Tips from the Pros: Did Grandpa and Grandma Immigrate Too?

from Michael John Neill

Don’t overlook Grandpa and Grandpa in your search for immigrant ancestors. When it is determined that an ancestor emigrated as an adult, the thought many times is that the parents remained in the old country, never to see their child again. This is not necessarily so. There were no age limits on immigration and ship manifests are scattered with names of individuals in their sixties and seventies leaving their homeland.

Widows or widowers whose children had all left were more likely to emigrate, perhaps when the last child left. It may explain why an elderly couple has disappeared in the old country.

In my research, when one set of my ancestors disappeared from the church records of their local parish, I assumed it was because they moved to a nearby parish and I had just failed to locate them. A comprehensive search of census and cemetery records for the children in the United States located them on the opposite side of the Atlantic. They were enumerated with a married daughter in the 1870 census and are buried in the same cemetery as that daughter. So if Grandpa and Grandma are lost, don’t neglect the possibility that they might have crossed the pond as well.

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2 thoughts on “Tips from the Pros: Did Grandpa and Grandma Immigrate Too?

  1. I wish I had read this a few years ago. My gggrandfather was listed in the 1870 Census as living with his immigrant son in Wood County, Ohio, but had disappeared by 1880. My uncle, who was doing the heavy lifting on our Irish research, decided that this must have been an error. Three years ago in a visit to that part of Ohio, I stopped in the Wood County court house to see if there was a death certificate for Owen Conway. In less than half an hour I had a certificate, and found out that he had died at the county infirmary (insane asylum) in 1879 at the age of 94. Since in those days they had no knowledge of Senile Dementia or Alzheimers, it was obvious that the family thought the old man was crazy, and packed him off to the infirmary. Considering that he and his wife had lost one son in a fishing accident, another (my grandfather) had hopped a ship from Ireland at 13, and the third son was a teacher (not exactly a profession that the English treasured in Ireland), and had survived the Great Famine, that his mind may have been a bit foggy at that age is not entirely surprising.

    Another bit. The records showed that he had been admitted to the infirmary as “county relief”. From what we know now, his daughter-in-law was running the farm while her husband was off working for the county digging drainage ditches in the Great Black Swamp, she had four children at home, and a broken hip! He wasn’t admitted as “county relief”, it was “Jane’s relief”!

    Charlie Brown, Hendersonville, NC

  2. When I began to research in 2000, I was told by everyone in the family that my 3 x’s great grandfather had immigrated from Scotland with two brothers.

    In searching for one of those two brothers, I soon began to see signs that their parents were in South Carolina as well. Re-questioning the previous generations researchers prompted one of them to pull out old files. He found a 1970 letter from a cousin who had interviewed an older relative in the early 1900’s; the letter detailed the results of that interview and buried in that 1920 interview, overlooked for more than 80 years, was the following:

    “Alexander, AS A CHILD, with his family left Scotland….a brother was born on ship….another born in North Carolina”

    Unable to determine the identity of the two brothers named in Alexander’s Will, the previous generations of researchers had come to the conclusion that the three men had immigrated as adults.

    Finding that interview opened many avenues of research leading us to find records dating 20 years earlier than previously found, not only for my Alexander but for his siblings and his parents!

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