Family History Episode 29 – Immigration and Naturalization Records for Family History, Part 1

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Republished April 29, 2014

family history genealogy made easy podcast

with Lisa Louise Cooke

https://lisalouisecooke.com/familyhistorypodcast/audio/fh29.mp3

 Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 29: Immigration and Naturalization Records for Family History, Part 1

In this podcast episode, one of my favorite experts talks about one of my favorite topics: immigration and naturalization records. Stephen Danko, PhD is a genealogy lecturer and a very popular blogger. In this episode he’s helping U.S. genealogists cross the pond through the use of immigration and naturalization records. He’ll talk to us about the challenges we’ll face in locating these records—and some documents you may not even know existed: certificates of arrival.

In the next episode, we’ll continue our conversation with a discussion of Departure Passenger Lists. Departure information from European ports is often available on microfilm at the Family History Library, on Ancestry.com or other websites. Some of the passenger steamship lines themselves kept departure lists, like the White Star Line or the Red Star Line, and these are on microfilm.

Here are my favorite tips from the episode:

Once you find an ancestral hometown, use Stephen Morse’s advanced search tools (see below) to look for others who arrived from the same place. This can help you identify other relatives, friends and others who part of a group or chain migration.

Usually we start with the most recent records and work backward. But when we look for immigration and naturalization records, look FIRST for immigration papers. THEN look for naturalization papers they may have filed later. You know they arrived—but not every immigrant naturalized, and their naturalization papers may have been filed in multiple places and may not be indexed.

Beginning in 1926, applicants for naturalization who arrived in 1906 or later had to be issued a certificate of arrival. These certificates were issued after their names were confirmed by the government on the original passenger lists. Between 1926 and 1943, information about certificates of arrival was noted on the original passenger lists.

The certificate of arrival information helps you in two ways:

  • The date tells you about when they applied for naturalization
  • The first part of the certificate number is the naturalization district (Northeast, Midwest, West coast, etc), to help you narrow down where to look.

Anything that helps you narrow down a search for naturalization records helps!

Updates and Links

About 70 million immigration and naturalization records have been indexed in recent years through an enormous community indexing project led by FamilySearch. Check out their site (below) to see what records are searchable now.

Ancestry.com

Ellis Island.org

FamilySearch.org Immigration and Naturalization Online Resources

One-Step Webpages by Stephen P. Morse (Ellis Island Search Tool)

Timeline of U.S. Immigration Laws

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Every week we blog about new genealogy records online. Which ones could be the key to busting your genealogy brick walls? New this week? Vital records for Delaware, South Dakota, Illinois and Texas. Italy civil registrations. Newspapers from Indianapolis, Louisville KY and San Bernadino CA. Immigrant passenger lists for Mississippi ports.

We dig these gems

DELAWARE VITAL RECORDS. Over a million images of vital records from Delaware (1650-1974!) have been added to a 3-million strong collection you can browse at FamilySearch. Images of birth, marriage and death records for the city of Wilmington, Delaware are also newly browsable on FamilySearch. These date mostly to 1881. Birth records end in 1919; marriages and deaths in 1954.

ILLINOIS BIRTH CERTIFICATES. Over 370,000 births from Cook County, Illinois (home to Chicago) are now indexed at FamilySearch. These span 1878-1938; more records will be added on an ongoing basis.

ITALY CIVIL REGISTRATION. FamilySearch continues to churn out  newly-digitized Italy civil registrations to its free site. They’re not indexed yet, but these are newly browsable: Arezzo (back to the 1300s!), Bergamo, CremonaEnna, Imperia (San Remo) and nearly a million images for Pescara. Birth, marriage and death records may all contain important genealogical information.

U.S. NEWSPAPERS. Newspaper.com subscribers now have access to over 200,000 pages (1868-1922) from The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), over 107,000 pages (1907-1922) from The Indianapolis  Star (IN) and 1.3 million pages (1894-1998) from The San Bernadino County Sun (CA)

U.S. IMMIGRATION–MISSISSIPPI PORTS. Indexed images of passenger arrival records at the ports of Gulfport (1904-1964) and Pascagoula (1903-1935, 1955-1964) are now available to Ancestry subscribers. According to the database description, “they typically include the name of the vessel and arrival date, ports of departure and arrival (as well as future destinations on a ship’s itinerary), dates of departure and arrival, shipmaster, full name, age, gender, physical description, military rank (if any), occupation, birthplace, citizen of what country, and residence. For military transports, you may find the next of kin, relationships, and address listed as well. Later manifests may include visa or passport numbers.”

SOUTH DAKOTA BIRTHS AND MARRIAGES. Nearly 700,000 indexed records comprise this new FamilySearch collection. The collection spans 1843-2014.

TEXAS MARRIAGES. About 1.3 million indexed records and related images have been added to a Texas county marriage records collection at FamilySearch.

