Friday, 7 November 2008

USA Immigration


I have no idea what information the authorities in the UK gather from immigrants today but, from my genealogy studies, I know what the USA gathered in the late 1800s and early 1900s and it seems incredibly detailed, much more detailed than I had thought.

Below is a copy of the Master's Declaration made on entry to Ellis Island, New York.

Masters Declaration

For those with poor eyes or who can't be bothered to enlarge the picture I've made a transcript:

"Affidavit of the Master or Commanding Officer or First or Second Officer

"I, W. Baxter, of the CALEDONIA, from Glasgow, do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare that I have caused the surgeon of said vessel sailing therewith, or the surgeon employed by the owners thereof, to make a physical and oral examination of each and all of the aliens named in the foregoing Lists or manifest Sheets, ? in number, and that from the report of said surgeon and from my own investigation, I believe that no one of said aliens is an idiot, or imbecile, or a feeble-minded person, or insane person, or a pauper, or is likely to become a public charge, or is afflicted with tuberculosis or with a loathsome or dangerous contagious disease, or is a person who has been convicted of, or who admits having committed a felony or other crime or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, or is a polygamist or one admitting belief in the practice of polygamy, or an anarchist, or under promise or agreement, express or implied, to perform labor in the United States, or a prostitute, or a woman or girl coming to the United States for the purpose of prostitution, or for any other immoral purpose, and that also, according to the best of my knowledge and belief, the information in said Lists or manifests concerning each of said aliens named therein is correct and true in every respect."

More information than this was actually recorded.  The specific details changed from year to year but I have records where, in addition to the checks above, the following information was taken:

"Name in Full
Age (Years and Months)
Married or Single
Calling or Occupation
Able to Read and/or Write
Nationality (Country of which citizen or subject)
Race or people
Last Residence (last permanent residence, Country and City or town)
Final destination (State City or Town)
Whether having a ticket to such final destination
By whom passage paid?
Whether in possession of $50, and if less, how much?
Whether ever before in the United states and, if so, when and where
Whether going to join a relative or friend, and if so, what relative or friend, and his name and complete address
Condition of mental and Physical health
Deformed or crippled, nature, length of time, and cause
Height, complexion, hair colour, eye colour, marks of identification"

If the authorities were so careful about who entered the country where did crime and prostitution in the USA come from? 

Was this an early version of a  database which holds lots of useless information?  Mind you I bet the Americans never left this database on a train.


As you'll have guessed I was struggling for a post today.


  1. Interested that you are a genealogist - me too!

  2. I find that interesting too. They were very keen to keep out the wrong sort, weren't they?