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Genealogy HowTo
Issue: May 22, 2008

The Process for Finding Your Ancestor's Homeland
By Karen Clifford, AG, FUGA

Perhaps you have had the opportunity in the past to identify a new ancestor in the United States. Maybe you went so far as to trace that ancestor to the place he or she arrived in America. But as you tried to make the leap to the original homeland of the ancestor, you found many individuals with the same name--so many, in fact, that you could not tell who the proper ancestor was.

This article will share some insights to make the next step easier. Finding your Ancestor's homeland becomes easier if you completely identify them by uncovering four KEY FACTS about them.

KEY FACT #1 Their Complete Birth Name

You need to know the name of your immigrant ancestor. This may not be easy since some families only have a vague history of their original immigrant. Some immigrants changed their names or recorders Anglicized given names when new arrivals came to this new country. Some countries traditionally give their children three, four, or five given names, but so far you may only know one of those given names. Other countries have a tradition of changing the surname every generation or when a person moves to a new location.

So first, determine the complete foreign version of your immigrant ancestor's name. Be wary of those who offer to sell you the meaning of your name. For an example, some people find their Scottish name on a Sept list. The term Sept comes from the Irish language and has a connotation similar to clan. It is subject to some debate because most of these lists have been the creation of businessmen who attempt to sell information or mementos such as tartans or coats of arms. While these lists might help you find a large area of interest in your name like associations from phone books, you will need much more to find your ancestor in his original home town.

KEY FACT #2 Event Dates

You need the date of an event that happened to your immigrant ancestor in the old country. Birth dates are preferred, but a marriage in a foreign country or other events will often get you off and running. That date needs to be as specific a date as possible, including the day, month, and year, not just an approximate date. Unfortunately, I have found that the Irish in particular are very casual about their birth date, and found the same family changing their dates from census to census, or changing the date on other records such as an ages at marriage or death.

In a case like this, it is very advantageous to have more than one date. Perhaps you are able to find the actual birth date of a sibling who was known to be older than your ancestor. This date can be used as foundation for other family members. Watch carefully for all family members and take particular pains to obtain as many records in the country of immigration before crossing the waters.

KEY FACT #3 Name of as Relative or Friend

You need to learn the name of a relative or friend connected with the ancestor in the old country. A marriage record might give a father's name in the old country. A probate might list a cousin, uncle, or grandparents in the old country. A bank record might list the name of an heir in the old country. A military record or a ship passenger list might record the name of a friend who traveled with your ancestor. It is even better when the friend or relative has a more unique name than your ancestor. When you find the two together in the old country, you can be very sure it is the right family.

KEY FACT #4 Place of Origin

Finally, you need the "place of origin". Like the date, this needs to be as specific as possible. Most vital records in other countries used to be kept at a local level. There are virtually no nationwide indexes in foreign countries for all the years we need. This fourth fact is usually the most difficult for family historians to obtain.

For example, a family had a tradition about a Scottish ancestor who came in the 1700s to America. The family had in their traditions that they came from Aberdeenshire. Upon researching the family, it was discovered that the family had been transplanted from Aberdeenshire to County Down in Northern Ireland nearly two hundred years before immigrating to New York State. From New York State, the majority of the family had moved to Canada for two generations before returning to the United States. In Toronto, it was more acceptable to be Scottish so the Irish generations faded from the memories of the descendants.

Fortunately we live in a time when there are research methodologies and tools available to help us work our way through such a maze.

Let's make some notes. What do you know about your immigrant ancestor? Click on your computer notepad and jot down what you currently know about your immigrant ancestor's four identifiers as mentioned above. If you are missing something, try applying the following techniques.

Enhance the History

The information contained in the six resources below will enhance the background on your family, and they may also assist you in finding the four key facts previously covered. But you must be systematic in your research and recording skills. In other words, as you approach the resources below, you should record them with sufficient detail to locate evidence about them in the weeks to come.

  • 1. Family stories and traditions - Was the information provided by someone who could be considered a primary source? In other words, were they first-hand witnesses to the event, or were they repeating something that they had heard? Could the tradition or story apply to different people than those to whom they are currently linked? In any case, jot down the story or tradition in your notes but label them as traditions until you can find evidence to prove them or link them to the proper persons.

