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USCIS HISTORY OFFICE HANDOUT FROM THE ZACK WILSKE LECTURE October 7, 2015
Immigration and Naturalization Service Subject and Policy Records USCIS History Office www.uscis.gov/historyandgenealogy cishistory firstname.lastname@example.org 1) Early Correspondence, 1882-ca. 1912 [National Archives, RG 85, Entries 1-8]. This group of records includes at least four sets (called “Entries”) of correspondence files divided between letters received (arranged by file number, roughly chronological) and letters sent (arranged by date). There are also two entries of register books (1882-1887 and 1891-1903) and two name and subject indices (ca. 1903-1910) that serve as finding aides. Researchers interested in these early records should contact the USCIS History Office for assistance. 2) Immigration Policy Correspondence of the INS, 1906-1957 (“56000 Series”) [National Archives, RG 85, Entry 9]. INS used the Subject and Policy Correspondence File Series (also known as the “56,000 series”) to house all types of immigration, nationality, and administrative correspondence material. Prior to April 1944, INS also opened correspondence files for individual immigrant cases that required a decision from Washington, DC. These cases included exclusion appeals, deportation warrants, investigations, and a wide variety of actions. The series also contains a vast number of subject files covering all aspects of immigration policy during the first half of the twentieth century. After 1936 INS began filing nationality correspondence files in the 56000 series as well. File numbers in this series were assigned based upon pre-printed file jackets rather than any coherent filing system, a fact that often confuses researchers. The best place to begin researching in the 56000 series is with the Subject Index to Correspondence and Case Files of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1903-1952 (NARA Microfilm Publication T-458 [note that the index actually covers 1903-1957]). This microfilm index (31 reels) is available at NARA facilities in Washington, DC, Chicago, IL, New York, NY, Seattle, WA, and San Bruno, CA, and at any of the LDS Family History Centers across the country. The Subject Index to Correspondence and Case Files of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1903-1952 is also now available through ancestry.com. 3) Bureau of Naturalization Correspondence Files, 1906-1944. Administrative Files Relating to Naturalization (Bureau of Naturalization Correspondence Files), 1906-1946 [National Archives, RG 85, Entry 26 and additional entries]. From 1906 to 1934 the Bureau of Naturalization maintained a separate set of policy and administrative files (for some subjects the series remained open until 1944). The largest series, Entry 26, contains correspondence related to nationality matters. Smaller entries cover specific areas of nationality policy, such as files related to the Citizenship Education Program, an index to fraudulent naturalizations investigated, or boxes of oversized promotional material. The Bureau of Naturalization file system is organized by a coded system in which numerical prefixes indicate a certain subject. For example, all the files in the 35/ series relate to the general topic “soldiers and sailors.” The file 35/gen contains agency policy and guidance regarding soldiers and sailors, while 35/1, /2, etc. cover cases of individual soldiers or sailors. Many files in Entry 26 include policy documents followed by interesting and/or precedent-setting case examples. The subject index microfilm (NARA T-458) references topical files in this series. A name index to Entry 26 is now available from the National Archives (NARA A3388).
