I’ve been trying to think of a focus for my blogs for 2014 and have decided to take a look at websites…specifically those that relate to Irish Research. That’s not to say that those of you who research other ethnic groups should look elsewhere. Many of the strategies I’ll discuss are pertinent to all research. I hope you find it helpful and if you have a specific site you’d like me to look at, please let me know.
It seems appropriate to start with A, therefore Ancestry.com. I’ve written many times about this very popular website. In their results for the third quarter of 2013 they announced they had 2.775 million subscribers and over 12 billion records and growing. They announced last week the addition of their New York Collection with the New York State Censuses of 1855 and 1875, and in a joint venture with the Municipal Archives of New York City, the Indexes to Births, Deaths and Marriages. For those researching their Irish immigrant ancestors or any other immigrant groups, our research starts with their life in the US searching for clues to their origins. Since so many arrived through New York during the later part of the 19th century access to these new records is very exciting. And, to top it off, the indexes to vital records are free (no subscription required).
Before you jump into a search of these records, please take time to read about the records (as you should do with all databases you use). For example, New York Birth Index, 1878-1909 in the second paragraph states “ Note that the index collection is not complete.” It goes on to list the years covered and that it will be updated as more records become available. If you look at the New York City Department of Records page, you’ll see that these records are the ones that have been indexed by volunteers from the Italian Genealogical Group and the German Genealogical Group.
The Moughtys arrived in New York City in the early part of the 20th century. A search of marriages turns up John Moughty and Sarah Lawlor. They married on 5 Aug 1906, in Kings County, Certificate number 9239.
Clicking at the bottom allows me to purchase the certificate directly from the NYC Municipal Archives.
What might the certificate tell me? If known by the informant, it could give me the parent’s names for both the bride and groom. If they married in 1906, there were likely children born to this couple, so the next step would be to check the birth indexes. Birth records, however, are only indexed until 1909.
Unfortunately a search of the Ancestry database for births for Moughtys turns up no records although I know this couple had two children, Bernard and Anna, but I have no dates of birth for them. Remember, the database info says that it is not complete. So you might want to watch for an update and check back. I went to the Italian Genealogical Group website and got one hit on Moughty.
Because I know that the name is frequently misspelled, I checked under the spelling “Moody” and found their first child, Bernard.
Neither of these records are in the Ancestry database yet. I found the spelling interesting because my father-in-law, who was also Bernard Moughty, born in New Rochelle, New York was registered with the spelling Moody.
The death indexes at Ancestry go up until 1948 and I know both Sarah and John died after that. The death indexes did turn up two additional Moughtys…a Thomas who died in 1917, age 26 and an Eliza who died in 1934, age 88. I plan to order both those certificates. According to the order form the time is 4 - 6 weeks. I’ll let you know when I receive them.
Obtaining vital records for our ancestors can provide the information we need to identify them in their country of origin. It’s also important to check for vital records for their extended family. Perhaps the informant on your ancestor’s death certificate didn’t know the parents’ names, but that information might appear on a siblings death certificate so extend your research to the entire family. A marriage certificate is likely to have the information on the parents since the individuals providing the information (the bride and groom) should know it.
I’ve used the New York Collection as an example here because it is new, and also because so many of our immigrant ancestors lived in New York City, or at least passed through. If your ancestors were from another part of the US, use the Card Catalog to find out what records Ancestry has for that area; then, read the database description. If the title includes only the name of the State, check to see if all of the counties are included. That might explain why your search was, or was not successful. Rather than doing a general search, focus your effort on the time period and geographic area when and where your ancestors lived.
Registration is now open for the 2014 Ireland Research Trip.