Uncovering family records can be complicated process, but they can reveal valuable information about a person’s background which may include interrogation questions, photographs, witness testimony, and cross references to other family members. Unlike Ellis Island, AIISF and Angel Island State Park does not house immigration records and other historical immigration documents collected at the Immigration Station between 1910 and 1940. AIISF’s collection is comprised of oral histories from former detainees and records submitted by family members. Those stories are available online through our Immigrant Voices site.

Where to Look

All immigrant files, typically referred to as Alien Files or “A-Files,” originate from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the person became a citizen, was involved in the Chinese Confession Program from 1956-1965, or registered with the government as an alien, he or she may have an A-File.

* USCIS and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) signed an agreement in 2009, to make A-Files a permanent series of records, transferred to NARA custody 100 years after the immigrant's year of birth.

Immigrants Born Before 1910

Many Pacific immigrant records for individuals over 100 years old have been collected, preserved, and made available through the National Archives and Records Administration in San Bruno, CA. Whether you want to find clues about your family’s history, need to prove a veteran’s military service, or are researching an historical topic that interests you, NARA is a great place to begin your search. Always contact NARA before visiting. Many of NARA San Bruno’s case files are also indexed in searches on Ancestry.com, and available at many libraries.

  1. National Archives and Records Administration
    Leo J. Ryan Memorial Federal Building
    1000 Commodore Drive
    San Bruno, California 94066
    (650) 238-3501 sanbruno.archives@nara.gov
    - Inquire About Case Files From Home
    -
    Research Tips for San Francisco Immigration
    -
    Inventory of Available Immigration Files

  2. Ancestry.com
    - U.S. Naturalization Records, 1840-1957
    - U.S. Chinese Immigration Case Files, 1883-1924
    - California, Chinese Arrival Case Files Index, 1884-1940
    - California, Index to Chinese Exclusion Case Files, 1903-1944
    - San Francisco, Chinese Passenger Arrivals and Disposition, 1903-1947

  3. Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley
    University of California
    Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    (510) 642-6481 bancref@library.berkeley.edu

Immigrants Born After 1910

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has nearly 60 million A-Files in their database. If you’d like to search USCIS files, there are two ways to retrieve the information. A-Files with a registration number below 8 million (immigrants before May 1, 1951, not currently at NARA) can be found at the USCIS Genealogy Program. All other records, including those of living persons, need to go through the USCIS National Records Center. Please note that there are fees associated with filing forms with USCIS.

  1. USCIS Genealogy Program
    P.O. Box 805925
    Chicago, IL 60680-4120
    (800) 767-1833 genealogy@uscis.dhs.gov
    Genealogy Search Request

  2. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
    National Records Center, FOIA/PA Office
    P.O. Box 648010
    Lee's Summit, MO 64064-8010
    (800) 375-5283 uscis.foia@uscis.dhs.gov
    Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request

Organizations

Friends of Roots offers you the opportunity to discover the roots that link you to the past and place you in the present … to journey back to ancestral beginnings, to explore the land and lives of those who shaped your heritage, and to relate your family’s history to the totality of the Chinese American experience. 

San Francisco Genealogy Group at the San Francisco Public Library supports those who are just starting out researching their family history or have been doing it for years and need ideas how to get past some brick walls. Meetings are led by a genealogist from the California Genealogical Society.