A Review of the Declaration of Intention Database Now Online for Cook County, Illinois

cookconaturizationsIn September of 2008, The Circuit Court of Cook County announced that the Declarations of Intent (1906-1929) indexed database was going online. At that time there were approximately 140,000 records indexed and posted. I see that there are now about 150,000 records at the site! The database is updated weekly with the new data.

I did a search on the surname, Gfeller, as my Gfeller family immigrated to Cook County, settling in Orland before 1870. I knew I would I would not find record of Rudolph Gfeller, my great-grandfather, but thought I might come up with others by the name. And sure enough, I found two Gfellers who came in later, both filing their “first papers,” and one of them was from Bern, where my family came from. Now I wonder if there is a connection!

The following screen shot shows information of Elise Gfeller, from Bern, Switzerland:


The following is from the site:

The Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County Archives is home to more than 500,000 naturalization petitions covering the years 1871 to 1929. More than 400,000 of these records are Declarations of Intention, 1906-1929 which were usually the first papers to be filed by those who wished to become U.S. citizens…

This database of Declarations of Intention was created thanks to a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a division of the National Archives. Since the beginning of the project in November 2006, more than 150,000 Circuit Court records have been entered into the database, and we continue to enter more on an on-going basis.

Now search for your Cook County Ancestors’ information!

Thanks to my friend, Linda Petrasek, for pointing out this terrific site to me.

A Review of the New U.S. Chinese Immigration Case Files, 1883-1924 Posted at Ancestry.com

Again, continuing my review of Chinese immigration records recently posted at Ancestry.com, I am concentrating my efforts this evening on the U.S. Chinese Immigration Case Files, 1883-1924. The original files are from three sources:

  • The Western District Court of Texas at El Paso, 1892-1915
  • The INS District No. 4 Regional Office (Philadelphia), 1900-1923
  • San Francisco, California, ca. 1883-ca. 1916

The files came about because of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, banning the entry of Chinese laborers into the United States for the next ten years. The act also allowed the deportation of laborers who entered the U.S. illegally. Ten years later, in 1892, the Geary Act extended the exclusion act for another ten years, with further restrictions being placed on Chinese-Americans.

This database is made up of court case files dealing with these, as well as other strict immigration laws against the Chinese. The following details of each of the three sets of data is taken directly from the Ancestry.com website.

El Paso
Some Chinese immigrants traveled to Mexico, became citizens there, and then tried to enter the U.S. as Mexicans instead of Chinese. Others tried to enter the U.S. from Mexico, claiming that they were U.S. residents but had been visiting friends and family in Mexico. El Paso, Texas is one of the ports through which Chinese immigrants tried to pass.

The case files from El Paso are arranged numerically and consist of deportation orders, warrants, subpoenas, mittimuses, commitments, statements by Chinese defendants, appeal papers, orders for discharge, and bail bonds. Information provided in these records may include: name of defendant, address, birthplace, birth date, occupation, date of arrival into the U.S., and deportation date.

The case files from Philadelphia are arranged numerically and consist of documentation collected by INS inspectors while investigating the background of Chinese laborers and merchants trying to enter the U.S. Among these case files are the Special Census of Chinese conducted in 1905 and the investigation of Joseph H. Lee, an INS employee who was accused of smuggling Chinese immigrants into the U.S. Information provided in these records may include: name of individual; number of brothers and sisters; details about extended family members; and details about where from.

On the case file jackets some abbreviations may be written following the Chinese person’s surname. These abbreviations are translated as follows:

  • D.L. – departing laborer
  • D.M. – departing merchants
  • M.S. – minor son
  • N.B. – native born
  • R.L. – returning laborer
  • R.M. – returning merchant

San Francisco
The records from San Francisco consist of index cards. The images of these index cards are more or less arranged numerically by court case number, which is listed in the upper left-hand corner of each card (when present). The court name is often listed next to this number and may be written as an abbreviation. These can be translated as follows:

  • USDC NDC – U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
  • USCC NDC – U.S. Circuit Court for the Northern District of California
  • USDC NDNY – U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York

Information listed on the cards may include: name of petitioner, claimant or defendant; INS San Francisco District case file number and date of arrival in the U.S.; names and INS case file numbers for relatives and witnesses; and immigration case file numbers from other INS districts.

