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Other family members

Perhaps no additional information is more important than additional family members. Knowing the names of brothers, sisters, cousins, or even the immigrant's mother, can help not only in identifying them in the old country, but also in learning where they came from. If you are forced to search records in the old country, such as a census, knowing who the other relatives were helps to identify family members.

Recently we were looking for an Enoch Powell who arrived in New York in the 1890s. At first we knew little about him but his month and year of birth in Yorkshire, England. The 1881 census of England included a young man who could be the ancestor, but we needed more identification. With more searches in Troy, New York, we located a woman who seemed to be his mother, as well as a possible brother, but Enoch was never connected to them in American records. Finding the apparent mother in the 1900 U.S. census, we noted the brother, as well as the mother's grandchild (with a different surname) living with her. These same three persons, with the right names, relationships, and ages, all appeared in the 1881 census in England with Enoch! Clearly these other family members had been the key to proper identification of the immigrant.

Not only can additional family members substitute for a missing father's name, but they also serve as a cross-check that you have found the right family in the old country. In the Croatian example mentioned on the previous page, it was the mother's maiden name (on the immigrant's U.S. documentation) that pointed to, and helped confirm, the correct town of origin.

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