Marian Smith recently retired after more than thirty years as an historian for US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service [INS]). Smith grew up in Hastings, Nebraska, and she studied American History at Hastings College (NE) and did her graduate work at Northern Arizona University and Bowling Green State University (OH). She joined the INS in 1988 as the agency’s first historian.
At INS/USCIS, Smith focused on the federalization of immigration policy during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, while championing records management projects to preserve the agency’s history. Through her efforts, thousands of INS policy and correspondence files with an uncertain future were transferred to the National Archives and made available to researchers. These records, and Smith’s extensive work with the scholars who used them, led to the publication of several works on the history of federal immigration administration, many of which are now considered foundational to the field of US immigration history. At the same, Smith published several of her own often-cited articles on history of the INS and 20th century immigration policy. She also worked tirelessly to make federal immigration and naturalization records accessible to genealogy researchers and has received numerous awards for her efforts.
In her work as a federal historian, Smith oversaw the preservation of invaluable federal records, contributed directly to the advancement of the field of US immigration history, and provided countless people with the knowledge and resources necessary for discovering their own family histories. Her career clearly reflects the unique importance of federal history and stands as an example of dedicated public service. The Society for History in the Federal Government is proud to honor Marian L. Smith with the 2019 Roger R. Trask Award.