Passenger and Immigration Research Basics: How to Find Your Ancestor’s Entry Into America


Most Americans have immigrant ancestors at some point in their family history. The only exceptions are Native American families who never married or had children with people from other societies. This means that you more than likely have numerous immigrant ancestors. Trace almost any branch of your family, and you will eventually find one.


Researching passenger and immigration records can tell you a lot about your immigrant ancestor, and give you information to use to study the family further back in that ancestor’s country of origin. Ship’s passenger records were kept for ships going to America all the way back to the earliest days of colonization. More recently, immigration records of people entering the United States from other countries have been kept in America. Depending on which record source you use, you may discover a variety of things, such as...