October 21, 2010

12 Months of Finding Ancestors: Almshouse Records More than a List of the Poor (Part 4)

Welcome to Part 4 of a 12 month series about finding and using less obvious genealogy records to find ancestors. Almshouse records (or poorhouse records) are often overlooked in our genealogy research.

Almshouse records have a two-fold benefit, one obvious, the other not so obvious. I'm sure it's pretty obvious to all of us that records kept for an Almshouse or Poorhouse will include a list of residents. So if your ancestor was impoverished you may find out that he or she was in an Almshouse, and you may find more details that were unknown to you.

Also we as genealogists need to realize that in the early 1800's port cities in the USA bore the burden of immigration. By the time they arrived, so many immigrants were tired, hungry and poor they ended up in the City Almshouse. So be sure to check Almshouse records for the port city where your ancestor arrived.

Here is where the less obvious benefit comes into play. In my own research into Almshouse records for New York I stumbled on some fascinating information. Within the lists of residents in the almshouse I was researching were the names of the ships each resident sailed on from their homeland to North America.

The 1819-1840 Almshouse records contained for each resident the Date of Admission; Age; Place of Birth; Vessel Name; and Where From. A quick glance at the list revealed many of the residents were entire families. Many left from Canadian ports which may indicate they first arrived in Canadian ports rather than New York. Canadian arrival ports were much cheaper than American ones.


The 1855-1858 Almshouse records I consulted were more detailed. They contained the Individual's name, age, where they were from Name of Ship, Date of sailing, Ports of departure and arrival, Captain's Name, Owner's Name, Date of Bond, Sureties, Date Discharged, Death Date and Remarks.

Olive Tree Genealogy has published one side of each ledger page (there are 2 sides per person) for these New York Almshouse records online and you can consult them by using the links given above.

I do not know if other port cities in other states contain the same amount of detail in their Almshouse records but it is worth a look if you are hunting for an immigrant ancestor.

1 comment:

Tessa said...

Just saw this post (was reading some of your others). I recently learned about PLUs in Ireland, never even thought about the USA. Thanks I now have an additional place to do some research. Great information and thanks for sharing.