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 Tracing Immigrant Origins

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Dating an immigrant

Genealogists Need DatesNo, we're not talking about that kind of dating. Your immigrant already did that, when they found their spouse. Rather, what we mean here is knowing at least one very specific date when a key event happened to the immigrant in the old country. For most of our research, this is the birth date in the home land. However, it could also be the date of a church baptism or confirmation, a marriage date, a child's birth, or an emigration date. The key factor is that the date be:

  • as specific as possible (day, month and year).
  • an event that happened to the immigrant in the old country.
  • an event that was recorded in a source we can retrieve.

This is why the birth date is preferred for identification. Many of the other events noted above may not have happened to your immigrant ancestor, or if they did happen, they were not recorded or they happened in the new country. But the immigrant's birth is a given. After all, if it did not happen in the old country, then he isn't an immigrant (see Lesson 1). Also, if we don't proceed on the assumption that such a record of the immigrant was recorded in his home town, we have little hope of locating the immigrant at all. While it is true that not all birth records have survived in your immigrant's home country, the vast majority of them did. Where they did not, there are often substitute records, usually identifying the person's age, that will help us be sure we have the right ancestor when we find him or her.

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