The Power of Naturalization Records: a friend’s unknown Irish heritage

Rootstech is only 3 DAYS AWAY!!!

I wanted to surprise my friend with an awesome family history themed Christmas present. She didn’t know anything about her biological dad’s side of the family. Well, Addi and I quickly found that one of her lines came from Ireland, her great-grandparents Thomas Francis Prendergast and Delia O’dea. Which is awesome! And so exciting but if we get too excited, we want to jump right over the ocean to find them there, right? That’s where they were born so there are records of them over there that we want RIGHT NOW…… buuuut… you can’t just jump over the ocean quite yet.

Naturalization records are so awesome! They can have information in there that most other records don’t normally have. And they are the key to getting back to a “mother country.”  The one thing you absolutely need to know before going to another country like Ireland is the Town or City where your ancestor lived. And that information is most likely found in naturalization records.

Now it is very helpful if you have a little more information about the person you are searching for. In some US censuses, it gives you an estimated date of when someone immigrated to the US.

So that’s what we did. We looked in US census records and found some year estimates,  which definitely helped us narrow it down to a year range for Thomas. We first searched on FamilySearch with little luck for a naturalization record.

So we went to and had to do a little digging but we found his!!! And was it a goldmine of information! It not only gave us the town he was born in,  Clogher, but also a bit more of his wife’s immigration as well.  It also had a physical description of him!  We were able to confirm that Thomas and his wife were both from Ireland but were actually married here in the US, in Michigan. I was then able to find a marriage record for them as well which listed both of their parents names.

With the town name of Clogher, we were able to then go to Irish records and see what we could find.  We had success again when we found Thomas Francis in the Census of Ireland 1911 with his entire family!  He was one of the ten kids of Michael Pendergast and Mary McDermott that had survived.  On this particular Census record,  it had asked how many kids the couple had and how many were still living.  There were actually eleven children and one had died. I’m still looking for any other records for more information on this baby. I hope to keep finding more information about this family.

It was so exciting to find all of this information!  I couldn’t wait to see my friend’s face when I gave her all of this as a present. And let me tell you,  it was the best!  We were both choked up as I explained the records I had found. Knowing where we come from is a powerful thing. 


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