 

thank you for sharingPlease help us spread the word about these new genealogy records online! Thank you! You are a gem!

Family History Episode 4 – Genealogy Conferences, the SS-5, Delayed Birth Records and Death Records

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastPublished October 29, 2013

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

by Lisa Louise Cooke

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 4: Attending Genealogy Conferences and Vital Records Requests

In our first segment, our guest is the longtime online news anchorman of genealogy, Dick Eastman, the author of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. He talks about the changing industry and the benefits of attending genealogy conferences.

Next, you’ll learn the ins and outs of using some “vital” sources for U.S. birth and death information: delayed birth records, Social Security applications (SS-5s) and death certificates.

Genealogy Conferences Conversation: A Few Updates

  • Dick and I talk about Footnote.com as a relatively small site. Has that ever changed! Footnote.com is now Fold3.com and it’s a go-to site for millions of online American military records.
  • Family History Expos still offers an exciting conference, especially for first-timers. But there are others as well: In the United States, there’s RootsTech, the National Genealogical Society and many state and regional conferences (like one near my home, the Southern California Genealogical Society’s annual Jamboree). Find a nice directory at Cyndi’s List. Many conferences are starting to offer live streaming sessions for people who can’t attend: check websites for details. In addition, Family Tree University offers regular virtual conferences—where sessions and chat are all online! If you live outside the U.S., look for conferences through your own national or regional genealogical societies. If you can get to London, don’t miss Who Do You Think You Are Live.
  • Dick now writes all of his Plus content himself. If you haven’t already checked out Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, you should! Both his free and Plus newsletters are great insider sources on what’s new and great (or not-so-great) in the family history world.

The SS-5

You can order a copy of the application that your ancestor filled out when they applied for a Social Security Number: the SS-5. I have done this, and they really are neat, but they aren’t cheap. So let’s talk about the facts you’re going to find on them so you can determine if it is worth the expense.

The SS-5 has changed slightly over time, but may include the applicant’s name, full address, birth date and place and BOTH parents’ names (the mother’s maiden name is requested). If your ancestor applied prior to 1947 then you will also very likely find the name and address of the company they worked for listed, and possibly even their position title.

Here’s an example of a Social Security application form:

Osby Johnson SS5

In the 1970s, the Social Security Administration microfilmed all SS-5 application forms, created a computer database of selected information from the forms, and destroyed the originals. So it’s important to order a copy of the microfilmed original, rather than a printout or abstract from the Administration’s database. And luckily now you can request a Social Security Application SS5 Form online under the Freedom of Information Act.

It will help to have your relative’s Social Security Number (SSN) when you apply for a copy of their SS-5. First, it gives you greater confidence that their SS-5 exists. Second, it’s cheaper to order the SS-5 when you have their SSN. Third, the Social Security Death Index, in which you’ll find their SSN, usually has death data that makes your application for their SS-5 stronger. Privacy concerns have caused some genealogy websites to pull the SSDI, but you can still search it (in many instances for free) at the links provided in Episode 3.

Finally, here’s a little background on the Social Security Number itself. The nine-digit SSN is made up of three parts:

The first set of three digits is called the Area Number. This number was assigned geographically. Generally, numbers were assigned beginning in the Northeast and moving westward. So people whose cards were issued in the East Coast states have the lowest numbers and those on the West Coast have the highest numbers.

Prior to 1972, cards were issued in local Social Security offices around the country and the Area Number represented the state in which the card was issued. This wasn’t necessarily the state where the applicant lived, since you could apply for a card at any Social Security office.

Since 1972, when the SSA began assigning social security numbers and issuing cards centrally from Baltimore, Maryland, the area number assigned has been based on the ZIP code of the mailing address provided on the application for the card. And of course, the applicant’s mailing address doesn’t have to be the same as their place of residence. But in general the area number does give you a good lead as where to look for an ancestor.

The next two digits in the number are called the Group Number, and were used to track fraudulent numbers.

The last set of four digits is the Serial Number, and these were randomly assigned.

UPDATE: The website for ordering Social Security applications (SS-5s) has changed since the podcast first aired. For current ordering instructions, including online ordering, click here. The cost is still $27 to order a deceased relative’s SS-5 if you know the Social Security number and $29 if you don’t know it.

Delayed Birth Certificates

After 1937 folks who qualified to apply for social security had to have proof of their age. If they were born prior to official birth certificates being kept in their state, they applied for a delayed birth certificate.

Anytime someone needs a birth certificate for any reason, they have to contact the state—and often the county—in which the birth occurred. If a birth certificate exists, they can simply purchase a certified copy. But if there were no birth certificates issued at the time of the person’s birth, they could have a “delayed birth certificate” issued by that state or county.

