You cant top the excitement of finding an immigrant ancestor. Discovering that link between old world and new is what motivates many of us to begin researching our roots in the first place.
Unfortunately, thats exactly where many genealogists searches go adrift. But if youre in that predicament, the Internet could be your life raft. Many of the key sources for tracing immigrantspassenger lists, published genealogies, newspapers and naturalization records, among othersare hitting the Web, making it quicker and easier to retrace your ancestors journey.
To prove it, Ill show you four examples of how the Internet helped me trace immigrants in my own family history. These people came from four different countries and arrived in three different centuriessome even before the advent of official passenger listsbut I was able to document their origins through the use of online sources, as well as Web-based tools that led me to offline records and publications. Use the tips and resources described in these real-life cases to steer your own research course.
1. John Gallop, England, 1630
About 20,000 English men, women and children settled in New England between 1620 and 1640. If your ancestors were among them, youre in luck. Many of these families are the subjects of genealogies published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These books typically tell about an immigrants origins in England, describe his life and family in New England and trace several generations of descendants in America.
Back in the pre-Internet days when I began my family research, I found a book called The Genealogical History of the Gallup Family in the United States
at the Library of Congress
. Published in 1893, the lineage begins with the immigrant John Gallop of the parish of Mosterne, County Dorset, England. At age 40, he left England for America on the ship Mary and John, departing Plymouth March 20, 1630, and arriving in Nantasket, Mass., May 30. His wife, Christobel, and four children followed in 1633. A seaman, John made frequent trading expeditions between Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Today, you dont have to travel to a large genealogy library to find published genealogies such as this onein fact, digitized versions of this very genealogy are online at multiple locations, including Google Book Search,
Internet Archive, HeritageQuest Online (accessible through subscribing libraries), Ancestry.com ($155.40 a year), World Vital Records ($39.96 a year) <worldvitalrecords.com> and the Brigham Young University Family History Archive. All of these sites let you view the books online, save them to your computer and print pages.
The Great Migration Study Project
, led by Robert Charles Anderson, aims to compile comprehensive biographical and genealogical accounts of everyone who settled in New England between 1620 and 1643. You can access the three already-completed volumes on colonists who arrived between 1620 and 1633 at Ancestry.com
and the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) Web site
($75 a year). Five of seven volumes covering 1634 to 1635 have been published; the first three are on the NEHGS site.
The Great Migration Study Projects 1500-word account of John Gallop summarizes all thats known about him and his family. John had trouble coaxing his wife and children to leave England and join him in Massachusetts. Whereas his son Nathaniel could write most imaginatively, John signed his will with a mark in 1649. He bequeathed his shallop (a two-masted ship) to his son John, his bark (a small sailing ship) to his two youngest sons and wife, and his heifer to his daughter Joane. He left his other livestock to his wife and instructed her to leave them to their two youngest sons if they were obedient, but to dispose of the animals as she saw fit if the boys were rebellious.
Every piece of information in the Great Migration Study Project is well-documented, with citations to primary or secondary sources (some of which are also on the NEHGS site). This project is the authority for the most accurate and up-to-date research on early New England familieswell worth checking for your own Colonial connections.
2. Leonard Slip, Germany, 1766
Millions of people left the German-speaking areas of Europe between the late 1600s and early 1900s. Protestants escaping religious persecution and economic hardship dominated the first wave, from 1683 to 1820. Most came from Switzerland and southwestern Germany and settled in New York and Pennsylvania.
Name changes and place-name confusion sometimes confound researchers pursuing immigrants from Germany and other non-English-speaking countries, as I discovered tracing the Slip family.
After the Revolutionary War, Leonard Slipwho sided with the Britishsettled in whats now New Brunswick, Canada. A history of Queens County, New Brunswick, and a pioneer history published in a newspaper in 1943 both say he was born at Frankfort-on-the-Cross in present-day Germany Aug. 20, 1748, and left there in 1766. I couldnt find any place name like that in German gazetteers, or anyone with a last name like Slip around the two big FrankfurtsFrankfurt am Main and Frankfurt an der Oder.
