When you are researching immigrants during the Civil War time period, Record Group 110 (RG 110), Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau (Civil War), may be a good source of information. For the most part, RG 110 records about aliens are lists related to enlistment and exemption of alien residents. And you need to keep in mind that the states covered and types of lists available will vary.
This post will share three examples of RG 110 records available in Kansas City as a means of conveying the kinds of documents you may find across the National Archives.
The first series we will look at is “Lists of Aliens Residing in Various Counties, 1861-1866,” which were created in Iowa. The information recorded includes the name of the county, the townships included in the county, and the names of the aliens residing in each. The lists are arranged alphabetically by county, and there is no name index. This means researchers need to talk directly to archives staff to search within the records. Locating a name in these lists indicates that the individual had not yet obtained U.S. citizenship at the time the list was created.
An interesting side note: occasionally during the Civil War time period, Federal courts also kept registers of aliens. For example, the court for Detroit, MI, (whose records are maintained at the National Archives at Chicago) kept Registers of Aliens from 1837-1906.
Exemption lists are another good source of information about aliens during the Civil War time period. The series “Exemption Lists and Related Papers, 1863-1865,” from Missouri includes certificates of exemption and also lists of men exempt from service, which detail the individual’s county; township; name; and cause for exemption, which may include alien status. As with the lists from Iowa, there is no name index so researchers must contact archives staff to search within the records.
Here is an example of an exemption record. You can see in this record we find out: “I, Henry Eilert, do upon oath declare that I am an alien and a subject of the King of Hanover, that I immigrated to the United States in the year eighteen hundred and fifty seven and that I have been living since that time in the State of Missouri, that I have never declared my intention to become a citizen of the United States and that I have never exercised the right of suffrage at an election whatever…”
From just that one sentence we have gained information about his nationality, entry into the United States, residence while in the United States, that he was not a voter in the United States, and that as of the date of this document he had not pursued naturalization.
Now we will compare the above exemption record to another found within the Kansas City RG 110 holdings.
The series “List of Arrested Persons and Deserters, 1863,” from Iowa’s 3rd District includes a list of men exempted from the draft. The information recorded includes name and reason for exemption, such as alien. Luckily, there is an index for this series, but the name index is only in the physical volume – there are no online finding aids available.
You can see that the amount of information recorded in this exemption record is significantly less than Henry Eilert’s, discussed above. As a researcher you cannot discount these kinds of records though – they may not illuminate additional information about the family, but they are a proof of an action in that ancestor’s life, and there is value in that.
The three series discussed are a small sampling of the variety of RG 110 records available at the National Archives. In Kansas City there are a significant number of consolidated lists and registers from Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska that contain mentions of aliens. Additionally, RG 110 records are available at the National Archives offices in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Fort Worth, Denver, Seattle, Boston, New York, and Chicago – though the quantity and types of records will vary by location. See the websites for our National Archives locations for a reminder of which states each office potentially covers.