Has your early North American immigrant research hit a brick wall? By using search strategies in FamilySearch, you may be able to break through the wall thanks to recently added custom search features in the system. The new search engine features and filters just might be a game changer!
To see how they work, let’s look at a case study about Richard Taylor, an English immigrant to 17th century Virginia. Here’s what we know and don’t know about Richard Taylor:
- Richard Taylor, at age 16, came to Virginia in 1635.
- His parents’ names are not known.
- His place of prior residence or birth in England are not found in documented records of Virginia.
- There is a letter written by a brother-in-law, John Harding, who was a butcher “of London.”
- Richard’s sister’s name was Susannah, John Harding’s wife.
- The family has a copy of Susannah’s original letter that suggests London as a likely place for the immigrant’s origin.
Search Strategy Using Search Engine Features on FamilySearch
To search for Richard Taylor, we do the following:
- On Main Page click “More Search Options.”
- Type his name in Surname and Given Name boxes.
- Click the “Exact match only” boxes for both names.
- Click the “Birth year” box and type “1620” +/- 10 years.
- Click “Place” box and type in “London” only. [Strategy note: for a majority of VA settlers, London was the colony’s most likely place of origin.]
- Click the “Exact” match box.
- Click “Search.”
Eleven baptism results appear—but only four of them occurred in City of London (proper). Note the parish of baptism and the father’s given name in each entry.
Next, using the search parameters described above, conduct the same search for a Susannah Taylor, but on Susannah, use a wild card (*) by typing: S*s*n*. You will be looking for a Sus[s]anna[h] born in the same parish and with the same father’s given name as one or more of the above “Richard Taylor” candidates. Click “Search.”
In the results displayed, two or three Susannah’s appear. Does either of them provide supporting circumstantial evidence to support your hope and hypothesis that one is the sibling and a key to Richard Taylor’s birth origins?
Notice that one of them was baptized at St. Lawrence Pountney Parish, London. Thanks to the now available FamilySearch search features which allow users to customize their searches, we have found a Susannah who could be a very strong possibility.
Is this Susannah Taylor, Richard’s sister, who likely married a John Harding of London? Your research at this stage is too premature to tell with any kind of certainty. But there are ways to strengthen your case for it.
Try to disprove that the above Susannah and Richard Taylor are not siblings by doing the following:
- Bury them off (search the parish registers of St Lawrence Pountney to see if either of these two children baptized in this same parish were listed in the burial registers sometime over the next 20-50 years).
- Try to marry off the above Susannah to a John Harding in a nearby London parish.
- Will them off by finding a will for John Taylor, the father.