University of Minnesota
Immigration History Research Center

Immigration History Research Center's home page.

Frequently Asked Questions

These questions are frequently asked of our reference staff. If you have further reference questions, please browse our website or email your question to us.

Which regions of the world do the IHRCA's collections cover?

The Center's collections have particular strengths in documentation of eastern, central, and southern European and Near Eastern ethnic groups—those associated with the epic trans-Atlantic migration of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, the IHRC also holds valuable primary and secondary source materials on earlier as well as more recent migration waves, encompassing immigrants and refugees from throughout the world. We collect materials from across the United States and the world. Learn more about the holdings.

What kinds of materials does the IHRC Archives have about immigrants?

Gathered from all parts of the country and overseas, the materials in the IHRC Archives are largely the products of the immigrants and their descendants. Typical manuscript and archival materials are the personal papers of community leaders, clergy, journalists, or educators and the records of fraternal organizations, immigrant service agencies, or publishing companies. Most of the books, pamphlets, serials, and newspapers originated from the prolific ethnic presses in the United States (and Canada) from the late nineteenth century to the present. All of these materials document many kinds of ethnic activities, from daily life in the household to work, celebrations, and organizational activities. The IHRCA also has a substantial body of records that document the response to immigration by organizations and individuals who provided services, worked for government policy reform, and educated Americans about immigrant needs and problems. Learn more about the specific holdings.

I understand that the IHRC/A has moved to a new library building on campus. Where is the IHRC/A located and how does the move impact service hours?

The IHRC Archives moved to the Elmer L. Andersen Library on the University of Minnesota's West Bank campus in 2000. You can park in the Law School lot on the corner of 19th Ave. S. and 2nd Street. Walk past the Law School and past Willey Hall to the Andersen Library at 222-21st Ave. S. More information about visiting the IHRC/A is available on our website. Although appointments are not required, it is helpful for the staff to know about your visit in advance so that we may be better prepared to assist you. Contact us directly for further details regarding services and/or access to specific collections.

I am a student and I have to write a short paper about my ancestors who came from various parts of the world. Where do you recommend I start?

For brief overviews of specific ethnic groups, we recommend these texts that are available at the IHRC Archives. Each book has a section or chapter on Italian Americans, Russian Americans, Irish Americans and so on. Our library collection does not circulate—so if you are unable to come to IHRCA, you should check for these books at a local library or via inter-library loan. Check with your local librarian.

Allen, James P., and Eugene J. Turner. WE THE PEOPLE: AN ATLAS OF AMERICA'S ETHNIC DIVERSITY (New York, 1988).

GALE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MULTICULTURAL AMERICA. 2 vols. Rudolph J. Vecoli, contrib. ed. (Detroit, 1995).

HARVARD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN ETHNIC GROUPS. Stephan Thernstrom, ed. (Cambridge, MA, 1980).

If you are interested in immigrants who came to Minnesota, you might want to check this book as well:

THEY CHOSE MINNESOTA: A SURVEY OF THE STATE'S ETHNIC GROUPS, June Denning Holmquist, ed. (St. Paul: Minn. Hist. Soc. Press, 1981)

I'm trying to track down my ancestors. Would the IHRCA have information about them like immigration or naturalization records?

The following section of our website will help you with How many immigrants have come to the United States in the past 150 years? Can I find these statistics on the Internet?

This information is now available on the Internet at the Bureau of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly Immigration and Naturalization Services website.

Another source for this kind of information is the U.S. Census Bureau's "Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-born Population of the United States: 1850-1990".

I have a 'green card' that needs to be renewed, can the IHRCA help me or who should I contact?

The IHRC is an academic research facility that supports the study of the history of immigration. For green cards, work visas, and other government matters please contact your local office of the Bureau of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly Immigration and Naturalization Services). Locate an INS field office near you.