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Beginning Your Family History

Part Fourteen: Emigration

User Avatar Penelope Lovesy 22/08/2020 00:40:31

I remember my grandad once telling me that, when he was a young man, he wanted to take advantage of the “Ten Pound Pom” scheme and emigrate to Australia. This never happened for my family but at the peak of the scheme, in 1969, over 80,000 people migrated. For centuries, people have been moving around the globe in search of a better life for themselves and their families. If your ancestor was one of these, here are some places to hunt for more information.

It is useful to begin with an approximate date of when your ancestor emigrated and where they went. This will really help to focus your search. Another key piece of information to narrow your search is their place and estimated date of birth.

The National Archives have produced a guide; https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/emigration/

With an emphasis on;

“Of the millions of people who have emigrated from Britain over the last four hundred years, the largest number have gone to the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Records of British migrants to these countries form the primary focus for this guide.”

This is a great place to begin and gain an introduction and insight into some of the resources available.

Another useful list of websites can be found here: https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/5-online-resources-find-immigrant-ancestors/ This highlights some valuable places to search and links to further informative articles.

I decided to follow the emigration journey of a Poole family through the records, mainly using Ancestry to see what I could discover. 

On 21 September 1887, Edmund Tom James Wills was baptised at St. James Church. His parents were Tom James Wills, an engineer, and Maria Caroline Wills (nee Stone). Two years later Tom James died aged 27.  In 1891 the family are living in Lagland Street. Edmund has two sisters, Cordelia and Daisy. 

Although I can’t find them on a passenger ship, the next time we see the family is in 1901 in Canada. Records suggest that they emigrated between 1894 and 1895 and went to America. I will never know why Maria, a young widow with three small children, decided to move across the ocean, but she was incredibly brave, made the journey and in 1901 is living as Caroline Bianculli in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Although the census records her as married to Dominico Bianculli, they didn’t actually marry until 1916. In 1901 the couple have three more children.

The New York State Census of 1905 records the Biancullis in the Elmira district, and this is where they settle. Maria Caroline Wills is now Carrie Biancullis and Edmund shortened to Eddie. I found a great person profile for Caroline on FamilySearch https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/G3K8-CT5

Edmund reverted to his Wills surname and married Hazel Head. On the 1910 USA census he is living with her family in the Elmira ward and his occupation is musician (the same as Dominico). I also know that he worked for a book printers in New York.

The detailed USA and New York census returns allow us to track a great deal of the families lives. In the second world war Edmund’s draft card also reveals that his eyes and hair were black, and he had a ruddy complexion. 

This small part of the story of Caroline Baianculli, her epic trip and eventual life in New York surrounded by her children, highlights the wealth of resources available for tracking your emigrant ancestors.

There are also records available to find ancestors who emigrated to Britain and those who were forced to emigrate. We will look at these resources in future posts.

Image credit: New York Public Library.

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