Border Crossings. Immigrants traveling to North America typically found better rates on ships sailing to Canada, making it an appealing route to the United States. Until 1894, there were no U.S. immigration records created for immigrants coming to the U.S. through Canada. In addition to the cheaper fares, many immigrants avoided U.S. immigration screening and hassles by choosing the Canadian route. In 1895 the U.S. government closed this loophole by requiring Canadian steamships and railroads to complete manifest forms and only provide transportation to U.S. destinations to immigrants that would have been allowed to enter the country via other U.S. ports.
Mexican border crossing records begin in 1903, and include aliens and some citizens crossing from Mexico into the U.S. through 1957. A variety of record types are included in this collection, with varying degrees of information.
Passports. The U.S. government has issued passports to American citizens since 1789, albeit through several different agencies throughout the years. For the most part, passports were not required of U.S. citizens for foreign travel until World War I, but immigrants wishing to visit family in the old country were among those who often applied for passports to make it easier to re-enter the country on their return.
Border crossing records and passports can be rich sources of information on your immigrant ancestors.
In border crossings, you can find details similar to those found on passenger arrival records. Passports can provide birth details, names of relatives, and affidavits, as well as naturalization and immigration details, where applicable.