USCIS Webinars – A Great Genealogical Resource by Marlis Humphrey

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) hosts a free monthly webinar for genealogists and historians. Topics include: available historical records, useful aids and procedures for requesting records at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) or from the USCIS, historical immigration and nationality records created by the legacy Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), and records found today either at NARA or the USCIS.

Five records series useful to searching immigrant ancestors, are available directly through USCIS:

  • Naturalization Certificate Files (C-Files), September 27, 1906 to March 31, 1956
  • Alien Registration Forms (Form AR-2), August 1940 to March 1944
  • Visa Files, July 1, 1924 to March 31, 1944
  • Registry Files, March 1929 to March 31, 1944
  • A-Files (Immigrant Files), April 1, 1944 to May 1, 1951

There is a lot of helpful information on the USCIS website. The USCIS Research Guide gives information for researching individuals based on their arrival date. The USCIS Genealogy FAQ answers questions such as, “Where can I find naturalization records from before Sept. 27, 1906?”. The webinars are an important resource in addition to simply reading the web pages. The webinars provide easy to understand explanations of the nuances of searching for immigration records, many illustrative examples, and the opportunity to have your individual questions answered by the USCIS experts.

The past March 21st webinar, “Fact, Fiction, and Immigration Passenger Lists”, by Marian Smith, Senior Historian at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, was about understanding passenger list arrival records. Marian discussed the availability of such records (what survived, how complete), how they were created (by whom, how, and where), and how assumptions we make can help or hinder research success. This information is essential to having a successful Passenger List search. The webinar was not recorded and the handout was only available during the webinar. However, we did ask and receive permission to share the excellent handout with our JGSGO members. You can find the hand out for this webinar in the member’s only section of the JGSGO website.

Increase the success of your immigration record searches. Check the schedule of upcoming USCIS Webinars and subscribe to the USCIS news and email updates for Genealogy content .