Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Chicagoland

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Arrival Records

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
Ship Arrivals

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Naturalization records contain a treasuretrove of information for the genealogist. Naturalization records go back to 1871 in Chicago and a soundex index of all naturalizations for Chicago, Cook County, and some portions of Indiana and Wisconsin exist for 1871-1950. The index contains the name of applicant, address, court where naturalized, and certificate number, country of origin, birth date, date and port of arrival in United States, date of naturalization, and names of witnesses. This index can be accessed at:

Once you have found your ancestor on the index, you can proceed with obtaining his/her full naturalization file including the "Declaration of Intention" (also called first papers) and "Petition for Admission to Citizenship" (also called final papers). Early naturalization files (before about 1900) contained very little information, usually just the applicant's name, country of origin, court where naturalized and certificate number, date of naturalization, and name of witnesses. It may be difficult to even verify that this file belongs to your family member.

In 1906 the federal government established standards for these papers, which included many valuable details including complexion, height, weight, place born and date, address, arrival date in United States with ship, port, where departed from, last foreign residence, name of wife, birth date/place of wife, names of children with birth dates and places, and witnesses. There are two places to obtain these records for Chicago naturalizations:

National Archives (NARA): District court (Federal)
Office of Circuit Court of Cook County: Superior, Circuit, County and Criminal Courts

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Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) in Chicago was founded in 1911. Unfortunately all of its historic records have been lost over the years. The only records that still exist are current era (1979-present) records. The only possibility to find some information here would be if your family traveled via New York City and possibly was helped by the HIAS in New York City. They can be reached by phone at 212-967-4100 or at

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Ship Arrivals

Ship arrival records represent a vital link in tracing our family histories. The ship manifests contain complete list of all passengers on board including the following information: name, age, sex, whether married or single, calling or occupation, whether able to read or write, nationality, race or people, last permanent residence, name and address of nearest relative or friend in country from which alien came, final destination, who paid passage, name and address of person to whom the immigrant will be going, whether an anarchist, whether ever been in prison, whether a polygamist, condition of health, and place of birth. 

The ship arrival records have all been microfilmed by the National Archives and are organized by port and then sequentially by year for each ship. These lists were first recorded starting in 1819 and were know as Custom Passenger Lists. The most complete set of indexes and lists in this area can be found at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which is about a three hour drive from Chicago. In addition, all microfilms can always be ordered from the Family History Library (Mormon) in Salt Lake City via the local Family History Centers (FHCs) here in Chicagoland. Below you will find a list of the resources available.

Before plunging into your search for the immigrant ancestor's record, the following should be considered. Remember that when your ancestor boarded the ship, he or she was known by his/her name in the country of origin. The Jews of Eastern Europe usually used their Yiddish names on the manifest and you should search for them by this given name. Search multiple ports too unless you have hard evidence that they arrived at specific port. Just because they were headed to Baltimore does not mean they went there non-stop. They went whatever way was possible and affordable.


Luckily many of the arrivals were indexed using either soundex or alphabetical methods. Below you will find where to find these indexes by port and year.


Soundex 1820-1897, 1833-1866, 1897-1952 (Allen County Public Library)
1897-July 1952 (NARA)
Index to State Dept Transcripts 1820-1897 (Harold Washington Library)


Index 1848-1891 (Allen County Public Library)  
Soundex 1902-1906; 1906-1920 (NARA)
Index to State Dept Transcripts 1848-1891  (Harold Washington Library)


Soundex 1906-1954 (NARA)

Galveston, Texas:

Soundex 1896-1906; 1906-1951 (NARA)

New Orleans

Indexes pre-1900, 1900-1952  (Allen County Public Library)
Soundex 1853-1899; 1900-1952 (NARA)

New York  

Indexes 1820-1846, 1897-1902, Soundex index 1902-43 (Allen County Library) 
Soundex 1820-1846; 1846-1897; 1897-1902; 1902-1943 (NARA)
Soundex 1902-1943 print small & hard to read (Newberry Library)


Index 1800-1906, Soundex index 1883-1948 (Allen County Library)
Index to State Dept Transcripts 1800-1906  (Harold Washington Library)

Minor U.S. Ports:

Indexes for 68 minor ports 1820-1954 (Allen County Library)
Index to misc. Atlantic and Gulf coast ports 1820-1874  (Allen County Library)
Index to AL, FL, GA, and SC lists 1890-1924  (Allen County Library)

Canadian border entries, St. Albans, Vermont:

Soundex 1895-1924 and 1924-1952  (Allen County Library) 
Soundex 1895-1924 (NARA)   

Ship Manifests

Once you have found your family member on the Index, you can proceed to search on the detailed lists. Remember that since we have a limited number of ship manifests available in Chicagoland, you can order the manifest via your local Family History Center.


