When Did my Father Come to the US?

By Diane Haddad Premium

Q. I think my father, Gust Klug, came through Canada to the United States, but I don’t know what year. He was in World War I at Camp Custer in Michigan, and I think he was discharged from the Army there in 1919. I’d like to learn his birthplace and when he came to the United States.

A. The US began keeping track of border crossers from Canada in 1895, when almost half of immigrants to Canada went on to the United States. These entry lists are sometimes called “St. Albans lists” because they were stored in St. Albans, Vt. Look for them on subscription site, with an index on the free You can access them on microfilm through the Family History Library; you can rent the film through your local FamilySearch Center. Large public libraries also may have these lists on microfilm.

 You may find your father’s arrival year and birthplace in federal censuses. A search of, for example, turned up several Gust Klugs. In the 1930 census, one Gust was age 40 and unmarried in Wyandotte, Mich., a Russian who came to the US in 1913, and a World War I veteran. You can search the census using Ancestry Library Edition or HeritageQuest Online if your library subscribes to either service; or ask whether the library has microfilmed census records. also has indexes and/or record images for most US censuses.

Search for spelling variations, too, such as Gustav and Kluge. Once you have some candidates, look at family members and compare the information with other records to confirm you’ve found your dad.

If your father was in the United States by 1917, he may have filled out a draft registration card. Search these cards on and, or see the National Archives website for more information. Chances are your dad’s WWI service records were among those destroyed by fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. It’s worth looking into, though; get ordering instructions here. Also check with his county courthouse to see whether he filed his discharge papers there.

For more advice on tracing immigrants to Canada, check out these two resources from Family Tree Magazine, available in Family Tree Shop:

And get help researching military records of your ancestor’s WWI service from our Research Strategies: World War I digital download, also available in Family Tree Shop.