Thursday, May 26, 2016

Immigrant Ancestors Project

The Immigrant Ancestors Project is located at the Center for Family History and Genealogy at Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is a project and database that is very useful for genealogists in that it provides the place of origin from countries such as Ireland for immigrants to the United States, Canada, and elsewhere. It sources from "emigration registers to locate information about the birthplaces of immigrants in their native countries, which is not found in the port registers and naturalization documents in the destination countries."[1]  It began in 2014 and is ongoing. Currently, it lists the National Library of Ireland, Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, The National Archives (UK), and the British Library as institutions it has worked with.

A search for those from Ireland who immigrated to the United States and Canada returns over 1,500 entries. Some of those records come from small, but interesting record sets and publications:
  • Castlecomer [Kilkenny] Poor Law Union Assisted Emigrants 1847-1853
  • Irish Emigrant Letters 1842-1910
  • Irish Emigrant Personal Accounts 1838-1901        

At the time of writing, information for more than 90% of Irish immigrants to North America in the database comes from one collection - WO23, Examination of Invalid Soldiers from The National Archives (UK). This is a collection which lists invalid soldiers who were given permission to stay in what was British Canada in the 19th century.

This clearly is a project with a lot of potential as there are many less well known record sets in Irish and British archives that contain Irish place of origin information for many who immigrated from Ireland to the United States or Canada. Dependant on funding, hopefully this is a database that will grow over the coming years.

[1] Center for Family History and Genealogy. Immigrant Ancestors Project. 2014. Available online at accessed 6 May 2016.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Podcast Of My Recent U.S. Genealogy Talk

My recent talk about introductory genealogy resources in the United States was kindly recorded and is available to listen to as a podcast. Many thanks to the Eneclann / Irish Family History Centre staff for recording it and making it available.

Listen here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Maine Gaeltacht DNA Project

Last week, I profiled the genealogy holdings and services at the Maine Irish Heritage Center (MIHC) in Portland. The jewel in the crown at MIHC, though, is undoubted the Maine Gaeltacht[1] DNA Project.

It was started in 2011 and is essentially an attempt to trace the genealogy of Irish immigrants to Maine via the traditional paper trail and DNA. To date it has collected information on more than 142,000 such immigrants and their descendants and 535 people have participated in autosomal DNA tests.[2] The well known Irish genetic genealogist, Maurice Gleeson, has described it as "the most advanced DNA project of its kind in existence."[3]

The project is named so due to the high number of Irish immigrants who came from the Irish speaking areas of County Galway, such as Connemara. What makes the project even more valuable is that many people from Connemara have submitted samples for DNA testing.

The project was profiled in the Portland Press Herald newspaper back in March. The article gives an excellent overview of the project and what it has achieved so far. Members of the project traveled to Ireland last year to present a lecture at the Back to Our Past Genetic Genealogy Ireland conference. You can watch that presentation below (53 mins).

If you want to participate in the project you can contact the MIHC online.

[1] Irish word for an Irish speaking area.
[2] Bouchard, Kelley. Thanks to DNA ancestry project, Mainers with Irish ties find family. Portland Press Herald. 17 March 2016. Available online at accessed 3 April 2015.
[3] Ibid.

Monday, May 9, 2016

U.S. Genealogy Talk At The National Library Of Ireland

Next Saturday, 14 May, I'll be speaking about U.S. genealogy at the National Library of Ireland, Dublin. The talk begins at 2pm and there will be a bit of chat and a cup of tea or two afterwards at Buswell's Hotel, across the street. All are welcome to attend. More information.

Researching Uncle Sam: Introductory Genealogy Resources in the United States of America

Almost 3.8 million people immigrated to the United States of America from Ireland between 1851 and 1921. Millions more arrived on the shores of North America in the decades and centuries before those years. Therefore, practically every Irish-born person today has an ancestor who can be traced in American genealogy records. This talk will provide researchers with an overview of the main record sets that should be consulted when beginning genealogy research in the U.S. The backbone of American genealogy, the Federal Census, will be discussed in detail, along with the less well known state censuses. Civil registration, or vital records as they are known stateside, will be explained along with where to apply for those all-important birth, marriage, and death records. Immigration and naturalization records will be the focus of the concluding parts of the lecture.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Digitized Irish Records In The Familysearch Catalog

Last November, the Familysearch blog outlined that the most requested microfilms at the Family History Library would be digitized, with access to the images available through the Familysearch Catalog. Before this, digitized records were, and still are, found in the Records section, with the Historic Record Collections list the quickest way to identify records of interest. Digitized record sets have the image of a camera beside the title. Just like in the Records section, selecting on the camera icon in the Catalog listing will allow you to view any of the newly digitized records.