  • 2. Family heirlooms - If a cup, plate, picture, or other heirloom is in the family and can be identified with another family, then that can be pretty strong evidence of a family relationship. The problem usually lies with it being identified to another family. How about your heirlooms? Do you have a trunk that came over from the old country with the family, pictures of the event, or documents?

  • 3. Names of friends and other family members - These names can show up as witnesses to wills, sponsors on christening records, witnesses to marriages, or neighbors on land records. Wherever these names are found, be sure to record the place names given on the documents, the full names of the people involved, and all dates in case it becomes necessary to trace these people further.

  • 4. The religion of the immigrant family - Record the basis for this information. Do not think that since the person was a Lutheran in America that he or she could not have been another denomination, such as Catholic, in the old country. Was the person married by a priest? Where was the person buried? Could this be a clue to a religion?

  • 5. The family's ethnic background - Record the basis for this information. Was it found in a census record, on a naturalization paper, or was it a family tradition?

  • 6. Name changes - both given and surnames - Record the basis for this information. Perhaps the information was given on different vital records. Summarize why you know this to be the case. Often the surname spelling when the person first arrives is closest to the spelling in the old country. Try to find as many occurrences of the names in as many different records as possible.
While there is not a single resource that would give us all the information we need to work our way back in time, there are a few that work better than others. ***To be continued in the next issue****

Article written by Karen Clifford from Genealogy Research Associates. Sponsored by MyTrees.com.

Copyright ©: 2011 Karen Clifford. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: May 22, 2008

The Process for Finding Your Ancestor's Homeland
By Karen Clifford, AG, FUGA

Perhaps you have had the opportunity in the past to identify a new ancestor in the United States. Maybe you went so far as to trace that ancestor to the place he or she arrived in America. But as you tried to make the leap to the original homeland of the ancestor, you found many individuals with the same name--so many, in fact, that you could not tell who the proper ancestor was.

This article will share some insights to make the next step easier. Finding your Ancestor's homeland becomes easier if you completely identify them by uncovering four KEY FACTS about them.

KEY FACT #1 Their Complete Birth Name

You need to know the name of your immigrant ancestor. This may not be easy since some families only have a vague history of their original immigrant. Some immigrants changed their names or recorders Anglicized given names when new arrivals came to this new country. Some countries traditionally give their children three, four, or five given names, but so far you may only know one of those given names. Other countries have a tradition of changing the surname every generation or when a person moves to a new location.

So first, determine the complete foreign version of your immigrant ancestor's name. Be wary of those who offer to sell you the meaning of your name. For an example, some people find their Scottish name on a Sept list. The term Sept comes from the Irish language and has a connotation similar to clan. It is subject to some debate because most of these lists have been the creation of businessmen who attempt to sell information or mementos such as tartans or coats of arms. While these lists might help you find a large area of interest in your name like associations from phone books, you will need much more to find your ancestor in his original home town.

KEY FACT #2 Event Dates

You need the date of an event that happened to your immigrant ancestor in the old country. Birth dates are preferred, but a marriage in a foreign country or other events will often get you off and running. That date needs to be as specific a date as possible, including the day, month, and year, not just an approximate date. Unfortunately, I have found that the Irish in particular are very casual about their birth date, and found the same family changing their dates from census to census, or changing the date on other records such as an ages at marriage or death.

In a case like this, it is very advantageous to have more than one date. Perhaps you are able to find the actual birth date of a sibling who was known to be older than your ancestor. This date can be used as foundation for other family members. Watch carefully for all family members and take particular pains to obtain as many records in the country of immigration before crossing the waters.

KEY FACT #3 Name of as Relative or Friend

You need to learn the name of a relative or friend connected with the ancestor in the old country. A marriage record might give a father's name in the old country. A probate might list a cousin, uncle, or grandparents in the old country. A bank record might list the name of an heir in the old country. A military record or a ship passenger list might record the name of a friend who traveled with your ancestor. It is even better when the friend or relative has a more unique name than your ancestor. When you find the two together in the old country, you can be very sure it is the right family.

KEY FACT #4 Place of Origin

Finally, you need the "place of origin". Like the date, this needs to be as specific as possible. Most vital records in other countries used to be kept at a local level. There are virtually no nationwide indexes in foreign countries for all the years we need. This fourth fact is usually the most difficult for family historians to obtain.

