genealogy bug

Michael A. Ports and the Genealogy Bug

Editor’s Note: Genealogist and professional hydrologist Michael A. Ports, Ph.D., is one of the most prolific authors in the recent history of this blog’s parent company, Genealogical Publishing Company. Spanning scarcely (three) years, he has produced twenty-two separate publications for Genealogical.com. Dr. Ports has authored separate research guides in our laminated series, “Genealogy at a Glance” on the states of Maryland, Ohio, and North Carolina.

Michael did much of his initial research in Maryland, and this is reflected in nine collections of Baltimore County marriage licenses, tax assessments, and licenses. Many of Ports ancestors are from the Deep South and especially Georgia.  Working in courthouses and archives in that state enabled him to transcribe the groundbreaking ante bellum series, Georgia Free Persons of Color, which spans over a dozen counties. He has also transcribed thousands of records from Elbert and especially Jefferson counties. To date Genealogical Publishing Company has published five volumes of his Jefferson County Inferior Court Minutes, a separate book of buried Jefferson County Confederate military records, and another title on Elbert County, Georgia court minutes.

In this post below written by Dr. Michael Ports, he explains his genealogical journey from being bitten by the genealogy bug to his research for his publications.  Continue reading…

naturalization records

Naturalization and Denization records in genealogy research

As a body of records, naturalization and denization records are of considerable value, but, until recently, were very difficult to access.

Comparable in many ways to census records, naturalization records are a mine of priceless information and include such items as place and date of birth, foreign and current places of residence, marital status, names, ages and places of birth of other family members, occupation, port and date of entry into the U.S., and more. Since any court of record can process naturalization papers, records relating to naturalization can be found in a bewildering variety of courts.

There are two publications that can help untangle the mess that can be locating naturalization records: Guide to Naturalization Records in the United States and Denizations and Naturalizations in the British Colonies in America, 1607-1775. Continue reading…

state census records, New York State census

Fill in the Census Records Research Gaps

Utilizing census records are a fundamental resource for any genealogists. There are two situations discussed here where the federal census records leave information gaps. Namely, when you’re searching for a relative before the federal census of 1790, and when you can’t find someone you know should show up on a federal census.

A relative who predates the 1790 census

If you’re searching for your relative that you know lived in the US by or before 1790, Evarts B. Greene and Virginia D. Harrington’s American Population Before the Federal Census of 1790 is a crucial resource. Many books have lost their informational value as their contents have been mined and placed online. However, this book, which refers to about 4,000 separate population lists or estimates, is still the most accurate and exhaustive reference for the period.

The recipients of a social science research grant, Columbia University scholars Greene and Harrington set about to compile a list of every 17th- and 18th-century list (or statistical reference thereto) concerning the American population before the first U.S. census of 1790. Consulting both primary and secondary sources, the end result of their labors was a comprehensive survey, arranged by colony, state, or territory–and chronologically thereunder–of population lists for all units of American government in existence as of 1790.

The lists in American Population Before the Federal Census of 1790 themselves range from poll lists, tax lists, taxables, militia lists, and censuses; the book’s geographical coverage extends to Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, the Illinois Territory, and the Northern and Southern Departments of the Western Indians. Continue reading…

immigrants on ship, passenger list

How to find your ancestor without a passenger list

No Passenger List?

No official U.S. government passenger lists exist prior to 1820. What miscellaneous lists that have survived and been transcribed or published cover only a fraction of the immigrants who arrived in the Americas before 1820. If you do not possess a passenger list for your immigrant ancestor, are you at the end of your hunt? Not necessarily.

Let’s say that you have traced your Scottish immigrant ancestor to the city of Baltimore in 1816. You are hoping to continue your research abroad, but you don’t have a passenger list stating the name of your forebear, his/her ports and dates of embarkation and disembarkation, and so forth. What can you turn to in place of the missing list? The identity of the ship that disembarked in Baltimore close to the time your ancestor was living there. Continue reading…

census records and county boundary changes

Census Records and County Boundary Changes

Editor’s note: The following post on the importance of knowing the county in order to properly utilize census records, and how shifting boundaries can affect that search, is written by author William Dollarhide. An excellent source that can be used to visualize the county boundaries for every county in the U.S. and for each census year is the book by William Thorndale and William Dollarhide, Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920. This book has 393 maps showing each applicable census year and all county boundary changes from 1790 to 1920. Each map shows both the old boundaries and the modern boundaries for each state and census year, so a comparison can be made. 

Census Records and County Boundary Changes

All censuses taken since 1790 are tabulated and organized by the counties within each state or territory. By federal precedence, the county is the basic unit of jurisdiction for census demographics. Alaska is the only state without counties; therefore, judicial districts are used as jurisdictions for the censuses taken there. In Louisiana, the term “parish” is used in the same way as “county” in other states. Even in the New England states–where a town may have more importance than a county as a genealogical resource–censuses are organized by county.

Interestingly, Connecticut abolished county government in 1960. All county functions were taken over by the towns or by the state, except that the county boundaries were retained expressly for the purpose of taking a census and certain other statistical studies based on a county, rather than town boundaries. Continue reading…