Thursday, March 20, 2014

Genealogical Happy Dance

From pages 157-8 of the Necrological Reports and Annual Proceedings of the Alumni ..., Volume 3
 By Princeton Theological Seminary. Alumni Association, Joseph Heatly Dulles

Yes.  The obituary above might seem boring.  Unless, of course, you are me and have been searching for your great-great-grandfather Alexander Cruikshank's birthplace for over 30 years.

Family history since the 1880s claimed Alexander was born in Scotland.   U.S. censuses suggested that Alexander was born about 1823.  Older immigrant relatives claimed to be born in Ireland.  In fact, Alexander, of the three siblings born outside the United States, was the only one who ever told the census enumerators anything about a birthplace in Scotland.  Around 2000 I found court documents for alien registrations from St. Lawrence County, New York that stated that Alexander and his older brother Robert were from Ireland.  

My dad immediately claimed these government records, where the men had actually gone into town and sworn on a Bible in front of a county official, had to be wrong, wrong, wrong, etc.  I tried explaining about the Scots-Irish, but Dad never believed me.  There was also a lot of prejudice against the Irish in the 1800s; Scottish heritage might have been more "approved" by people living outside the upstate New York county where most of the immigrants told the census takers that they were born in Ireland.

It never occurred to me to look for a necrological report about alumni of Princeton University.  (Actually it never occurred to me that Princeton University published necrological reports.  I also did not know that Robert had graduated from Princeton University.) Thank goodness for's search engine and Google Books.

Irish genealogy is difficult because of the paucity of records.  (There was a huge fire in 1922.)  Finding a county of origin in Ireland is the first necessary step for any research in Ireland.  Finding a county of origin for a family who arrived in the United States around 1825 is all but impossible.  However, Robert's obscure obituary may be the key to more discoveries someday.

Yes.  Even books with the most incredibly boring titles can make you happy.

Note: The name of the county is actually spelled Monaghan.  County Monaghan is just south of the six counties which make up Northern Ireland.

No comments:

Post a Comment