Using Ancestry.com: Exploring 301 New Databases

by Juliana Smith 

On August 24, Ancestry added 301 databases to its online collection for U.S. and World Deluxe members; this release adds a wide variety of books to search and/or browse online. As I browsed through the list, several caught my eye and since it’s such a huge collection to absorb, I thought this week, we’d spotlight some of the resources that are now available.

Runaway Servants, Convicts, and Apprentices
According to the introduction,

“Many contract workers were employed in eighteenth-century America. Most were immigrants who entered contracts to pay for their passage across the Atlantic. Some were British convicts transported to America and obligated to work like other contract laborers for a fixed term as a penalty for their crimes. A final group of contract workers were not newly arrived immigrants. Either they had arrived some time before entering their labor contract or were American-born. This last group entered labor contracts to gain training as apprentices, to acquire some initial payment as hired workers, or to work off jail fees.”

This database indexes ads for runaway servants, convicts, and apprentices that were advertised in the Pennsylvania Gazette (1728-1796). Here’s a sample entry:

Mary Armstrong, Jacob Mytinger, Philadelphia City PA, 11/16/1785, Irish, 14,
     16 days, Monday, 6 dollars, short, (arrived 14 months ago).

The entry format is listed on the first page, and in this case the entry tells us that Mary Armstrong was a fourteen-year-old Irish runaway who had arrived in the country fourteen months prior. Her master was Jacob Mytinger of Philadelphia City, Pennsylvania. On the date of the advertisement, 11/16/1785, she had been missing for sixteen days, having run away on a Monday and the maximum reward for her return was six dollars.

Irish Relatives and Friends
I recognized this book as one that is currently on my shelf at home. This database is comprised of transcriptions of advertisements found in the “Irish American.” The ads, found in a special “Information Wanted” section of the popular Irish community newspaper were personal requests for information on family and friends that had become separated. Since these ads frequently mention the Irish county, townland, or parish of origin for the immigrants, they can be a bonanza of information for those who find their ancestors included. Here’s a sample entry from the book:
 
28 September 1857
Of Andrew and George Phalon, natives, of Kyldelleg, Parish of Ahavo, Queen’s County, Ireland. When last heard from, Andrew, was living with a farmer near Columbus, Ohio. George, was living in Port Jervis, in this State, and came to New York City, and then left for some place unknown. Any information of them will be thankfully received by their sister, Mary Phalon, by directing a letter for her care of Michael Murphy, 414 Cherry Street, New York, or James Corby, Williamsburgh, L.I.

Note: The date is listed followed by all the ads in that issue. If the page on which your ancestor is located doesn’t include a date, go to the previous page and move backward to the first date you see.

San Francisco Ship Passenger Lists Vol. I, 1850-1864
Reconstructed using newspaper articles, journals, and other sources, this book lists ships (alphabetically) that arrived in the Port of San Francisco between 1850 and 1864, with entries including the name of the ship, type of ship, date of arrival, length of passage (sometimes including descriptive information about the passage), port of departure, cargo, captain’s surname, and a list of passengers.

Early New York Naturalizations: Abstracts of Naturalizations Records from Federal, State, and Local Courts, 1792-1840
This book includes between 14,000 and 15,000 names of immigrants naturalized in New York. The abstracts vary in detail, with some only giving the basics–name, former allegiance, and date–while others give much more, like this sample.

Drake, David [report 25 Dec. 1818]: b. Norwich, Eng., age 29, migr. from London, merchant; wife Margaret, b. Norwich, age 29; son George K., b. Sudbury, Co. of Suffolk, Eng., age 3; son David C., b. fortress of Gibraltar, age 1 – 26 Sept. 1825.

I noted some that also included intended destinations, like “Illinois Territory” or “Ohio,” and some including city and county. Through entries like these, you could find clues to migration patterns by noting the birthplaces of adults and children, the location of the naturalization, and intended destinations. I noted several families with the adults having been born in Ireland, children born in Canada, and more children born later in the U.S.

British Aliens in the United States During the War of 1812
Following the declaration of war in 1812, British subjects in the U.S. were required to report “the persons composing their families, the places of their residence and their occupations or pursuits; and whether, and at what time they have made the application to the courts required by law, as preparatory to their naturalization.”

