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Shaking Your Family Tree!

The Ships That Brought Our Ancestors


Question: Where can I find information about the ships that brought my ancestors to America? I would like to know the ships' names, types, dimensions and history, and also locate any photographs or drawings, as well as the captains' names.

Some of my family arrived in Boston in 1896, while others came to Philadelphia on the Anderson in 1750.

Answer: Morton Allan's "Directory of European Passenger Steamship Arrivals," available at most libraries, lists all steamship arrivals in 1896 at the ports of New York and New Bedford, Mass. With an approximate date of arrival you can determine which ship brought your family.

"Ships of Our Ancestors" by Michael J. Anuta contains photographs and drawings of hundreds of vessels, dating mostly from the 19th to the early 20th centuries. This book (available from the author, North 2847, Highway 577, Menominee, Mich. 49858-9775, for $30) includes a fine bibliography to aid your research.

For the history of steamships that carried immigrants to this country, contact Reference Librarian, Steamship Historical Society of America Collection, University of Baltimore Library, 1420 Maryland Ave., Baltimore, Md. 21201.

The New York Public Library, Local History and Genealogy Division, has Lloyd's Index, which shows who built the ship, ownership and other details. Additionally, another book that your librarian can locate for you--on interlibrary loan, if necessary--is "The North Atlantic Seaway" by M. P. Bonsur.

Steamship Historical Society of America, 414 Pelton Ave., Staten Island, N.Y. 10310; the Peabody Museum of Salem, Salem, Mass. 01970; and Mariner's Museum, Newport News, Va. 23606 may have additional information for your research.

Q: Many of my family were born and died in Illinois during the 1800s and early 1900s. The state and counties there did not start keeping records until 1916. Where else can I find proof of births, deaths and marriages for them?

A: It is true that Illinois did not keep birth and death records until 1916. However, some births and deaths from 1877 to 1916 were registered by county clerks.

Almost all marriage records will be found in the office of the county clerks, and usually date from the time the county was formed.

Most of the records you need now were generated at the county rather than state level. You can also use census records, cemetery records and obituaries.

Q: During the Revolutionary War my ancestor enlisted in North Carolina and served in Capt. Ezekiel Polk's company of the 4th Regiment. Is there a place in North Carolina where I can obtain his enlistment papers? I'd like to learn where he was originally from and the names of his parents.

A: North Carolina State Archives, 109 E. Jones, Raleigh, N.C. 27611, has Revolutionary Army Accounts (which do not give personal information) and Revolutionary vouchers, which only show name, amount paid and district in which paid. But it also has about 450 declarations made in various county courts by Revolutionary War veterans or their widows seeking a pension. These often contain valuable genealogical material. Arranged alphabetically, these can be searched for you.

North Carolina State Archives requires a $5 fee for each letter from out-of-state correspondents, for which the archives staff will answer one question about one person: Enclose a legal-size, stamped, self-addressed envelope. Cost of copies is additional.

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