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Family Tree Friday: Immigration Records in AAD

by on March 4, 2011


A couple of weeks ago John wrote about the 20th century military records available on our website through Access to Archival Databases (AAD). Today, I want to talk about the immigration records that you can find in AAD.

In the late 1970s, the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies began compiling data from nineteenth century passenger arrival records. Researchers from the Balch Institute, now part of The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, looked at passenger arrival records (primarily the ports of New York, Baltimore, Boston and Philadelphia) for immigrants who identified themselves as Russian, Irish, German, or Italian. This research resulted in databases such as “Data Files Relating to the Immigration of Germans to the United States.” You can often find printed copies of these databases in genealogical libraries, but the original data files can be accessed on our website through AAD. The books, as well as the data files, are often referred to as “Germans to America” (or “Russians to America,” etc.).

Now I want to walk you through a typical search scenario.

The first image is a screenshot of the main page for these databases. Let’s use “Germans to America” as an example. Clicking on the search icon will take you to this next page. You’ll see a brief description and history of the data files here – take a look at it if you’re interested in how and why these records were created.

AAD search immigration

Click “search” again and you will see this screen.

AAD search page

I decided to search for “Johan Schmidt” and entered the name in the appropriate fields. I could have entered more information such as age or country of origin, but I have always liked to start searches with only the name. Below is part of the results page.

AAD Johan Schmidt search

There were 112 people named Johan Schmidt who arrived in the US between 1850 and 1897 – this is when I would normally try to narrow a search by providing the age or some other identifying information. For the purposes of this example, however, I just chose the first Johan Schmidt.  This next screen shows the results for him.

Johan Schmidt search results

The data files don’t provide images of the passenger list, but all of the information you would find on the actual list is here, with one major exception that I will get to in a moment. We can see that Johan Schmidt is a 30 year old man from Hessen (Germany) who is a shoemaker by trade. But something is missing from this summary – the date of arrival and the name of the ship. This is where using these data files can get a little tricky.  Do you see the category titled “Manifest Identification Number?” Take that number (in this case, 6637), and go back to the Series Description page.

Johan Schmidt detail

Just beneath the search button we used before, there is another search button, for the Manifest Header Data File.  Enter the number (6637) here.

Manifest Header search

And this is what we get.  Now we know that our Johan Schmidt left Rotterdam on the Jane E. Williams and arrived in the US on October 7, 1850.

Manifest Header detail

Some of you may wonder why you should use these databases when you can already view the entire passenger list on microfilm or online at Ancestry.com. Well, there are several reasons. The first, and probably the most important for genealogical research, is that if you are unable to find someone online at Ancestry, or on the microfilm, you can try these data files – I’ve found several people using them that I couldn’t locate otherwise. Another reason I find these useful is that you can search the database by multiple fields – if you wanted to, you could find out how many 30 year old men came to the US in 1850. If you do try to perform a search like that, keep in mind that these data files do not contain all of the immigration records, just those that the Balch Institute included in their studies. But you can still get some great demographic information out of them.

These data files are part of Collection CIR (Records of the Center for Immigration Research, 1976 – 2003). They can be accessed online via AAD on our website.


Comments

shirley March 21, 2011 at 8:21 pm

i am searching for family who emmigrated from england in 1963 he sailed from southhampton to the usa onboard the queen mary looking for passenger list

Katherine March 22, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Hi Shirley,

It may be possible to get a copy of a passenger list from this time period. Many of the later records still have some privacy restrictions, so it may not be possible. We will need a written request from you. Send us an email at inquire@nara.gov. If we can’t get you a copy, we’ll let you know what other resources are available.

- Katherine

dawn marks January 11, 2013 at 6:18 am

My great,great grandmother came to New Orleans in 1880′s.She was from Scottland.How can I find any info about her and family without pay.Thank-you

Katherine February 1, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Hi Dawn,

The easiest way to start this kind of research is to use one of the online subscription based websites such as Ancestry.com. We make it available to researchers at all of our research facilities. If you don’t live near one of our facilities, a lot of public libraries and other research organizations make it available as well.

If you don’t want to use the online databases, you can always request a search through us. There is a charge for this ($20.00), but if we can’t find a record we won’t charge you.

Good luck with your research!

- Katherine

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