If your ancestors came to America prior to the Revolution, unique research methods are often necessary to locate information to trace Colonial American ancestry.
Overcoming Challenges in Tracing Colonial American Ancestry
Colonial American ancestry research presents a variety of challenges. Civil Registration didn’t become widespread until the late 1800s-early 1900s so official birth, marriage and death records prior to that time period generally either do not exist or do not provide detailed information. Census records didn’t begin until 1790 and didn’t start naming each member of the household until 1850, so it can be difficult to put families together. Passenger lists prior to 1819 rarely survived, and those that did often only include a list of names, with no other identifying characteristics. So how do you find information about your Colonial American ancestors (especially females whose maiden surname is unknown) and determine where they lived before immigrating to America? You get creative!
Colonial American Records
There are some excellent compiled sources of early colonial settlers that can provide information, as well as town vital records, church records, land transactions, tax lists, pension files, town meeting minutes, loyalty oaths, probate records, etc. These types of records are generally not as easily searchable as more recent record sets, and they vary based on where your ancestors lived, but it is always important to search all available records for the location(s) in which your Colonial ancestors lived. Often you’ll also need to conduct research on all the known friends, family, associates, and neighbors of your ancestor as well, in order to pull together patterns of where they came from and which individuals fit together into family units. When dealing with Colonial American family history sometimes your “best guess” (after searching all available sources) is really the best you will be able to do. You might never find the exact year that your ancestor immigrated, for example. You might find him living in England in 1616 and in Virginia in 1623, and you just might not ever know for sure when he crossed the ocean.
Our Team of Professional Genealogists Can Help
Our professionals believe in leaving no stone unturned, and they have been trained in analyzing records and migration patterns to help you learn more about your Colonial American ancestry.