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How to View Foreign-Born Inhabitants in the United States from 1880 to 2000

If you’re looking for ancestors from particular foreign countries or areas, The New York Times has an interactive application called the Immigration Explorer that shows you foreign-born groups by state based on census data from 1880 to 2000.

This site is helpful if you’re not sure of your ancestor’s source of migration but you know where the ancestor lived once in the United States, or if you know where your ancestor came from but you’re not sure where the ancestor took up residence upon arriving in the United States. For example, if your ancestor came from Asia or the Middle East in the early 1900s, you can identify and narrow areas in which to look for him or her.

To use the site, follow these steps:

  1. Open your favorite browser and head to the Immigration Explorer.

  2. Click the year that you wish to view on the timeline at the top of the map of the United States.

  3. Using the legend on the right, you can quickly assess the distribution of foreign-born groups in specific states and establish the predominate group in that area.

  4. If you prefer to restrict the view to show only foreign-born immigrants from a particular country, you can use the drop-down menu at the top left to select the country of origin.

    The default is set to All Countries.

  5. Using your mouse, hover the cursor on a specific county within a state to see more detailed information. This more detailed information allows you to see which parts of the country (and state) had larger populations of immigrants.

    The pop-up box tells you the name of the county and state, the year for which you are seeing data, the number of foreign-born persons, and the total population for that year.

    If the view is set to All Countries, the number of foreign-born persons shown is all foreign-born persons. If you have the filter set to show only foreign-born persons from a particular country, the number of foreign-born persons shown is immigrants only from that country.

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