Understanding Your ...

Understanding Your Immigrant Ancestors

Many Americans can trace at least one family line back to an immigrant ancestor who crossed the ocean to come to this country in the nineteenth century. This is not surprising considering that between 1815 and 1914, 50 million Europeans left for other continents, with the destination most often being America. Genealogists researching their families tend to think of immigration in terms of the unique records it created such as ship arrival and departure lists, passports, or naturalization records among others. For our ancestors though, immigration was an incredible, life-changing experience. They left everything they knew behind to come to a new and unknown place. The voyage itself made a lasting impression on them

A glimpse into the immigration experience can give us a better understanding of what this monumental experience was like for our ancestors. Much of the information in this section originally appeared in my article “Voyage to America” in Everton Family History Magazine PLUS, May 2004.

I also have some brief information about those who continued westward on the overland trail system.

For information about finding your immigrant ancestor in the records, please check the Immigration Records section of Understanding Your Ancestors in the Records This section contains a list of ports and their records as well suggestions on eight types of records to use to trace your ancestors across the ocean.

The list below shows the arrangement of information in this section. For more information, click on that link.

 Who Came and Why
   German Immigration
   Setting Sail to New England (the Great Migration)
 Voyage to the U.S.
   Preparing to Emigrate
   Living Conditions on Board
   Arriving in the U.S.
   The Entryway at Castle Garden
 Continuing Westward
   The Trail
   Making the Trip
   Completion of the Railroad
 Useful Links and Sources