Finding Single Irish Women Immigrants to New York City

blog post banner Finding Single Irish Women Immigrants to New York City

In our extended family, a group of cousins work together to bring the stories of our shared Irish immigrant family, as well as the families they left behind in Ireland, back to life. In the chain migration of a family unit, the older siblings often come first, with others following. In the family unit from which most of us descend, the oldest siblings traveled to the US first, followed by the widowed mother and all the younger siblings, traveling after the death of their father. A shared goal is to bring the stories of our shared Irish immigrant family back to life.

Ships’ manifests are great records, but the older they are, the less helpful they are. This is where other records are needed to confirm an identity that appears on the manifest. Several censuses collected information about immigration, but these may be estimates or the best recollection of the person who gave the enumerator the information. Some vital records may list the number of years a person was in the US, but these might be filled out by a decedent’s child who did not have firsthand knowledge of the event. Naturalization records can help by sharing a date, but depending on the timeframe, women would derive their citizenship from their husband and not seek citizenship on their own.

For the 300,000 young unmarried Irish women who traveled to the US, it may be difficult to pinpoint their arrival date and ship. The repetition of names within an Irish family can compound this difficulty. If your unmarried Irish female ancestor came to New York City between 1883-1954, the records of the Irish Mission at Watson House might help. For us, this database confirmed the ship of one of those older siblings, a single female, who arrived alone as a link in that chain of immigration.

Multiple members of our group had searched for Delia’s arrival, and we converged on the most probably being the one shown below. Delia is a nickname for Bridget, so we had searched using both names. In the manifest below, there is a Bridget McMahon and a Delia McMahon, but our McMahon is known to come from Kilrush. The date of this manifest fit into the timeline for her life events; we knew that she was no longer with her family in Kilrush, Clare, Ireland at the time of the 1901 Irish Census.

Manifest of the Germanic, arriving 10 Mar 1901

Manifest of the Germanic, arriving 10 Mar 1901 (lines 12 through 16, columns 1 through 9)

Column 16 of the manifest is “Whether going to join a relative, and if so, what relative, their name and address.” Bridget McMahon shown in line 12 was going to meet her Uncle D. McMahon. We did know that siblings arrived ahead of her, but not recognize the address from our previous work.

Manifest of the Germanic, arriving 10 Mar 1901 (Column 16)

Manifest of the Germanic, arriving 10 Mar 1901 (Column 16)

The Irish Mission at Watson House helped over 100,000 of these women who arrived in New York City. The ledgers are dated between 1883-1954, and on the search page we are told to check back, as there will be more additions to the website. I learned about this database from a great webinar given at The Genealogy Center, reviewed at:

The Irish Mission at Watson House Home Page

The home page gives the history and the context for the Mission, so it is worth browsing. From the home page you select Digital Archives, or you can search or browse from:

Irish Mission search

(I could have selected SEARCH from the menu at the top of the screen to use the search page.)

The first result was our ancestor.

Irish Mission search for Bridget McMahon

From the search result you can viewer the ledger, its transcription, and download a pdf of the page.

Ledger with Bridget McMahon

There was a ledger entry for Bridget McMahon, from County Clare, who came in on the Germanic on that date. (The entry on the Passenger Manifest gave Kilrush as the place of origin.)

Ledger entry for Bridget McMahon

Ledger entry (left) for Bridget McMahon

In that entry it showed that she was meeting Denis McMahon. Although the avenue name was misindexed, it is an abbreviation for “Broadway.” There was a Denis McMahon on Broadway in our research, but the address had conflicted with what we knew about Delia’s brother, Denis. Now we know the connection between Delia and Denis McMahon of Broadway, extended our chain of migration and our understanding of the family structure back to another generation.

Ledger entry for Bridget McMahon

Ledger entry (right) for Bridget McMahon

You can also browse the collection from the Digital Archives page. Be flexible when you browse this way. When I browsed by county it appeared that the spelling of the counties was taken from the records. For example, when browsing for entries for County Clare, there were entries for: Calre, Clare, Co. Clare, Clara and “Clare.”

Browse by county

If you research any of the young women who traveled alone from Ireland to New York City between 1883-1954, try searching this database. It may provide the clue you have been needing. Let me know how you do with this database!

Webinar Review: Irish Immigrant Women in the US

Blog Post Banner - Webinar Irish Women

As you know, this blog reviews. It is probably time to review webinars! Or at least one webinar that I found incredibly interesting which shared very insightful resources. The webinar was “A Lonely Voyage: Finding Irish Immigrant Women in the United States” given by Elizabeth Hodges, an expert in Irish and Irish American Studies.

Elizabeth Hodges is a Senior Genealogy Library at the Allen County Public Library, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which is the home of The Genealogy Center. You can read about her and the other librarians who are genealogists at: She has an amazing combination of skills as historian, genealogist and educator.