For example, a family had a tradition about a Scottish ancestor who came in the 1700s to America. The family had in their traditions that they came from Aberdeenshire. Upon researching the family, it was discovered that the family had been transplanted from Aberdeenshire to County Down in Northern Ireland nearly two hundred years before immigrating to New York State. From New York State, the majority of the family had moved to Canada for two generations before returning to the United States. In Toronto, it was more acceptable to be Scottish so the Irish generations faded from the memories of the descendants.

Fortunately we live in a time when there are research methodologies and tools available to help us work our way through such a maze.

Let's make some notes. What do you know about your immigrant ancestor? Click on your computer notepad and jot down what you currently know about your immigrant ancestor's four identifiers as mentioned above. If you are missing something, try applying the following techniques.

Enhance the History

The information contained in the six resources below will enhance the background on your family, and they may also assist you in finding the four key facts previously covered. But you must be systematic in your research and recording skills. In other words, as you approach the resources below, you should record them with sufficient detail to locate evidence about them in the weeks to come.

  • 1. Family stories and traditions - Was the information provided by someone who could be considered a primary source? In other words, were they first-hand witnesses to the event, or were they repeating something that they had heard? Could the tradition or story apply to different people than those to whom they are currently linked? In any case, jot down the story or tradition in your notes but label them as traditions until you can find evidence to prove them or link them to the proper persons.

  • 2. Family heirlooms - If a cup, plate, picture, or other heirloom is in the family and can be identified with another family, then that can be pretty strong evidence of a family relationship. The problem usually lies with it being identified to another family. How about your heirlooms? Do you have a trunk that came over from the old country with the family, pictures of the event, or documents?

  • 3. Names of friends and other family members - These names can show up as witnesses to wills, sponsors on christening records, witnesses to marriages, or neighbors on land records. Wherever these names are found, be sure to record the place names given on the documents, the full names of the people involved, and all dates in case it becomes necessary to trace these people further.

  • 4. The religion of the immigrant family - Record the basis for this information. Do not think that since the person was a Lutheran in America that he or she could not have been another denomination, such as Catholic, in the old country. Was the person married by a priest? Where was the person buried? Could this be a clue to a religion?

  • 5. The family's ethnic background - Record the basis for this information. Was it found in a census record, on a naturalization paper, or was it a family tradition?

  • 6. Name changes - both given and surnames - Record the basis for this information. Perhaps the information was given on different vital records. Summarize why you know this to be the case. Often the surname spelling when the person first arrives is closest to the spelling in the old country. Try to find as many occurrences of the names in as many different records as possible.
While there is not a single resource that would give us all the information we need to work our way back in time, there are a few that work better than others. ***To be continued in the next issue****

Article written by Karen Clifford from Genealogy Research Associates. Sponsored by MyTrees.com.

Copyright ©: 2011 Karen Clifford. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: May 22, 2008

The Process for Finding Your Ancestor's Homeland
By Karen Clifford, AG, FUGA

Perhaps you have had the opportunity in the past to identify a new ancestor in the United States. Maybe you went so far as to trace that ancestor to the place he or she arrived in America. But as you tried to make the leap to the original homeland of the ancestor, you found many individuals with the same name--so many, in fact, that you could not tell who the proper ancestor was.

This article will share some insights to make the next step easier. Finding your Ancestor's homeland becomes easier if you completely identify them by uncovering four KEY FACTS about them.

KEY FACT #1 Their Complete Birth Name

You need to know the name of your immigrant ancestor. This may not be easy since some families only have a vague history of their original immigrant. Some immigrants changed their names or recorders Anglicized given names when new arrivals came to this new country. Some countries traditionally give their children three, four, or five given names, but so far you may only know one of those given names. Other countries have a tradition of changing the surname every generation or when a person moves to a new location.

So first, determine the complete foreign version of your immigrant ancestor's name. Be wary of those who offer to sell you the meaning of your name. For an example, some people find their Scottish name on a Sept list. The term Sept comes from the Irish language and has a connotation similar to clan. It is subject to some debate because most of these lists have been the creation of businessmen who attempt to sell information or mementos such as tartans or coats of arms. While these lists might help you find a large area of interest in your name like associations from phone books, you will need much more to find your ancestor in his original home town.

