This week on Who Do You Think You Are? Rosie O’Donnell embarked on an emotional journey as she traced her late mother’s roots.  She used census and vital records from Ancestry (shown below), as well as obituaries and church records to reveal her family’s Irish hometown and discover the tragedies and triumphs they faced both there and in Canada.

Rosie  used various sources to try to find where her ancestors came from. Here are some tips to help you find where your immigrant ancestor came from.

  • Start in Australia – Have a look at Australian records which may be able to help you – passenger lists, newspapers, birth, marriage, and death records. You may find the name of the town your family came from.
  • Take note – Family legends and stories may include place names. Jot them down, plot them on a map, keep them in the back of your mind. While you may not find the true town of origin, family stories may at least help point you in the right direction or to the approximate region your ancestor was from.
  • Dig around – Memontoes and papers can hold clues that can help find where your family came from. Check old photographs for locations noted on the back, or old letters and post cards for post marks
  • Ask about the Neighbours – Chain migration, where people from the same village in the old country moved into the same ethnic enclaves in Australia, was common among immigrants. If you can’t find your own ancestor’s hometown, look for the hometowns of their neighbours – it could be the same as your ancestor’s. Bonus if you find it listed in a family tree: that could indicate that another researcher who could help you with your search.

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