Immigration and Naturalization Service Records for Specific Individuals
A) Immigration Passenger Lists, 1892-1954 (NARA ; MICROFILM and Digital). Ship passenger manifests collected by the US Immigration Service. The majority of passenger list microfilm is published has been published by NARA and is increasingly available from online services such as ancestry.com. Immigration Lists from 1954-1982 have also transferred to NARA, though these lists are on abbreviated forms with minimal information and most records are for crewmembers. NARA has not published the vast majority of these later passenger lists. B) Naturalization Certificate Files (C-Files), 1906-1956 (most MICROFILM; some PAPER) INS copies of records relating to all U.S. naturalizations in Federal, state, county, or municipal courts, overseas military naturalizations, replacement of old law naturalization certificates, and the issuance of Certificates of Citizenship in derivative, repatriation, and resumption cases. The majority of C-Files exist only on microfilm. Standard C-Files contain at least one application form (Declaration of Intention and/or Petition for Naturalization, or other application) and a duplicate certificate of naturalization or certificate of citizenship. Many files - especially those related to cases that brought up questions about nationality law or required extra investigation - contain additional documents, including correspondence, affidavits, or other records. Available through the fee-for-service USCIS Genealogy Program (www.uscis.gov/genealogy). C) Visa Files, 1924-1944 (USCIS; PAPER) Original arrival records of immigrants admitted for permanent residence under provisions of the Immigration Act of 1924. Visa forms contain all information normally found on a ship passenger list of the period, as well as the immigrant’s places of residence for five years prior to emigration, names of both the immigrant’s parents, and other data. Attached to the visa in most cases are birth records or affidavits. Also attached may be marriage, military, or police records. In cases where the immigrant naturalized or the immigrant’s case reopened after April 1, 1944, the Visa File may have been transferred out of this record series to a C-File or an A-File. Available through the fee-for-service USCIS Genealogy Program (www.uscis.gov/genealogy). D) Registry Files, 1929-1944 (USCIS; PAPER) Original records documenting the creation of immigrant arrival records for immigrants who entered the United States prior to July 1, 1924 and for whom the INS had no record of arrival. Registry Files typically contain an application form describing the immigrant’s arrival in the United States before 1924, and detailing their U.S. residence and employment history. Most files also include documents supporting the immigrant’s claims regarding arrival and residence (i.e., proofs of residence, receipts, employment records, etc.). In cases where the immigrant naturalized or the immigrant’s case reopened after April 1, 1944, the Registry File may have been transferred out of this historical Service record series to a C-File or an A-File. About 200,000 Registry Files exist. Available through the fee-forservice USCIS Genealogy Program (www.uscis.gov/genealogy). E) Alien Registration Forms (AR-2), 1940-1944 (USCIS; MICROFILM) Microfilmed copies of 5.5 million Alien Registration Forms (Form AR-2) completed by all aliens age 14 and older, resident in or entering the United States between 1940-1944. In some cases this is the only INS record for an alien. The two-page form called for the following information: Name; name at arrival; other names used; street address; post-office address; date of birth; place of birth; citizenship; sex; marital status; race; height; weight; hair and eye color; date, place, vessel, and class of admission of last arrival in U.S.; date of first arrival in U.S.; number of years in U.S.; usual occupation; present occupation; name, address, and business of present employer; membership in clubs, organizations, or societies; dates and nature of military or naval service; whether citizenship papers filed, and if so date, place, and court for declaration or petition; number of relatives living in the U.S.; arrest record, including date, place, and disposition of each arrest; whether or not affiliated with a foreign government; signature, and; fingerprint. Available through the fee-for-service USCIS Genealogy Program (www.uscis.gov/genealogy). F) Alien Files (A-Files), 1944 to Present (USCIS, with select files at NARA; PAPER) Individual alien case files (A-files) became the official file for all immigration records created or consolidated since April 1, 1944. A-Files opened on immigrants or naturalized citizens who arrived prior to 1940 should contain all available INS records of that immigrant including the records created prior to 1940. A-files served as the primary INS file system for the second half of the 20th century and continue to be USCIS’s main file system.
A-Files numbered below 8 million, and documents therein dated prior to May 1, 1951, are available through the fee-for-service USCIS Genealogy Program (www.uscis.gov/genealogy), provided the subject of the file is deceased or born more than 100 years ago. Files above 8 million are subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and must be requested through the USCIS FOIA Program. Researchers who need assistance determining how to request an A-file should contact the USCIS History Office.
In 2009 USCIS began transferring A-files to NARA for permanent storage. All files transferred to NARA relate to individuals born 100+ years ago whose immigration file became active in or after 1975. Only about 500,000 of the many million A-files have transferred to NARA. To determine if an A-file is at NARA researchers should search NARA’s ARC database using the file number or the file subject’s name (www.archives.gov/research/arc/).
Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois Summer 2015 Morasha
Morasha is JGSI's Summer Newsletter, two articles of interest are 'Conference Highlights' and 'Harnessing Social Media, Making the Most of Online Social Networks'.
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JGSCV Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County
NATIONAL ARCHIVES The (US) National Archives is relocating their collection of bankruptcy case files to Subtropolis, an archival facility that is part of the National Archives in Kansas City. The records moved are the Bankruptcy Act of 1898 Case Files 1898 1979 RG 21, A1 159. As of September 21 2015. Inquiries for Kansas City holdings should be directed to KansasCity.Archives@nara.gov. The National Archives has information on using bankruptcy records for genealogy research that may be found at: http://www.archives.gov/publications/ prologue/2014/fall/bankruptcy.pdf Watch for the newsletters to come!
