Sunday, November 4, 2012

Jumping the Pond -- Lesson 2

In most cases, finding the exact location your ancestor came from is essential to finding records overseas.  If you don't know the town your great-grandparents came from, you will have to look in North American records first.  But what if you have done it all and you still don't know the exact town your ancestor lived in before emigrating to the U.S.?

Finding the exact town your ancestors came from may require expanding your research a bit.  First of all, many people emigrated together and moved to the same towns/neighborhoods in the U.S.  So keep in mind that the answer may not come from a record but from learning the history of great-grandma's neighborhood.  Sometimes, even the streets were named after familiar places in the country of origin.  Visit a local museum or contact a local historical society.  You should also visit or research the town's cemetery because there may be headstones with information regarding home-country origins, and there might be a trend.  Overall, chances are that if the community was a clustered settlement of people from the same town in Italy or Ireland, that you will find a useful trail to follow. 

Tip: if you don't find the town of origin in your ancestor's records, or the history of the U.S. community he moved into, try the neighbors' records!

So let's assume you have exhausted your ancestors' records and you still have no clue of the exact location they once called home. How can you research the neighbors' history?

1) U.S. census records -- find out who lived next door to great-grandpa.
2) Naturalization records might have a friend who vouched for your ancestor when he sought citizenship.
3) Probate records -- who witnessed the will? Who made the estate inventory?
4) Cemeteries -- who was buried next to your ancestor?
5) Church records -- who were the godparents or marriage witnesses?
6) City directories -- look for common surnames or occupational trades.

Pick a few friends and neighbors of your ancestor and research their naturalization records!  If you are lucky, there will be a town in common and the trail will be hot once more.

Stay tuned for the next post on how to specifically research U.S. records to help find the town of origin for your ancestor.

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