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Ask a Genealogist: Searching for immigration records.

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Question:

Can you offer some suggestions for locating the immigration records for my immigrant ancestors?  They arrived in the late 19th century in Massachusetts.

Answer:

A good source for immigration information are naturalization records. The naturalization petition records the applicant's birth date and birthplace, as well as the date and port of entry into the U.S. Until 1920 women rarely applied for naturalization so you will be locating naturalizations for the male immigrants of the family; naturalization for women was based on their father's or husband's citizenship status. For naturalizations in Massachusetts, you may wish to search FamilySearch's "New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906"https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1840474 and "Massachusetts Naturalization Index, 1906-1966" https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1834334

Ask a Genealogist: How to properly add a location to your research.

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Question:

I would like to know the correct way to address the town, county, province of locations. I want to know how to address the way to enter town, county, and province including New Netherland, New York, New Jersey and other locations that are now states. This would be for period during the Revolutionary War and before.

Answer:

The rule of thumb for place names is to record them as they existed at the time of the event in question. In some instances a place may no longer exist and in such instances you can augment the place by including the present day name for it in parenthesis.

For example, if you are talking about the capital of New Netherland, you could say New Amsterdam, New Netherlands (which became Manhattan, New York County, New York).

Ask a Genealogist: Searching for German church records

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Question:

I descend from Johann J. Wagner and Johann Ruck ancestors that emigrated from Bavaria (late 1830s into late 1840s) and Huchlers from Heidelberg area (early 1850s). All settled in Ulster County NY. All are Roman Catholic. I know their full names / birth dates. I am seeking to trace their roots back to their town lands and locate baptisms, marriage records, etc. as well as learn their parents’ names. Naturalization records only state that they emigrated from Bavaria. What research sources do you recommend in seeking to trace their roots back to Bavaria / the Heidelberg area? I assume that the only available records exist in local parishes. Are there any online research databases that you recommend?

Answer:

When it comes to researching in the church records in Germany, you often must identify the parish itself. In many towns, this is not a problem, as there is only one Catholic Church in the area. However, in larger cities such as Heidelberg, there are likely to be many Catholic Churches that would require searching the records.

Regardless of large city or town, as you know, Bavaria and Heidelberg are locations too large in scope. The earlier naturalization records likewise did not ask as much in regard to origins, and also can make it difficult.

You mentioned that the family all settled in Ulster County, New York. While your quest is to search backwards, you may first need to concentrate on their time in Ulster County, specifically when births of children took place. Some of the church records will list origins of the parents in the registers of baptisms. Likewise, marriage registers and sometimes burial registers will include such identifying information. If you have not already done so, you will want to pursue the church records in New York.

Ask a Genealogist: New Brunswick newspapers online

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Question:

Can you tell me where I may be able to search for early New Brunswick marriage and death notices?  I am searching for ancestors in the mid to late 19th century.

Answer:

I would suggest you consult the work of my late colleague Daniel F. Johnson.  He transcribed countless newspapers for vital statistics and other various genealogical data. The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick has put the work of Daniel F. Johnson online.  You can search by family surname at: http://archives.gnb.ca/Search/NewspaperVitalStats/NameIndex.aspx?culture=en-CA

Ask a Genealogist: Immigrants to New York from England.

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Question:

George and his wife Lucy Susan Barber were born in England in 1808 and 1809. They had two daughters born in England, Charlotte J born 1829 and Elizabeth born 1832. In 1834 Mary is born in NYC. They had 3 more children born in Newburyport Mass. That gives me a tight window of immigration. I have found out that the ships records and immigration records were lost in a fire at Ellis Island. The state of NY does not allow on line access to their records and few counties go back to 1834 so I'm at a dead end. All searches via Ancestry, American Ancestors or FamilySearch draw a blank. I've spent hours looking at my UK subscription to Ancestry and still get no hits. In all my searches I got two hits for Lucy Susan Barber but both don't match the person that George Married. Unfortunately there are a lot of George Armstrongs but still no match up hits. All birth, marriage and death certificates list husband and wife as born in England.

Answer:

First, a little historical overview of the port of arrival for New York City to better understand where records were kept and what may have been destroyed during the 1897 fire that destroyed the original immigration station on Ellis Island.

In his book, American Passage, The History of Ellis Island, Vincent J. Cannato says, “Between 1820 and 1860, 3.7 million immigrants entered through the portal of New York Harbor—some 70 percent of all immigrants to the United States during this time. Those ships streaming up the Narrows into New York Harbor,…”

Ellis Island as an immigrant processing station did not open until 1892, and then after the fire which broke out just after midnight on June 15, 1897 was rebuilt and reopened in mid-December 1900. Prior to 1892, immigrants from 1855 to 1891 were processed at Castle Garden, the first immigrant station in New York City, located at the Battery. And before 1855, they were simply shipped up the Narrows to New York Harbor as described by Professor Cannato.