In this webinar, Ms. Hodges provides an insightful social history about the women who traveled alone from Ireland to the United States, sharing the reasons for immigration and the challenges they faced at all steps of this journey. She explains the history and context of why so many Irish women traveled alone to the United States. Additionally, she outlines how they traveled, which ports were common departure and arrival ports, and how US laws influenced their immigration experience. She also describes what life and work were like in the US after their arrival. By looking at combined experiences of the time, we can definitely see life through the eyes of our Irish female immigrant ancestors.

As a bonus, wonderful resources were shared. One that was especially useful in my research was The Irish Mission at Watson House website, which will be featured in this blog soon.

“A Lonely Voyage: Finding Irish Immigrant Women in the United States” is now on the YouTube channel for The Genealogy Center at Allen County Public Library

YouTube Channel for The Genealogy Center - Irish Immigrant Women

While you are at the YouTube Channel, you can look for other presentations by Ms. Hodges, additional Irish presentations, and hundreds of other presentations in their playlist.

Learning About AI

Blog Post Banner - Learning About AI

Have you wanted to learn more about Artificial Intelligence?

Recently I gave a talk about Using AI for Genealogy, and shared some of my sources for education about AI. You can find out more about the talk  and if you want to learn from a genealogist who is a professor with a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering, you might consider having your group book it.

There are many resources available to learn how to get started with generative AI, and some ideas for using it in genealogy. Among them are posts on this blog .

NOTE: DO NOT put any sensitive information into any AI tool.

The first recommendation is a paper that you can download. Genealogists need to learn about prompt engineering to use AI tools effectively. A great paper that offers a catalog of prompt patterns is a good place to start. These prompts presented in the paper are general in nature, but they can be applied to genealogy. The paper is “A Prompt Pattern Catalog to Enhance Prompt Engineering with ChatGPT.” It is an academic paper, and they can look intimidating, but they do not have to be! You can copy-and-paste parts of it into ChatGPT (or another text-to-text AI tool) and ask it to create a summary or explain it. My specific advice is to look at the tables labeled “Contextual Statements” to learn the patterns. I actually copied text from these tables, and combined information about the patterns offered by a generative AI to create a personal cheat sheet.

If you want to dig deeper and understand more, you may want to look beyond genealogical applications and learn about the technology. Understanding what the tools are and how they work might help you be more comfortable with using them and applying them in genealogy.

In its “AI Ready” commitment, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has set a goal to train 2 million people. As part of this commitment, AWS offers free courses about AI. These courses are written for all different levels of knowledge. From the AWS webpage describing the commitment, scroll down to the section “Courses for business and nontechnical audiences” where you can follow the links to register for the courses. A free account is needed. “Introduction to Generative Artificial Intelligence” is a good starting point, with simple and understandable explanations and no formal assessments. (That means no tests!)

AWS Courses for business and nontechnical audiences list

If you want to learn in a more structured way, there are online classes available. These are more formal, with structured lessons and activities that you have to turn in. That should not intimidate you, as these courses are designed for beginners who have little or no technical background. The beginner aspect should not dissuade people with more experience, as there is always something to learn in courses like these. I enjoyed the first and simplest course on the list, as well as courses in the series “Generative AU Learning Planning for Decision Makers” and the “Foundations of Prompt Engineering.”


Coursera offers “Prompt Engineering for ChatGPT.” It is taught by the professor who wrote the article that I recommended. If you take this course for free, be sure to allocate time for it each week because the course materials are only available to paying participants after the end of the class. I found this to be a very enjoyable course, with the assignments being as simple as using ChatGPT 3.5 to try the patterns from lessons and submitting the prompt and response via a text box.

Coursera Prompt Engineering for ChatGPT image

GALE Courses

Another course that I have begun is “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” on GALE Courses (formerly known as Learn4Life). GALE Courses may be available from your local library website, or from a neighboring county for free by using a library card they issue. For those in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, you will find GALE Courses offered by the Howard County Public Library, so get a library card from them. (At Howard County Public Library this is the link to the description These are 6-week courses, organized into two lessons per week, and there are discussion boards and ungraded quizzes. In order to obtain a certificate for this course, you have to pass a final containing multiple choice questions that appears to be based on the ungraded, optional quizzes for each lesson. Check on your library’s website for an alphabetical listing of online resources or contact a librarian.

Howard County Library System GALE Courses Introduction to Artificial Intelligence course

This is a technology course about the science of how a computer can perform tasks that usually require human intelligence. It covers the forms of AI, how AIs learn, AI applications and ethics. It will not be something that you can use immediately for genealogy, but it will give a foundation as we go forward seeing more and more AIs.

No matter how you decide to learn, keep learning!

