Friday 23 July 2021

Half a million Irish recorded in New York Almshouses ledgers index

Ancestry has come up with another (see yesterday's blogpost) not-so-obvious collection of potential value to Irish family historians. It's an index to the New York, U.S. Almshouse Ledgers, 1758-1952 and, if the index is counting records correctly, holds very nearly half a million records of Irish-born individuals.

The official total of entries in the collection is 1,113,040. The Irish-born contingent of 486,894 make up the largest single group – more than the USA-born total.

The term 'almshouses' covers a number of institution types that provided aid to the poor and the sick. They included workhouses, barracks, infirmaries, prisons and asylums, and typically gave help to immigrants fleeing famine and persecution.

The ledgers transcribed for this collection detail admissions (voluntary or otherwise), discharges, deaths, and census information for the various types of almshouse and may include the following information:

That's a mighty number of candles required for the cake!

  • Person’s name
  • Birth date or year
  • Date of admission
  • Date of discharge
  • Date of death
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Occupation
  • Marital status
  • Names of relatives

When exploring the records, you'll need to be aware that the stated ages of individuals are frequently way out. In a casual glance through some of those born in Ireland you'd be forgiven for thinking some of the inmates of these institutions were living to extraordinary ages.

Take Lizzie Ward who was admitted in 1898 aged 65; according to the transcribed record, she died aged 147 in 1980. Call me a cynic, but I doubt it! I think a discharge date of 1880 or even 1890 is more likely.

Following a similar mistake pattern, widowed labourer James Sullivan was 58 when he went into the almshouse in 1900 and was probably discharged some (considerable) time before the 1968 recorded in the index. You have been warned!

Ancestry's description of the collection is worth reading and points researchers who want to search for more details of an almshouse inmate to its New York State Records Collection.

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