National Archives at Philadelphia

Family History

The National Archives at Philadelphia offers many records useful anyone researching their family history. Below is an overview of some of our most popular genealogy holdings at the National Archives at Philadelphia. These are just highlights of our vast holdings. Feel free to contact our reference staff for more information about our records, of if you have any questions.

 

Selected finding aids, including our Guide to Archival Holdings at the National Archives at Philadelphia, are available on our website. For any questions about our holdings, or to learn more, please contact our staff. More information about researching family history can be found through Genealogy.


Naturalization Records

Naturalization is the process by which an immigrant becomes an American citizen. Upon meeting residency requirements, immigrants petition the courts for citizenship and take an oath of allegiance. Under former laws, immigrants could petition for citizenship in Federal, state, or county courts.

Depending on the year in which they were filed, naturalization records can provide a researcher with information such as a person's birth date and location, occupation, immigration year, marital status and spouse information, witnesses' names and addresses, and more. Early naturalization records, from the 1790 through 1906, only typically provide an immigrant's name and country of origin. In 1906, Congress established the U.S. Naturalization Service by the Basic Naturalization Act of 1906 (34 Stat. 596), which standardized the naturalization process requiring more detail on the naturalization forms.

 

The National Archives at Philadelphia has the Declarations of Intention and Petitions for Naturalization for the Federal courts in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia for the following time periods:

State District Division Petitions Declarations
Delaware Delaware Wilmington 1802-1991 1817-1990
Maryland Maryland Baltimore 1903-1972 1836-1840 and 1906-1967
Pennsylvania Eastern Philadelphia 1795-1991 1795-1967
  Middle Harrisburg 1906-1912 1901-1916
    Scranton 1900-1991 1901-1979
    Wilkes-Barre 1943-1990 1901-1979
    Williamsport 1906-1912 1908-1911
  Western  Erie 1940-1972 1940-1952
    Pittsburgh 1820-1990 1820-1972
Virginia Eastern Alexandria 1909-1981 1911-1973
    Norfolk 1838-1991 1838-1991
    Richmond 1851-1991 1855-1960
  Western Abingdon 1913-1991 1909-1979
    Big Stone Gap 1914-1944 1912-1949
    Charlottesville 1910-1991 1908-1991
    Danville 1908-1961 1907-1966
    Harrisonburg 1914-1991 1912-1977
    Lynchburg 1909-1991 1907-1929
    Roanoke 1909-1991 1907-1987
    Staunton - 1844-1856
West Virginia Northern Clarksburg 1904-1952 1908-1952
    Elkins / Philippi 1910-1980 1909-1985
    Fairmont 1944-1974 1942-1974
    Wheeling 1844-1978 1907-1989
  Southern Charleston 1906-1929 1906-1952

Dates indicate overall time span of discrete series of Federal Court (both United States District and Circuit Courts) naturalization records in our custody. There are some chronological gaps and incomplete files. In addition to the above-listed numerically arranged declarations of intention and petitions for naturalization, other types of often complex naturalization records exist and may be examined in our Archival Research Room. Please contact our staff for further information, or to schedule an appointment for research. For Federal court records not yet in our custody, contact the Clerk of the Court for that Federal court.

Please note that in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries an immigrant could apply for naturalization in any court: city, county, state, or federal. The naturalization records are held by each court or their repository. The National Archives only holds records for Federal courts. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service), 425 I Street NW., Washington, DC 20536, telephone 800-375-5283 has duplicate copies of naturalization petitions created after September 26, 1906 in all Federal, county, and municipal courts. Most inquiries about post-1991 naturalization records must be directed to USCIS, as the National Archives generally has such records only through 1991.

For more information about naturalization records and the process by which immigrants were naturalized check out Naturalization Records, which offers links to a variety of helpful resources.

How to Order

Researchers can submit a request copies of naturalization records by telephone, email, fax (see Contact Our Staff for further information), or through our online ordering system.

If you choose to submit your request by email or fax, please include the following with your correspondence: name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address. Please also include the name of the naturalized citizen, court or city where the naturalization occurred, approximate date of the naturalization or immigration, country or place of birth, date of birth, name of spouse, and names of children. Our staff will search our naturalization indexes and respond to your inquiry to let you know whether or not your ancestor was found in our index, and will either provide you with payment and delivery information or recommendations for further research.


Census Records

Federal Population Census Schedules

The Constitution requires that the Federal Government count the population every ten years to determine the number of Representatives each state sends to Congress. Census records provide basic facts about your ancestors and reveal clues to finding other records in the National Archives. Early censuses provide the name of the head of the household and the number of occupants. Later censuses reveal the names of each family member as well as age, marital status, occupation, state or country of birth, year of immigration, and year of naturalization.

