The past six lessons were the first of 20 projected
lessons in this intermediate course on Tracing Immigrant Origins. The
course focuses on using American records from before the 20th century
in order to learn where an immigrant lived before coming to America.
This means than in every lesson our goal is to discover the sources
which have in the past contained the original home town or parish of
a foreign-born individual.
Pre-Twentieth Century research is easily divided into
three time periods:
- After the Civil War (which we covered in the past
- From 1820 through the Civil War, 1865 (which is
the focus for the next several lessons)
- Pre-1820 research (where we will complete our intermediate
The sources and strategies for research vary, depending
upon the time period when the immigrant came. Later immigrants (20th
century) are recorded in many sources that were not kept in earlier
As we move back in time, researching an immigrant's
origins becomes more difficult. Fewer records were kept, many records
were lost, and those that were kept were not as complete as later records.
For example, passenger lists, which began to be kept in the United States
in 1820, usually did not show the passenger's towns of origin until