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Shaking Your Family Tree

'Missing Friends' Ads Yield Surprises

June 20, 1986|MYRA VANDERPOOL GORMLEY

"Patrick M'Dermott, a native of the County Kildare, near Dublin, is hereby informed that his wife and four children have arrived in Boston. They understand that he left Roxbury, in this state, about 12 months since, to obtain work as a stone mason; they are extremely anxious to hear from him. He is hereby requested to write or come for his poor family, to this city, as soon as possible."

This ad ran in the Boston Pilot on Oct. 1, 1831. It is among approximately 5,000 "Missing Friends" advertisements that appeared between 1831 and 1850 in the weekly newspaper. With a nationwide readership of more than 100,000, the Boston Pilot was often the only means of communication among far-flung members of Irish immigrant families.

Two history professors at Northeastern University in Boston have compiled information from the missing persons column of this 19th-Century Boston Catholic newspaper. Ruth-Ann Harris and Donald Jacobs recently completed Volume 1 of an index to these ads.

Titled "The Search for Missing Friends," it is being published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, 101 Newbury St., Boston, Mass. 02116, and is scheduled for release in July. The research team from the university's Irish Studies Program entered information from the ads into a computer data base under 40 categories, ranging from surname, sex, age and occupation to physical description, marital status and place of arrival.

Some surprises came from the project, Harris said.

"The typical Irish immigrant was not destitute. He was probably what we would call 'respectable poor,' " she said.

"We learned that Quebec was the second-largest port of entry for the Irish after New York and well ahead of Boston. About 46% of the Boston Irish population came from Munster province in southwest Ireland, in particular, County Cork," Harris noted.

"These ads provide the basics," Jacobs said. "Almost all of them provide the immigrant's county, often the parish they attended, and some even include the exact townland. With these ads, Irish-Americans can truly trace their people back to their origins."

Texas' Sesquicentennial celebration includes a genealogy/family history exhibit and competition as part of this year's State Fair of Texas in Dallas from Sept. 26 to Oct. 26.

Co-sponsored by the State Fair of Texas and the Dallas Genealogical Society, this event will spotlight early Texas settlers.

Genealogists may submit material applicable to "Life in Texas before Statehood" with family lines traced to a person who was in the area that is now a part of Texas before Feb. 19, 1846.

Special awards will be given for entries documenting:

--The earliest person in Texas;

--All persons who were in Texas in 1836 or earlier;

--The greatest number of direct lines in Texas before statehood;

--The best illustrated entry (photographs, sketches, maps, etc.).

For an entry form, send your request and legal-sized, self-addressed, stamped envelope to Genealogy Exhibit, State Fair of Texas, P.O. Box 26010, Dallas, Tex. 75226. Mailed entries for the exhibit and competition must be received between Aug. 18 and Sept. 3.

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