Friday, 24 August 2012

A Bronx ancestor? Fuhgeddaboudit!

Sometimes a definitive negative finding concerning a possible ancestral connection can be as useful as a confirmation.

Our great grandfather Robert Joseph McALLISTER (b 1902) boarded the SS Regina at Belfast on 13 November 1926 and set sail for Canada. He arrived in Quebec on 21 November with the stated intention of joining his uncle (Mr J McAllister) in Mimico, Ontario. And there the trail goes cold.

But a (vanity) search run on the 1930 US Federal Census turned up an interesting possibility. Could the 27 year old Irish-born protestant railway welder living in a NY boarding house be our missing great grandfather?

Our ancestor's trade in Belfast had been as a fitter and his destination in Canada was a significant railway town near the border with New York state. The other resident with the same surname did need to be explained but it was easy to imagine that he could be Robert's cousin (son of Uncle J).

Unlike many idle speculations on possible links, this one could be tested. There would be a record of our two young McAllisters crossing the border from Canada and Family Search would have it. Unfortunately the immigration cards had been digitised but not indexed, so the test would require the visual inspection of up to 5964 images in the Soundex group. It was on the to-do list—but very close to the bottom.

Then the 1940 US Federal Census became available for searching. Would it provide any more information?

Our possible target Robert Joseph was still living in roughly the same neighbourhood, had married and started a family. He was now the "head of a household" so other residents were defined by their relationship to him and we learn that James was his younger brother. That ends the possibility of a connection.

At the 1911 Census of Ireland, our great grandfather had just one younger brother, William Henry, aged 6. James would then have been 4, so there was no possibility of a match to the NY family.

This is disappointing news for those descendants who were imagining a Green Card but for the dedicated family historian, it has enabled a major task to be crossed off the list.

And it opens up renewed areas of investigation in Canada. Now, where is that to-do list?

Footnote: For those puzzled by the title, see

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...