No one in my husbands family knows anything beyond their grandparents. The same is true for my family. I THINK my husbands great grandfather came to the States at the turn of the last century, landing and staying in Hell's Kitchen.
That's all I know.
How do I get started?
I was in a similar boat when I got started. I'd suggest first recording everything you and your family members know about those grandparents (full names, birth dates, etc) and search for them (depending on their ages) in the 1940 and 1930 US Censuses and WWI and WWII draft registrations. That might turn up their parents' names, and you can proceed from there. I have an ancestry.com subscription and will gladly look them up for you if you don't, so you don't have to shell out a bunch of money not knowing for sure whether it will yield new info. Been researching my own mysterious Irish ancestors from Hell's Kitchen (including a Murphy) for some time, so who knows, maybe I'll learn something new too. This site also has a great free database search: http://italiangen.org/ It'll bring up basic info from the indexes, which you can use to order copies of NY birth, marriage, and death certificates, which are really helpful.
As per Brendan, the census will tell you what state your grand parents were born and what state or country their parents, (your great grandparents ) were born and their approximate ages at the time of the census. Good luck and have fun.
Good suggestions by Brendan and Mary. I would add that if you get stuck somewhere along the line (which most people do), there is always the DNA option. That's what I did, and it helped me get past a generation or two which seems to have vanished into thin air.
Ryan, what DNA option did you use, if you don't mind me asking? I've been thinking about doing that too.
Mary ... I used FamilyTreeDNA.com. Had great success with their services. And then once you've done that, check back with me here and I'll tell you how you can REALLY turn the results into something incredibly meaningful.
Thanks Ryan, I will do that.
Hi Ryan, I'd be curious to learn more about your approach too. I've also tested on FTDNA but I've had trouble making sense of my results, due in part to how little I know about my Irish ancestors 4+ generations back. Most of the participants I match with have the same problem; the paucity of surviving Irish records makes things especially challenging.
Since you've already done your cheek swabbing and have your results (and seem to be stuck at this stage), I will recommend checking out what Dr. Tyrone Bowes offers at IrishOrigenes.com. He is able to "pinpoint your genetic homeland," as he puts it ... at least in most cases. He analyses your data (especially the most commonly occurring surnames of people your results linked you up with other than your own), and then zeroes in on the amazingly small radius of the area where he concludes your people lived several hundred years ago.
He helped me confirm what I had surmised all along, but had no real tangible reason to be surmising, really. Now, I'm trying to find a willing male O'Rourke who is still living in that exact area t who will allow me to swab his cheek so we can compare results.
Here's the link to my case study that I allowed him to publish.
Let me know if you have any questions.
Ryan, as I am looking into the DNA thing, I found this link to be useful.
That said, I went to Familytree DNA and find that they have at least 4 different kits:
Ydna, Fathers line (I know that one is not for me as I am female) 20% off for you guys, $135.00
FamilyFinder a mere $99.00, same as ancestry
MTdna Mothers line (which I assume is for females) $199.00
Or, FamilyFinder mt full sequence. $298.00
So Ryan, which test did you get?
I have been tested to the 67-marker yDNA level, Mary. I paid for only the 37 markers, but because of my genetic link to the O'Rourke Chieftains from the kingdom of Bréifne, there was a group that wanted to get me tested to the 67th marker.
How Cool! I hope the group paid for it!
Thing is, I don't think I can get much information as I, as a female, can only get information to the 4th generation. That is, me, my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother. I already know that information. In fact, I know one more generation. And typically, that is the only one of my line that I can trace back that far. It's my Egan 2x great grandfather and my Howard 2x great grandmother that I would like to find out more about. So I'm not sure what I can get out of the DNA test. And the DNA test was going to be my birthday present....heavy sigh.