• The Lost Irish: FREE Searchable Database

    During the nineteenth and early twentieth century, Irish immigrants flocked to North America in droves. Leaving their homeland, due to poverty, political upheaval and famine; or simply to begin anew, they came in hopes of finding a better life.

    Leaving family and friends behind, their only mode of communication with loved ones was by letter. However, the international postal system was just developing and many immigrants lost touch with the folk back home. As a result, many new immigrants were lost to their relatives who remained in Ireland.

    Missing Friends

    October 1831 marked the birth of a new feature in the Boston Pilot newspaper when an advertisement seeking a Patrick McDermott and his family was published. This advertisement began what later became known as the “Missing Friends” column. The column was an instant success, increasing the newspapers circulation both at home and on an international scale.

    A Family Tree Resource

    Lasting an amazing ninety years the column ran from 1831 to 1921 and helped countless people find those they had lost. For family history buffs this translates into an amazing FREE resource for finding Irish ancestors. This genealogical treasure contains 40,268 records with text for every advertisement that was placed in the paper.

    While the information included varies, it is possible to find some informative facts such as:

    • county and parish of birth
    • date they left Ireland
    • expected port of arrival
    • occupation

    Using the Database

    Although the database has a simple search, the advanced search function allows a great deal of flexibility.

    MISSING PERSON’S INFORMATION Using this search box, I entered the name Patrick O’Brian that returned 452 results. The information returned included:Home County: CorkTownland: Ballydunigan Nr. Bear HavenDeparture date: 1859Port of Departure: England, Liverpool Port of Arrival: MA, Boston
    Additionally there was a description of the ad placed for him:Any Info Alive Or Dead. Other: Last May (05/65) He Resided W/His Si = Margaret O Brien For About A Mo.; He + His Br. = Denis Started To Mi, Lake Superior + Lived W/Fa + Mo For 6 Yrs; He Got M. About 2 Yrs Ago; Came To Visit His Mo. A Yr Ago Last 4-Jul To Mn Coppermines, Antaugon Co.
    SEEKING PERSON’S INFORMATION The above search also returned the data for the person seeking Mr. O’Brien.Name: Catherine O BrienRelation to missing: MotherGender: FemaleResidence: OH, Youngstown, Mahoning CountyDate of advertisement:08-25-1866
    POINT OF ORIGIN INFORMATION  The advanced search also lets you search for a person by point of origin.For this search, I used Dublin as my point of origin, which only returned five results.
    WORK HISTORY If you know your ancestors trade, searching by occupation can give you a wide field of reference.I tried looking for:

    • Carpenter: 163 hits
    • Soldier:37 hits
    • Farmer: 13 hits
    • Doctor: 14 hits
    LOCATION AFTER ARRIVAL As many American immigrants first came to North America through Canadian ports, I tried a search for Nova Scotia (A common port of entry for many U.S. immigrants).  This search returned 26 results. Under the results was listed  Patrick O Donnell, a  Shoemaker who after arriving in Nova Scotia travelled to Mo, St. Louis (1859) and ended up in LA, New Orleans
    The description for Mr. O Donnell reads.M. in Nova Scotia, Halifax (1857); His Wi. = Bridget O Donnell (Borve) in Canada, Quebec Is Anxious To Hear Some Tidings Of Him.  Other: Last Heard He Worked at His Trade in LA, New Orleans; At The Time He Left Ns, Halifax He Had A Npw. = John A. Hearns Studying at The Seminary Of Carondolet Nr. Mo, St. Louis
    TRAVEL INFORMATION Searching by travel information allows you to simply select a year or the intended destination; very handy for researchers who are working with limited information.
    Key Word Search The last search field allows you to do a search of the entire database. You can search by name or by keyword. This is very handy should you have an ancestor with an alias or nickname.For example, a search under “Bessy” (short for Elizabeth) returned 55 results including the information for Elizabeth Daily AKA Bessy Daily.


    If you are ready to start searching for your missing ancestor, Boston College searchable database can be found at http://infowanted.bc.edu/.

    Before you head off remember to get your Genealogy Beginner family tree charts and research tracking forms available with your 30-day free trial.


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