The National Archives at Philadelphia facility provides online access to the Federal population censuses for all states from 1790 to 1930 (though nearly all of the 1890 schedules were destroyed by fire in 1921) through our digitization partners Ancestry.com, Familysearch.org, and Fold3.com. We also provide online access to the Federal population censuses for all states from 1940 through a partnership with Archives.com on the Official 1940 Census Website. This website allows you full access to the 1940 census images, in addition to 1940 census maps and descriptions.

Other Census Schedules

We also maintain certain non-population and other special schedules taken for various years on microfilm, a list of which we have compiled below:

Microfilm Publications of Non-Population Census Schedules Available for Review in the National Archives at Philadelphia Public Access Reference Room

Microfilm Publication Number Date(s) Title

M279

1820 Census of Manufacturers
M1795 1880 District of Columbia Non-population Census
M1793 1850-1870 District of Columbia Non-population Census and Non-population Census, Wooster County, Maryland
M1810 1850-1880 New Jersey Non-population Census (Mortality)
T1138 1850-1880 Pennsylvania Agriculture Census
T1157 1850-1860 Pennsylvania Manufactures Census
M1796 1870-1880 Pennsylvania Industry and Manufacturing Census
M1838 1850-1880 Pennsylvania Mortality Census
M1798 1850-1870 Vermont Agriculture and Industry Census
T1132 1850-1880 Virginia Non-population Agriculture, Industry, Mortality, and Social Statistics Census
M1871 1929 Alaska Non-population Census (Agriculture)
M1891 1917, 1930 U.S. Virgin Islands Non-population Census (Agriculture)
M1896 1930 Puerto Rico Non-population Census (Non-farm Livestock)
M1874 1930 American Samoa Non-population Census (Agriculture)
M597 1850-1880 Federal Non-population Census Schedules in Custody of Pennsylvania State Library

Census Records after 1940

Census Records after 1940 are not available through the National Archives. However, you may be able to access certain records for specific legal reasons through the U.S. Census Bureau. Please see the U.S. Census FactFinder (the section on Access to Closed Records) for more information. For any questions contact the U.S. Census Bureau directly.
For more information, feel free to review our page on Census Records and check out the many different articles written about the Census from NARA’s Prologue Magazine.

How to Order

Please note that the National Archives at Philadelphia does not undertake searches or produce reproductions of census records. If you need to order reproductions of these records, you can submit your order through our online ordering system or by mailing a completed NATF-082 form to the Archival Operations at the National Archives in Washington, DC.


Ship's Passenger Lists

In an effort to protect immigrants and encourage travel to the United States, the Federal Government required passenger lists beginning in 1820. Since then, over 55 million people have immigrated to the U.S. These immigration records can provide genealogical information including:

  • a person's nationality, place of birth
  • ship name and date of entry to the United States
  • age, height, eye and hair color
  • profession
  • place of last residence
  • name and address of relatives they are joining in the U.S.
  • amount of money they are carrying, etc.

The National Archives at Philadelphia provides access to the ship's passenger lists for numerous ports, including Baltimore, Maryland, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and New York, New York. All of these microfilmed records have been digitized by our digitization partners and are now available online through Ancestry and FamilySearch. We have compiled a list of all microfilmed passenger arrival records that have been digitized by the partners below:

Passenger Arrival Records Held at the National Archives at Philadelphia that have been Digitized by Partners and are Available Online*

Port

Microfilm Publication No.

Microfilm Publication Title

Partner

RG

Baltimore, Maryland

T844

Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Baltimore, MD, 1891--1909.

Ancestry.com

85

 

T844

Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Baltimore, MD, 1891--1909.

FamilySearch.org

85

 

M1477

Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Baltimore, MD, 1954-1957.

Ancestry.com

85

 

M1477

Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Baltimore, MD, 1954-1957.

FamilySearch.org

85

 

M327

Index (Soundex) to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Baltimore, MD (Federal Passenger Lists), 1820--1897.

FamilySearch.org

36

 

M255

Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Baltimore, MD, 1820--1891.

Ancestry.com

36

 

M255

Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Baltimore, MD, 1820--1891.

FamilySearch.org

36

 

M596

Quarterly Abstracts of Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Baltimore, MD, 1820--1869.

Ancestry.com

36

 

M596

Quarterly Abstracts of Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Baltimore, MD, 1820--1869.

FamilySearch.org

36

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

M360

Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, PA, 1800--1906.

FamilySearch.org

36

 

M425

Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, PA, 1800--1882.