To get an idea of exactly what the documents looked like, I did a search on the name, Chang. A fuzzy search yielded 81 results, while an exact search produced only five., three from El Paso, and two from Philadelphia. Following is a screen shot of those search results:

Chinese files

Noting that the file of Far Tar Chang contained 13 pages, I proceeded to check out his entire file. I found that Far Tar’s name was variously spelled Chang, Chung, and Chong. The following image shows a rather ragged document (now in the file) seeming to show that he had some right to be in the United States. Note that the document includes his picture, address, age, occupation, height, eye color, complexion, and identifying marks – all great information for one’s family history.
Far Tar Chong certificate of residence

The following document shows his deportation. Hmmm. Looks like that first document didn’t give him any immunity from the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Far Tar Chong deportation

From the Ancestry.com website:

Source Information:
Ancestry.com. U.S. Chinese Immigration Case Files, 1883-1924 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2009. Original data:
Equity Case Files Relating to the Chinese Exclusion Acts from the Western District Court of Texas at El Paso, 1892-1915; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1610, 34 rolls); Records of District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Case Files of Chinese Immigrants from District No. 4 (Philadelphia) of the Immigration and Naturalization Series, 1895-1920; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1144, 51 rolls); Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Record Group 85; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Register of Federal Court Cases to Chinese American and Chinese Immigrants Arriving at or Departing from San Francisco, California, ca. 1883-ca. 1916 (National Archives Microfilm Publication A3381, 1 roll); Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Record Group 85; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Now, click on over to Ancestry.com and check out these files yourself.

Chinese Seamen Arriving at Philadelphia, PA 1900-1923 – Now at Ancestry.com

Continuing with my review of new Chinese arrival data found at Ancestry.com, this afternoon I spent some time checking out the “Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Chinese Arrivals, 1900-1923.”

According to the website, the database contains descriptive lists of Chinese seamen arriving at the port of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between 1900 and 1923. As of today, I find that the data posted thus far runs up to November of 1918. There is also data posted for July of 1896. So expect to see more data posted over time.

The data is made up of indexes, as well as digitized images of the Descriptive Lists themselves.

I did a search for the surname of “Chang.” The fuzzy search gave me 1,377 hits, while the exact search yielded 205. I found that the information located using the indexes can vary dramatically in that some of the documents were descriptive lists of arrivals (with a lot of information), while others might be items such as “Special Inquiry” documents dealing with deportation and the like.

Chinese Seamen descriptive list

With a little luck, the data on the site can yield:

  • Name
  • Occupation or rating
  • Age
  • Height
  • Physical marks
  • Where born
  • Where shipped and date
  • Ever been in the U.S.
  • Any papers showing right of entry to the U.S.
  • Time of residence in the U.S.
  • Signature
  • Other remarks
  • Port of arrival
  • Ship name
  • Date of arrival
  • The website states the source Information as follows:

    Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Chinese Arrivals, 1900-1923 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2007. Original data: Case Files of Chinese Immigrants from District No. 4 (Philadelphia) of the Immigration and Naturalization Series, 1895-1920; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1144, 51 rolls); Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Record Group 85; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

    Note that the records contained in this database originate from the same NARA microfilm rolls as the Case Files of Chinese Immigrants from Philadelphia.

    Ancestry’s Updated Chinese Exclusion Index Reviewed

    Promoted by Chris Lydiksen’s Ancestry.com “Chinese New Year Brings New Records” blog, I clicked over to Ancestry this afternoon to check out some of the new and updated Chinese-related databases at Ancestry.com.

    One of the databases is an updated index to the Chinese Exclusion case files of the New York District Office of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. The index is to over 18,500 persons – with the records dating from 1882-1960.

    I did a number of searches using this index. Searching on the name, Chang, I got 73 hits when doing an exact search. I got 515 hits doing the “fuzzy” search. Hmmm… That’s the reason I never do fuzzy searches unless forced into it.

    Following is a screen shot for the index entry of Achu Chang. Note that the “age” is that for Mr. Chang at his entry into New York in 1896 – not the document date.

    NY Chinese exclusion index

    The fields found in the index are the following:

    • Name
    • Alias
    • Gender
    • Birth Date
    • Birthplace
    • Age
    • Occupation
    • Occupation 2
    • Place of Origin
    • Address
    • Comments
    • Port & Entry Date
    • Port & Entry Date 2
    • Picture?
    • Interrogation?
    • Document Date
    • Case Description
    • Case Number(s)
    • Box

    The case files themselves are found at the Northeast Region (New York City) of the National Archives and Records Administration, 201 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014-4811. They document the entry into the U.S.A of Chinese aliens as well as the reentry of U.S. citizens of Chinese ancestry. The files were produced under Chinese Exclusion Acts passed by Congress between 1882 and 1930. They were repealed in 1943.

