Closing in On William Boyd Hill’s Origins

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

This past week, Ancestry.com has made its immigration and naturalization records available for free. I already had access to most of these records with my subscription, but I was spurred to pay closer attention to them thanks to the special offer.

I decided to try one more time to find out more about one of my paternal great-grandfathers, William Boyd Hill. From census records, I know he was born around 1840, that he was a grocer in Philadelphia and that he hailed from Ireland. I hadn’t had any luck finding out when and/or where he entered the United States though.

I was a bit disappointed with the search function for the immigration and naturalization records, at least as they were set up for the free access this week. You didn’t have a chance to limit results by exact spelling, etc. The results included way too many bad hits. I was already dealing with a rather common name and didn’t want to have to weed through still more extraneous information.

I decided to narrow my results by record type instead and that led me to what I hope was the jackpot. First, I selected the Citizenship and Naturalization records from the choices on the left-hand side of the Ancestry results page. I didn’t see anything that jumped out at me. Either the name was right and the country of origin was wrong, or vice versa.

Next I selected Immigration and Emigration Books. Drilling down still further, I saw that there was a listing for Philadelphia, 1789-1880 Naturalization Records. Bingo. I didn’t have any evidence that my great-grandfather ever left Philly once he settled there. If he applied for citizenship, it would have been in that city.

Sure enough, when I clicked on the link, the very first result was for a William B. Hill from Great Britain/Ireland who filed a Declaration of Intent with the Court of Common Pleas in 1873. I’m still not sure he’s my William Hill, but I read more about the record and how to get copies of the original records.

First, Ancestry has a page about these records. It gives a lot of background about the source behind the record and where to request the originals. I also looked up the repository itself — the Philadelphia City Archives (link goes directly to the Naturalization Records section). This page was helpful because it gives still more background about the records it holds and its fee schedule.

Now, I’m getting ready to send off my request to the archives to see if they can send me more information about this William B. Hill. Fingers crossed that he’s the right one and that the original information will contain more tidbits to tell me about his origins!

It Always Pays to Re-Search

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

I’ve been through Ancestry records too many times to count, but I find that it’s always fruitful to go back and repeat searches for folks I added to my family tree ages ago. Today’s finds:

A 1904 mention in the Washington Post of a lawsuit in which my grandfather, a physician, was suing an individual, presumably a patient, for $639.42.

A 1910 mention in the Post in an article detailing the inspection of a new milk plant in the D.C. area; my grandfather was one of 100 physicians and other medical personnel invited to tour the facility.

A 1911 Washington Post blurb about recent car sales. My grandfather had just purchased a Model 35 Buick Roadster. According to the American Automobiles web site, the 1912 Model 35 sold for $1,000. An ad for the vehicle is available online.

A 1915 Washington Post announcement that my grandmother would be one of many women assisting at the College Women’s Club’s presentation of “Color in the Home.”

Another 1915 Post article about a University of Pennsylvania alumni dinner that my grandfather attended.

Alert readers will note that all of these items come from the same source. I found them by drilling down into the various categories of records returned among my search results. This helps to separate the wheat form the chaff, bypassing all of those unrelated census records, etc., that always seem to clog up the first few pages of top-level search results.

All of the above items add colorful details about my grandparents’ lives and also a jumping off point for discovering more records (especially regarding that lawsuit!).

Census Searching: Ancestor Not Home? Ask the Neighbors

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

I finally had a chance to do some personal genealogy research last night and so I headed to Ancestry.com to look for tidbits. While researching my paternal line, I found Benjamin William Franklin CORLEY (my great-great-grandfather) and fam in the 1880 and 1860 censuses in Tower Hill, Shelby Co.,  Ill., but had no luck finding them in 1870. I was relatively sure that they hadn’t left the area only to return again before 1880. I decided to look for one of my ancestors’ neighbors in 1870 instead and then check the nearby pages to see if my fam turned up.

I went back to the 1880 census and looked to see who their neighbors were that year.  A NICHOLS family was the next on the census sheet. That’s a rather common name. Next was John SHARROCK. Perfect!

Benjamin William Franklin Corley and fam in 1880. John Sharrock is two households down. Click on the image for a larger version.

I searched for John Sharrock in the 1870 census and was able to find him in the same town and county. The censustaker there that year seemed to have some creative spelling ideas and his handwriting left quite a bit to be desired. No wonder I was having trouble finding my family!

The censustaker wrote “Spirock.” His handwriting/spelling left a bit to be desired.

I scanned a couple of pages back and forth and then found what I was looking for (sort of). Due to his lengthy name, Benjamin William Franklin Corley often appears as B.W.F. Corley in various records. Well, I found what looked to me like a B.W.F. CANBY, but was indexed as CAULY two pages past Mr. Sharrock/Spirock.

Below the scan of the image on Ancestry is a typed index of the information appearing on the page. In the bottom left-hand corner is an “Add Update” button. I clicked on this to update the spelling of the household surname in the census index.

Any index is going to have inaccuracies, especially one that is based on sloppy handwriting and questionable spelling. I’m glad to see this feature on Ancestry that allows for researchers to help contribute to making the index more accurate!