In order to obtain a delayed certificate, they had to provide several pieces of evidence of their age. If these are considered satisfactory, the government would issue the certificate and it would be accepted as legal proof of birth by all U.S. government agencies.

Originally people turned to the census for proof of age. But eventually the Social Security Administration began to ask for birth certificates. For folks like my great grandmother who was born at a time and place where birth certificates were not issued, that meant they had to locate documents that could prove their age and allow them to obtain a delayed birth certificate. Delayed just meaning it was issued after the time of the birth.

Delayed birth certificates are not primary sources. (Remember we talked about Primary Sources in Episode 2. Since the delayed certificate was based on other documents, and not issued at the time of the event by an authority, such as the attending physician, then it is not a primary source. This means that while it’s great background information, it is more prone to error. In order to do the most accurate genealogical research you would want to try to find a primary source if possible. Chances are your ancestor used another primary source, such as an entry in the family bible, to obtain the delayed birth certificate.

The process for ordering a delayed birth certificate is likely going to be the same as ordering a regular birth certificate. You would start with the checking with the county courthouse, and then the Department of health for the state you’re looking in. Let them know that the birth record is a delayed birth certificate. Also the Family History Library card catalogue would be a place to look as many were microfilmed. Go to www.familysearch.org and search for delayed birth records by clicking on Search from the home page. Then click Catalog and do the keyword search just as the episode instructs, using “delayed birth” as your keyword. (Within that search, you can also add parameters for the place name.)

So the lesson here is that even though your ancestor may have been born at a time or in a location where births were not officially recorded by the state, they may very well have a delayed birth certificate on file.

Ordering Death Certificates

The Social Security Death Index is just one resource for getting death information. But in the end you’re going to want the primary source for your ancestor’s death, and that’s the death certificate. While many of your ancestor’s born in the 1800s may not have a birth certificate, there is a much better chance that they have a death certificate since they may have died in the 20th century. Each state in the U.S. began mandating death certificates at a different time, so you have to find out the laws in the state, and probably the county, since death certificates were filed at the county level.

As I said before, the death certificate is going to be able to provide you with a wealth of information. Of course you’ll find the name, date of death and place of death, and possibly their age at death and the cause and exact time of death, place of burial, funeral home, name of physician or medical examiner and any witnesses who were present. The certificate is a primary source for this information.

You may also find information such as their date and place of birth, current residence, occupation, parent’s names and birthplaces, spouse’s name, and marriage status. But because this information is provided by someone other than the ancestor themselves it is really hearsay, and the certificate is considered a secondary source for that information.

And lastly you may find a name in the box that says Informant. This is the person who reported the death to officials. Informants are often spouses, children, and sometimes, depending on the person’s circumstances, just a friend or neighbor. But the informant is almost always someone that you want to investigate further because they obviously were close to your ancestor.

Once you think you know the location where your ancestor died, and the approximate if not exact death date, you’re ready to order a certificate. If the person died in the last 50 years you’ll probably have really good luck at the county courthouse Department of Vital Records. The older the record, the more likely it may have been shipped off by the county records department to the state Department of Health. Look for helpful links to death records at Cyndi’s List Death Records.

Here are some tips that will ensure that you don’t get bogged down in bureaucratic red tape:

  1. Get the appropriate request form – this is usually available online.
  1. Print neatly and clearly – if they can’t read it, they will send it back to be redone.
  1. Provide as much information as you have.
  1. Provide a self addressed stamped envelope.
  1. Make one request per envelope.
  1. Include a photocopy of your driver’s license to prove your identity.
  1. Be sure to include your check for the exact amount required.
  1. Make a copy of the request form for your records and follow up.
  1. Lastly, keep in mind that county offices have limited personnel and are often swamped with paper work. So my best advice is that the more courteous and thorough you are the more success you’ll have.

Online Death Indexes

In the case of very old death certificates, as well as birth certificates, some state agencies have opted to hand them over to state Archives and Historical Societies, or at least make them available for digitizing.

And there you have it, lots of different avenues for tracking down your ancestor’s death records providing you with key information for climbing your family tree.

Old Cookbooks Are Among New Online Record Collections

Old cookbooks are among new recent online records collections. So are British newspapers, British Columbia estate files, New Zealand WWII appointments, UK Parliamentary returns, UK military indexes, US newspapers (Arkansas, Kansas, and New York) and church records for Sydney, Australia; Norfolk, England; and Stockholm, Sweden.

Featured New Records Online: Old Cookbooks and Home Remedies

heritage recipes cookbookThe US National Library of Medicine has “recently embarked on a project to digitize and make available” its collection of historical recipes and cookbooks, according to its blog. Old recipes (also called “receipts”) may give you a glimpse into what daily life was like for your ancestors. Among these are “recipes and advice for food preparation and preservation, animal husbandry, preparing useful household concoctions, and allopathic medicines and treatments for maintaining personal health.” Find these at the National Library of Medicine Digital Collections.

