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Barbara Clough

Searching for my great-grandmother

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I am back on Ancestry.com today, trying to find my mysterious and missing great grandmother. The one who doesn't exist before she begins to show up on the NYC census records. I'm still awaiting the package from the history society that contains all the baptismal certificates and maybe even the marriage certificate of my great-great-grandparents so that I can try go glean more information from them. I feel somewhat at a standstill on the family research, so I decided to take a different tack, a more historical line. 

I want to start looking at how people emigrated, the literal route they took. Maybe if I knew how they arrived in NYC, I could backtrack from there looking at passenger lists, embarkation lists, arrivals in the port of NY. Ellis Island didn't start tracking immigrants until 1892, so prior to that, it's hard to know unless you can obtain passenger lists. So, if I lived in Tullamore, Co. Offaly, in the mid-1800s, how would I get from there to NYC?

It's close enough to Dublin, but for some reason, I vaguely remember Cork being a big departure point for emigrants. That said, even though my great-grandmother ended up in NYC, she could have come in through Canada, Philadelphia or even another entry point I haven't thought of.  

As for record keeping, considering the fact that Irish Catholic births and deaths weren't even being recorded in Ireland, I'd be surprised if any lists existed of Irish Catholics who actually left the country. And since there was no tracking on the way in...did they just get off the boat, look at the address they had of one person who may have preceded them, and then just found their way there? Did someone meet my great grandmother at the dock and enfold her in a bear hug, carry her bag, and make her a cup of tea? 

Questions with no answers. 

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Hi Barbara,

I hope you manage to find out more on your great grandmother. Have you tried the central library of the city/town where she landed in?

Good luck with your search.

Best wishes


Barbara Clough

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Hi Gill, That's one of the many mysteries. I don't know where she landed - could be the Port of NY, could be Canada and then came down to the Bronx, could have been Philly. Ellis Island didn't begin managing immigration until 1892, so prior to that, it was just a free for all. You showed, you survived the voyage, you came in, you got a job, you start new life. That's all there was. 

Eric Sinclair

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From a fellow blogger. This is a story about an ancestor of my wife, which you may(or may not) find interesting. It is on the theme of ancestors who went to America. The link is here