FROM OCTOBER 1831 through October 1921, the Boston Pilot newspaper printed a “Missing Friends” column with advertisements from people looking for “lost” friends and relatives who had emigrated from Ireland to the United States. This extraordinary collection of 41,249 records is available here as a searchable online database, which contains a text record for each ad that appeared in the Pilot.
The advertisements contain the ordinary but revealing details about the missing person’s life: the county and parish of their birth, when they left Ireland, the believed port of arrival in North America, their occupation, and a range of other personal information. Some records may have as many as 50 different data fields, while others may offer only a few details. The people who placed ads were often anxious family members in Ireland, or the wives, siblings, or parents of men who followed construction jobs on railroads or canals.
A few examples will show you the amount of information available – forget about your data protection in the 19th Century. There were other ways of tracing people besides Linkedin and Facebook then. Some adds are very sad – wives looking for husbands, parents looking for an 18 year old daughter:
Advertisement seeking: Michael Bowler
24 May 1862: Michael Bowler was ‘about’ 35 – 40 yrs old and had a brother John who had died in the East Indies. The advert said he was from the Parish of Dunurlin, Townland of Smerwick, ‘Near Dingle’ and he had been a British Soldier for the past 17 years. Michael’s sister Margaret Bowler of Baltic, Connecticut is the person who is making the enquiry.
Advertisement seeking: Cornelius Buckley
1862: Cornelius Buckley , of Kilgarvan, who was the son of Timothy Buckley and Johanna (Teehan) Buckley. ‘Enlisted in British service 1859. Last heard from in 1862 in Australia, sought by his mother Johanna Buckley and his sisters Johanna, Ellen and Mary, Holyoke, Massachustetts.
Advertisement seeking: Mathew Dowd
22 Sept 1860: Matthew Dowd, Camp, Nr. Castleisland. Dead or Alive? Matthew’s wife Catherine with an address in Hastings, Minnesota, is trying to trace Matthew.,Locations after arrival : Hastings, St. Louis, Missouri and Memphis, Tennessee.
Advertisement seeking: Ellen Ahern
15 Sept 1855: Ellen Ahern, Tralee. Ellen’s husband Maurice Ahern, Union City was seeking information. Her first location after arrival was Lawrence, MA.
Advertisement seeking: Margaret Finucane
31 Mar 1860: Margaret Finucane, age 18 of Aghavallen, Ballylongford. daughter of John & Bridget (Moriarty) Finucane. Destination after arrival: Quecbec 1854. Sought by her brother Thomas, Penn Yan, Yates, N.Y>