Maryland Emigration and Immigration

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Maryland Wiki Topics
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Beginning Research
Record Types
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How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Online Databases and 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.

National Archives and Records Administration[edit | edit source]

Maryland Ports in NARA Records[edit | edit source]

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]

Colonial Period[edit | edit source]

Most colonial ship records contain little information about the passengers. Generally the list of passengers was a partial list and included names of the most important men. Women and children were often not listed. Since the captains were not required to give their records to anyone, they kept the records themselves, destroyed the records, or did not keep any records. Most of the records that survive have been published.

British Immigrants[edit | edit source]

Maryland's early settlements and population centers clustered around rivers and other waterways that empty into the Chesapeake Bay. Its economy was heavily plantation-based and centered mostly on the cultivation of tobacco. Britain's need for cheap labor led to a rapid expansion of indentured servants, penal labor, and African slaves.[2]

White settlers in colonial Maryland were primarily from the British Isles. In 1660 many English immigrants began settling the Eastern Shore (east of Chesapeake Bay) in what is now Wicomico County. Nearly all British immigrants to colonial Maryland came either as servants or convicts. Maryland received more indentured servants than any other colony.

The earlier colonists settled along Maryland's rivers and bays, as these were the primary routes of transportation. By about 1740, English, Scottish, and Scotch-Irish immigrants began moving into the Appalachian section of western Maryland.

From 1611 to 1776, more than 50,000 English and Irish felons were sentenced to deportation to American colonies over the centuries. These include Irishmen who rebelled against Cromwell's army in 1649. The 1755 Census of Maryland reveals the distribution of transported convicts across the colony.

African Americans[edit | edit source]

Slave labor was introduced in the early decades of the seventeenth century when slaves from Barbados were imported to labor in the tobacco fields of southern Maryland. Vast numbers of Blacks were later shipped directly from Africa to the Chesapeake.

In the early years, the line between indentured servants and African slaves or laborers was fluid, and white and black laborers commonly lived and worked together, and formed unions. Mixed-race children born to white mothers were considered free by the principle of partus sequitur ventrem, by which children took the social status of their mothers, a principle of slave law that was adopted throughout the colonies, following Virginia in 1662. During the colonial era, families of free people of color were formed most often by unions of white women and African men. Many of the free black families migrated to Delaware, where land was cheaper.[2]

Influenced by a changing economy, revolutionary ideals, and preaching by ministers, numerous planters in Maryland freed their slaves in the 20 years after the Revolutionary War. Across the Upper South the free black population increased from less than 1% before the war to 14% by 1810. Compared to some other states, blacks were better established both before and after the civil war. Nearly half the black population was free before the war, and some had accumulated property. Half the population lived in cities.[2]

For many more sources on Maryland African Americans, see:

German Immigrants[edit | edit source]

The largest group of non-British persons in the colonial period were Rhineland Germans who were encouraged by Maryland officials to settle in the rich farm lands of western Maryland in the 1730s and 1740s. Many of these Germans came through Philadelphia. A few Dutch, Swedish, Huguenot, and Acadian refugee families also came to the colony.

Many of the customs lists and indexes include the birthplace or city of last permanent residence of German immigrants. This is because most Germans who came to Baltimore left from the port of Bremen, and the lists of ships arriving from Bremen often give this information.

  • See the additional records listed in the FamilySearch Catalog:

Other Cultural Groups[edit | edit source]

In the 1870s and 1880s virtually all immigrants were of German origin. In the post-1880 wave of immigration, large numbers of Germans continued to come to Maryland. They were joined by Poles, Bohemians, Lithuanians, Greeks, Jews (from Germany, Poland, and Russia), Czechs, Italians, and the Irish. Records pertaining to a variety of these groups can be found listed in the FamilySearch Catalog:

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 Databases and 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]

  • Migrations from Maryland began in the early years of the colony. Travelers generally followed the Cumberland Trail (Braddock's Road) that led west to Pittsburgh and from there to the Ohio River.
  • Many people also used the Great Trading Path, also called the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road, that led southwest along the Allegheny Ridge into the Shenandoah Valley and beyond.
  • Some Marylanders from Prince George's County went to the Carolinas.
  • A group of Catholics from St. Mary's County settled in Nelson County, Kentucky.
  • By the 1820s some wealthy young Marylanders were moving slaves from their home farms to open plantations in Mississippi and surrounding areas.


Henry C. Peden has published books on Marylanders who migrated to other parts of the country:

Articles have been published about Marylanders in Delaware, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, see: Genealogical Sources in Periodicals at The Maryland State Archives. See subtitles Marylanders in [STATE].

Maryland Migration Routes[edit | edit source]

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. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Maryland", in Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maryland, accessed 28 March 2021.