Early 20th Century Genealogy

Abrams Collection Genealogy Highlights
Summer 2004
Volume 6, Number 3

New millenniums tend to worry people. Yet the truth be told, no one year can be that radically different than the year before. So what was so special about the dawn of the 20th century? Not that much, except perhaps the mindset of the people who experienced it. Civil War veterans were aging, many passing away, but plenty lived to experience the first decades of the 20th century. Technology was advancing, like it had since man first used tools; steam engines had been used in the United States since 1804. Day-by-day changes were gradual, but the public's ability to witness them increased.

Fast and safe transportation allowed people to travel longer distances more often, allowing people to see the advancements in technology. More people could travel to the Pan-American Exposition in 1901, the Palace of Machinery and Electricity at the World's Fair in 1904 and The Century of Progress exhibit in 1933-1934. These expositions were "Progress Made Visible" prior to television, and the American population could take them in through travel or popular weekly journals.

Americans themselves changed as well over the decades. While the rate of immigration remained fairly constant, the makeup of the immigrants changed. In 1890, 1,871,509 immigrants identified themselves as Irish. By 1930, this number had dropped to 744,810. German immigrants numbered 2,784,894 in 1890 and only 1,608,814 in 1930. The larger groups, which resettled in the United States in the early 20th century, hailed in a good part from Eastern and Southern Europe. 6,185 Spanish immigrants arrived in 1890, while 59,362 came to stay in 1930. In 1890, 182,644 folks traveled from Russia; in 1930 that number had increased to 1,153,628. Other significant increases came from Italy, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Africa and Mexico.

Where Americans lived also changed. In the first two centuries of the American experience, families could simply move west to acquire more land for less money. By the turn of the 20th century, most of that inexpensive land had been taken up with a few exceptions. While the immigration rate stayed steady, the population did not, nor did the economic base of the country. In 1890, well after the launch of the Industrial Revolution, 64 percent of Americans lived in rural areas. By 1930 only 43.8 percent lived in the countryside. The majority of Americans now lived in cities and no longer farmed. This new face of America resulted in political, social, religious and labor changes, which poses some challenges for genealogical researchers as well as some new resources yet to be fully utilized.

Clicking on the links in the list of resources below will take you directly to the ANSWER catalog record for that item.

General Reading

Caplow, Theodore. First Measured Century: An Illustrated Guide to Trends in America, 1900-2000. Washington, D.C.: AEI Press, 2001.
Main HN 60 .C38 2001

Diner, Steven. Very Different Age: Americans of the Progressive Era. New York: Hill and Wang, 1998.
Main E 661 .D56 1998

Gregory, Ross and Richard Balkin, eds. Modern America, 1914 to 1945. New York: Facts On File, 1995.
Reference E 766 .G74 1995

Goldberg, David Joseph. Discontented America: The United States in the 1920s. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.
Main E 784 .G65 1999

Hoff-Wilson, Joan. Twenties: The Critical Issues. Boston: Little Brown, 1972.
Dewey 309.173 W749t

Kyvig, David E. Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1939: Decades of Promise and Pain. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 2002.
Main E 169 .K985 2002

Public History Resource Center

Ward, David. Poverty, Ethnicity and the American City, 1840-1925: Changing Conceptions of the Slum and the Ghetto. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
Main HV 4044 .W37 1989

Williams, Whiting. What's On the Worker's Mind, by One Who Put On Overalls to Find Out, Whiting Williams. New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1920.
Dewey 331.8 W72

Weinberg, Lila and Arthur Weinberg, eds. Muckrakers: The Era In Journalism that Moved America to Reform, the Most Significant Magazine Articles of 1902-1912. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961.
Dewey 309.173 W42m

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Askin, Jayne. Search: A Handbook For Adoptees and Birthparents, 3rd Edition. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1998.
Genealogy HV 881 .A8 1998

Carangelo, Lori. The Ultimate Search Book: Worldwide Adoption, Genealogy & Other Search Secrets. 2000 ed. Palm Desert, CA: Access Press, 2000.
Genealogy HV 875 .C34 1999b

