. They contain the immigrant’s name, where he or she came from, the date and place of birth, and the parents’ names.

This is a pretty significant time period for Brazilian immigration.  Brazil’s population was about 17.4 million in 1900–and it nearly doubled in the following two decades. By 1940, Brazil housed over 41 million people, and by 1960, over 70 million.

Most immigrants to Brazil since slavery was abolished in 1888 came from Italy, most significantly the areas of Vêneto, Campânia, Calabria, and Lombárdia. Germany and Japan sent their share of immigrants, too.

That’s not all that’s new on FamilySearch, though. Check out these other indexed and imaged records:

Collection Indexed Records Digital Images Comments
Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Immigration Cards, 1900–1965 334,188 615,026 Added indexed records and images to an existing collection.
Canada Census, 1911 1,227,603 0 New indexed record collection.
Canada, Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826–1989 96,228 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
England, Cheshire Non-conformist Records, 1671–1900 14,673 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
Hungary, Civil Registration, 1895–1980 0 40,475 Added images to an existing collection.
Indonesia, Jawa Tengah, Kebumen, Naturalization Records, 1951–2013 0 14,330 Added images to an existing collection.
Indonesia, Jawa Tengah, Wonogiri District Court Records, 1925–2013 0 137,465 Added images to an existing collection.
Italy, Trieste, Trieste, Civil Registration (Tribunale), 1924–1939 0 97,505 Added images to an existing collection.
U.S., Indiana, Marriages, 1811–1959 468,724 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
U.S., Louisiana, New Orleans Passenger Lists, 1820–1945 51,232 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
U.S., North Carolina, Wilmington and Morehead City Passenger and Crew Lists, 1908–1958 88,345 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
United States Public Records Index 132,330,416 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.

Over a Million Newly Indexed Canadian Passenger Lists Now Available


Mixed group of immigrants, Quebec, ca 1911. Photo by William James Topley, Library and Archives Canada, PA-010270. Some rights reserved.

Over a million indexed records and images for Canadian passenger lists (1881-1922) are among newly-announced records now searchable at FamilySearch.org.

The database includes records for Canadian ports–Quebec City, Halifax, St. John, North Sydney, Vancouver and Victoria–as well as U.S. ports for passengers who reported Canada as their final destination.

Before this time period, travel between the U.S. and Canada was common. But it was not always officially recorded because there were no border crossing stations on land. During the time period covered by these records, nations on both sides of the border became concerned about the impact of this invisible migration. Official border crossing record-keeping began in 1895. (See a database at Ancestry.com).

Here’s a tip: If you have immigrant ancestors who landed in the United States during this era but you haven’t found their passenger records, consider the possibility that they arrived via Canada. They would have avoided the increasingly strict monitors at the port gates of entry to the U.S. “golden door.”

Here’s a full list of recent updates to FamilySearch.org:


Indexed Records

Digital Images


Argentina, Buenos Aires, Catholic Church Records, 1635-1981 539,210 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
Argentina, Capital Federal, Catholic Church Records, 1737-1977 682,002 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
BillionGraves Index 407,422 407,422 Added indexed records and images to an existing collection.
Canada Passenger Lists, 1881-1922 1,673,051 61,099 Added indexed records and images to an existing collection.
Denmark, Church Records, 1484-1941 0 2,399,826 New browsable image collection.
Germany, Prussia, Brandenburg, Landkreis Ostprignitz-Ruppin, Miscellaneous Records, 1559-1945 0 9,569 New browsable image collection.
Italy, Campobasso, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1809-1918 0 2,171,641 New browsable image collection.
Italy, Napoli, Fontana, Parrocchia di Santa Maria della Mercede – La Sacra, Catholic Church Records, 1659-1929 0 54 Added images to an existing collection.
U.S., Illinois, Northern District (Eastern Division), Naturalization Index, 1926-1979 0 214,094 Added images to an existing collection.
U.S., Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1994 980,427 951 Added indexed records and images to an existing collection.