June 19, 2009

Getting Immigration Information from Almshouse Records

A few years ago I discovered a very interesting set of immigration records. While searching New York records on microfilm, I stumbled on a set of Almshouse Records which had the names of ships the Almshouse inmaates sailed on to America (which included USA and Canada). Often the year of arrival was also given.

Many of these records are now transcribed and online on Olive Tree Genealogy and although this is an ongoing project, I want to be sure visitors know it is freely available. The records are the Alms House Admission Foreigners & Nativity Records with Ships Names 1819 -1840 and 1855-1858 for New York City, New York

For individuals recorded 1819-1840 the ship name is given, but not the year of arrival. However you can get a rough estimate based on how long the individual has been in the Almshouse. In the 1855-1858 Almshouse records the information includes ship name, date of sailing, and ports of departure and arrival

Other valuable genealogical information is also found - such as exact death dates, discharge dates, where the individual is from and more. For example, under date 1820 March 11 - Elizabeth Kennedy age 34 is listed as having died June 14, 1820; her daughter Mary Ann died Nov. 5, 1820

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. This meant the citizens had to take care of them. At first the citizens of the city asked the Mayors for funds to support the poor. Eventually they asked the states, and by mid-century some states (Pennsyvania, New York, Masschusetts) set up State agencies to deal with the issue. Eventually, beginning in the 1880's, the Federal Government nationalized the programs.

Dating back to the colonial era, New York City assumed responsibility for its citizens who were destitute, sick, homeless, or otherwise unable to care for themselves. The city maintained an almshouse, various hospitals, and a workhouse on Blackwell's Island (now called Roosevelt Island) for the poor.

These online Almshouse records are a wonderful substitute immigration record. At this point I need volunteer transcribers to help finish entering the data to go online, so if you would like to help please contact me through Olive Tree Genealogy - contact email bottom of every page.

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