Do you have an immigrant ancestor that you would like to trace to their hometown? Although this sounds difficult, and it can be, having a plan of attack makes all the difference. Good methodology and knowledge of useful resources can help you succeed in your goal of discovering your ancestry across the pond.
In this guest post, Kimball G. Carter, CG® shares a resource he created to aid researchers in this very goal. Kimball is a Certified Genealogist® with expertise in Colonial Virginia, New York, Indiana, Missouri, Germany, and the British Isles. He also specializes in finding the origin of immigrant ancestors to the United States. Enjoy!
Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor’s Hometown
by Kimball Carter
As a volunteer with FamilySearch, I regularly help patrons through online consultations and at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. For over 25 years I have been actively researching my family’s German ancestors both in United States records and German records. Some of these immigrant ancestors have presented very challenging research problems, primarily in finding exactly where they came from in Germany.
Of particular note was my great grandfather Conrad Bauer who came to the U.S. in 1850. He left no records in the United States that suggested other relatives in the U.S. or Germany, or any accurate information on his German hometown. It took many years to finally find Conrad’s family and origins, but I learned a lot about different methodologies and record types that together helped to solve that research problem. Additionally, my wife has many German ancestral lines.
Researching these lines has expanded my knowledge of how to find places of origin for immigrant ancestors to the United States.
Many researchers find that discovering the hometown of their immigrant ancestor in Europe is the most challenging research problem they encounter. I consult with patrons online, and at the Family History Library, weekly who share the same research question: “How can I found the town that my immigrant ancestor came from?”
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not simple. There is no single record type that consistently answers this question. There are often many record types that need to be searched. One of the challenges I have faced when helping people with this challenge is the limited amount of time I have with them, and the inability to inform them of the number of record types they may need to search to find the answer to their question without totally overwhelming them.
After helping many people with their immigrant ancestor research, I felt there was a need for a self-help research tool that I might be able to provide. There are some excellent resources available online on the FamilySearch Wiki, but I felt these resources were not as robust as I felt they could be. So, I have created a web page entitled “A Comprehensive Guide to Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor’s Hometown.” This web page was created specifically to help people facing this research problem understand the record types they may need to search and show them examples of the types of records they might find. To me, it was critical to provide examples of records, possibly because I’m a visual learner.
The page is a work in progress, but I feel it is about 90% complete. On the page you will find information regarding:
• Family Records
• Extended Family Research
• FAN Club Research
• Names and Variants
• U.S. Census Research
• U.S. Church Records
• Passenger Lists
• Passports & Border Crossings
• Military Records, Newspapers
• Family Structure
• Links to Other Online Immigration Information
There are links to record groups in each section as well as more general links to other websites. I hope those searching for their immigrant ancestor’s hometown will find this a useful resource to assist them in discovering where their ancestor came from in Europe.
Thanks, Kimball, for creating and sharing this great resource!