Brothers Samuel and Joseph Neill were both born in County Derry, Ireland, in the 1830s. They immigrated to New Brunswick, Canada, in 1864--Joseph, with his wife Anne Bryce (Brice), and Samuel, as a single man.
I began with a careful review of the 1870 through 1910 census entries for both Samuel and Joseph Neill. My intention in reviewing entries was to:
- determine if I had overlooked any clues in the enumerations,
- determine a
timeline for migration from Canada to the United
- determine if there were neighbors who were also Irish immigrants (by reading at least three pages before and after the located entries)
The census indexes at Ancestry offer additional search options that should be explored. Instead of searching for names, I could search for other natives of Ireland living in the same area as the Neill family. I could perform searches for individuals with a birthplace in Ireland born within five years of 1835 in an attempt to locate other individuals roughly the same as Samuel and Joseph. All census indexes at Ancestry for censuses 1850 and later provide this option. A search of the 1910 census could also include a year of immigration in an attempt to find other Irish immigrants who immigrated in the same time frame as Joseph and Samuel. The database interface affords me search possibilities that never existed several years ago unless I read the census one page at a time.
There is one potential pitfall to such searches. A search of the 1910 census for natives of Ireland living in Hancock County, Illinois, who immigrated in the 1860s (performed by searching for an immigration year of 1865 plus or minus five years) does not locate Samuel Neill even though he is enumerated in the 1910 Hancock County census. The reason is simple: the year of immigration on Samuel's entry is left blank.
- The year of immigration could be incorrect in the census entry, either for your ancestor or for the others who might have immigrated with him.
- The year of immigration could be omitted completely for some immigrants.
- Places of birth could be completely incorrect or vary slightly from what you think is correct, Prussia or Hanover for Germany, etc.
Similar searches were conducted in the 1870 and 1880 census in the county where Samuel lived. The number of entries in both cases was small enough that all the names could be manually scanned. Particular attention was paid to any names in townships that neighbored the township where Samuel lived from ca. 1868 until 1912. There were a handful of other Irish immigrants living relatively close to Samuel. However, the entry for one Irish native stood out: William Brice.
Searches easily located William and Anne Brice in the following
- 1860 Ursa Township, Adams County, Illinois
- 1870 Chili Township, Hancock County, Illinois
- 1880 Butler County, Kansas
- 1900 Caldwell County, Missouri
direct connections to Anne Murphy Neill have not been discovered.
- Census records can provide a tentative outline of a family that should be documented with additional records.
- Searches of census records without using names, focusing on places of birth, ages, etc., may result in the location of unknown extended family members.
- Tracking experimental search techniques is important so that the same searches are not conducted repeatedly.