The waiting has ended for my grand uncle’s Alien File, the golden nugget of information on U.S. immigrants. It finally arrived on CD in the mail today.
I wasn’t too excited when I opened the package. The last time U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services sent me a response, the document on the CD was only a letter stating my grandfather’s Alien File could not be located. I will wait another year to make another Freedom of Information Act request for the file.
After that experience with my grandfather’s file, I am so grateful to have my grand uncle’s 56-page file. USCIS provided the file at no charge, the best part of the experience. Hardly anything is free from the federal government.
Every day since this past spring, I checked the USCIS website for the status of my FOIA request. USCIS has more than 35,000 requests right now. I was thrilled when I finally saw “Your request was processed on 10/31/2011.” I knew either the file was found or displaced.
The file has plenty of information I never asked my grand uncle. There are documents that list towns of residence from his birth in 1927 to his departure from Germany in 1951. I also learned where he lived in the USA up until his naturalization in 1968. My grand uncle also had to document his education and employment in Europe. I finally learned the name of his sponsor, a church in Illinois.
Finding his birth certificate in the file was the best surprise. The birth certificate is faded but I hope a Russian friend will be able to translate the document, which looks nothing like my grandmother’s birth certificate from 1921. A copy of my grand uncle’s birth certificate nor any naturalization documents were ever found in his belongings after he died.
One document shows my grand uncle was missing for more than a week after his arrival in the U.S.A. He had a paid train ticket to Chicago from New York City to meet his sponsor. My grand uncle was not on the two trains that were carrying displaced persons from New York City on the day he was to arrive in Chicago. My grand uncle could have told me the story behind “his disappearance.” It would have been an interesting story to tell my children.
If you have now deceased relatives who immigrated to the USA, I would highly recommend obtaining their Alien Files to help answer questions about the family. I do not know any other open source of information on U.S. immigrants as helpful as Alien Files. Proof of ancestry is not asked to obtain the files. Read my blog- Documents that open doors to information– to learn how to get Alien Files, which can be acquired by three methods.