West Virginia Emigration and Immigration

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West Virginia Wiki Topics
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Beginning Research
Record Types
West Virginia Background
Cultural Groups
Local Research Resources

How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

West Virginia, 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. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was an important port of entry to West Virginia, but the major port between 1870 and 1915 was New York, where thousands of European immigrants boarded labor trains headed for the coal fields.

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 settlement of present-day West Virginia began in the mid-1700s, when Scotch-Irish and German settlers from Pennsylvania came to the area that is now Berkeley and Greenbriar counties.
  • Heavy settlement began in the 1760s after Indian claims had been settled. These pioneers were generally from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and other northern states and not from Virginia or other areas east of the mountains.
  • In the early and mid-1800s, many Germans and Irish came directly to West Virginia.
  • A few African Americans were brought to the region in the early years, but many more came after the Civil War to work in the coal mines.
  • In the late 1800s and early 1900s, large numbers of immigrants arrived from Ireland and from southern and eastern Europe, especially Hungary, Italy, and Poland.

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]

  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was an important port of entry to West Virginia, but the major port between 1870 and 1915 was New York, where thousands of European immigrants boarded labor trains headed for the coal fields.
  • Between 1910 and 1960, millions of Southerners left their home states of Tennessee, Kentucky, the Carolinas, Virginia and West Virginia. A large percentage of those leaving Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee went north for jobs in the industrial sector. Many West Virginians and Kentuckians migrated to the industrial cities of Ohio, for jobs in rubber and steel. [2]

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

The FamilySearch Library has additional sources listed in their catalog:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Genealogy", at USCIS, https://www.uscis.gov/records/genealogy, accessed 26 March 2021.
  2. "Hillbilly Highway", in Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillbilly_Highway, accessed 10 April 2021.

West Virginia Research Outline. Salt Lake City, Utah: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Family History Department, 1998, 2001.

NOTE: All of the information from the original research outline has been imported into this Wiki site and is being updated as time permits.