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January 21, 2016

Tips for Solving a Challenging Genealogy Puzzle

My finding of military records for Samuel Jemmett
The following query was recently posted on Facebook: 

I have tried looking for naturalization records and immigration travel for a relative who was born in Ireland and married in Canada. Any where else I should be looking? The time frame would have been between 1873- 1895
Elizabeth Jemmet was born in Ireland 1873, (I have a birth index on her) her parents Margaret and Samuel Jemmet. Elizabeth was married in Toronto in 1893. So between that time she crossed from Ireland to Canada?
She moved to Erie New York in 1893/1894
The challenge intrigued Olive Tree Genealogy so I began looking around and here is what I found:

First I explained to KM that From 1763 to 1947, people born in the provinces and colonies of British North America were all British subjects. Taking the oath of allegiance meant becoming a British subject. Thus immigrants from Great Britain and the Commonwealth (England, Ireland, Wales or Scotland) did not have to be naturalized. See for more info and naturalization databases

Next I made two suggestions: 

1.  There are ships passenger lists to Canada from 1869 on so you should be able to find your Elizabeth. Don't forget though that she could have come in via USA and 

2. You can narrow that date of arrival by searching for her in the 1881 and 1891 Canadian census records.

Then I started searching and that proved to be an interesting research saga! I am going to outline everything I found, and where I found it, because I think it will help others to realize that you need to keep an open mind and you need to search in more than one place.

1. Elizabeth is in the 1891 census for Toronto - badly misindexed as Elizabeth Jenmidt on . Her father's name is misindexed too - as James. But a look at the image shows you it is really Samuel. He is a labourer born England and is 53 years old. Wildcards are your friend. I searched for J*m*t as the surname. Now you know she arrived before 1891.

Marriage Record Samuel & Margaret
2. I am pretty sure I've found  Samuel arriving in USA in 1881.  He is travelling alone, and is listed as a labourer born in England. As well, Margaret states in the 1915 NY Census that she arrived 1888.  Take that with a grain of salt as the immigration year is among the most mis-remembered year of any. It's wise to add a year or two on either side. See for help with passenger lists 

3.  Here's a potential candidate for Samuel - Samuel Jemmett born in Henley Oxfordshire England, enlisted in the military in 1857 at age of 19.  Started as a driver then was a gunner. He was discharged from D BATTERY 2ND BDE REGT OF ARTILLERY as a gunner. Samuel was in the mlitary 22 years, 247 days, served in Canada and India for combined total 13 years 30 days. He was in Montreal in 1866 and later. Was transferred in 1859 to 4th brigade then later to 2nd. Landed in India 1875. Discharged in 1879. Source: FindMyPast

4. Birth of Elizabeth is found registered on March 13, 1873 to Samuel and Margaret Jemmett in the Artillary Barracks Athlone, Co. Westmeath, Ireland. Her actual date of birth was 17 February 1873 and the family is Methodist. Source:

5. Here's more evidence to support the Samuel I found who was a Gunner. in the 2nd Brigade His marriage to Margaret Tremble in Montreal Quebec in 1868 is mis-indexed on Ancestry as Samuel Jemmett Lunna but a look at the image shows the record to be "Samuel Jemmet Gunner in the Royal Artillery..." Source: Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968. This marriage is also found in the Register of Marriages and Baptisms, 4 Brigade Royal Artillery at the
National Archives UK website at  and a copy can be ordered.

6. I found the man I believe to be Samuel in the following Census records on FamilySearch, FindMyPast and :
* 1851 Henley Oxfordshire England with parents Samuel and Elizabeth and siblings Richard and Edward. He is 13 years old, an errand boy
* 1861 Woolwich, London Kent England. He is a driver for the Royal Artillery, unmarried, age 22
* 1871 not yet found
* 1881 Reading St Mary, Reading, Berkshire, England with his brother Richard. He is listed as age 45, a labourer and married, but there is no wife or daughter with him
* 1891 Toronto Ontario with wife Margaret and daughter Elizabeth
* 1901 Maidenhead, Berkshire England living alone. Listed as married, age 63, a bricklayer's labourer

7. I place Samuel on this suggested timeline:

1838: birth of Samuel
1851: Samuel in Henley Oxfordshire with parents and siblings Richard and Edward
1857: Samuel enlists in Royal Artillery
1861: Driver for R.A. in Woolwich England
1868: Samuel in Montreal Canada married Margaret Tremble while in R.A.
1873: Samuel in Ireland still in R.A. Daughter Ellzabeth born
1879: Discharge from R.A.
1881: Samuel with brother in Berkshire England then on ship to New York
1891: in Toronto Ontario with wife and daughter
1893: his daughter Elizabeth marries in Toronto Ontario
1900: Margaret, his wife, age 52 alone in Buffalo New York. Says she is married but no husband with her 
Reading Mercury - Saturday 13 January 1900
1900: Mention of Samuel living in Berkshire England and receiving his military medals
1901: Samuel In Berkshire England alone
1915: New York State census finds Margaret, 68 living with her married daughter and family. 

I am not done searching as this was a fun challenge to work on! There are lots of unanswered questions:

Did Samuel and Margaret separate, he going back to England, she to New York with their daughter? My own great-grandfather and great-grandmother did that so it is not that unusual. 

When did Margaret and Elizabeth leave Ireland?


Kat said...

Great job Lorine! Wildcards and an open mind will get through those brick walls every time

carl.h.bloss said...

Really like the fact that you take a query and tackle it - then show how you went about it for others to see. Thanks! Carl

Unknown said...

Lorine, thank you for such an excellent teaching example.

Elizabeth said...

UK, Outward Passenger Lists 1890-1960 and UK, Incoming Passenger Lists 1878-1960 are accessible on and include passengers from/to Ireland. I wonder if Margaret wanted to live near her daughter in the US but Samuel's pension would not be paid to him in the US. I had a friend who wanted to retire to Ireland from his UK government position in the 1980s. His pension would only be paid to him in Northern Ireland not in the Republic.

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Glad you enjoyed it Carl. I love this kind of challenge! In fact I have another one that is similar and I've solved it so I want to write it up and publish it here. Believe it or not, I find writing it up to explain my process is the most difficult thing to do!

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Kat you are so right!