Iowa Emigration and Immigration

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Beginning Research
Record Types
Iowa Background
Cultural Groups
Local Research Resources

How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Iowa, being entirely inland, has no seaports. Immigrants would have initially arrived at a port on the coast. To search those records, see United States Immigration Online Genealogy Records.

  • Until 1850, most overseas immigrants came through the ports of New Orleans or New York. After 1850. most European settlers came through ports in New York or Canada.

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Cultural Groups[edit | edit source]

Passport Records Online[edit | edit source]

Offices to Contact[edit | edit source]

Although many records are included in the online records listed above, there are other records available through these archives and offices. For example, there are many minor ports that have not yet been digitized. There are also records for more recent time periods. For privacy reasons, some records can only be accessed after providing proof that your ancestor is now deceased.

U.S. Citizenship and and Immigration Services Genealogy Program[edit | edit source]

The USCIS Genealogy Program is a fee-for-service program that provides researchers with timely access to historical immigration and naturalization records of deceased immigrants. If the immigrant was born less than 100 years ago, you will also need to provide proof of his/her death.

Immigration Records Available[edit | edit source]
  • A-Files: 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.
  • Alien Registration Forms (AR-2s): 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.
  • Registry Files: 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.
  • Visa Files: Visa Files are original arrival records of immigrants admitted for permanent residence under provisions of the Immigration Act of 1924.[1]
Requesting a Record[edit | edit source]

Finding Town of Origin[edit | edit source]

Records in the countries emigrated from are kept on the local level. You must first identify the name of the town where your ancestors lived to access those records. If you do not yet know the name of the town of your ancestor's birth, there are well-known strategies for a thorough hunt for it.

Background[edit | edit source]

The principal groups that came to Iowa from the early 1800s to the early 1900s were:

1788-1810
The first European settlers in Iowa were French-Canadians, who worked in the lead mines near present-day Dubuque. [2]

1833–50
The Black Hawk Treaty of 1833 opened most of Iowa to white settlement. Southern Iowa immigration began as the American government negotiated treaties extinguishing the remaining Indian claims. Settlers came from other states, particularly Kentucky and Tennessee. Northern Iowa immigration came primarily from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and the Middle Atlantic and New England states.

1850–60
The population of Iowa nearly tripled. Ohio and Indiana contributed more settlers than all other states and immigration from Europe increased. Among the many German immigrants were the Amana colonists, who settled in Iowa in 1855 after having first lived near Buffalo, New York. Many immigrants arrived from Britain and Ireland.

Late 1800
Many Scandinavians immigrated. [3]

Early 1900s
Small groups of Austro-Hungarians and Italians arrived.

Immigration Records[edit | edit source]

Immigration refers to people coming into a country. Emigration refers to people leaving a country to go to another. Immigration records usually take the form of ship's passenger lists collected at the port of entry. See Online Resources.

What can I find in them?[edit | edit source]

Information in Passenger Lists[edit | edit source]

  • Before 1820 - Passenger lists before 1820 included name, departure information and arrival details. The names of wives and children were often not included.
  • 1820-1891 - Customs Passenger Lists between 1820 and 1891 asked for each immigrant’s name, their age, their sex, their occupation, and their country of origin, but not the city or town of origin.
  • 1891-1954 - Information given on passenger lists from 1891 to 1954 included:
    • name, age, sex,
    • nationality, occupation, marital status,
    • last residence, final destination in the U.S.,
    • whether they had been to the U.S. before (and if so, when, where and how long),
    • if joining a relative, who this person was, where they lived, and their relationship,
    • whether able to read and write,
    • whether in possession of a train ticket to their final destination, who paid for the passage,
    • amount of money the immigrant had in their possession,
    • whether the passenger had ever been in prison, a poorhouse, or in an institution for the insane,
    • whether the passenger was a polygamist,
    • and immigrant's state of health.
  • 1906-- - In 1906, the physical description and place of birth were included, and a year later, the name and address of the passenger’s closest living relative in the country of origin was included.

Information in Passports[edit | edit source]

Over the years, passports and passport applications contained different amounts of information about the passport applicant. The first passports that are available begin in 1795. These usually contained the individual's name, description of individual, and age. More information was required on later passport applications, such as:

  • Birthplace
  • Birth date
  • Naturalization information
  • Arrival information, if foreign born

In-country Migration[edit | edit source]

  • Many early settlers of Iowa came by way of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The main steamboat route from the Middle Atlantic states and the Southern states followed the Ohio River and the Mississippi River to Keokuk.
  • Many of the migrants into Iowa did not stay long. Some left for the gold rush, Others went to lands in the West.
  • The westward migration of Latter-day Saints opened an overland trail from the Mississippi River to Council Bluffs which was still used by covered wagons long after the railroad first reached the Mississippi in 1854. [4]
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The usage of "Mormon" and "LDS" on this page is approved according to current policy.


Iowa Migration Routes[edit | edit source]

Iowa's rivers provided transportation routes bringing European traders, trappers and explorers like the Frenchmen, Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet in 1673.

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Genealogy", at USCIS, https://www.uscis.gov/records/genealogy, accessed 26 March 2021.
  2. Lead and Zinc Mining in the Dubuque Area
  3. Chapters on Scandinavian immigration to Iowa George T. (Tobias) Flom. (Iowa City: Iowa:The State Historical Society of Iowa. Reprinted from Iowa Journal of History and politics for 1905-6). 150 p. FHL Film 989450 Item 7
  4. Mormon handcart story by Gustive Olaf Larson. (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book, c1956) FHL Book 979.2 H2Lm

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