KEY FACT #2 Event Dates

You need the date of an event that happened to your immigrant ancestor in the old country. Birth dates are preferred, but a marriage in a foreign country or other events will often get you off and running. That date needs to be as specific a date as possible, including the day, month, and year, not just an approximate date. Unfortunately, I have found that the Irish in particular are very casual about their birth date, and found the same family changing their dates from census to census, or changing the date on other records such as an ages at marriage or death.

In a case like this, it is very advantageous to have more than one date. Perhaps you are able to find the actual birth date of a sibling who was known to be older than your ancestor. This date can be used as foundation for other family members. Watch carefully for all family members and take particular pains to obtain as many records in the country of immigration before crossing the waters.

KEY FACT #3 Name of as Relative or Friend

You need to learn the name of a relative or friend connected with the ancestor in the old country. A marriage record might give a father's name in the old country. A probate might list a cousin, uncle, or grandparents in the old country. A bank record might list the name of an heir in the old country. A military record or a ship passenger list might record the name of a friend who traveled with your ancestor. It is even better when the friend or relative has a more unique name than your ancestor. When you find the two together in the old country, you can be very sure it is the right family.

KEY FACT #4 Place of Origin

Finally, you need the "place of origin". Like the date, this needs to be as specific as possible. Most vital records in other countries used to be kept at a local level. There are virtually no nationwide indexes in foreign countries for all the years we need. This fourth fact is usually the most difficult for family historians to obtain.

For example, a family had a tradition about a Scottish ancestor who came in the 1700s to America. The family had in their traditions that they came from Aberdeenshire. Upon researching the family, it was discovered that the family had been transplanted from Aberdeenshire to County Down in Northern Ireland nearly two hundred years before immigrating to New York State. From New York State, the majority of the family had moved to Canada for two generations before returning to the United States. In Toronto, it was more acceptable to be Scottish so the Irish generations faded from the memories of the descendants.

Fortunately we live in a time when there are research methodologies and tools available to help us work our way through such a maze.

Let's make some notes. What do you know about your immigrant ancestor? Click on your computer notepad and jot down what you currently know about your immigrant ancestor's four identifiers as mentioned above. If you are missing something, try applying the following techniques.

Enhance the History

The information contained in the six resources below will enhance the background on your family, and they may also assist you in finding the four key facts previously covered. But you must be systematic in your research and recording skills. In other words, as you approach the resources below, you should record them with sufficient detail to locate evidence about them in the weeks to come.

  • 1. Family stories and traditions - Was the information provided by someone who could be considered a primary source? In other words, were they first-hand witnesses to the event, or were they repeating something that they had heard? Could the tradition or story apply to different people than those to whom they are currently linked? In any case, jot down the story or tradition in your notes but label them as traditions until you can find evidence to prove them or link them to the proper persons.

  • 2. Family heirlooms - If a cup, plate, picture, or other heirloom is in the family and can be identified with another family, then that can be pretty strong evidence of a family relationship. The problem usually lies with it being identified to another family. How about your heirlooms? Do you have a trunk that came over from the old country with the family, pictures of the event, or documents?

  • 3. Names of friends and other family members - These names can show up as witnesses to wills, sponsors on christening records, witnesses to marriages, or neighbors on land records. Wherever these names are found, be sure to record the place names given on the documents, the full names of the people involved, and all dates in case it becomes necessary to trace these people further.

  • 4. The religion of the immigrant family - Record the basis for this information. Do not think that since the person was a Lutheran in America that he or she could not have been another denomination, such as Catholic, in the old country. Was the person married by a priest? Where was the person buried? Could this be a clue to a religion?

  • 5. The family's ethnic background - Record the basis for this information. Was it found in a census record, on a naturalization paper, or was it a family tradition?

  • 6. Name changes - both given and surnames - Record the basis for this information. Perhaps the information was given on different vital records. Summarize why you know this to be the case. Often the surname spelling when the person first arrives is closest to the spelling in the old country. Try to find as many occurrences of the names in as many different records as possible.
While there is not a single resource that would give us all the information we need to work our way back in time, there are a few that work better than others. ***To be continued in the next issue****

Article written by Karen Clifford from Genealogy Research Associates. Sponsored by MyTrees.com.

Copyright ©: 2011 Karen Clifford. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

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