The Desert Shamrock
Arizonaís Original Irish Newspaper
Volume 10, Number 2, March/April 1999, page 21

Emigration, Immigration & Naturalization Records

by Robert M. Wilbanks IV, B.A.
Professional Genealogist & Historian

 †††††† One of the more difficult problems faced by genealogists is finding the place of origin of an ancestor. There are a variety of records which help to determine where an ancestor came from and when. Here I will discuss the types of records which are most directly a result of the process of leaving the "Old World", coming to America, and becoming an American.

††††††† Irish history is filled with the ongoing emigration of the people of Ireland. For several centuries, large numbers of Irish forcibly or voluntarily left Ireland for the far reaches of the globe. America was just one of the many places that the Irish had gone to in great numbers.

††††††† I use the term "forcibly" in a variety of contexts. The most familiar example being the many Irish opposed to British rule who were shipped as political-prisoners or convicts to the many British colonies around the world. Economics was another factor which forced many to leave Ireland. The size of Ireland with its rural based economy limited the population that Ireland could support. Meanwhile, Ireland was forced to export its resources to Great Britain, leaving little for the Irish. British rule made it difficult, if not impossible, to own land, or businesses, or otherwise support themselves and their families. Many had to leave Ireland in the hopes of finding a better way of life.

††††††† With the doubling of the population from 1800 to 1840, things would come to a climax and have a dramatic effect on the land and people of Ireland. The Famine of Ireland was a horrific result of a combination of Irelandís population explosion, British rule, and nature. The Potato, introduced into Ireland in the late 1500s, had become an inexpensive staple of the masses. It was the only resource left by the British in sufficient quantity to support Irelandís population. When the potato blight hit Ireland in the fall of 1845, it was the beginning of years of starvation and disease. Relief was impossible and over a million deaths occurred during this period. Over a million more emigrated, many coming to America.

The term "voluntarily" is used in respect to Irish adventurers. Many Irish left to travel the world, see new sights, and to fight as soldiers of fortune in the different European Armies. With the discovery of new untamed continents and their colonization, more Irish adventurers left Ireland to build new lives, own land or become successful in a variety of other ways.

††††††† In beginning Irish Genealogy, several basic questions can help direct your research. The most significant question is "Where did my family come from in Ireland?" It is necessary to know at least the county in Ireland where the family came from before beginning your research there. If this is unknown, then you must begin in American records, searching for documents that will identify where your Irish ancestor came from.

††††††† As discussed in a previous article, census records can lead to a time and place for birth, death and marriage records, occupational records, city directories, etc., which together can provide significant information including possibly where your ancestor came from and when. The 1900 census is the earliest which began to specifically inquire as to citizenship status of each individual, including year of immigration to America and whether naturalized, thus leading you to the records most directly associated with emigration, immigration and naturalization.

††††††† The emigration, immigration, and naturalization process creates an extensive series of records which can help identify when your ancestor came to America and, most importantly, a county or township of origin in Ireland. The stages that these records were created begin in Ireland with such records as Letters of Manumission, Letters of Recommendation, Permits to Emigrate, Indentures, Travel Documents, Customs Records and Passenger Lists from the point of departure. Upon arrival in America the next stage of records include Passenger Lists, Customs Records, Oaths of Allegiance, Declaration of Intent, and Health, Hospital and Newspaper records at the port of entry. The settling stage, in America, find records of Immigrant Aid Societies, Churches and Newspapers. The final stage, Naturalization, includes Alien Registration, Oath of Allegiance, Declaration of Intention, Petition for Naturalization, and finally the Certificate of Naturalization.

††††††† Clearly, you canít start searching these records in Ireland, where the process of emigration, immigration and naturalization begins. The strategy is to start with the variety of naturalization records, the final stage, here in America, and backtrack your ancestor through the stages of records as identified above.

††††††† After 1906, naturalization records are found at the Federal level. Prior to that date they appear in Federal, State or County Courts, dependant upon the residency of the immigrant. Americaís Passenger Lists werenít begun until 1820 and are fairly complete through 1945 at the National Archives. Irelandís Emigration records are primarily found at the Public Record Office in Northern Ireland.

††††††† A wealth of these records have been indexed or abstracted in various publications and can be found at the variety of libraries as I have described in previous writings. Many more of these records have been microfilmed and can be found at the Mesa Family History Center or, through the Centers, obtained from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City; discussed in previous writings. Many of these records are being published on the Internet at the sites identified in my last writing.

††††††† For previous articles on the basics of searching for your family history, visit my web site at; click on Professional Services, then Genealogical Writings.

DISCLAIMER: This is an important reminder that the above article is provided here exactly as originally written and published several years ago. Therefore, while most of the primary context of the article may still be relevant, please be aware that possibly certain of the information and references may now be outdated, such as individuals and organizations, links, contacts, facilities, etc. Please follow-up accordingly for more updated information.

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©2013, Robert M. Wilbanks IV, Scottsdale, Arizona
created Nov 15, 2013; last updated Nov 15, 2013