More from the Spring Seminar of the SMCGS

The Spring Seminar of the San Mateo County Genealogical Society was held on Saturday, March 29, 2008. Approximately 100 people were in attendance.

The theme of the seminar was “Your Immigrant Ancestors By Land and Sea”. The program included two plenary sessions in the morning and six lectures in two tracks in the afternoon.

The second presentation of the day was “Before You Cross the Pond – How to Find Your Ancestor’s Place of Origin” presented by Christine M. Green.

Chris discussed several sources of information a researcher can use to discover the place of origin of one’s ancestors. These sources include:

  • Learn as much as possible about the ancestor in US records
  • Talk to family, including distant cousins
  • Research census records, especially US Federal Census records after 1850
  • Look to see if a national index to civil registrations or vital records exist in the country of origin, such as FreeBMD or FindMyPast for England, Scotland’s People for Scotland, Genlias for the Netherlands, and the national index for Ireland (not yet online)
  • Investigate church records in the US
  • Research obituaries for clues to immigrant origins
  • Check out military records such as civil war records, World War I draft registrations, and World War II draft registrations
  • Look into immigration records, including naturalization records, passenger arrival lists, and passenger departure lists
  • Search for land records, including homestead records
  • Try researching the extended family, especially if a sibling of the immigrant ancestor also immigrated
  • Where possible, map the surname using surname atlases available on CD or online
  • If the immigrant ancestor was from the UK, check out the UK wills for US residents who still had property in the UK at

Copyright © 2008 by Stephen J. Danko


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