Below are a few sample entries:

Leary, William Barry, age 16, 1 year in U.S., 46 Walker St., NYC, teacher (20-25 July 1812)

Kelly, Patrick, age 20, 5 years in U.S., 89 Warren St., NYC, painter (20-25 July 1812); 5 ft. 8 in., age 21, light complex., brown hair, blue eyes, Chapple St., painter (Navy)

The New York Foundling Hospital: An Index to the Federal, State, and Local Census Records, 1870-1925

and

The Children’s Aid Society of New York:  An Index to the Federal, State, and Local Census Records of Its Lodging Houses, 1855-1925
These databases were compiled from federal, state, and local censuses. Both include indexed entries for the institutions from:

  • 1870 Federal Census 
  • 1880 Federal Census
  • 1890 New York City Police Census
  • 1900 Federal Census
  • 1905 New York State Census
  • 1910 Federal Census
  • 1915 New York State Census
  • 1920 Federal Census
  • 1925 New York State Census

With the Children’s Aid Society of New York adding:

  • 1855 New York State Census
  • 1860 Federal Census

Both of these institutions are noted for sending children west on the “Orphan Trains” to be placed in homes. (Learn more about orphan trains.)

Going to America (by Terry Coleman)
This is another book I own. It’s not a genealogical book in the sense of names and dates, but really interesting reading if you are interested in what life was like for an immigrant ancestor. Below is an excerpt:

“Many Irish sailed directly from Irish ports, particularly from Limerick and Galway in the west, and Cork in the south, but a far greater number always sailed from Liverpool, and first had to reach that port on board small steamboats from Cork or Dublin. From Cork the passage to Liverpool took twenty-two to thirty-six hours, according to the weather. . . .

“John Besnard . . . [was a] general weighmaster of the city [of Cork], and presided over the Cork Butter Market, which he presumed was the largest in all the world. He had gone to Liverpool expressly to watch the arrival of the Irish steamers, and had seen as many as 1,100 on board. For the 10s. passage money the steamship company found no provisions, and in any case the emigrants were so crowded that it was impossible for them even to get a drink of warm water. He thought the way they were conveyed was disgraceful, dangerous, and inhuman. They were as wet as if they had been dipped in the sea. The people were prostrated by the voyage and scarcely able to walk.”

It’s difficult to think that this was only the first leg of what was to be a much longer journey for many. 

Tips for Using These Databases
These databases were created from scanned books and indexed using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology because of the variety of the subject matter and the large scope of the data that has been added. For this reason, your best bet is searching the database directly through the link on the “Recently Added Data” page or by putting your criteria in the keyword search field on the new beta version of the Advanced Search. 

It’s also a good idea to browse through the content by clicking on the various sections of the books through the direct database pages. Introductory material often contains important information to help you interpret entries, criteria for inclusion in the publication, background information about the records and events that precipitated them, and how to best use the information. Bibliographies found in many of the books may lead to more information, and there are frequently valuable appendices included as well.

I urge you to take a few minutes to explore these databases. Although not many were likely to include my ancestors, they were interesting to read. Many of them struck me with the detail included, and I found them a great reminder that each of these records represents a person–a stranger, but perhaps a stranger with a relative out there seeking to learn more about him or her.

Juliana Smith has been the editor of Ancestry.com newsletters for more than eight years and is author of “The Ancestry Family Historian’s Address Book.” She has written for “Ancestry” Magazine and wrote the Computers and Technology chapter in “The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy,” rev. 3rd edition. Juliana can be reached by e-mail at Juliana@Ancestry.com, but she regrets that her schedule does not allow her to assist with personal research.

 Click here for a printer friendly version of this article.

4 thoughts on “Using Ancestry.com: Exploring 301 New Databases

  1. This article in the Ancestry newsletter is useful and inspiring. The kind of information that leads you to look for more – even if it is not your research path. Thank you!!

  2. I have not seen a reference to the Bureau of Land Management’s website that provides old Government Land Office and current land patent records. In case you do not have it, the address is: http://www.glorecords.blm.gov

    It also contains old survey plats where valuable information can be found.

    Please let others know about this valuable resource. Thanks,

  3. Although I have a subscription to the U. S. Records Collection and The U. S. Census and Images, apparently access to these books is not included. I think records which have been compiled in America such as the New York state naturalizations should be included in the U.S. Record collection.

  4. Thanks so much for including the book, British Aliens in the United States During the War of 1812 in your article this week. I had come across this book at the Allen Co. Public Library and found what looked like it might be my 3rd great-grandfather living in Castine, ME. Your examples prompted me to go back and review the info I found. It said he had been married in Wiscasset. Don’t ask me why I never followed up on that tidbit, but I didn’t. This time I did found an extracted record in the IGI for a marriage that looks like the right one. I’ve ordered the films of the Town Records for Wiscasset to see what else I can learn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>