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Monday, July 6, 2009

How to Find an Ancestor in New York 1840s

Robin's question was
I’m trying to research an ancestor in New York. I’ve been given the information that he was born in Ireland in 1812. He died in New York (possibly NYC) on March 9, 1897. His name is Robert Graham and he married a woman named Jane. They had a daughter named Elizabeth, who was born in New York, November, 1845 and died in Oakland, CA, May 1906. But, I unfortunately don’t have any documentation to prove any of this information. I’d like to know the best way to follow up on the documentation for this information? What do you suggest as the next step? Thank you, in advance, so very much for your help!!!!

Olive Tree Answer: Hi Robin, what fun for you to gather documentation now on your ancestors! You haven't mentioned if you have found him in census records. If not, that is where I would start.

Since his daughter Elizabeth was born 1845 in New York, you should be able to find Robert in 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 census records. This will help you in many ways- it will give you complete family groups, locations of births, an occupation for Robert and more. If you are lucky, you will be able to narrow the timeframe for his immigration by looking at the years and locations of the births of his children. I use for census records but you can hunt around and see if there are any free sites. The 1880 census is available online for free at FamilySearch website and their Pilot website has other census years available too.

After you narrow the timeframe for Robert's immigration from Ireland to New York it will be time to hunt for a ships passenger list. Again, has such complete records for ships passenger lists that it is easiest to go directly there and do a search!

Then you can start looking for the birth record for Elizabeth if that is what you are after. Once you find the family in 1850 census it will narrow your location a bit. You may want to find her death record in California first though as that might give more details on her birth (such as an exact location and/or date). You can order California Death Certificates back to July 1, 1905 from Vitalchek

That 1870 census record will also tell you whether or not Robert naturalized. Look for a check mark in the column about men over the age of 16 being citizens of the United States. If it is ticked, then Robert has naturalization papers somewhere!

There is much more you can do of course, and your search will not be over even after completing all of the suggestions I've given you. But I'll leave you with this for now as it may take you some time to find all the genealogy information that is out there!

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