Digitized Irish records on the Familysearch website. Camera icon highlighted.

The plan to digitize microfilms and place the images in the Catalog has very quickly provided an unexpected boon to Irish genealogy research. Two weeks ago, John Schnelle contacted Claire Santry about the availability of digitized Griffith's Valuation House, Quarto, and Field books (read the blog post here and access the Catalog listing here).

My AncestryProGenealogists colleague, Eimer Shea, brought it to my attention that wills from the Tuam probate district have been digitized and are also available in the Catalog. A subsequent perusal of the Catalog by us found that digitized wills from 11 of the 12 post-1857 probate districts in the Republic of Ireland are also available to view in the Catalog (wills from the Dublin probate district are not listed in the Catalog). These wills are available to view up to various cut of years around 1900.

Digitized wills from Tuam Probate District. Camera icon highlighted.

As well as the Valuation Books and wills, there are other microfilms that have been digitized, for example:

The Family History Library obviously has a  huge collection of microfilmed Irish records and it is very likely that other interesting records have been digitized. As such, the Familysearch Catalog should now be a mandatory place to look online for digitized Irish records. Of course, this digitization project is not just confined to microfilms of Irish records. It therefore offers a new and exciting research path for people researching ancestors who immigrated to the United States, Canada, and elsewhere, as microfilms of records from other countries are also being digitized.

If you have not used the Familysearch Catalog before then follow this step-by-step.

1. On the Familysearch homepage, select Search, then select Catalog

2. Select Search By: Place

3. Enter the Irish county you want to consult and select Search

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Maine Irish Heritage Center

The Maine Irish Heritage Center (MIHC) was founded in 1997 when the City of Portland generously donated St. Dominic's Roman Catholic Church to the Irish American Club and Friends of St. Patrick. Today, the mission statement of the organization is threefold:[1]
  • preserve and restore the historic landmark that was formerly St. Dominic’s Church, a hub of early Irish Community in Maine
  • provide a center for Maine’s diverse communities to share their cultural experience through education, programs and community events
  • house Maine’s Irish Genealogical Center, Museum, Archives and Library, preserving the story of Irish history in Maine

This last point encompasses a number of facilities within the MIHC that have seen it become one of the best places to go for Irish genealogy in the New England area. Volunteer genealogists are available to help you get started to assist in trying to break through those brick walls. Members get a complimentary consultation with a genealogist and there is a very affordable member and non-member fee schedule for further research. Genealogy workshops are also held throughout the year.

The MIHC library contains over 2,000 volumes, including city directories, yearbooks, obituaries, and St. Dominic’s school registers, along with access to online genealogy resources. There is an online library catalog to get started with their holdings. The MIHC archive contains some fascinating collections, including oral histories with Irish immigrants and Irish Americans in Maine.

You can visit the MIHC in person at the corner of Gray and State Street, Portland, ME 04112-7588 or online at their website. This organization is an absolute must to visit or interact with if you have Irish ancestry in Maine.

[1] Maine Irish Heritage Center. Mission. 2013. Available online at accessed 30 April 2016.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

U.S. Census Series: Ward 2, St. Louis, Missouri 1860

One of the recurring features of this blog is the U.S. Census Series, where I highlight the rare examples of Irish place of birth/origin recorded on census documents. To date, seven locations have been explored and they can be accessed at the Census Series page. This post is about Ward 2, St. Louis, Missouri in the 1860 U.S. Federal Census.

St. Louis, Missouri 1871 Ward Map. Click to enlarge.[1]

We can be thankful to census enumerator Edward Thierry for going beyond the norm when gathering answers to the question 'Place of Birth, Naming the State, Territory or Country.' In total, he recorded an Irish county or place of birth for approximately 323 people. There were also a few other very interesting efforts by him to document place of birth, such as 'County Neals, Ireland,' 'Not Ascertained, Ireland' and 'Born at Sea, Ireland.' He collected this census information between 1 June and 31 July of that year.

