Sunday, July 3, 2011

Don't Wait for the 1940 Census

Did Your Ancestor Complete the 1940 Alien Registration?
As I am unable to use my client file, this is a copy of a Sample Registration on the NARA Website.
Family historians and genealogists can't wait for the 1940 census which will be released in April, 2012, just a few months away! But what if you can get a jump start on the 1940 research of your ancestor?  Are you familiar with the 1940 Alien Registration forms, the result of the Alien Registration Act of 1940, that resulted in over five million registration
forms submitted? 

The Purpose and Process of the 1940 Alien Registration? 
Do not confuse the 1940 Alien Registration with the Enemy with the Enemy Alien Registration Affidavits from the WWI era (1917-1921). This Registration form was designed to take "inventory" of the country's resources.

The KC National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) newsletter of July 2011 states the process best.
The registration process included a questionnaire form and a requirement that fingerprints be taken at the time of registration (certain exclusions applied for diplomats, employees of foreign governments, and children under the age of (14).

The Alien Registration Form contained fifteen questions including when and where the subject was born, when and where they entered the United States, a physical description, and inquiries about employment, organization memberships, prior military service, and attempts to obtain naturalization in the U.S. As  Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) received the forms, an Alien Registration Number was assigned (ex. A12 345 678) and an Alien Registration Receipt Card containing this number was mailed to each registrant as proof of  alien status. For additional information, visit the NARA website:

Genealogical Tool
The Alien Registration forms may contain a photograph of your ancestor (alien). Their residence in non-census years, and country of origin may be included in the Alien file. Plus, family historians may find copies of foreign birth certificates (some translated) and foreign marriage licenses. Other data that may be found on the Alien Registration forms are Alien Registration number, alias names, date of entry, parent's names, as well as the alien's naturalization information of the foreign born.

Locating the Forms
There were over 5 million Alien Registration Forms submitted in 1940. The National Archives maintains more than 350,000 of the A-Files of aliens who were born 1909 and prior. These files may be located in Record Group 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

These documents have not been digitized, but OPA or ARC may be used to narrow down your ancestor's alien number by an inquiry of name, date of birth or country.

However, not all of the A-Files have been accessioned to the NARA. The USCIS maintains all active and inactive A-Files that have not yet been transferred to the NARA. Researchers may also wish to go through the Genealogy Program of The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)  office to locate an ancestor's Alien File.

Author's Note
When working through the USCIS Genealogy Program, expect a lengthy delay in receiving documents. This program recently streamlined this program, and has made changes to its previous procedures.  I found the 45 day process of yesteryear, to take 90 days plus to complete a recent transaction.  But Voila! the documents have been received, with the genealogical treasures needed to close a client's case.

Another great resource for genealogy research!
Kathleen Brandt

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing piece of history. I now it's insane. bureaucracy is awful, but I can't help my self, whenever I see an old registration form I just want to dive in and read all about the people and events meantioned in it.
    event registration forms