Where to Search for Your Immigrant U.S. Ancestors

If you are researching when your ancestors arrived in the U.S., it’s important to know what documents were available to show immigration status.  Although it’s possible your forefathers didn’t become naturalized citizens, meaning they were granted citizenship, it’s wise to check records to gain family insights.

Before the break with Great Britain, immigrants to what is now the U.S. were considered subjects of the crown.  In 1776, every man, woman and child, excluding Native Americans and African Americans, were granted “collective” citizenship.  No documents exist to state that status, however.  It was a right earned by merely being in the country at the time it separated from Great Britain.

Between 1776-1789, an immigrant who purchased land could become a citizen through denization.  Check land records, if available.  Citizens who became naturalized through denization, however, could not hold public office.  An “oath of allegiance” was required to obtain voting rights and to hold a public office.  Oaths were recorded in court records. Even if your relative did not seek naturalization, they were required by law to report to the nearest court and register that they were residing in the country.  Check Report and Registry logs between 1798-1828. 

Although the laws changed between 1790-1906, typically 3 steps must have been completed for an individual to be considered naturalized.  After having a Declaration of Intention filed with the local court, a final petition 1-2 years later would need to be submitted in a court in the nearest town.  You may have to check various towns as settlers could complete the paperwork where they currently resided.  After the petition was accepted, a Certificate of Naturalization was provided by the local court.

Prior to 1906, immigration records were not as complete as in later years.  Only the country of origin and not the city/town may have been listed as people were on the move.  Typically, parent information was excluded but you may get lucky.  For these later records, you will need to file a request with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Prepare for a long wait – I have had to wait over a year to obtain my grandparents paperwork but it was well worth it.  The photo alone was a gem!

Why You Should Share Your DNA Results

I have uploaded by DNA results to several sites and you could benefit from doing that, too.  The reason is simple – think about why you tested with the company you chose.  I tested with 23andMe because I wanted to find out the amount of Neandertal ancestry I  carry and that feature wasn’t available through the other major sites (Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com).  

Some folks may have selected a company based on pricing.  Others may have received a kit as a gift.  In the U.S., Ancestry.com commercials are everywhere but that’s not necessarily true in other parts of the world.  You stand the greatest chance of maximizing your DNA results by uploading them to sites that accept results.

Last week, I received an email from MyHeritage.com that I have several new DNA matches.  Typically, they are 3rd to 5th cousins that I’ve connected with in the past.  This time, was different.  Luckily, I recognized the surname as one of my maternal line’s great grandmothers of which I have scant information as she had died young in childbirth.  

Immediately, I clicked on the “cousins” tree which only contained 10 entries, most of which was private but I could see the geographic region and I knew that this proved promising.  I wrote the cousin an email and was happily surprised when he responded a few hours later.  We wrote back and forth all week.  The irony is that he lives just a little over 100 miles from the homestead but has no knowledge of the family.  Why?  His grandfather had relocated the family during World War II and never spoke to his children about the family’s history.  The grandfather died a few years before the cousin I was corresponding with was born so he could never ask him directly.  There is now only one elderly relative, in his 80’s remaining.  He plans on taking my family stories to the elder.  I’m anxiously awaiting his knowledge.  

No telling what you might discover from connecting with a family member across the pond!  DNA matching makes it easy and inexpensive.  

My Latest DNA Results

Recently, my St. Patrick’s Day Ancestry.com special DNA deal results were returned.  I had tested with Ancestry years ago prior to autosomal’s availability.  When the price for autosomal dropped, I decided to test with two other companies to gain access to their testing population and opted to have my children test with Ancestry.  I decided to purchase the Ancestry test because the price was right ($49.00), I wanted to go back one generation further than my children could do in search for my Morrison and Adams brick wall lines, and I wanted to play with Ancestry’s new DNA feature, Thru Lines, without having to wade through my husband’s side that my children inherited.

I’m pleased to connect with one Morrison and five Adams’ family members.  Although this certainly doesn’t resolve my brick wall it does support the direction I was going in with my research.  I suspected that my Edward Adams was the grandson of Sylvanus Adams of Sussex County, New Jersey but not being able to identify Edward’s father, I couldn’t prove it.  My hunch was due to the interesting male name of Evi.  After Edward died intestate in Perry County, Ohio in 1822, an Evi Adams living in the area served as administrator.  Evi died a few years later and I never was able to find his father, either.  Evi was about the same age as Edward so I surmised that they were either brothers or cousins.  There were several Evi’s in Sylvanus Adams’ lines before and after him so I felt strongly that Edward’s brother/cousin must be related somehow.  DNA seems to be showing that’s correct but I still haven’t found that one document that’s out there somewhere to prove it.

Although I’m pleased with the results I can understand how people who are new to genealogy and DNA give up after getting their results.  I know that the ethnic percents are only as valid as the pool used to compare findings.  In Ancestry’s case, I’m 51% German.  I don’t know how that’s possible since I would have gotten half of my DNA from my mom, who was full blooded Croatian and half from my dad, who was a mix of German, Irish, English, Welsh and Scotts.  Ancestry shows me with NO Irish, English Welsh or Scotts.  According to Ancestry, I’m only 4% French.  23andMe had me as all French and no German. 

I not only understand the pools from which the sample was compared differed, but the history of the areas.  My dad’s people were from the Palatinate, the German-French area that experienced bloodshed for years and went back and forth between the two countries. So, am I French or German?  I realize I’m a mix of both and I’m fine with that.  If I didn’t understand how this works, though, I would be totally confused. 

Recently Ancestry got into trouble with their latest DNA commercial.  I believe their well loved commercial about the man trading his lederhosen in for a kilt should have been an eye opener.  I’m thinking that man needs to test elsewhere to get a fuller picture of his ancestry.