Approx. No. of Entries
55 (incl. 3 Thurles, 1 Chermill [?], 2 Littleton)
29 (incl. 3 Bandon, 2 City, 2 Bantry)
15 (incl. 2 Oldcastle)
14 (incl. 1 Hedford)
6 (incl. 1 Kenmare)
4 (incl. 2 'Londy' possibly Londonderry)
4 (incl. 1 Newry)
3 (incl. 1 'Fardown' [?])
3 (3 Belfast)

Co Neals, Ireland
Born at Sea, Ireland
Portage, Ireland
Co City, Ireland
Co Casey, Ireland
Not ascertained, Ireland
Not known, Ireland

Final Total
He did not record the county of birth of every Irish born person he encountered, but we get a flavor of the Irish county makeup of the 2nd Ward of St. Louis. Tipperary and Cork feature the most, with counties Cavan, Dublin, Wexford, Limerick and Mayo all heavily featured. At least one person from every county in Ireland had their place of birth recorded.

[1] Tracey, J. L. Map Of The City Of St. Louis For Tracy's Guide To Missouri. 1871. Available online at David Rumsey Maps  accessed 23 May 2016.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Remittance Records from Deposit, New York

When a genealogist hears about ‘financial records’ and ‘the Irish in New York,’ they will more than likely think about the wonderful Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank records. It is a storied record set, due to the level of biographical information provided about those who deposited money with the bank.

An equally fascinating record set, which is considerably less well known, is the accounts of an immigrant financial agent in the town of Deposit, New York. This aptly named town is on the border of Broome and Delaware Counties, near the Pennsylvania state line.

Irish immigrants were attracted to Broome and Delaware counties by the prospect of employment in two main industries.[1] The New York & Erie railroad reached Deposit in 1848 and many Irish immigrants were involved in the building of the railroad to and from the town. There was also a considerable number of tanneries in the area and they offered various types of employment.

The records are located in the archives of the Deposit Historical Society and are from the years 1851 to 1860, inclusive. They contain the financial transactions of Irish immigrants sending remittance payments to people in Ireland. It is well known that millions of dollars were remitted to Ireland in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These papers are one of the few examples of records that show such remittance transactions.

In total, there are about 480 entries from the years that are available. What is most useful about this record set is that the place in Ireland where the person is sending money is likely to be where they were from, with the recipient almost certainly to be a family member, close family friend or trusted person, such as a priest.

Two interesting examples show the potential information they contain:

[page 55] 25 Feb 1854 – Peter McCabe sends to his Mother Ellen McCabe, Newbliss PO [post office] Monaghan, Ireland, Care Geo Moffat[2]

[page 97] 24 Feb 1857 –Bridget Lynes sends widow Margarett Lynes of Derremore [sic - Derrymore], Carrimeady [?] in care of Revd Pat Quade PP, Calurine, Callighan Millis [sic], Po Clare Co, Ireland[3]

These records can be combined with the 1855 NY State census, the 1850 and 1860 editions of the U.S Federal Census and Catholic Church records from the area to create a picture of the payees, their families, and chain migration to the area from Ireland.

The records are not available online but were transcribed and published in volume 32, no. 4, 1992 edition of the Central New York Genealogical Society's journal Tree Talks.

[1] Goodrich, Victoria B. Sending Money Home: The Accounts of an Immigrant Financial Agent in Deposit, New York, 1851-1860. Tree Talks. Volume 32. No. 4. 1992. p. iii.
[2] Ibid., p.21.
[3] Ibid., p. 37.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Pioneer Irish of Onondaga

Pioneer Irish of Onondaga is an early 20th century publication that offers biographies, ancestral pedigrees, and Irish places of origin for immigrants from Ireland who settled in this New York county from about 1776 to 1847. The book is divided into 22 chapters, with 20 of those devoted to various cities, towns, and areas in the county.

In the book it mentions how many of the immigrants arrived in Onondaga having first set foot on the continent in Canada. Therefore, those with Irish ancestors from Canada, upstate New York, and neighboring states, such as Vermont, should also check this book out.

The index at the back of the book is very useful as it contains about 3,200 entries. The vast majority are for names of Irish immigrants who are mentioned, along with a sizeable number of Irish place of origin such as counties, town, and parishes.

As always with such publications that do not cite the source of their information, use it as a guide to help you find the original documents for the person of interest. This book is widely available online via Internet Archive, Familysearch Books, Ancestry, and American Ancestors.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New England Petitions for Naturalization Index, 1791-1906

Naturalization records are fundamental documents to  obtains when it comes to researching the life of an immigrant in the United States. There are a number of large databases of indexes to naturalization records available online, one of which is New England Petitions for Naturalization Index, 1791-1906. New England is a region of the U.S. that contains the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. All of these states saw the arrival of large numbers of Irish immigrants in the 19th century.