If youre stuck on a place name in your own search, try the JRC Gazetteer, which lists 7 million place names and automatically does a phonetic searchuseful if youre not sure how to spell the name.
Back in 1994, using CompuServes Roots Foruma forerunner of todays GenForum and RootsWeb mailing lists and message boardsI got in touch with a researcher who had found a handwritten manuscript of unknown origin that offers a different place of birth for Leonard Slip. According to this account, he wasnt born in Germany, but in Amsterdam, Holland:
[He clashed with his stepmother, and] signed articles with a sea Captain to serve three years on the condition that at the end of that time he would be landed in New York. At the end of two and one half years, being in the port of New York and the Captain about to depart on a long voyage, Slipp was allowed to have his indenture transferred to a potash maker in New York whom he worked [for during] the remaining six months. The year was 1767. While in New York, Slipp was noted for his great strength of body. He could do what only two others of one hundred able men could dohe could place three barrels of potash one on top of the other.
The International Genealogical Index (IGI) on FamilySearch
lets you search millions of births, baptisms and marriages from around the world. Even if you dont find your relative in the database, it can help you determine where a last name was most common (unless the name is extremely common). The IGI lists the names Slipp
in Germany, Slippe
in the Netherlands and Slip
in England, but microfilmed church records from those localities show no Leonard Slip baptized about 1748.
Stumped, I posted a query to a RootsWeb mailing list
dealing with German genealogy. A reply came back right away with a major breakthrough. Could my Leonard Slip be the same person as Johann Leonhard Schloepp who immigrated in 1766?
The name appears in Ancestry.coms Passenger & Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s
, an index to more than 4.5 million immigrants to the United States and Canada from the 1500s to the 1900s. The source cited for this immigrant is Genealogical Data Relating to the German Settlers of Pennsylvania and Adjacent Territory, which has abstracts from five German-language newspapers published in Philadelphia and Germantown.
That book is digitized and searchable at World Vital Records. Page 200 contains a summary of an article from the Sept. 9, 1791, Philadelphische Correspondenz: Inquiry for Johann Leonhard Schloepp and Johann Maar, from Markt Taschendorf, in Frankischen Kreis of Germany, belonging to Reichsfreyherr [Baron] von Kuenstberg Amt Obersteinbach, who left there in 1766 for America. Shloepp wrote his parents, June 16, 1774, from the potash factory in New York, where he was employed as a cooper.
I have no doubt Johann Leonhard Schloepp and Leonard Slip are the same person. Both immigrated in 1766 and worked in a potash factory in New York. By the time the notices appeared in the Philadelphia newspaper in 1791, about eight years had passed since his family fled New York for New Brunswick with other Loyalists. Theres a good chance my relative never saw the articles or collected his inheritance.
What about Leonard Slips alleged hometown of Frankfort-on-the-Cross? Using Google Maps
, I located a village called Frankfurt in the Franconia region of northern Bavariajust two miles from Obersteinbach and Markt Taschendorf, the two towns mentioned in the newspaper articles.
3. Morgan Family, Wales, 1819
Immigrants often traveled with other family members, friends or neighbors, so its worth broadening your investigation to include your immigrant ancestors extended family and associates. That strategy was useful when I researched Thomas and Joan Morgan from Wales.
My initial inquiries among my relatives turned up an old family Bible listing the birth dates of the Morgans five children. Census records (online at Ancestry.com, HeritageQuest Online and FamilySearch) revealed the first two were born in Wales (Ann, born June 17, 1815, and Thomas, born Jan. 4, 1818), while the third child, Samuel, was born in Pennsylvania (June 20, 1820). That put the familys date of immigration sometime between Jan. 4, 1818, and June 20, 1820.
