Site menu:

Categories

Links:

Archives

Subscribe2

The National Archives at Kansas City Opens over 300,000 Alien Case Files for Research!

by on September 1, 2010


Today, guest blogger Elizabeth Carrington from the National Archives at Kansas City has written a special NARA Coast-to-Coast post announcing the opening of over 300,000 Alien Case Files from the records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.


I find when I approach new records what I really want to understand is how a particular item has meaning in my own life; I want to see a reflection (or contradiction) of my experiences in the piece of history I have sitting before me.  Working with the National Archives at Kansas City’s recent accession of more than 300,000 Alien Files (A-Files) for individuals born 1909 and prior from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, I have had an opportunity to observe a snapshot of American life that I have never before experienced.

Willem de Kooning Alien Registration Form.

Willem de Kooning Alien Registration Form.

A-Files were utilized by the Immigration and Naturalization Service starting on April 1, 1944, as a means of recording the details of any active case of an alien not yet naturalized as they passed through the United States immigration and inspection process.  They are a rich source of biographical information in that they contain relatively modern immigration documents, all in one file.  Each file has the potential to hold a wealth of data including visas, photographs, applications, affidavits, correspondence, and more.  Additionally, the files are unique from other genealogical resources in that the level of comprehensive data included is comparably larger, and in some cases there is a variety of information such as employer addresses, residences in non-census years, and copies of certificates and licenses in original foreign languages that may not be found elsewhere.

Rotterdam Birth Registration for Willem de Kooning

Rotterdam Birth Registration for Willem de Kooning.

Sitting down with a box of files I came across a file containing the birth, baptism, and marriage certificates of a woman who emigrated with her family from their home in a small Italian town to the busy streets of New York City.  Another file found a man failing to register his alien status, and in turn fighting through and ultimately losing a deportation hearing.  A third file contained a Jamaican woman’s request for a visa extension in order “to visit with other relatives and to have the opportunity [of] seeing the snow and a little more of the wonderful country.”

My favorite find was the file of Willem de Kooning, a famous abstract expressionist painter, which contained a character reference from the Museum of Modern Art that testified to the strength of his pieces and potential for his future role in the American art world.

MOMA letter

Character reference for Willem de Kooning from the Museum of Modern Art.

In each case I obtained great insight into the individual’s life from foreign birth and entry into the United States to establishing new roots in American communities; I felt that I was seeing a part of their lives, whether it was related to home, career, travels, or personal struggles, that few others have been privy to.

Willem de Kooning Certificate of Naturalization.

Willem de Kooning Certificate of Naturalization.

If you are interested in learning more about the A-Files and how to request or view files please visit http://www.archives.gov/research/immigration/aliens/a-files-kansas-city.html.  A successful request will contain the individual’s complete name, Archival Research Catalog (ARC) ID number, and Alien Registration number.  You can perform a search in ARC (click the “Search within this series” link in the description and enter the name for which you are searching).

To confirm that we have referenced the correct file, it is also helpful to provide the individual’s date and place of birth and date of entry into the United States.  We receive A-File requests either by e-mail, postal mail, or fax only.


Comments

Merryann September 1, 2010 at 5:16 pm

What about the alien registrations & photos for WWI era aliens? Are they in KC as well?

Martin Prochnik September 2, 2010 at 8:11 am

Can the files be accessed through the web? What would be the process?

Elizabeth Carrington, Archivist September 2, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Merryann:
A limited number of Enemy Alien Registration Affidavits from the WWI era (1917-1921) are found in the National Archives at Kansas City and the National Archives at Laguna Nigel.

Kansas City Records:
Title: Enemy Alien Registration Affidavits, 1917, 1921
RG 118, Records of U.S. Attorneys, 1821-1980
Department of Justice. Office of the U.S. Marshal for the District of Kansas
*Following the onset of hostilities during World War I, non-naturalized “Enemy Aliens” by definition, were required to register with United States authorities as a national security measure. Under the provisions of a Presidential Proclamation of April 6, 1917, non-naturalized female aliens were likewise registered as an additional national security measure that included those women of American birth that were married to enemy aliens. Registrants include school children, divinity students, former United States soldiers and sailors, Roman Catholic nuns, the elderly, and the infirm. For the State of Kansas the registered aliens represent a broad cross-section of the German-born population of the State. These records contains original affidavits of registration that record personal information about each registrant, their photograph affixed to the majority of documents, and the registration fingerprints. 5,928 items are described in ARC and can be searched by individual name.

Laguna Nigel Records:
Title: Enemy Alien Registration Affidavits, 1917, 1921
RG 21, Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-1991
U.S. District Court for the Phoenix Division of the District of Arizona
*Affidavits of people living in Arizona, but who were citizens from countries at war with the United States during the First World War. Men completed the form “Registration of Affidavit of Alien Enemy” while women used the form “Registration Affidavit of Alien Female.” Information recorded on these forms includes a physical description of the registrants, a four-year history of employment and residence, birth data concerning the registrants and their immediate family, immigration and naturalization information, data on language fluency, registrants’ fingerprints, and a photograph. 179 items are described in ARC and can be searched by individual name.

Elizabeth Carrington, Archivist September 2, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Martin:
Content from the A-Files cannot be accessed online. Basic information about the individuals (i.e. date of birth, country of birth, etc.) can be found by searching in ARC http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=4488912 as all available files have been entered into the catalog. Files can be viewed in person at the National Archives at Kansas City or copies of files may be ordered for a fee. Please visit the A-Files website http://www.archives.gov/research/genealogy/aliens/a-files-kansas-city.html for more detail about the content of A-Files and the request process.

Nancy Knab September 7, 2010 at 10:19 am

My ancestor came through Ellis Island in 1893 and could have been naturalized before 1944. If he was already naturalized before 1944, would he still have a file in the A-Files?

Rebecca September 7, 2010 at 11:34 am

Nancy- If your ancestor was naturalized before 1944, he would not have an alien file. The National Archives may have his petition for naturalization, if he was naturalized in a Federal court. The naturalization records are held in our regional archives. You may contact the NARA regional location that serves the state where naturalization occurred to request a search of Federal court records. Requests should generally include the name of the person, approximate date of naturalization, and the city or town of residence when naturalized. If you have additional information such as date of birth, names of spouse and children, and country of origin that is useful to include with any request. There is no fee for our staff to search for a record and a minimal fee to receive copies of the naturalization record.

- Rebecca

F.O. Allen May 7, 2012 at 2:37 pm

You say on the first page that ARC contains “names of every individual presently contained in our A-Files.” Through USCIS I have AR file numbers for my parents. Why are their names not listed for A files? AR files only contain the first two sheets.

Meredith D. (admin) May 8, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Hi F.O.,

The National Archives at Kansas City has only accessioned a very small portion of all existing A-Files into our holdings. Those A-Files that have not yet been accessioned are still in the custody of USCIS. Inquires about those records must be made through USCIS: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis

As additional A-Files are accessioned into our holdings, we plan to post updates to our website: http://www.archives.gov/research/immigration/aliens/index.html

Best of luck with your research,
Meredith

Elizabeth Burnes, Archivist May 15, 2012 at 10:29 am

Hi F.O.:

To follow up on Meredith’s response, if you do not find the Alien Registration numbers you have for your parents within ARC you should follow up with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Genealogy Program (www.uscis.gov/genealogy) to obtain copies of any available documentation. In some cases it may only be the Alien Registration Form (I belive this is the “first two sheets” you referred to), but there may also be additional information such as affidavits, correspondence, etc.

Sincerely,
Elizabeth

Subscribe to Email Updates