Information about Alien Ancestors

Information about Alien Ancestors

You've got questions about discovering, preserving and celebrating your family history; our experts have the answers.

Q: How do I find information about my ancestors who never became naturalized citizens? My grandparents were required to register annually as aliens. The registration forms were available at our local post office. Have these records been stored anywhere and are copies available?

A: Aliens were required to register their current addresses and places of employment with the federal government between 1940 and about 1982. The Alien Registration Act of 1940 required aliens to report their address and employment and to report any change of address immediately. In 1952, this changed to reporting their address annually. The address reporting ended in the 1980s, and only the last or most recent address might remain on file. For more background on alien registrations, read the Immigration and Naturalization Service article “Why Isn’t the Green Card Green?” at A small staff at the INS Historical Reference Library will respond to limited requests asking for a specific document. Questions about INS holdings or whether the library holds desired materials may be directed to the librarian at (202) 514-2837 or at 425 I Street NW, Room 1100, Washington, DC 20536. For more information about the INS Historical Reference Library, visit

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