Sunday, October 20, 2019

How to Find the Birthplace of Your Immigrant Ancestor

How to Find the Birthplace of Your Immigrant Ancestor Once youve traced your family tree back to the immigrant ancestor, determining his/her birthplace is the key to the next branch in your family tree. Knowing just the country isnt just enough - youll usually have to get down to the town or village level to successfully locate your ancestors records. While it seems a simple enough task, a town name isnt always easy to find. In many records, only the country or possibly county, state, or department of origin were recorded, but not the name of the actual  ancestral town or parish. Even when a place is listed, it may only be the nearby big city, because that was a more recognizable point of reference for people not familiar with the region. The only clue Ive ever found to my 3rd great-grandfathers city/town of origin in Germany, for example, is his tombstone that says he was born in Bremerhaven. But did he really come from the big port city of Bremerhaven? Or is that the port he emigrated from? Was he from a nearby small town, perhaps elsewhere in the city-state of Bremen, or the surrounding state of Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony)? To locate an immigrants town or village of origin you may have to gather clues from numerous sources. Step One: Take Off His Name Tag! Learn everything you can about your immigrant ancestor so that you will be able to identify him in relevant records, and distinguish him from others of the same name. This includes: The immigrants full name including her middle name or maiden name, if applicableA date of birth or the date of another event (marriage, immigration, etc.) with which you may be able to identify your ancestorA place of birth, even if it is just a country of origin for nowThe names of all identifiable relatives parents, spouse, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, etc. Immigrants often traveled with relatives or went to join one who had previously emigrated. These names will also help you to identify your immigrants family in their country of origin.Any other information that may help identify your ancestor, including religion, occupation, friends, neighbors, etc. Dont forget to ask family members and even distant relatives about your ancestors birthplace. You never know who may have personal knowledge or relevant records in their possession. Step Two: Search National Level Indexes Once youve determined the country of origin, look for a national index to vital or civil registration records (births, deaths, marriages) or a national census or other enumeration for that country in the time period in which your ancestor was born (e.g. civil registration index for England Wales). If such an index exists, this might provide a shortcut to learning your ancestors place of birth. You must, however, have enough identifying information to recognize the immigrant, and many countries do not maintain vital records at the national level. Even if you do locate a particular candidate this way, you will still want to follow the other steps as well to verify that your same name individual in the old country is actually your ancestor. Step Three: Identify Records Which May Include the Place of Birth The next goal in your birthplace quest is to find a record or other source that tells you specifically where to start looking in your ancestors country of origin. While searching, it is important to remember that your ancestors last residence prior to emigration may not necessarily be their place of birth. Look at research already done by others. In many cases, other researchers have already found where the emigrant came from. This includes searching through published indexes and genealogies, local biographies and town histories, and databases of compiled records.Locate original records related to the immigrants death, such as death records, church records, obituaries, cemetery records, and probate records. Obituaries published in ethnic newspapers are the most likely to contain specific information such as a town of origin.Check both civil and church sources for a marriage record and records of the childrens births.Search other types of genealogical records which may reveal an ancestors town of origin, including census records, court records, newspapers, and land and property records.Immigration records such as passenger lists and naturalization records are another important source in the search for an immigrants town of birth. While it may seem a better place to start, you usually ne ed the information found in previous steps to enable you to locate immigration and naturalization records. In the United States, for example, census records may reveal whether an ancestor was naturalized. Search for these records in each place where the immigrant lived, for the complete time period when he or she lived there and for some time after his death. Be sure to investigate available records in all jurisdictions that may have kept records about him or her, including town, parish, county, state, and national authorities. Be thorough in your examination of each record, making note of all identifying details such as the immigrants occupation or the names of neighbors, godparents, and witnesses. Step Four: Cast a Wider Net Sometimes after researching all possible records, you will still be unable to find a record of the home town of your immigrant ancestor. In this case, continue the search in the records of identified family members brother, sister, father, mother, cousin, children, etc. to see if you can find a place name associated with them. For example, my great-grandfather emigrated to the United States from Poland but was never naturalized and left no records of his specific town of origin. The town in which they lived was identified, however, on the naturalization record of his eldest daughter (who was born in Poland). Tip!  Church baptismal records for children of immigrant parents are another resource that can be invaluable in a search for immigrant origins. Many immigrants settled in areas and attended churches with others of their same ethnic and geographic background, with a priest or minister who likely knew the family. Sometimes this means records likely to be more specific than just Germany in recording a place of origin. Step Five: Find it on a Map Identify and verify the place name on a map, something that is not always as easy as it sounds. Often you will find multiple places with the same name, or you may find that the town has changed jurisdictions or even disappeared. It is very important here to correlate with historical maps and other sources of information to be sure that you have identified the correct town.

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