Familiar names show up in border crossing records

Published May 3, 2007 12:00 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Elder Henry B. Eyring's great-aunt Ida had a mole on her right cheek. George Romney's cousin, Gaskell, had a scar over his left eye. And actor Anthony Quinn's little fingers turned "inwardly."

These details caught the attention of immigration officials and were dutifully noted on identification cards for the three travelers, each of whom crossed the U.S.-Mexico border at one time in their life. Thanks to Ancestry.com, the imperfections now are noticeable to anyone with curiosity, a computer and an Internet connection.

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, the Provo-based genealogy service released this week the first online database of border-crossing records, all purchased from the National Archives and digitized by Ancestry.com for easy searching.

The collection, which includes the names of more than 3.5 million people, documents early 20th-century Mexican immigration to the United States when more than 1 million Mexicans came here after the Mexican Revolution in 1910, for work during World War I and to farm crops. Many of the records include passport-type photos that were attached to the original documents.

The records, culled from 24 land ports of entry from California to Texas, cut across several ethnicities. There are plenty of Mormons, like the Romneys and Eyrings, but people of French, Russian and Chinese heritage may be surprised to find their ancestors in the collection, too, said Megan Smolenyak, chief family historian for Ancestry.com.

Some of the records are very specific. They denote age, marital status, occupation, nationality, whether the traveler could read and write, and how much money they were carrying.

Ida Eyring Turley had $50 for her journey. She and son, Clarence, crossed the border on May 27, 1919, at El Paso to visit another son, Edward, who lived there. Turley lived in Colonia Juarez Chihuahua, the same LDS mission outpost where relatives of Miles Park Romney, Mitt Romney's great-grandfather, also lived.

Ancestry.com couldn't locate records showing when Mitt Romney's parents and grandparents returned to the United States to live, but there are lots of border crossings for his distant cousins, including young Gaskell.

On Nov. 15, 1932, the 21-year-old left Mexico for New York City. His eventual destination was London, where he was planning to serve an LDS mission. He had blond hair, blue eyes, a fair complexion and $200. He paid for the passage himself.

Quinn crossed into California at San Ysidro on Jan. 9, 1939 - alone. According to the border document of his trip, which is smudged and difficult to read, the actor was 23 years old at the time and married to Cecil B. DeMille's daughter, Catherine.

Like many actors of his generation, Quinn apparently Americanized his name. His "true name," according to the document was Antonio.


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