This database was originally created in the late 1930s by the Works Progress/Projects Administration.[1] In total, it contains over 600,000 index cards for immigrants who naturalized. Around 25% of these people were born in Ireland.[2]

Working out the court where an ancestor naturalized, particularly if they moved a lot or lived in a large urban area, can be one of the main stumbling blocks to obtaining naturalization records. The usefulness of this index is that the cards list the court that granted the naturalization certificate, along with the volume and page number of the naturalization record.[3] 

To obtain the original records, you will need to find out where that court currently stores its naturalization records. Don't forget that they may have been digitized and placed online, be available on microfilm at an institution such as the Family History Library, or at the National Archives Northeast Region in Boston. 

This index database is available on the big three genealogy websites.

[1] Index To New England Naturalization Records, 1791-1906. Washington, D.C: National Archives and Records Administration. n.d. p. 1. Available online at accessed 13 March 2016.
[2] This number is based on my own tabulation of a non-exact search using Ireland as the place of birth. The total was 156,667. Using an exact search for Ireland returned the same number. Some of the returns say 'Great Britain or Ireland' as the place of birth. It is also likely that some of those whose birthplace was recorded as 'Britain' or 'Great Britain' were born in Ireland.
[3] Index To New England Naturalization Records, 1791-1906. Washington, D.C: National Archives and Records Administration. n.d. p. 1. Available online at accessed 13 March 2016.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Familysearch Letures

There are myriad online resources to help with genealogy research in Ireland, Canada and the United States. What is harder to come by are lectures that focus on researching in the United States and Canada with the aim of getting back to Ireland. Luckily, Familysearch have some resources available in that category. Their website is primarily known for the billions of free records from all over the world. However, less well explored sections of the website include the Family History Research Wiki and the Learning Center.

The learning center has a number of interesting lectures that are specifically aimed at those who are trying to find where their ancestor(s) came from in Ireland.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

NIFHS Cemetery Inscriptions

Following on from last week's post about genealogy organizations outside the U.S and Canada that have relevant records and resources, this week's post looks at the North of Ireland Family History Society (NIFHS). NIFHS "is a voluntary not-for-profit organization encouraging an interest in family history with particular reference to the nine counties in the historic Province of Ulster."[1]

One of their offerings is an index to graveyard inscriptions extracted from journals that the society subscribes to. The usefulness of the index is that you can quickly find out if a family name is included in the listing of inscriptions from a particular cemetery that you are interested in. Members of the NIFHS can avail of a lookup service if there is a cemetery of interest among the extensive list. This list includes transcribed information from some cemeteries in both the United States and Canada.

You can learn more information about this index and the NIFHS on their website.

Article Title
Memorial Stones in the USA
Galway Roots Vol 2 Page 79
New Brunswick, St. John County Alms & workhouse
Galway Roots Vol 4 Page 125
Andover, Mass. USA emigrant burials
Irish Ancestor Vol 1 Page 23
Tombstone Inscriptions of Irish interest in British Columbia
Irish Family History Society Vol. 2 1986 Page 59
St. Mary’s Cemetery, Lee, Mas., U.S.A.
Irish Family History Society Vol. 3 1987 Page 32
Irish graves in Ontario, Canada
Irish Family History Society Vol. 6 1990 Page 39
Irish Burials in St. Augustine’s Catholic Church Cemetery, Hamilton – Wentworth region, Ontario
Irish Family History Society Vol. 10 1994 Page 61
St. Joseph’s R.C. Church Cemetery, Bimbrook, Hamilton – Wentworth region, Ontario
Irish Family History Society Vol. 10 1994 Page 62
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Catholic Church Cemetery, Freelton, Ontario
Irish Family History Society Vol. 10 1994 Page 63
St. Thomas R.C. Cemetery, Waterdown, Ontario
Irish Family History Society Vol. 10 1994 Page 64
Bakerville Cemetery & Richfield Cemetery, B.C., Canada
Irish Family History Society Vol. 17 2001 Page 119

[1] North of Ireland Family History Society. North of Ireland Family History Society. Available online at accessed 27 January 2016.
[2] There is no indications as to what this acronym stands for but it likely to be internal reference.