Bill Kroger 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Gateway to Texas A little known fact to many is Galveston Island’s long history as an immigration center for thousands of people coming to the United States from Europe and other places around the world. In 1875, the United States ended a period of unrestricted immigration to this country and made Galveston Island one of the few places, along with Ellis Island in New York, where immigrants were processed and admitted. Galveston continued in this role until the 1940s. Somewhat surprisingly, the Galveston County District Court became the repository for many federal immigration and naturalization records. These records include the following: • Declarations of Intention from the 19th and 20th centuries, which contain declarations by immigrants of their intentions to become citizens of the United States; • Certificates of Arrival, which show the dates that immigrants were admitted into the country; and • Petitions for Citizenship, in which immigrants provide additional information about their circumstances, such as where they are from and their occupations. The Galveston County District Court also has indices to the immigration records, which make it possible to look for particular persons. The Galveston immigrants came from a large number of countries, including England, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Greece. The records from the 1920s and 1930s include photos of the immigrants. Some of the most moving photographs are of Jewish immigrants from the 1930s, who were no doubt seeking a better life away from the horrors beginning to take place in Germany and other parts of Europe. Relatively few people know that Galveston federal immigration records are housed in the Galveston County District Court. These records are not available online at present, but in the meantime, the Task Force has helped preserve these records. The Galveston immigration records are also an example of another aspect of the importance of Texas district and county clerk archives. The archives often became a place where unusual or special records were deposited. As a result, the district and county clerks in Texas have thousands of unusual and unique records about all types of historical activities of Texans, such as records of cattle brands, product brands, physician licensing records, maps, exhibits, voting records, and even, in Galveston County, records of the blueprints for the Galveston seawall. Few of these records have been studied or copied. For this reason alone, the records of our district and county clerks need to be preserved. By Bill Kroger Just one of the federal immigration records housed in the Galveston County District Court: a declaration of intention from a young German immigrant in 1929.
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.