Rich Venezia’s Webinar for WSGS on USCIS Record Sets

WSGS Webinar with Rich Venezia

Over the years, I have repeatedly come across references to AR#s on my Mexican immigrant family’s U.S. border crossing records from Mexico and on their U.S. naturalization records. This side of my family immigrated during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). I quickly learned that AR#s refer to Alien Registration numbers, but the reading I did only vaguely explained to me exactly what this collection is and how I could obtain these records. Alien Registrations remained a foggy concept to me.

Until the Ohio Genealogical Society’s 2018 Conference this past April. There I attended a session on Italian-American ancestors by my friend and colleague Rich Venezia, where Rich briefly explained Alien Registrations. He mentioned that he does a separate lecture on USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) records sets. When I asked him about this afterwards, Rich told to me that a recorded webinar of this talk from last year is available through the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society (WSGS).

1915 Border Entry Card for Maria Nieto
This 1915 border entry card for my Mexican immigrant great-grandmother Maria Hermalinda Compean Nieto, who entered the U.S. through Laredo, Texas, shows that an Alien Registration number was later added to the front of the record.1
1940 Petition for Naturalization for Lupe Robledo
The 1968 Petition for Naturalization for my Mexican immigrant great-aunt, Maria Guadalupe (nee Robledo Nieto) Perez. Her Alien Registration number is typed into a designated form field.2

I quickly hopped on to WSGS’s website to learn about their webinar series. Upcoming webinars are free to the public, but recorded archived webinars are restricted to WSGS Members.

I do not have any known ancestors or relatives from Wisconsin, but I immediately determined that the $35.00 annual membership fee was worth paying just for this one webinar alone. Fortunately, WSGS has an excellent webinar series that made my $35.00 investment an even better one.

About the Webinar

Rich Venezia begins with an overview of key dates in U.S. immigration history, before describing the five main USCIS record sets that are particularly valuable to genealogists (see description below): what these are, examples of each, the type of information usually found in each, applicable dates and situations, and the evolution of each type of record if it eventually became another record set. He also explains how to find clues in other records for ordering USCIS records, how to order these records (including his preferred method), when and why redacted information is likely to occur and how to appeal this, and how and why to submit FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests.

Following is the webinar description from WSGS’s website:

A-Files? AR-2 Forms? C-Files? Oh my! Wade through the alphabet soup of the record sets the US Citizenship & Immigration Services holds to find where your immigrant ancestor may be hiding. In addition to handling current immigration into the USA, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) holds indispensable genealogical records for anyone with post-1906 immigrant ancestors. This lecture explores a bit about how USCIS came to be, but more importantly, the valuable records it holds. Participants will learn who is likely to show up in which USCIS file set, how the index searching and ordering process works, and see examples of each record set held by USCIS. The files that will be discussed are:

  • A-Files (Alien Files) (including which files are held at HARA {sic} and which are held by USCIS)
  • AR-2s (Alien Registration Forms)
  • C-Files (Naturalization Certificate Files)
  • Registry Files
  • Visa Files3

A helpful handout is included.

This webinar is invaluable to anyone with 20th century immigrant ancestors.

I immediately ordered index searches through the USCIS Genealogy Program for my Mexican great-grandmother (her border entry card is shown above) and 2nd great-grandmother, and received confirmation less than one month later of what they found. What did they find? That is the subject for another post.

Wisconsin State Genealogical Society Webinars

Upcoming WSGS webinars are free to the public, but recorded archived webinars are restricted to society members. What does an annual membership cost?

  • Individual: $35.00
  • Family: $45.00

Learning More About Alien Registration Records

Sources Cited

  1. “Border Crossings: From Mexico to U.S., 1895-1964,” database and images, Ancestry ( : accessed 11 September 2018), Laredo, Texas, 27 October 1915, Maria Nieto, age 23.
  2. Guadalupe Maria Perez petition for naturalization (1968), naturalization file no. 300985, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California; Record Group 21; National Archives–Riverside.
  3. Previous WSGS Webinars,” Wisconsin State Genealogical Society, n.d. ( : accessed 11 September 2018, sec. October 2017.

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