In the Genealogy Conference Room @vervet pointed out that:

As a side note, I noticed the other day when editing a question that there are tags for , , and . It's not really that clear which tag to use as every migration includes an immigration and an emigration. By far the most commonly used tag is immigration (64) compared to migration (6) and emigration (5), which makes me think that the other two should perhaps be synonyms of immigration.

If you agree that only one of these is needed with the other two as synonyms, then which should be the master? Or if you disagree why do you think there should be more than one?


I think we should:

  • use as a broad tag to cover all movements of people between and within countries
  • rename to be called and apply it to records relating to the entry of people into a country
  • rename to be called and apply it to records relating to the exit of people from a country

I disagree with this statement:

every migration includes an immigration and an emigration

Note this definition from Wikipedia:

Emigration is the act of leaving one's native country with the intent to settle elsewhere. Conversely, immigration describes the movement of persons into one country from another. Both are acts of migration across national boundaries.

Especially for large countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, there can be plenty of things to research about migration which do not involve finding explicit emigration/immigration records. If we cannot use to tag movement within country boundaries, what should we use instead?

The situation is complicated further by the fact that what we call "immigration records" -- e.g. passenger lists required by the US Federal Government to collect data about immigration -- actually contain a great deal of information about the arrival of people who are NOT immigrating -- US Citizens returning home, lists of crew working on the ship, and people coming to the USA who had no intention of making permanent residence here.

I believe there should be three separate tags.

  • for questions about people leaving their home country
  • for questions about people entering a new country
  • for questions about the routes taken by individuals and families because of historical events (the pull & push factors, possible modes of travel, how the geography of an area affects the movement of people, etc.)

In this answer vervet says:

My only issue is that it is often hard to say which tag should be used.

If that is the case, it may be a sign that the question is broad, and could be broken down into multiple questions, or that other tags might be more useful.

  • 3
    I think you have made a good case for migration being applied to something that can happen within a country and I have updated its tag wiki accordingly. I wonder if emigration and immigration should be called emigration-records and immigration-records to help disambiguate.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Sep 27 '15 at 3:06
  • 1
    "Immigration" tends to be interpreted as an event leading to naturalization. But not all international travel leads to changes in allegience.
    – bgwiehle
    Sep 27 '15 at 13:54
  • @bgwiehle I'm honestly not trying to be difficult here, but if immigration is considered an event leading to naturalization, then by definition so is emigration, and in some cases, migration. Which is kind of why I brought up the point in the first place. It's all the same event - the difference is really which perspective the questioner is taking.
    – Harry V. Mod
    Sep 27 '15 at 14:46
  • I disagree that these are all the same event.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Sep 28 '15 at 15:24
  • @Jan Why? It's not possible to immigrate without also emigrating and migrating. Except in the rare circumstance where, for example, a ship sinks mid-journey. Saying they are different events is like saying that a mother giving birth is a different event from a baby being born.
    – Harry V. Mod
    Sep 28 '15 at 16:15
  • @vervet It is possible to migrate without leaving a trail of emigration or immigration records, if you are moving within national boundaries. Why should questions about what routes people took when moving through Ohio be tagged with "immigration"? What use will reading those questions be to someone searching for questions about Ellis Island?
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Sep 28 '15 at 16:35
  • @Jan I obviously didn't explain myself very well. I am not saying there shouldn't be three separate tags (see my answer). I also didn't realize you were talking about records - of course emigration and immigration records are different, even though they pertain to the same event of migration from one country to another. I made no suggestion that migration questions should be tagged with "immigration".
    – Harry V. Mod
    Sep 28 '15 at 16:45

Having thought about this some more, I think I was a bit hasty to suggest the three tags should be synonyms. As @JanMurphy has pointed out, all three tags have a slightly different purpose.

My only issue is that it is often hard to say which tag should be used. A good example of an unclear case is Finding records of emigration/immigration from Germany to South Africa? In an ideal world, perhaps we would duplicate the tags and add and , but there are only room for 5 tags, and other tags about location and date are (in my opinion) more important.

So I would suggest keeping all three tags, but on questions where there is some ambiguity and use of any of the tags would be accurate, to default to , because that tag is the most widely used and understood.

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