During our discussion of immigration and naturalization records at our last Genealogy Networking Group meeting, we also touched on Alien Registration records. Those of us with immigrant ancestors who had not become citizens by 1940 or who entered the United States during the war will want to look into these little known but information rich records.
By law (The Alien Registration Act of 1940), anyone who lived in the United States but was not a citizen in 1940 (and later) was required to fill out an Alien Registration Form, also known as the AR-2. The questions on these forms included information about place and date of birth, immigration, and employment. Read all about the AR-2 forms on microfilm. The AR-2 forms and their associated files are now curated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Requesting an ancestor’s AR-2 record is a two-step process and will cost some money (nobody ever said that genealogy was cheap!). First, you must submit an Index Search Request in order to get the A-number. All of the AR-2 records are arranged by this number, so knowing the number will make sure that the USCIS is searching for the right person. Click on the mustard-colored “Order Search/Record Here” button for the index search form.
Also, using the A-number in your request may yield additional information beyond the AR-2 form. If your ancestor had any further dealings with the federal government after April 1944 (such as a law enforcement case, a petition for an immigrant relative, or a request for replacing a lost alien registration card) the additional documentation created makes up what is called the “A-File” for your ancestor. So search the Index first to get all the information there is. Once you have the AR number, the second step is to a record request and hopefully receive a gold mine of information.
The goal in doing a thorough search for an ancestor’s immigration and naturalization records is to find information that will lead you back to your ancestor’s home village or parish in the country they left behind. The AR-2 form and files associated with it should not be overlooked.
For additional information:
– The A-Files: Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors by Elizabeth Burnes and Marisa Louie, Prologue magazine, Spring 2013.
– Alien Registration records on Rootsweb.
– Alien Registration records on about.com, including information on the lesser-known alien registration during World War I.