History and Genealogy
The step-by-step instructions below apply to Index Search Requests, the most common request received by the USCIS Genealogy Program. However, all requesters can benefit from reading the instructions. Much of the information pertains to both Index Search and Record Requests.
To begin your Index Search request, click the "Order Online Now" link on this or several other USCIS Genealogy Program webpages.
- On the first screen, choose the "Index Search Request" option by clicking the button next to the Twenty Dollar ($20.00) fee listing. After reading the information about the fees and required supporting documents, click the “Next” button at the bottom of the page.
- Next, complete the "Requestor Information" page. Note that you are required to choose a method of contact: mail, telephone, or email. USCIS researchers may use this information to contact you in the event that they need additional information about your request. Providing a telephone number or email address allows our researchers to contact you promptly and may accelerate the completion of your request. Index search results will be mailed in a letter via postal mail to the address you enter.
Once you complete the "Requestor Information," click “Next.”
1. Required Information - While the online form only requires you supply a surname, country of birth, and date of birth (actual or estimated), you must provide the immigrant's first and last names. If you know the immigrant’s middle name, please provide it as well. In this section use the name(s) that you believe to be correct. You will have an opportunity to submit alternate names and spellings in the "Optional Information" section.
Important: You must complete the date of birth field for both actual and estimated dates of birth. For an estimated year of birth, use January 1st as the month and day of birth (e.g., 01/01/1905). If you have conflicting dates of birth, enter the one you believe is most accurate. You can provide the alternate later when asked for "Other Biographical Information". Once you complete the required information, click “next.”
* If your ancestor’s date of birth is less than 100 years ago or if you supplied an estimated date of birth, ou will see a page notifying you of the required proof of death. If you do not have any of the acceptable forms of proof of death, you may consider canceling your request now and beginning a new request when you have copies the necessary documents. If you have proof of death for the immigrant (or the date of birth is more than 100 years ago), click “Next.” At the end of the request process you will be provided with the opportunity to upload scanned copies of your documents. If necessary, the mailing address for paper copies is also provided.
Once you complete the Required Information, click “Next.”
2. Additional Information - The next request pages allow you to provide additional information that may help our researchers locate your immigrant. Though it is not required, we recommended that you supply as much of this information as possible. In many cases, our researchers can differentiate between immigrants with the same name only when additional information is provided.
- Arrival Date - If you know the exact date of the immigrant’s arrival (listed on the immigrant’s arrival record or a ship’s passenger manifest), provide it in the date boxes. If you know the approximate date of arrival, select the appropriate date range from the drop down menu.
- Places of Residence - If you know any of the immigrant’s places of residence (often available through census records) and the approximate periods of residence, list them in the boxes provided.
Click “Next” to move to the second page of Additional Information.
- Alternate Names - Because immigrants often changed their names. alternate names and spellings may help our researchers locate your ancestor. If you know any of these alternate names, please provide them. USCIS researchers will search only the alternate names that you provide and cannot return records for names other than those provided.
- Family Members - The names of family members (children, spouse, and sometimes parents) may help our researchers locate the immigrant. If you know any of these names, please provide them. Family member names are used only to help locate the subject of your request. You will not receive index search results for family members unless you submit a separate Index Search request for each individual.
- Finally, other biographical information may help our researchers find the immigrant. For example, providing the dates of military service may point our researchers toward a record of military naturalization. If you know the date of naturalization, military service, marriage, or other important information, please type in the box provided. You may also use this space to explain or provide additional information about conflicting dates of birth.
After completing the additional information, click “Next.”
- You now have the opportunity to review your request. If any of the information listed is incorrect, you may use the “Previous” button to go back and correct the errors. If the information is correct and you wish to proceed with your order, click “Submit." You will be unable to change your request once you click the "Submit" button. (You will not, however, be charged at this point and you will still have the option to cancel the request).
- After reviewing the "Fee Information," select the desired payment type (online or by mail) and click “Submit Payment.” Be sure to click "Submit" only once to avoid duplicate charges.
*If you choose to pay by credit card, you will be redirected to the pay.gov site to enter your payment information. Once your payment information is submitted, you will automatically be returned to the Web Request Page to complete your transaction.
- After you have been returned to the "Web Request" Page, you will find yourself on a page titled "Genealogy Search Request Submitted." DO NOT close your browser. Instead, review the information and click the "Next" button at the bottom of the page. If you are making an Index Search Request or Records Request without Case ID, you will be prompted to supply a security question and answer. After submitting your security information you will receive your Case ID.
If the immigrant's date of birth is less than 100 years before today's date you must upload documentary proof of death with your online request. To do so, you will need to:
1. Identify an acceptable document - Examples of acceptable documentary proof of death include:
- Death certificate (uncertified copy);
- Printed obituaries, funeral programs, or photographs of gravestones;
- Bible, church, or other religious records;
- Records relating to the payment of death benefits;
- U.S. Social Security Death Index records (individual records only, not lists); and/or
- Other documents demonstrating that the immigrant subject of the request is deceased.
2. Save that document in an electronic form - Accepted electronic file formats include:
- Image files (.jpg, .gif, .PDF, etc.); or
- Microsoft Word Files. If you are sending more than one document, paste the images into a Word document, save it, and upload the Word file.
3. Upload the document - When prompted to upload your file, clicking the "Browse . . ." button should open the familiar "Open File . . ." window. Locate the document on your computer, select the document, and click "open", "upload", or "OK" as indicated.
If you cannot upload an electronic document, you can choose to mail supporting documents. The system will provide mailing instructions.
* Do NOT mail original documents with your Index Search Request. Documents will NOT be returned to you.