Flango, Victor E. and Carol R. Flango. Flow of Adoption Information from the States. Williamsburg, VA: National Center for State Courts. 1994.
Genealogy HV 875.55 .F42 1994

Klunder, Virgil L. Lifeline: The Action Guide to Adoption Search. Cape Coral, FL: Caradium Publishing, 1991.
Genealogy HV 875.55 .K58 1991

Michigan Adoption Resources Exchange

Michigan Central Adoption Registry

State of Michigan, Department of Human Services

Wegar, Katarina. Adoption, Identity and Kinship: The Debate Over Sealed Birth Records. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.
Genealogy HV 875.55 .W44 1997

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First World War.Com: The War to End All Wars

National Archives Research Room: Access to Military Service and Pension Records.

Newman, John J. Uncle, We Are Ready! Registering America's Men 1917-1918: A Guide to Researching World War I Draft Registration Cards. North Salt Lake, UT: Heritage Quest, 2001.
Genealogy D 570.8 .R4 N48 2001

Library of Michigan. World War I Draft Registration Cards Michigan. Lansing: Library of Michigan, 2004.
Genealogy D 570.85 .M5 W672 2004
Housed at the Genealogy Desk.

Veteran's History Project

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Oral History

Greene, Bob. To Our Children's Children: Preserving Family Histories For Generations to Come. New York: Doubleday, 1993.
Genealogy CT 22 .G74 1993

Zimmerman, William. How to Tape Instant Oral Biographies: Capture Your Family's Living History for Future Generations. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 1999.
Genealogy CT 25 .Z548 1999

Michigan Oral History Association

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Abraham, Sameer Y. and Nabeel Abraham, eds. Arabs in the New World: Studies on Arab-American Communities. Detroit: Wayne State University, 1983.
Michigan E 184 .A65 A73 1983

Baba, Marietta Lynn and Malvina Hauk Abonyi. Mexicans of Detroit. Detroit: Wayne State University Center for Urban Studies. 1979.
Michigan F 574 .D4 B313z

Davis, Marilyn P. Mexican Voices/American Dreams: An Oral History of Mexican Immigration to the United States. New York: H. Holt, 1990.
Main E 184 .M5 D28 1990

Gutiérrez, David Gregory. Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995.
Main E 184 .M5 G86 1995

Inbound Passenger Manifests, Crew Lists, Together With Related Forms I-489, and Customs Forms 7507 and 7509, arranged in Chronological Order and Alphabetically by Name of Vessel Or Airline, at Detroit Michigan on or After December 1, 1954: Immigration Records, 1954-1957. Bountiful, UT: Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1954-1957.
Genealogy Microfilm F 574 .D4 A25 1954

Namias, June, ed. First Generation: In the Words of Twentieth-century American Immigrants. Boston: Beacon Press, 1978.
Main JV 6455 .F56

Obee, Dave. Destination Canada: A Guide to 20th Century Immigration Records. Victoria, BC: D. Obee, 2001.
Genealogy JV 7225 .O33 2001

Øverland, Orm. Immigrant Minds, American Identities: Making the United States Home, 1870-1930. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
Main JV 6451 .O93 2000

Passenger Manifests Inbound-Alien Crew Lists, With Related Forms I-489, Customs Forms 7507 and 7509, Forms I-489 at the Port of Detroit, Michigan. Dated Prior to December 1, 1954, and Arranged in Chronological Order: Immigration Records, 1946-1954. Bountiful, UT: Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1946-1954.
Genealogy Microfilm F 574 .D4 A25 1946

Petrykevich, Jaroslava Maria. Study of the Development of Ukrainian Organizations in Metropolitan Detroit. Detroit: J. Petrykevich, 1971.
Michigan F 575 .U5 P48z

Wyman, David S. Paper Walls: America and the Refugee Crisis, 1938-1941. New York: Pantheon Books, 1985.
Main JV 6455 .W95 1985

Zaleski, Jan Steven. Guide to Records of Border Crossings Between the United States & Canada, 1895-1954. Detroit: J.S. Zaleski, 1993.
Genealogy JV 6654 .Z3 1993

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Updated 08/02/2011