Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Records you may not even know exist

In helping others with their genealogy, I constantly hear about the so-called "brick wall." This popular subject is consistently discussed in blogs, magazine articles and forums. Of course, I have to concede that some people left very few historical records, but the concept of a brick wall is basically a fallacy. In the vast majority of cases, the issue is not a lack of records, but a lack of the awareness that the records even exist. Some people truly believe that they have search "every record." However, there is usually no basis for this belief. I find very, very few researchers that are not surprised when I suggest other places they might look. One puzzling, but common response is a total lack of interest in searching different types of records.

I talk to people who think they have hit a brick wall when all they have searched is! Many of these people have never even looked at a microfilm or gone to look for original records in local or state repositories. There is even a common and understandable belief that the records will fall out of the air and land at their feet.

Here is an example of some records that are very extensive, and likely very infrequently consulted or even cited. All of these records are available from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. They are probably not searched because there is a charge for searching.

Naturalization Certificate Files (C-Files), September 27, 1906 to March 31, 1956

Naturalization Certificate Files (C-Files) are 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. Standard C-Files generally 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 contain additional documents, including correspondence, affidavits, or other records. Only C-Files dating from 1929 onward include photographs. The majority of C-Files exist only on microfilm.

Alien Registration Forms (Form AR-2), August 1940 to March 1944

Alien Registration Forms (Form AR-2) are copies of approximately 5.5 million Alien Registration Forms completed by all aliens age 14 and older, residing in or entering the United States between August 1, 1940 and March 31, 1944. 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 United States; date of first arrival in United States; number of years in United States; 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 United States; arrest record, including date, place, and disposition of each arrest; whether or not affiliated with a foreign government; signature, and fingerprint. The AR-2 files exist only on microfilm. Important: Alien Registration Forms AR-2 are only available for A-numbers 1 million to 5 980 116, A6 100 000 to 6 132 126, A7 000 000 to 7 043 999, and A7 500 000 to 7 759 142.

Visa Files, July 1, 1924 to March 31, 1944

Visa Files are 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 5 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. The Visa Files exist only in hard copy (textual) format.

Registry Files, March 1929 to March 31, 1944

Registry Files are records, which document the creation of immigrant arrival records for persons who entered the United States prior to July 1, 1924, and for whom no arrival record could later be found. Most files also include documents supporting the immigrant’s claims regarding arrival and residence (i.e., proofs of residence, receipts, and employment records). The Registry Files exist only in hard copy (textual) format.

Immigrant Files (A-Files), April 1, 1944 to May 1, 1951

Immigrant Files, (A-Files) are the individual alien case files, which became the official file for all immigration records created or consolidated since April 1, 1944. A-numbers ranging up to approximately 6 million were issued to aliens and immigrants within or entering the United States between 1940 and 1945. The 6 million and 7 million series of A-numbers were issued between circa 1944 and May 1, 1951. The Immigrant Files exist only in hard copy (textual) format. Only A-File documents dated to May 1, 1951, are releasable under the Genealogy Program.
More about this subject later.

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