‘From whence emigrated’

A page from the Davis article.

Census records are obviously an essential resource for genealogical research. Until recently, my understanding was that the first U.S. census to provide a place of origin was the 1850 census. Beginning in 1850, the census began to include the names of all family members, ages, and place of birth, among other information. This contrasted with earlier census records that only provided the name of head of household and a broad age range for each family member.  However, while doing some recent case work on a Snow line in Hancock County, Maine around 1800, I came across an article by Walter Goodwin Davis published in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register in 1951. In this article, entitled “Part of Hancock County, Maine in 1800,” Davis called attention to the 1800 census for Hancock and Kennebec Counties (at that time part of Massachusetts) which actually had a column labeled, “from whence emigrated.”[1]

In addition, the census records for Kennebec County had a column for the year they emigrated. These are two categories that were unusual to include on the census, since this information was not included on census records for other locations at that time. Davis points out that there were two census takers who surveyed these counties, George Halliburton and Donald Ross.

Only one of them actually used the “from whence emigrated” column, though, and that was George Halliburton.[2] Therefore, only certain towns have this information recorded. Of course, sometimes the column was left blank. This could have been because the question was not asked or the head of household was native to Hancock County, Maine.

An example of the 1800 census. The “From whence emigrated” column is at far right.

While the locations listed were not always exact, they are a nice resource to keep in mind if you are researching Hancock or Kennebec Counties in Maine in 1800. For instance, I was researching a Snow family line in Hancock County trying to determine a town in Massachusetts for their origins. The individual I was researching claimed that they hailed from Cape Cod, which unfortunately did not provide more specifics than I already knew. Although you may have more luck with your research: the locations listed on these census records range greatly, and may include the country, state, region, or a specific town, depending on the individual family. The location listed may be a place of birth/origin or a recent residence.

I thought this was a useful article to stumble upon and that it warranted a little spotlight. The “From whence emigrated” column was an uncommon addition to the 1800 census, which makes it valuable. If you are researching this time period and location, keep this in mind! I know it may be helpful for those of you trying to trace families back to their place of origin if other records have not revealed it to you.


[1] Walter Goodwin Davis, “Part of Hancock County, Maine in 1800,” The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 105 [1951]: 204.

[2] Ibid.

About Michelle Norris

Michelle holds a master’s degree in history from Salem State University, where she specialized in women in colonial New England. She completed her bachelor’s degree with concentrations in history and gender studies from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Michelle has a background in public history and has worked with the National Archives and Records Administration in Waltham, the Beverly Historical Society, and the Sargent House in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Her research interests include women’s history, society and culture, early America, and the American Revolution.

12 thoughts on “‘From whence emigrated’

  1. Michelle – do you have a Joseph Carter Snow (b. 1828), living in the Scarborough area in your line?

    1. Hi there, I did not. Looks like your ancestor was in a different area of Maine but I had a helpful genealogy that might be worth looking at. -The Snow Genealogy: the ancestors and descendants of Nicholas Snow; Joshua Snow and his adopted children, pioneer settlers of Brooksville and Sedgewick, Maine 1599-1979 by Walter A. Snow.

  2. Interesting. In case you didn’t know, the ‘Do’ – which looks like a “Jo’ in the last column, means ditto – same as the one above.

    Thanks for the hint. I’ll check my 1800 Maine Census records again. Nancy

  3. I have used that census to identify the origins of some early families in Waterville, Winslow and Oakland, Maine (all part of Winslow at that time).

  4. Elizabeth Snow, who married Elisha Hopkins was an ancestor of mine. Have you found their children?

    1. The Mayflower Families volume for Stephen Hopkins has a sketch on Elisha Hopkins (b. 1738) and his wife Elizabeth Snow (b. 1736). It only lists one child Joseph- of which no information is provided. You could find this source in our online database, Mayflower Families Fifth Generation Descendants, 1700-1880.

  5. Hi Michelle, have you ever come across the Boobar name (various spellings) in the records you have researched? They came from the Fredrickten, N.B. area and were expelled back to Maine when the war started in the 1770s. Went to Kessk- – – – plantation north off Bangor, then a first settler of Milo and then Medford. I am having little luck the connecting Benjamin to a assumed son Thomas, born in 1812 in Medford, because the Medford town records were burned in a fire long ago. Hope you have something new to share. Thanks for your time! Dave

    1. I saw that you have a Boobar in your family. So do I. My mother told me of the family coming from Scotland and having once lived in a “sort of” underground dwelling. My grandfather told me that same story of his mother and grandmother’s side living also underground. They were Annis, with various spellings, Boobar from Maine, Canada after Scotland leaving there about 1700s.

  6. When I noticed this about the census for Hancock, Maine, I was hopeful that it was part of the information included by other areas. So far I have not been able to find any other place that included this helpful information.

  7. Thanks for your time and reply. I have not been able to get any collaborative evidence for this family after they left Milo and moved to Medford with the exception of some land deed records. Trying to tie Thomas to Benjamin Boober as his son seems to be mostly impossible, but for the fact that they lived in the same towns, at the same time. I will continue to chase down the smallest of leads as I find them. Thanks again for your time, Dave Schmid.

    1. Hi Dave I have not researched this family before so I apologize I don’t have any new insights into this line for you. Our Research Services department does expert research assessments which could help to assess your genealogical brick wall and create a plan for continued research if you are interested. Our website should have links to guide you. Best of luck!

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