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Saturday, April 18, 2009

How to Finding an Ancestor's Birth Location

Wendy asked
What sources are we missing that will lead us to a place of birth? We are searching for the birthplace of my husbands ggg grandfather in Ireland. Henry McCord 1823c-1884. Henry died 16 April 1884 North Gower Carleton County ,Ontario. Info taken from headstone. He is buried in St Andrew’s Presbyterian Cemetery in Richmond, no record can be found in the death index either online or microfilm index. We’re told by the church secretary as well as the Presbyterian Archives that the church records of this time frame did not survive.

We have been unable to find estate files, he owned farmland at the time of his death. I realize Estate files do not exist for everyone who died in Ontario, only those whose estates passed through the court process. He purchased N1/2 Lot 2 Con 4 North Gower in April 1857 from Edward Malloch’s widow. The McCord family were on this land in the 1852 census and the Malloch’s lived in Bytown. We have traced the Malloch family in case they lead to a clue of Henry’s origin, no luck. We have land records but no place of birth is listed.

There is no place of birth mentioned on any of his children’s birth, marriage nor death records. His marriage, 19 February 1842, was found in the Anglican church records Richmond, again no place of birth. We have researched the witnesses at his marriage and nothing.

All census, 1851-1881, have him being born Ireland 1823-1825 and living on N1/2 Lot 2 Con 4 North Gower, Carleton County.We have not been able to locate him on any ship or immigration records. He would have come to Canada between 1823 and Feb 1842

Olive Tree Answer: Hi Wendy, It sounds like you have hunted very diligently for more information on Henry's place of birth. Given the difficulty with early Ontario records (many have not survived, or are held in obscure locations), you are going to have to go even further in your quest. The first thing I suggest is consult my Ancestor Birth Record Finder for ideas.

What happens when a child is born? When a woman becomes pregnant? What events take place around the birth of a child? What kind of birth record paper trail is created on the birth of an individual? The answers to these questions will lead you to other sources of birth records and hopefully end that brick-wall.

After hopefully getting some more ideas from my Ancestor Birth Record Finder you will need to start searching for all members of Henry's family - siblings, children, grandchildren etc. When struggling with a challenging ancestor, it can be very helpful to search for such items as a newspaper obituary or vital record of a child or grandchild or sibling of the ancestor. One of those might have mention of where Henry was born.

I also suggest making contact with as many other descendants as you can. Descendants should include all branches, that is, all of Henry's children, not just your own direct line. One of them may have some family lore or document on their ancestor that gives the origin of the family.

That is what happened in my research on my McGinnis family. After dozens of years of contacting dozens of descendants, of searching every family branch, down several generations, trying to find a record that provided a county in Ireland for my ancestor, I connected with a descendant who had a photograph of her ancestor (my ancestor's sister). On the back was written, in period handwriting, her name and the town in Ireland where she was from.

This fit in with bits and pieces of family lore from two different branches which I had also gathered in my research. I talked about this in My Key To Ireland if you are interested.

You mentioned you have land records but what exactly do you have? Have you checked the Abstract Indexes to Deeds? Often there are wills and other documents filed in those papers. There are also the Upper Canada Sundries and Upper Canada Land Petitions, as well as Township Papers. Any of those might have a document (letter, petition etc) which mentions where Henry was from so you should check them if you have not already done so. See Ontario Land Records for more help with this if you haven't checked all these sources yet.

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