At a recent meeting of the Lake County (IL) Genealogical Society we heard Teresa Steinkamp McMillin talk about finding your ancestor’s town of origin. She called this “the holy grail of genealogical research,” because once you find that, you can research your family in their homeland, across the ocean.
But how to find the town of origin? Be thorough. Check, look, and search. Teresa gave some good ideas of places to look:
- Home sources. This encompasses many, many possibilities, some of which are Bibles, letters, diaries, certificates of all kinds (from births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, naturalizations), photos, etc.
- Immigration lists. After 1898, the last place of residence was listed on the passenger lists. After 1906 the passenger lists had two pages and the second page included town of birth.
- Emigration lists. Hamburg passenger lists give town of birth.
- Naturalization records. After 1906, the Declaration of Intent requested this information.
- Obituaries, especially in foreign newspapers
- County histories, usually for more prominent citizens.
Haven’t found the town of birth yet? Don’t give up. Teresa’s mantra: There is no such thing as a brick wall!