Searching For Esther Knowles

I don’t have a picture of my great grandmother but I’m hoping to find enough records to piece together details of her story. She’s my sole nineteenth century transatlantic ancestor. As a genealogist I know that the best chances of discovering more about this woman rest with working from known facts backwards.  The facts of her life are simple.

Esther Knowles Taylor died March 12, 1930 at 70 years of age.  She was the mother of 7 children.

She married my  great grandfather, George E. Taylor in Central Falls, Rhode Island on December 29, 1880 at St. George’s Episcopal Church. Her husband’s half brother Lawrence witnessed the document. She was twenty.

She immigrated to the U.S. but I don’t know when.  The three steps of a successful immigration search according to Jen Baldwin of Find My Past are census records, passenger lists and naturalization documents. Let’s see if I can discover anything new about Esther.

Use U.S. Census Records

1900 Census Clues

The 40 year old Esther appears in the 1900 census for Lincoln, Rhode Island with her husband George and their children. There is more than immigration information in this enumeration.  She tells the census taker that she’s given birth to 8 children but only 7 are still living. More research is needed to find out the name of that deceased child.

Following their listing across the page I found the date of immigration she reported to the enumerator.  You can see this type of information about your immigrant ancestor by looking at the actual census record by clicking the camera icon next to the appropriate record on the your page of search matches. Esther stated she’d lived in this country for 26 years and came to the United States in 1876, four years before she married her husband.

1910 Census

It’s a good thing that you can search passenger lists using +/- years. It’s really important to look at all the census records just in case there are changes.

Ten years after she was first asked about her year of immigration, the Lincoln, Rhode Island resident has modified her answer by a year. This time she told the enumerator she arrived in 1875.  There are 8 children now living, with one more deceased.

1920 Census

By 1920 the family lives in nearby Central Falls, Rhode Island, an industrial city. At one square mile it’s the smallest in the state.  Esther restated her immigration year as 1875 again, but for this census enumerators also collected information on citizenship. She claimed naturalization in 1880, her year of marriage.

Look for Passenger Lists

Using the search form for “Immigration”, I enter 1875 as the year of immigration.  Only one match. Unfortunately it’s not great grandmother.  It’s a nine month old with the same name who arrives in Boston in 1873.

Use the Arrival Date to find Naturalization clues

In Esther’s case, I don’t have her passenger list for an arrival date. I only have her word about when she immigrated and the year she became a naturalized citizen.  Another strike out. But here’s what I can do.

  • Search city directories to see if the year of arrival can be verified.
  • Look for other naturalization papers. Look at the National Archives website to see if there are other naturalization records and where they might be located.
  • Think about other reasons she’s not listed.

Keep looking!   While I don’t have her specific information, the census provided a possible year of arrival and additional information on previously unknown children.  It’s time for more searching.

For the next eight days until July 6th you can search for your transatlantic ancestor for FREE. Why wait? Here’s the link.