District of Columbia Emigration and Immigration

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United States Emigration and Immigration lists several important sources for finding information about immigrants to this country. Tracing Immigrant Origins introduces the principles, research strategies, and additional record types you can use to identify an immigrant’s original hometown.

Immigrants[edit | edit source]

The first land grants to English settlers, in what is now the District of Columbia (then Charles County, Maryland), were made in 1663. Scottish immigrants founded Georgetown in 1751. Only a few people lived in the area when the federal government offices were moved there from Philadelphia in 1800. The city grew slowly until the 1860s, when the population more than doubled during and after the Civil War.

The District of Columbia did not attract much overseas immigration during the nineteenth century, but a large transient population came from all parts of the nation to work as government officials and congressional staffers. Permanent residents also came from all of the states, but especially from the middle Atlantic region and from the upper tier of southern states.

Black Americans constituted about one-fifth of the population prior to the Civil War and one-third after. By 1970, the population of the District of Columbia was 70 percent black. Slavery was abolished in the District of Columbia in 1862. For records of slave emancipations and manumissions from 1851 to 1863, see District of Columbia - Slavery and Bondage. Additional records on blacks are in the National Archives.

Foreign and domestic birthplaces of members of a nineteenth-century District of Columbia private association are identified in records of The Association of Oldest Inhabitants of the District of Columbia, which is deposited at The Historical Society of Washington, D.C. (MSS. 422) and has also been published:

  • Gart, Jeanne Brooks. "The Association of Oldest Inhabitants of the District of Columbia," National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 82, No. 4 (December 1994):292-295. FHL Book 973 B2ng

Passenger Lists[edit | edit source]

The port of entry in the District of Columbia was Georgetown, but most ship passengers whose official arrival records date from 1800 landed at Baltimore and Philadelphia. The Family History Library and the National Archives have passenger lists for Georgetown only for the years 1820 and 1821. FHL film 830234