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Ask a Genealogist: Researching English and Scottish ancestors.

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In the Mass 1855 Census I found my two times Great Grandfather living in Newburyport Mass. In further checking and building my public family tree I found that the listing for place of birth is England for George about 1808, his wife Lucy 1807 and the first two daughters Charlotte 1831 and Elizabeth 1832 as England and yet I can not find a single one of them in England. Is it possible that all of them were born in Scotland borders area and they just refer to it as England. The next daughter Mary 1834 is listed as born in NYC so arrival date is within two years but I can't find immigration info.

In that time frame did many list England as their birth place rather than Scotland because they were in the disputed borders area? I use multiple search routines and I get no hits in England for any members or there immigration.
I also note that the Mass 1855 census was the only one that showed the births for the daughters in England while the US 1850 , 1860 , 1870 census always showed as born in Mass. However doing marriage searches and death searches it confirms that they in fact were born in England.


While it is true that the surname of Armstrong is found most prevalently on both sides of the English-Scottish border, the heaviest concentration is to be found on the English side, especially in the counties of Northumberland and Cumberland. If the records for John consistently list his birthplace as England, then that is almost certainly where he was born. There is no reason why he would intentionally list his birthplace incorrectly.

The fact that you have been unable to locate his birth record is not surprising, since they were not civilly recorded in England until 1 July 1837. Prior to that date, baptisms were recorded in churches and these sometimes, but not always, include the date of birth. The majority of the population still adhered to the Church of England, but by the early 1800s it was not uncommon for individuals and families to belong to so-called Nonconformist churches, such as the Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, etc. Keep in mind that even if a record of John’s baptism, or those of his children, exists, it might not be indexed or available online.

It would be helpful for you to check whether John ever became a U.S. citizen. It is not uncommon for naturalization records in Massachusetts to show the subject’s place of birth. NEHGS has a copy of the naturalization index for Massachusetts, 1791-1906 on microfilm, and copies of the naturalization records themselves may be found at the National Archives branch on Trapelo Road in Waltham, Mass.
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