When our ancestors moved from one country to another, they left behind more than their footprints: They left a paper trail, often full of pertinent family history information. The Immigration Ancestors Project (IAP) <immigrants.byu.edu> aims to lead you to the start of that paper trail.
Sponsored by Brigham Young University’s Center for Family History and Genealogy, the ongoing project culls immigrants’ birth information from their native countries’ emigration registers, which contain details US naturalization papers and passenger-arrival lists often lack. Scholars and researchers are teaming with volunteers to put transcriptions of those registers — covering millions of immigrants — into the IAP’s online database.
Go to the Projects section to learn which British, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese records the IAP uses, as well as the reasons many residents left their homelands. The British Project, for example, focuses on records from the 18th and 19th centuries, and its Web page details the team’s goals for adding records. (Administrators hope to expand the roster of countries, as well.)
After clicking the Search button (or the Search for Ancestors link), you can tap available data by entering an ancestor’s name, an event and date from his life — such as birth and 1900 — and a location (select from country, state, department, port of departure and other jurisdictions). The search screen advises you to enter as much information as possible, but you may be better off starting with one detail at a time: A search on the common last name schneider returns only five matches, including one for Maria Anna Schneider from Bavaria. If you click on Schneider’s name, you’ll see the full entry and information on the original source. In this case, you’ll learn that her record was taken from documents at the Bavarian State Archive, and that she came to North America in 1836 along with Magdalena Rankl, Anton Schwarzer and Simon Schmied. You then can click View Sample Documents to see what the original documents might look like if you request a copy.
The searchable database is just the start of the IAP’s research tools. In the Volunteer Center, for instance, you’ll find downloadable lists of common Italian, German and Portuguese surnames and given names; handwritten alphabets in Spanish and German; and tables of common occupations and abbreviations, including those that frequently appear in British and Spanish emigration documents.
Parts of the site-including the Archives and Emigration Laws information under Resources weren’t available at press time. Even so, I found the IAP’s well-organized links (especially the Helpful Links under Resources) useful in my own quest for emigration information, and I’ll return to the site as it adds more resources.