Ancestry.com

36

 

M425

Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, PA, 1800--1882.

FamilySearch.org

36

 

T526

Index (Soundex) to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, PA, January 1, 1883--June 28, 1948.

FamilySearch.org

85

 

T791

Book Indexes to Philadelphia Passenger Lists, 1906--1926.

Not digitized. Microform Publication available for review in our Public Access Research Room.

85

 

T840

Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, PA, 1883--1945.

Ancestry.com

85

 

T840

Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, PA, 1883--1945.

FamilySearch.org

85

New York, New York

T519

Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, NY, June 16, 1897--June 30, 1902.

FamilySearch.org

85

 

T621

Index (Soundex) to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, NY, July 1, 1902--December 31, 1943.

FamilySearch.org

85

 

T612

Book Indexes to New York Passenger Lists, 1906--1942.

FamilySearch.org

85

 

T715

Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, NY, 1897--1957.

Ancestry.com

85

 

T715

Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, NY, 1897--1957.

FamilySearch.org

85

 

T715

Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, NY, 1897--1957.

FamilySearch.org

85

 

M1417

Index (Soundex) to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at the Port of New York, 1944-48.

FamilySearch.org

36

 

M261

Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, NY, 1820--1846.

FamilySearch.org

36

 

M237

Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, NY, 1820--1897.

Ancestry.com

36

 

M237

Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, NY, 1820--1897.

Ancestry.com

36

 

M237

Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, NY, 1820--1897.

FamilySearch.org

36

 

M1066

Registers of Vessels Arriving at the Port of New York from Foreign Ports, 1789--1919.

Not digitized. Contact the National Archives at New York for further research.

36

Atlantic and Gulf Ports

M334

A Supplemental Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Atlantic and Gulf Coast Ports (Excluding New York), 1820--1874.

FamilySearch.org

36

* Please note that the list above only consists of passenger arrival records from the ports of Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia that have been microfilmed and digitized. For information about other passenger arrival records, please contact our staff. You can see a complete list of passenger arrival microfilm available at the National Archives on Immigration Records. Also note that not all of the microfilm on the complete list is available at our facility. Please contact our staff to confirm whether or not we have specific NARA Microform Publications.

You can learn more about Microfilm Publications and original records that have been digitized by our digitization partners and are available online by checking out Microfilm Publications and Original Records Digitized by Our Digitization Partners.

Additional Information:

It can be useful to research other genealogy sources to aid your search for passenger arrival records. Naturalization records, for example, particularly after 1906, can contain specific details of a person's legal entry into the U.S. -- the exact date and means (ship name, for example) of arrival. Census records often show year of immigration.

Please see Research in Immigration Records for more information on passenger arrival records.

How to Order

Please note that the National Archives at Philadelphia does not undertake searches in these records on behalf of patrons. If you need to order reproductions of these records, you can submit your order through our online ordering system or by mailing a completed NATF-081 form to the Archival Operations at the National Archives in Washington, DC.


Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files

Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files are a valuable resource for the study of Chinese immigration and Chinese-American travel, trade, and social and family history from the late-19th to mid-20th century.

A typical Chinese Exclusion Act case file contains information such as the subject's name, place and date of birth, physical appearance, occupation, names and relationships of other family members, and family history.

Materials in the files may include:

  • Applications
  • Certificates of identity and residency
  • Correspondence
  • INS findings, recommendations, and decisions
  • Maps of immigrant family residences and villages in China
  • Original marriage certificates
  • Individual and family photographs
  • Transcripts of INS interrogations and special boards of inquiry
  • Witness statements and affidavits

The National Archives at Philadelphia holds Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files of District 4, headquartered in Philadelphia, of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. These records were reproduced in NARA Microform Publication M1144 and have since been digitized by our digitization partners and are now available online through Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.

Please note, Privacy Act restrictions may apply to some cases. For more information go to Chinese Immigration and the Chinese in the United States.

Reference Information Paper 99, 1996: Records in the Regional Archives of the National Archives and Records Administration.


Draft and Military Service Records

Most of the National Archives' military records are maintained by other locations. Additional information can be found on our Research in Military Records page.

Records of the Office of the Provost Marshall General's Bureau (Civil War) for Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia are available to view by appointment. These records consist mostly of volumes pertaining to recruitment, retention, and drafting of individuals for military service by the Federal government beginning in 1863. The records are arranged by state and thereunder by draft board. Researchers can consult the National Archives Catalog or contact our reference staff for more information about our records of the Office of the Provost Marshall General's Bureau (Civil War).


Feel free to contact our reference staff for more information about our records, of if you have any questions.

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