Wednesday, July 12, 2023

10 Resources for Tracing Immigrant Ancestors

This podcast covers the steps of Basic Immigrant Research using a Greek example. All immigrant research requires the same basic research. 

Basic Immigrant Ancestor Research
Although our families are unique, basic immigrant research is not. The same goal applies for Irish, German, Italian, Greek or any other immigrant research. Prior to researching overseas, we must discover the original name, preferably the name and date as printed on a birth documents. Parents’ names, family units, and originating parish, province, or city of your ancestors overseas are also essential Here are ten (10) record sets that may assist with uncovering the needed information.

10 Records Sets
Here are ten record sets that may assist with uncovering the needed information.
  1.  Declaration of Intent - 1st Papers 
  2. Naturalization Record or Alien Record. Ship, destination, original name using travel documents, next of kin and more may be found on Naturalization Records.  If not, the 1st papers - Declaration of Intention papers - is noted for further research. But let's not forget alien records, if applicable.  They may also include family information in-country and overseas.  
  3. Trace Ship. Be sure to pair and the OneStep Stephen Morse website,,  to cross reference ships.

    Keep in mind the first passenger at Ellis Island wa 1 Jan 1892.  It was used in lieu of Castle Garden port of NY which operated from 1855 – 1891. 
  4. Passenger List Review:  Greek passengers often cam by way of Italy or France. So it is best to follow the ship paths. The podcast example of Panayioti Kopelas on the Alesia, Fabre Line passenger ship arrived in NY port 31 Oct 1895, and proven by the naturalization record. The Fabre Line stopped in Marseille, France prior to arriving at the port of NY, Ellis Island.
    Be sure to reference The Ships List  if more assistance is needed to trace a ship.

  5. Determine Destination. Where Did They Go? Your ancestor, most likely, landed and traveled to family. There destination is noted on the Passenger list.  Our assumption is there’s always a reason for their final destination. In the podcast example Panayoti’s destination was Lowell MA.  It is in Lowell that we located family members
  6. Social security application SS5 form, for names of parents is a primary source. 
  7. Trace Family. Cluster research is most often successful. Be sure to trace not only your targeted ancestor, but those mentioned in documents: passports, passenger lists, military draft registrations.  These people may lead you to the answers for your targeted information.  In our Chopelas/Kopelas example, we were provided parents for an associated Chopelas. More research is needed, but it is a clue that must be explored and fleshed out.
  8. Alias? Many recent immigrants used alias names in order to assimilate in the new country. 

  9. Ethnic Association Records. Ethnic associations may have family biographical sketches. These records may be available through the local genealogy society or in a present day association archived collection.
  10. Newspapers for Family News. Be sure to scour the local newspapers for names and locations. This will guide you to possible repositories.

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Kathleen Brandt
Be Historically Correct
Accurate Accessible Answers

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