15,000 Records Added to FamilySearch by JewishGen Hungarian SIG
The Jewish Community (IKG) of Nuremberg is in possession of the so-called “Sturmer or Streicher Library”, a collection of approximately 10,000 books taken by the Nazis. The Jewish Community of Nuremberg is requesting assistance in finding the former owners and the restitution of the writings to their legal successors. For more background on the collection and a listing of robbed victims as well as pictures of images of inscriptions and book notes, see: http://tinyurl.com/qg99t13
Innovations in Online Genealogy Search from Genealogy in Time magazine as reprinted in the October 2015 Genealogy Society of North Orange County California Newsletter The Shortcoming of Quotes By all means you should try to find your ancestors by putting their name in quotes. Just be aware that it will constrain your search results. You should always search for your ancestors without quotes as well The real advantage of searching for your ancestor using quotes is to avoid a common problem with how some online genealogy records are displayed on the internet. Especially on older genealogy websites, ancestral records are often just long chains of names strung together like pearls on a string. This is a real challenge for a search engine. Consider the following hypothetical list of three names that are part of a long chain of ancestor names found on a page of a genealogy website: Mary Abbott Robert John Smith Benson This is how you see the names. Below is how the search engine will see the same list of names: Mary Abbott [break] Robert John [break] Smith Benson If you search for <john smith> without putting the name in quotes, then the sample page above will get flagged by the search engine because the label <john> is next to the label <smith>. Realistically, you probably don’t want this page. If you search for <”john smith”> then it will avoid pages like the above example because <john> and <smith> are broken apart. So searching for a name in quotes doesn’t necessarily get you closer to good genealogy records. It does, however, get you farther away from record sets containing long strings of names Creatively Combine Names This insight is an exercise in reverse thinking. As we have already discussed, search is a game of probabilities. Search is also all about the proximity of words (in particular names) on a page. How can we use these two facts to our advantage? For example, how can we find someone with a very common name? How about taking the uncommon approach of trying to search for two people at once? Consider the following example: We need to find someone named John Smith. Suppose John was married to someone named Mary Smith. How are ords (in particular names) on a page. How can we use these two facts to our advantage? For example, how can we find someone with a very common name? How about taking the uncommon approach of trying to search for two people at once? Consider the following example: We need to find someone named John Smith. Suppose John was married to someone named Mary Smith. How are we going to find John and Mary Smith? The answer lies in making probabilities work for you. John Smith is a common name. So is Mary Smith. But how common is it to find a record that contains both the names John Smith and Mary Smith? As it turns out, it is not anywhere near as common as trying to look for each name individually because not every John Smith in the world happens to have a spouse named Mary. This is demonstrated in the diagram below. The John Smith circle represents all records that contain the name John Smith. The Mary Smith circle represents all records that contain the name Mary Smith. The area where the two circles overlap contain all the genealogy records that mention both John Smith and Mary Smith. A record set that is a combination of the two names is much smaller than a record set of either name individually. In many instances, the combination of two names can be orders of magnitude smaller than one name by itself. This can significantly increase your chances of successfully finding a useful ancestral record. How can you search for two people at once? Fundamentally, this process works because certain classes of genealogy records list more than one person. As an example, marriage records list two adults, birth records of children usually list both parents and some cemetery records list spouses. Looking for two people at once is a great way to look for ancestors with common names. In the example above with John and Mary Smith you would perform the following search: Since search engines look for words by proximity, the word that is common to both names (in this case Smith) needs to go in the middle to get the best results. In effect, the two first names straddle the last name. At GenealogyInTime Magazine, we call this genealogy search technique a last name straddle. You could even carry this technique one step forward. Suppose Mary Smith’s maiden name was Johnson. You could then look for: A word of caution: if you follow this technique, you are implicitly focusing on a narrow set of records that contain both Mary’s maiden name and married name. Search by Associated Facts At the beginning of this article, we talked about the fact that a name is just a label for a search engine. As a result, when searching for your ancestor, consider using labels other than names. You can do this by looking for associated facts about your ancestor to help narrow down your search pattern. A good place to start is to list places where your ancestor lived. Many genealogy records have a place associated with the record. This would include birth records, marriage records, death records, cemetery records and many newspaper articles. For example, if you are looking for John Smith and you know that John Smith was from Boston, then consider using the following type of search.