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* Ethnic background

An individual's ethnic background can usually be found on any of the documents listed below. If you have the minimum information required to find one of these documents, select the name of that document. The items in the list are ordered from most to least important. If you do not have the minimum information required, read the paragraph below this list.

Vital records

An individual's birthplace may sometimes indicate ethnicity. To find an individual's birthplace on a vital record, such as a death, divorce, or marriage certificate, you must at least know the individual's full name at the time of the event, the approximate year of the event, and the state or county of the event, depending on when the event took place.

Passenger lists

To find an individual's ethnicity on a passenger list, you must at least know the individual's full name and the approximate date of arrival. However, the more information you know, the better. For example, if you know the individual's nationality or the port of arrival, you will be able to narrow down your search.

Naturalization records

To find an individual's ethnicity on a naturalization record, you must at least know the individual's full name, approximate date of birth, and maybe the town where the individual lived at the time of naturalization, depending on when it took place. Earlier records may be in the town courthouse.

Census records

From 1790 to 1890, the census gave an indication of an individual's ethnicity. Beginning in 1900, the censuses left a blank line for people to fill in their ethnicity. To find an individual's ethnicity in census records before 1850, you must at least know the name of the head of household, the state, and the county in which the individual lived when the census was taken. To find an individual's ethnicity after 1850, you must at least know the individual's name, the state, and the county in which the individual lived. If you are using census records for 1870 or earlier, you can probably use an index that only requires the state and surname.

For a description of any of the records listed above, see the topic Genealogy dictionary.

To get help finding the minimum information required to locate any of the records listed above, select one of the following items:

Finding the minimum information for vital records

Finding the minimum information for passenger lists

Finding the minimum information for naturalization records

Finding the minimum information for census records

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