As of Jan. 1, 1820, the United States started requiring captains of passenger ships arriving from foreign ports to submit lists of all passengers to the collector of customs in the district where the ship arrived. The National Archives and Records Administration
is the steward of all US ports passenger-arrival lists, and you can search them at Ancestry.com. Generally, the National Archives doesnt have manifests before 1820. Two exceptions: Lists start in 1813 for New Orleans and in 1800 for Philadelphia. But the original Philadelphia records are incomplete, and the Morgan family doesnt appear on any list from 1818 to 1820.
Joan Morgans sister Jennet married William Parry, another immigrant from Wales, and both the Morgan and Parry families settled in Athens, Pa. A History of Old Tioga Point and Early Athens, Pennsylvania, digitized on Google Book Search, says, In 1822 there came to town some Welshmen, who were long actively connected with the making of Athens. William Parry was one, and his friend and acquaintance, Thomas R. Davies, the other. Probably they came to Philadelphia with a party of Welsh people. At any rate, Mr. Parry married there in 1822, Jannet Jones, a wealthy Welsh girl of good family. That reveals Joan Morgans likely maiden name, Jones.
Ancestry.coms database of Philadelphia naturalization records from 1789 to 1880
shows that William Parry filed a declaration of intention to become a citizen Sept. 13, 1822, in the Court of Quarter Sessions. When you find an index reference like this one, its always worthwhile to consult the original record for more details. So I did a keyword search of the Family History Librarys online catalog
for Philadelphia Quarter Sessions
, found that declarations of intention from 1814 to 1828 are on microfilm 964,556, and borrowed that film through a Family History Center. William Parrys 1822 declaration says he was born March 1, 1798, in Angleshire, North Wales, immigrated via Liverpool and arrived in Philadelphia May 12, 1818.
My next step: Browse old Athens newspapers for articles about this family. Online newspaper collections on Ancestry.com, World Vital Records, GenealogyBank
($69.95 a year) and other subscription sites make papers searchablea big timesaver. Unfortunately, many newspapers are still available only on microfilm or paper, but you can use the Library of Congress online directory of US newspapers from 1690 to present, Chronicling America
, to track down those publications.
With this tool, I discovered that the State Library of Pennsylvania has The Athens Gleaner from 1870 to 1873 on microfilm. The library doesnt make this particular microfilm available on interlibrary loan, so I bought my own copy.
Scanning The Athens Gleaner from 1872, I came across an article on the celebration of the golden wedding anniversary of William Parrys friend Thomas Rogers Davies and his wife Asenath. The article includes Davies reminiscences of growing up in Wales and emigrating to America. Mr. Davies left London for Liverpool in Jan. 1819 where he engaged a passage to America, on the ship Meriden, of Baltimore
After a very rough passage of ninety days, during many of which they subsisted on a single sea-biscuit each for a day, he, with others, landed in Philadelphia, May 12th 1819.
I got to wondering if it was a coincidence that William Parry and his friend arrived in Philadelphia exactly one year apart. So I searched Early American Newspapers, 1690-1876 (available through subscribing libraries, NEHGS and, with a $35 membership, the Godfrey Memorial Library
) for the term Meridian,
selecting Pennsylvania under the Places of Publication tab and entering 1818 to 1819 under the Dates and Eras tab.
Among the matches, the May 31, 1819, issue of Grotjans Philadelphia Public Sales Report tells of the recent arrival of the Meridian from Liverpool, carrying sundry merchandise including 975 packages, 14 bundles of pans and spades and one crate of earthenware. It doesnt list the passengers, but I bet they included William Parry and Thomas R. Davies, as well as the Morgan family and William Parrys future wife Jennet Jones.
My IGI searches for the baptisms in Wales of Thomas and Joan Morgans children, Ann, born June 15, 1815, and Thomas, born Jan. 4, 1818, turned up nothing promising. I couldnt find the parents marriage in 1813 or 1814, either.
