Now that I have that off my chest, let's get to the topic of this blog post.
Maybe some of you feel the same way I do and sigh in frustration when your Ancestry.com search results in transcribed documents or the barebones information from an index. What do you do next? Do you just attach it to the person on your tree and go on. . .or . . . do you read all of the information in the fine print paragraphs at the bottom including "learn more"? I read. . . and often the information at the bottom is the springboad that I need to locate the original document. Just recently I used this method to track down the first intent papers of my gg-grandfather, Owen McDonnell of Clinton, Iowa. I have not been able to pin down the passenger ship or exact year he came to this country. His obituary and his tombstone list two different years of birth and the census records vary as census records always do. Did he immigrate with any of his brothers, Michael, John, and Bartholomew who also lived in Clinton or alone?
His brothers show up in Clinton county, Iowa in the 1860 census living together. Michael is married and,according to the census, his daughter was born in Wisconsin. I asked my friend and researcher extraordinaire, Mary if she could find their naturalization papers in Clinton. Her search of Ancestry.com had produced typed naturalization cards for a Michael, John, and Owen McDonnell as well as the transcribed record below.
I found the same records earlier during one of my
Shucks, there is only minimal information, but it looks like this connects the Owen from Clinton with the Ancestry.com record listed above since they both state there is a record in Walworth County, Wisconsin. While the record above tells me the original record was filed with the Clerk of Court, the Ancestry.com record says it is currently in the possession of the Walworth County Historical Society and can be found in the "Records of Naturalizations and Declarations of Intent", book one, page 48.
Next, I open my laptop and do a search for Walworth County Wisconsin Historical Society. Success! They have a website and an email contact. I quickly send an email to Deb Ketchum, hoping that she checked her email often - like hourly. I also found a library phone number and called leaving a message just in case the email wasn't checked. It turns out that she does check her email and listen to her phone messages. That evening, I found a message on my phone from Deb. We talked, and she told me that the records were now held by a local university, but that she would make a trip over to see if they had them. She explained that the underfunded archives were kept in a basement and there had been leaks and other accidents in the past. She also said that the letters of intent often had very little information and didn't want me to be disappointed. Within a week I had the records in my hand . . . errr, I mean computer.
Owen's Letter of First Intent
Lots of questions remain but Now what did I learn from these brief letters of intent: The brothers did not immigrate together but each one came separately with my Owen coming last. They all gave their letters of intent the same day. I now know that 1833 is his correct birth year rather than the 1837 in one account. I know that Owen was the last to come and that his immigration year was 1852 which varied in the census records. This means that the 1851 Irish census showing Owen McDonnell and Julia McDonnell is still a good possibility for mother and son. The month of his immigration was "about September". Hopefully this will help me find his ship, but it hasn't so far. They all signed their names rather than make a mark - a source of pride for me, and they all spelled it "MCDONNELL" despite the spelling of McDonald on Owen's. Now what happened to Bartholomew? I am still putting the pieces together for him.
In a future post, I will show you how the information at the bottom of an Ancestry.com record led to a "bad boy" uncle.