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September 12, 2004

Using Census Records to Find Immigration Dates

Copyright Lorine McGinnis Schulze

Have you found your ancestor in census records after his arrival?

The 1900, 1910 ,1920 and 1930 census identify citizenship status, with notations showing the individual was an Alien, or had started the Naturalization process or had his final papers. They also give the year of immigration.

As well, 1920 gives the year of naturalization. What great clues to help narrow the time frame for finding ship passenger and naturalization records!

There are great clues in the 1870 census too! If your ancestor has a check mark in the column "Male Citizens of the United States of twenty-one years of age and upwards" you have a clue that naturalization took place before 1870

You can read more about the value of census records in your search for an immigrant ancestor at

Finding an immigration year from the census would be Step One.

Step 2 would be finding naturalization records. See for further help, and for links to online databases.

Step 3 is finding that ships list. Once you know your ancestor's state of entry, you can search microfilms. Most states are indexed, so this will make
your job slightly easier. You can order films in to a nearby Family History Centre, or have NARA do the job (once you have precise details)

Ycan get a list of film numbers (NARA & FHC) at

Scroll down to the state you want and click on the link, then find the film # you need

The staff of the National Archives will undertake a search of the original records for a fee but you must know the name of the ship, the date of arrival, and the port of arrival.