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Friday, June 24, 2005

Missing Any Irish Friends?

Serious researchers of Irish genealogy have long depended on the eight volumes of The Search for Missing Friends: Irish Immigrant Advertisements Placed in the Boston Pilot, edited by Ruth-Ann Mellish Harris, Donald M. Jacobs, and B. Emer O'Keeffe (Boston, Mass.: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1989-). Now these records are coming to the Internet, albeit in abstracted form, through Information Wanted, a website of the Boston College Irish Studies Program.

The Missing Friends advertisements, dating from 1831 to 1921, were placed by those seeking information about an Irish immigrant to America, and contain a varying amount of identifying data.

The advertisements contain the ordinary but revealing details about the missing person’s life: the county and parish of their birth, when they left Ireland, the believed port of arrival in North America, their occupation, and a range of other personal information. Some records may have as many as 50 different data fields, while others may offer only a few details. The people who placed ads were often anxious family members in Ireland, or the wives, siblings, or parents of men who followed construction jobs on railroads or canals.
Anyone finding a relative will still want to consult the original text, but the online index will surely help speed their research in the right direction.

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