Lists 1820-1909 (Allen County Library)
Lists 1820-1891(Arlington Height Library)


Lists 1820-1943 (Allen County Library)  
Lists 1820-1891 (Arlington Height Library)


Galveston, Texas: 

New Orleans: 

Lists 1820-1902  (Allen County Library)  
Lists 1820-1875  (Arlington Heights Library)

New York: 

Lists 1820-1904  (Allen County Library)  
Lists 1820-1897  (Arlington Heights Library)
Lists 1846-1897 


Lists 1800-1945 (Allen County Library)
Lists 1800-1882 (Arlington Heights Library)

Minor U.S. Ports:

Lists for 68 minor ports 1820-1954 (Allen County Library)  
Miscellaneous Atlantic and Gulf ports 1820-1873 (Arlington Heights Library)


Many books serve as compilations of information based on where the immigrant originated or based on ethnicity. These resources can be found in following locations:

Allen County Public Library

Filby’s Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. 
German immigrants…from Bremen to New York 1847-1867.  
Germans to America 1850-1893. (in progress)

Newberry Library

Germans to America, 1850-1897 (ongoing).  Ed. Ira A. Glazier et al.  Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1988-.  Call # E184.G3 G38 1988 (2nd floor open shelf). 

The publishers have issued a second series of Germans to America, covering the 1840s.  The Newberry has volumes 1-4 (Jan. 1840-Oct. 1848) of this series.  Call # E184.G3 G39 (2nd floor open shelf).

Migration from the Russian Empire: Lists of Passengers Arriving at the Port of New York, 1875-1891
.  Ed. Ira A. Glazier.  Call # E184.R9 M54 1995 (2nd floor open shelf). 

Moser, Geraldine.  Hamburg Passengers from the Kingdom of Poland and the Russian Empire: Indirect Passage to New York, 1855-June 1873.  Landsmen Press, 1996.  Call # folio E184.J5 M667 1996.  Names are listed alphabetically and by date. 

Sack, Sallyann Amdur.  The Russian Consular Records Index and Catalog.  New York: Garland, 1987.  Call # CS856.J4 S23 1987 (2nd floor open shelf).  Indexes immigration, passport, visa, and related consular records of Russian citizens, primarily between 1917-1926.

Filby, P. William with Mary K. Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index,  plus supplement volumes (Call # CS68.P636, 2nd floor open shelf).  Indexes published passenger lists (from journals, books, articles) and other immigration-related records only.  Note the code number in bold after the passenger's name.  This code refers to the published item cited in the front of the volumes, many of which are available at the Newberry.

Moser, Geraldine.  Hamburg Passengers from the Kingdom of Poland and the Russian Empire: Indirect Passage to New York, 1855-June 1873.  Landsmen Press, 1996.  Call # folio E184.J5 M667 1996.  Names are listed alphabetically and by date.

Morton Allan Directory of European Steamship Arrivals for the Years 1890-1930 at the Port of New York and for the Years 1904-1926 at the Ports of New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore
.  New York: Immigration Information Bureau, 1931.  Call # HE945.A2 M678 1931 (2nd floor open shelf).  Ships are listed by year, ship line, and date of arrival. 

Spertus Library

Zimmerman, Gary J., German immigrants, lists of passengers bound from Bremen to New York [dates], with places of origin.

On-Line Resources

Although on-line resources are not strictly Chicagoland resources, we will just touch on them briefly here. Most of the Jewish immigrants who found their way to Chicago entered the United States at the Port of New York City and Ellis Island.

Ellis Island: 1850-1891 arrivals's every-name index to passengers arriving in the Port of New York prior to the creation of Ellis Island is now complete for 1850-1891. (except for the years 1871-74) The fee-for-service index is at

Ellis Island: 1892-1924 arrivals

The Ellis Island Foundation has digitized over 24 million arrival records and made it available free to the public via its website. We recommend you use the Steve Morse one-step search tools to aid your search.

Hamburg departures: 1890-1906

Hamburg, Germany was a major port from which about 40% of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe made their way to the United States.

The Hamburg State archive can now offer a database  (over 2 million individuals) with Emigration Lists of Hamburg (click on "Search Now"). The database will continue to grow, until the data of all emigrants are available, initially of the years 1890 to 1914, and finally of all years between 1850 and 1934. Currently only 1890 to 1905 are available.

There are fees for the searches and all of the information can be found on their  website at: - English | Link to your Roots and Family History

Bremen departures: 1920-1939

A project is in process to digitize Bremen departures 1920-1939.

The following lists have been acquired up to now:
those from 1920-1926 completely,
those from 1927/28 partly,
one list from 1930 is included already.

The website can be accessed at:

Internet Sources for Transcribed Passenger Records & Indexes





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Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Chicagoland 
Copyright © 2004-2016 by Mike Karsen

Last update:26 July 2016