This time line is important for your immigrant, because the Armstrongs appear to be arriving at such an early year—1833. Also, while there was record destruction as a result of the Ellis Island fire, it did nothing to the passenger lists which were located at the Customs Office. Administrative records dated 1855-1890 were at Ellis Island and those are what were destroyed. At the time of the fire, the processing of immigrants was still under the Customs Office, which explains why the records were there. And even if passenger lists had been involved, the years in question did not include the arrival time of your ancestors.

It is a little unclear what you are hoping for, in your quest. If you are hoping for the place in England, the passenger lists will not supply this. Likewise, it is possible that no passenger list exists for your ancestors. George Barber and his family may have traveled from England to Canada and then come down from Canada. If this is the case, then there will be no paper trail for their arrival. First, going from England to Canada was like traveling from Massachusetts to Connecticut, there was just a lot of water between the two. They were both under British rule, and as such no passenger lists exist for such a trip. Likewise, coming from Canada to the United States prior to 1895 has no paper trail. Border crossings, as they are known, were not recorded until 1895 for crossing from Canada to the United States (even later for those crossing from Mexico to the United States).

However, when searching for individuals online via Ancestry and other such database sites, it is important to remember that a negative search does not necessarily mean they are not in the records. What it means is that your search did not match the index created by Ancestry to those records.

When searching for Lucy Susan Barber, it would be best to search for a Lucy Barber. When working online it is best to start out with as little information as possible, narrowing down once you get to a specific dataset.

In addition, if you have not already done so, you may wish to see if you can find a naturalization record for George Barber. This is likely to be located either in New York City or in the county where he was living in Massachusetts. Naturalization is a three step process. The immigrant was required to reside in the United States at least three years before he could declare his intent to become a citizen (step 1). Some states also required a minimum residency of one year in that state before the immigrant could declare his intent. A minimum of two years later the immigrant could then apply for citizenship (step 2). This did not have to be in the same place where he declared his intent. And then the final step is the naturalization certificate that the immigrant receives when his application has been accepted (step 3).

While these early naturalization records are not as detailed as those of the 20th century, it is possible that the declaration of intent may mention the year and method of arrival into the United States. Also keep in mind that just because he had a daughter in New York City in 1834, does not mean that the family arrived through the port of New York.

Ask a Genealogist: Looking for a 1920's Massachusetts death record.

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Question:

I am searching for William Leonard Wade, born Nova Scotia.  I am looking for his death record from Wrentham Mass. about 1924. He was a shipbuilder, navigator, pilot, apple farmer, and died in a complete mystery as to when and where he was buried.

Answer:

In regard to William Leonard Wade, you will want to get a copy of his death record. He did die at Wrentham in 1924. You can either write to the Wrentham Town Hall, 79 South Street, Wrentham, MA 02093 and request the copy from them or you can write to the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics, 150 Mt. Vernon Street, #1, Dorchester, MA 02125. You may want to try Wrentham Town Hall first, as they are likely to be cheaper. Be sure to include in your research to them that you wish to know the place of burial (in case they are sending you a certified transcription rather than a photocopy of the original records). If you order it through the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics, you will want to tell them that the record you are requesting is “William L. Wade, Death, 1924, volume 95, page 380.” They will send you a certified photocopy of the original record.

Ask a Genealogist: Early Church records for the Chandler family in England.

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Question:

My 12th great grandfather was Thomas Chandler born 1475 Bishops Stortford England. d. January 1549 Bishops Stortford, He was a Churchwarden at St Michael's Church Windhill, Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, England in the years 1521, 1522, 1536. His son Thomas 2nd and Grandson Thomas 3rd also were Churchwardens. Are there records going this far back? How would I go about finding any records? I want to find Thomas Chandler's b 1475 parents and trace this line further back if possible. And find any additional information about this line.

Answer:

The Chandler family has been well documented and the family history can be found in George Chandler’s The Chandler Family: The Descendants of William and Annis Chandler, who Settled in Roxbury, Mass., 1637 (which is available online through Google Books) in two volumes. The Church Wardens’ accounts date back to 1440 and can be found on microfilm through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City www.familysearch.org. In the online catalog, you will want to search for “Bishops-Stotford” in the place field; otherwise it will not come up.

Ask a Genealogist: Adoption records in Michigan

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Question:

I am trying to locate an adoption record occuring in the 1920's .  This adoption occured in Van Buren County, Michigan.  Can you offer some research suggestions?

Answer:

Thank you for your recent submission to our “Ask a Genealogist”. You are trying to track down an adoption date in Van Buren County, MI. In order to do so, you must contact the Van Buren County  Probate Court, http://www.county-courthouse.com/mi/paw-paw/van-buren-county-probate-court , they will be able to assist you in locating the formal date of actual adoptions – that is if you have proof that Nellie’s uncle and aunt went to court to formally to adopt their niece. If there is a record, it will provide date and also any formal name change that may have been done around that time.
 
I did check the Family History Library catalog and I am afraid for  the period of time you are seeking, 1920-1930, the records have not been filmed so you will need to contact the court directly.
 
 
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