    According to a statement at Ancestry.com, “Most case files include correspondence, lists of related cases, transcripts of interrogations, and witness statements. Some files include birth certificates, coaching documents, family history forms, and marriage licenses, and photographs of individuals and families.”

    Try doing a search of the New York Chinese Exclusion Case files index at Ancestry.com.

    Database of Emigrants of Falköping, Sweden Online

    A new free website dealing with emigrants from Falbygden, Sweden is now available. Emigrant.se contains a list of found emigrants who were born in some of the 52 parishes in Falköping, Sweden (the area is called Falbygden). Most of them immigrated to United States. The published number is 2,505 and the list is growing. The emigrants’ names are published and sorted in the parish where they were born, as well as by birthdate.


    A database of the emigrants and the families in the old country and the new are in progress. The number is up in 25,000 individuals. They are in some way related to one or several emigrants or are one themselves.

    There is also information about the farms and history of Falköping on the Website. Note that my link is to the English translation of the site. Click on the Swedish flag and you’ll get the site in Swedish.

    According to Annelie Jonsson, researchers may also make contributions and ask for a search in the database which isn’t online.

    Many thanks to Annelie Jonsson of Falköping, Sweden for alerting me to this site.

    United States Ports Passenger Lists Now Available at Ancestry.com

    Ancestry.com has announced that it has added to its online service all readily available U.S. passenger lists from 1820 to 1960. Wow! This is a lot of data. I’m not surprised, as I spent days reviewing the immigration digital data sites at Ancestry.com for the Sept-Oct issue of the Net Family History section in the Genealogical Helper. I realized as I wrote the reviews that Ancestry.com had posted a lot more data than I previously knew about.

    “More than 100 Million Names on All Readily Available U.S. Passenger Lists from 1820 – 1960; Includes the Complete Ellis Island Collection, as well as Records from Over 100 Other U.S. Ports of Arrival.

    “PROVO, UTAH – November 9, 2006Ancestry.com, the world’s largest online family history resource, today announced that it has added to its online service all readily available U.S. passenger lists from 1820 to 1960. An estimated 85 percent of Americans have an immigrant ancestor included in the passenger list collection which covers the height of American immigration, making Ancestry.com the only source for the largest compilation of passenger list records available and fully searchable online. … The passenger list collection, which took more than three years to digitize and transcribe, celebrates the courage, hopes, fears and memories of more than 100 million passengers…

    “Until the completion of this project, U.S. passenger list records could only be found on microfilm or in limited selections online at various dispersed locations such as libraries and museums across the nation. For the first time, people can look to a single centralized source online to find all readily available passenger list records. More than 100 American ports of arrival are represented in the compilation including the entire collection of passenger list records (1892-1957) from Ellis Island, a historic landmark and icon of immigration. The collection also accounts for popular ports in Boston, Baltimore, New Orleans and the Angel Island receiving station in San Francisco.

    The Nanaimo Family History Society Passenger Lists Project

    The manifests of ships arriving at Canadian Ports listing passengers have been preserved on microfilm at Library and Archives Canada. The goal of the Nanaimo Family History Society is to index arrivals at Halifax and Quebec (Montreal is included in the Port of Quebec) from 1900 to about 1921 when the passenger lists were discontinued for a time in favor of the form 30A.

    Quebec Ports for the periods 2 Jul 1908 to 13 Oct 1910 has been completed and the index, made up of 284,365 listings from 586 ship arrivals, is shown at their website. The pages of the index are PDFs with a comprehensive “Names Starting With” page that allows quick access to all portions of the index.

    Hamburg Permits to Emigrate Have Been Filmed

    Permits to Emigrate (Reisepass Protokolle), applications for Permits or Passports of persons sailing from Hamburg to America, have been microfilmed for the years 1851 to 1929. The applications, indexed, required the physical description of the applicant, the former place of residence, and names of family members. In the Family History Library Catalog (www.familysearch.org), enter “Reisepasse Protokolle.” The 323 films are listed by number.
    From the January 2006 Immigrant Genealogical Society Newsletter