Love these? Click here to find more old recipes and classic cookbooks on the Genealogy Gems website.

Australia – New South Wales – Church records

Nearly 125 years of baptism, marriage, and burial registers for the city and parish of Saint Peter’s in the greater metropolitan area of Sydney, Australia (1839-1963) are now available on Ancestry.com. Baptismal registers may include the child’s name, birth and baptismal dates, parents’ names, abode and profession of parent(s) and officiant’s name. Marriage records may list for bride and groom the names, occupations, residences, ages and marital status, along with the date and place of the wedding, names of those giving consent (if required) and the officiant. Burial registers may mention the name of the deceased; death and burial dates; abode; age; “quality” or profession, and officiant.

Britain – Dougal’s Index Register

A Findmypast.com collection of Britain’s missing beneficiaries and unclaimed estates (1910“contains over 500 records from Dougal’s Index Register to Next of Kin, Heirs at Law and Cases of Unclaimed Money Advertisements from 1910. The publication looks specifically at properties or estates registered in chancery court, which have gone unclaimed because a deceased person did not create a will or did not have any known descendants….The lists only provide an individual’s first and last name.”

Britain – Newspapers

Over 48,000 new articles and two brand new titles have been added to Findmypast’s collection of historic British newspapers. This month’s new titles are The Shipping & Mercantile Gazette and The Rutland Echo & Leicestershire Advertiser.

Canada – British Columbia

Findmypast.com subscribers may now browse among over 750,000 records of British Columbia Estate Files (1859-1949). According to the site, these “allow you to delve through probate estate files pertaining to the judicial districts of British Columbia; the County Court and the Supreme Court. Probate estate records are a valuable resource for family history research, providing vital details such as dates, names, and locations to help grow your family tree. Included in this collection is a probate index for the district of Vancouver, sorted alphabetically by last name.” Browsing tip: narrow results by year, document, court, and district.

Canadian genealogy research

Canada celebrated its 150th birthday in 2017! Click here to read tips for starting your Canadian research from Lisa Louise Cooke’s conversation with Library and Archives Canada staffer Claire Banton.

England – Norfolk parish records

Fifty-one volumes of Norfolk Archdeacon’s Transcripts (1600-1812)  and 123 volumes of Bishop’s Transcripts (1687-1901) are now browseable at Findmypast.com. According to the site, the collections contain records of baptisms, marriages, and burials from across the county.

New Zealand – WWII

Fold3.com hosts a new collection of WWII Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Resignations, extracted from the New Zealand Gazette. These give information such as name, rank, event date, and regiment for members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces (including army, air force, and navy).

Sweden – Stockholm

Nearly 175,000 indexed names and over 14,000 digital images were recently added to a free collection at FamilySearch.org: Sweden, Stockholm City Archives, Index to Church Records  (1546-1927).

UK – Military

Ancestry.com has published a new collection of UK Military Indexes, 1920-1971. According to the site, “These lists comprise the names and service numbers of those who were discharged from the armed forces after 1920 and born before 1901. Details given for over 300,000 individuals found within this collection may include (where available): initial and surname, date of birth, their service, service number and Ministry of Defence reference number.”

UK – Parliamentary Returns

The UK Parliamentary Archive has “recently uploaded the Protestation Returns for Berkshire, Cornwall and Cumbria,” according to its blog. “The Protestation Returns are the closest thing we have to a census for England in 1641-1642. They originate in the scuffling between Parliament and Charles I just before Civil War engulfed the country. It was decided that all men over the age of 18 in England and Wales should swear an oath of allegiance to the Protestant religion, Parliament, and the King. Around one-third of the records for England survive.” A companion map allows users to search for these records by location.

US – Arkansas, Kansas, New York – Newspapers 

Among new digitized newspaper collections at Newspapers.com are the following titles: The Frankfort Bee (Kansas, 1876-1898), The Southern Standard (Arkadelphia, Arkansas, 1878-1905), Arkansas Times and Advocate (Little Rock, 1837-1838), Cortland Register (Kansas, 1889-1924), The Frankfort Sentinel (Kansas, 1886-1892), The Marshall County Index (Frankfort, Kansas, 1905-1906), Epworth Advocate (Frankfort, Kansas, 1895-1896), Springville Journal (New York, 1867-1985) and The Ness County Pioneer (Sidney, Kansas, 1879-1880).

Are you listening to the free Genealogy Gems Podcast? This year Lisa Louise Cooke celebrates 10 years on the air. The show has more than 2.5 million downloads worldwide. Listen to hear for yourself her winning combination of technology tools, genealogy research strategies, inspiring stories–and tons of tips you can apply right away to your family history!

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

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