But there was a marriage between a Thomas Morgan and a Joan Jones March 27, 1815, in Llanigon, Breconshire, Wales. I had rejected that marriage, having happened less than three months before my Thomas and Joans first child came along. As it turns out, though, that was the right couple and the right timeline, and their hometown of Llanigon is adjacent to Thomas R. Davies hometown of Glasbury. Their first childs early arrival may explain why Thomas and Joans marriage date wasnt recorded in the family Bible.
4. Bernard Clark and Margaret McDonnell, Ireland, 1840s
More than 44 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, and many of them descend from Potato Famine refugees. Irelands potato crop failed three times between 1845 and 1848, driving as many as 2 million people to emigrate between 1845 and 1855.
One of them, Bernard Clark, spent most of his adult life in the heavily Irish community of Shieldsville, Minn. Meet Shieldsville: the Story of St. Patricks Parish, Shieldsville, Minnesota, a compilation of old-timers recollections published in 1940 and now digitized on World Vital Records, includes the following piece:
Barnie Clark was one of the early settlers of Erin and from all accounts he kept his neighbors on their toes while his health was good. Where you find the Irish you will find laughter and pranks and in the midst of it characters like Barnie Clark. Bless his memory, he helped the pioneers keep up their courage and laugh at misfortune. He loved his horses and they loved him. He talked to them like they had human intelligence
Based on his age in census records from 1850 to 1900, Barney could have been born anytime between 1819 and 1835. The 1870 census says he was a citizen and the 1900 census says he immigrated in 1847.
The record, dated Nov. 2, 1868, and signed with Bernard Clarks mark, turned out to be his declaration of intention, the first papers in the naturalization process. Bernard stated that he first arrived in the United States Dec. 1, 1853. Id had high hopes that this record would reveal exactly when Bernard immigrated, but this date cant be right because he was already living in Wisconsin in 1850.
In an effort to locate lost friends and relatives, Irish immigrants across the country placed Missing Friends advertisements in the Boston Pilot
newspaper. Boston Colleges Irish Studies Program has created a Database of Advertisements for Irish Immigrants Published in the Boston Pilot
with key details from the ads. More than 31,000 records from 1831 to 1893, 1901 and 1913 are online so far, and theyre free to search.
NEHGS paid-access database of the Missing Friends ads covers more years (1831 to 1920) than Boston Colleges free version, and includes complete transcriptions. Searching for Barney Clark in the ads on the NEHGS site, I hit the jackpot with this discovery:
30 March 1867 BRIDGET CLARK [IN SEARCH] OF BRIDGET and JAMES CLARK, from the town of Belinaa, parish of Killmore, county Cavan. Bridget is 46 years of age, and James 40 years of age; when last heard from, about twelve years ago, they were in the city of New York. They also had a brother and sister at that time in New York, named Rosy and Philip. Any information of their whereabouts will be thankfully received by their brother, Barney Clark, Northfield, Rice county, State of Minnesota.
This one newspaper ad revealed Barneys Irish hometown, his siblings names, and places of residence and approximate birth years for a couple of them. Most important, I now had the key piece of informationa specific
location in IrelandI needed to continue the search overseas.
Bernard Clark, a 29-year-old miner, and his future wife, Margaret McDonald, age 18, are listed in the 1850 census of New Diggings, Wis. A researcher familiar with the Irish community there alerted me that other Irish settlers in the town originated in County Cavan, Ireland.
Instead of following the usual route via New York, they took ships from Liverpool to New Orleans, rode steamships up the Mississippi River to Illinois and then made their way to Wisconsin. I cant find Bernard Clark in the New Orleans passenger lists on Ancestry.com, but his future wife could be the Margaret McDonnell, age 17, who took the ship Oneco from Liverpool, landing in New Orleans on April 4, 1848.
From the November 2009 Family Tree Magazine