Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Postman Sometimes Comes Twice

The postman was very nice to me in the last two days. He gave me an envelope with four obituaries and one envelope from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Whoopee!

I know you are too polite to ask, “Terry, how much did all of this largess cost you?” But it’s okay. Go ahead - ask me. ASK ME!

A buck twenty cents is how much it cost me. That’s $1.20 for all of you specific types. The obituaries came from the Special Collections Division of the Akron-Summit County Public Library, which charges a $1.00 processing fee plus $.05 per copy. The payment is already in the mail and on its way. Thank you, Special Collections Division!

Today, I received the package from the USCIS. I’ve looked through it twice and there was no charge. Back in August, I challenged myself to do “7 Requests, 7 Days,” mainly because I am a devout masochist. This was Day 2 of my self-challenge marathon. I used the Freedom of Information Act to request the complete immigration file for each of my great grandparents, Emma and Leo Schrader.

Emma and Leo, who immigrated to this country from Germany in 1906, never became citizens. When World War I and World War II broke out, they were considered Enemy Aliens. The majority of registrations for World War I are no longer in existence, but there are some states, such as Kansas, whose records still exist. NARA has compiled a list of 5928 files, digitized them, and allowed access to them through ARC.

In today’s mail was Emma’s file. It is eight pages long. I made the request on August 5 of last year. On August 13, a new genealogical service went into effect at the USCIS. The new format charges $20.00 to do an index search. You now must have a valid USCIS file number before you can request a file. The file itself now costs an additional $20 or $35 depending on the type.

You must pay in advance, and if you request the file without a valid USCIS file number they will refuse to do the search and they will not refund your money. (If you already have a valid number, which luckily I did, you can skip the index search and save yourself twenty bucks.)

The date stamp for my request was August 19, so I wondered if I would get the request back, telling me I needed to go through the correct procedure. Fortunately, at least in the case of Emma, I did not, and instead of paying $20 or $35 dollars, I got mine free! (This helps dampen slightly my pain at having to pay NARA $75 for an ancestor’s civil war pension packet. No, I am still not ready to let that go.)

Below I have scanned all eight pages I received from the USCIS. You can decide for yourself, if you want to go through the process. To read more about the new genealogy program offered by the USCIS, you can click this link.

Until Next Time - Happy Ancestral Digging!


Dorene from Ohio said...

How wonderful to get such excellent treasures!!

Greta Koehl said...

Terry, Thanks for the information on getting USCIS files. This is going to make working on my husband's lines fun (humph). As for NARA, I am hoping Footnote will take up all the slack at least as far as Civil War files are concerned so that we don't even have to bother with NARA for those files.


Dorene! Greta! Thank you for your comments! As for Footnote and the pension files, I hope you are correct. Right now I have 10 files (at a minimum) that I would like to take a peek at to see if they have clues to a family I am researching. Of course, I also want to see the same number of compiled military records. That's a $1000 that I would have to spend, to maybe find the answers I seek. Sigh ...

Becky Jamison said...

I've awarded you The Janice Brown Puckerbrush Blog Award for Excellence. Read it here and pass it on:

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