The search for lost and missing ancestors is commonplace for family historians and genealogists. Today, we are able to utilize technology to our advantage to cast a wider net in hopes of catching these elusive members of our tree, and even then, we aren’t always successful. But what about one hundred or two hundred years ago? How did friends and family members find missing loved ones?
It is estimated that more than six million Irish people have emigrated to the United States since 1820. The Great Famine, or Potato Blight, from 1845-1852, was the peak of this massive wave of emigration when more than 80% of all United States immigrants were Irish. Family members fled the country, never to be heard from again. While researching Irish content in our massive collection at NewspaperArchive, I stumbled upon an incredible publication from Boston, Massachusetts - the Boston Pilot. Since 1829 it has seen its fair share of changes, from its name to editors and even ownership. However, from October 1831 to October 1921, one thing remained constant in the historical newspaper…Information Wanted.
Information Wanted was a list of advertisements that were part of each issue. People could pay to have information listed in the hopes of finding lost or missing family members and friends. These heart-wrenching bits of copy show the love, turmoil, and frustration felt by the ones left behind. However, they are also a treasure trove of information. These advertisements include physical descriptions, parent’s name, mother’s maiden name, occupations, spouses, addresses…these are phenomenal clues for family history seekers.
Here’s a glimpse at five of the thousands of advertisements transcribed from periodicals of the past:
Thomas Rooney - June 6, 1846
Of Thomas Rooney, journeyman baker, a native of Ireland, who worked in St. Louis two years ago, and worked also about a year and a half in Pittsburgh before he went to St. Louis. He is supposed to be about New Orleans, or in that direction. Should any kind-hearted individual know anything of him they would greatly oblige an only brother, by addressing a few lines to James Rooney, Baker, 276 South Fourth street, below Shippen, Philadelphia, Pa. He may perhaps be in the Northern States.
James McDonnell - November 7, 1846
Of James McDonnell, of Rathangan, co. Kildare. Who was for several years employed on the Packet Boats, on the Grand Canal, between Dublin and Monasterevan. He came to America in July, 1845, as Fireman on board the “Great Britain” steamship, on her first voyage from Liverpool to New York. After remaining a short time in New York, he sailed for New Orleans, where it is supposed he now is. The object of this advertisement is to inform him, that his wife, Eliza Kelly, of Monastereven, with her two children, arrived in New York on the 2d of February last, since when she has heard no further tidings of her husband. Any person knowing anything of said James McDonnell, will relieve the anxiety of a distressed wife and children, by addressing a line to Eliza McDonnell, 39 Canal street, Albany. Editors of New Orleans papers will render a great service to a deserving family, by giving the above an insertion in their papers.
Robert Dore - April 3, 1847
Of Robert Dore, (carpenter by trade), a native of Rathkeale, county Limerick. He was heard from six years ago, by his daughter; he was then in Point Henry, near Kingston, Upper Canada. Any information of him or any of his family, will be gratefully received by his son, Robert, No. 85 Eliot street, Boston, Ms.
Elenor Devoy - February 26, 1848
Of Elenor Devoy and two children, (her maiden name was Elenor Grady), from co. Kildare, parish of Newbridge. They sailed from Liverpool 15th June, 1847 for Quebec. It is supposed that Mrs Devoy died at Grosse Isle. The eldest child is a boy named Thomas Devoy, aged about 9 or 10 years, and the other a girl of nearly two years named Julia. Any information will be thankfully received by William Hayden, West Wareham, Ms.
Patrick and Michael Goggins - May 3, 1873
Of Patrick and Michael Goggins, of Mullingar. county Westmeath. Patrick left Ireland, about 18 years ago, for New York, and has not been heard from since. Patrick is my brother, and Michael is my cousin; when last heard from Michael he was keeping a tailor’s shop in New York. Patrick is a son of William and Mary Goggins; Michael is a son of Patrick Goggins; he was a pensioner, and was at the battle of Waterloo; he lived near Bombresna, near Multie. Information of either of them will be received by John Goggins, care of Michael Donoghue, O’Kill street, Kingston, Ontario. New York papers please copy.
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