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Alien registration records are an excellent source of family history information on U.S. immigrants who were not naturalized citizens.
1917-1918 and 1940-1944
What are Alien Registration Records?:
Aliens (non-citizen residents) living in the United States were asked during two different historical periods to register with the U.S. Government.
World War I Alien Registration Records
Following the beginning of United States involvement in World War I, all resident aliens who had not been naturalized, were required, as a security measure, to register with the U.S. Marshal nearest their place of residence. A failure to register risked interment or possible deportation. This registration occurred between November 1917 and April 1918.
WWII Alien Registration Records, 1940-1944
The Alien Registration Act of 1940 (also known as the Smith Act) required the fingerprinting and registration of any alien age 14 and older living within or entering the United States. These records were completed from August 1, 1940 to March 31, 1944 and document over 5 million non-citizen residents of the United States during this period.
What Can I Learn From Alien Registration Records?:
1917-1918: The following information was generally collected:
- Full name (including maiden name for females)
- Current residence and length of residence
- Place of birth
- Spouse's name and residence
- Children's names, sex, and years of birth
- Parents' names (including maiden name for mother), birthdates, and birthplaces
- Names, dates of birth, and current residence of siblings
- Whether any male relatives serving in the military for/against US
- Whether registered for selective draft
- Previous military or government service
- Date of immigration, name of vessel and port of arrival
- Whether naturalized in another country
- Whether reported/registered with a consul since 1 June 1914
- Whether applied for naturalization or took out first papers; if yes, when and where
- Whether ever taken an oath of allegiance other than to the United States
- Whether ever arrested or detained on any charge
- Whether held a permit to enter a forbidden area
- Description of registrant
- Full set of fingerprints
1940-1944: The two-page Alien Registration Form (AR-2) asked for the following information:
- Name at time of entry to the US
- Other names used
- Date and place of birth
- Marital status
- Height & Weight
- Hair & Eye Color
- Date, port, vessel and class of admission of last arrival in US
- Date of first arrival in US
- Number of years in the US
- Usual occupation
- Present occupation
- Name, address and business of present employer
- Membership in clubs, organizations or societies
- Dates and nature of military or naval service
- Whether citizenship papers were filed and if so the date, place, and court
- Number of relatives living in the US
- Arrest record, including date, place and disposition
- Whether or not affiliated with a foreign government
- FingerprintNot all registrants provided all information.
Where Can I Get Alien Registration Records?:
WWI Alien Registration files are scattered, and the majority are no longer extant. Existing files can often be found in state archives and similar repositories. Existing WWI alien registration records for Kansas; Phoenix, Arizona (partial); and St. Paul, Minnesota can be searched online. Other alien registration records are available in offline repositories, such as the 1918 Minnesota Alien Registration records at the Iron Range Research Center in Chisholm, MN. Check with your local or state genealogial society to learn what WWI alien registration records might be available for your area of interest.
WWII Alien Registration (AR-2) files are available on microfilm from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and can be obtained through a Genealogy Immigration Records Request. Unless you have the actual alien registration number from an alien registration card in your family's possession, or from a passenger list or naturalization document, you will want to begin by requesting a Genealogy Index Search.
Important: Alien Registration Forms AR-2 are only available for A-numbers 1 million to 5 980 116, A6 100 000 to 6 132 126, A7 000 000 to 7 043 999, and A7 500 000 to 7 759 142.
If the subject of your request was born less than 100 years before the date of your request, you are generally required to provide documentary proof of death with your request. This might include a death certificate, a printed obituary, a photograph of the tombstone, or other document demonstrating that the subject of your request is deceased. Please submit copies of these documents, not originals, as they will not be returned.
Alien registration records (AR-2 forms) requested from USCIS cost $20.00, including shipping and photocopies. A genealogy index search is an additional $20.00. Please check the USCIS Genealogy Program for the most current pricing information.
What to Expect:
No two Alien Registration Records are alike, nor are specific answers or documents guaranteed to be in each case file. Not all aliens answered every question. Turn-around time to receive these records averages about three to five months, so prepare to be patient.