Let me know how you are learning about AI.

NOTE: I have no affiliation with any of the courses or services in this post.

Using AI in Genealogy

Blog post banner Using AI for Genealogy

Thanks for such a warm reception at the Western New York Genealogical Society this past weekend. It was a pleasure to be talking about “Using AI for Genealogy” as part of their year-long fiftieth anniversary celebration, conducted over Zoom. At least fifteen states and two countries were represented in the audience.

The lecture was for people who have not already used AI tools but wanted to learn about them and how to start, AND for those who were already using the tools to share ideas about how to be more effective and expand their use.

It took over a day to obtain the ChatGPT data export that I mentioned during the lecture, but it did arrive later in the afternoon. As a reminder, this data export of all your chats can be requested by clicking on the profile icon on the lower left -> Settings -> Data Controls tab -> Export data. The link allows you to download a zipped file, and when you open it, use an HTML file to access your chats.

I wanted to share some of the great feedback from the audience:

  • “Fantastic ‘Gen AI 101’ and how to apply it to research!!!”
  • “Thank you so much! Very clear. Makes me want to go out and try it.!”
  • “Fantastic program!”
  • “This was perfectly demonstrated. Thank you!”
  • “Wow! So much information. Thank you so much.”
  • “I learned so much.  No longer afraid to try it.  Thank you.”
  • ” Hope I can find the time to watch this over and over and over!”

You can embark on a captivating exploration at the crossroads of genealogy and artificial intelligence with our lecture on “Using AI in Genealogy,” conducted over Zoom. Presented by a seasoned genealogist who holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science & Engineering and is the author of “Crash Course on ChatGPT and Genealogy ,” this session promises practical ways to get started using text-to-text artificial intelligence, prompt engineering and other AI tools, with some technological background. AI tools into your genealogical research, along with some technological background about generative AI.

The reasonable pricing ensures accessibility for your group, and participants will receive a thoughtfully curated 5+ page handout. Additionally, we’ve included some optional ‘Homework, but not to turn in’ for those who are ready to delve deeper into the subject. Contact us now to secure an engaging, informative, and educational Zoom lecture for your group.

The reasonable pricing ensures accessibility for your group, and participants will receive a thoughtfully curated 5+ page handout. Additionally, we’ve included some optional ‘Homework, but not to turn in’ for those who are ready to delve deeper into the subject. Contact us now to secure an engaging, informative, and educational Zoom lecture for your group.

There’s an AI for That: Transcribing Handwriting

Blog Post Banner There’s an AI for that transcribing text

Despite what you might have heard, there is progress being made on anything an AI can help with, including handwriting-to-text. In this blog post, we will cover just a few of the AI tools available for transcribing images of handwritten documents into text. The conversion can be done using digital images created by scanning or photographing handwritten documents.

Transcribing documents (or important parts of documents) is a thing that I always recommend. Reading a document is passive. The motion of writing or typing a document forces us to engage different parts of our brain with its content.

Even if a tool pulls the text out of an image, there is still work to be done in checking the accuracy and formatting the text.

While this can be done with a pencil and piece of paper, I always write the transcription into a word processing document. A word processing document is easier to share and extract the key pieces of data. Be sure to store the original image and the transcription together on your computer. 

NOTE: Always consider any privacy concerns before uploading documents to a website. While the website may not store the image, it may be used to train the AI model. Anything uploaded to a website usually travels through several stops on its way through the internet to the website and back. 

NOTE: The results from these experiments are certainly influenced by the quality of material that is input. This means that your results may vary.

I am not affiliated with any of the products mentioned in this review.

Always check usage rights for what is generated by a tool.

As the “Unofficial Historian for the 51st Pioneer Infantry Regiment,” we are always on the lookout for materials that add to the understanding of the Regiment’s service in World War I. We located some letters and decided to try out some handwriting-to-text AI tools.

The beginning of one of the letters was:

first part of WWI letter


OCR2Edit has tools to extract text from scans, images and includes more  features. Since the tools are focused on text, and there was no explicit tool for converting handwriting into text, I had low expectations that this would be the right tool for the task.

At the time of writing this blog post, 3 tasks per hour could be done for free.

OCR2Edit homepage

I selected the Image to text tool and followed the directions to start the process.

When the tool was done, I could download the text file with the transcription.

OCR2Edit download page

The transcription of the letterhead was good, but the handwritten part was not helpful.

OCR2Edit results


Aspose OCR app is an online tool is for turning handwritten notes to text.

Aspse OCR App homepage

The interface on this webpage is slightly awkward.

The first page of a letter uploaded and the “Recognize” button clicked. Then it is time to wait. It took a while to process the request, but there was an option to bookmark the page and return to it.

There are buttons for several of their other Optical Character Recognition (OCR) apps that might be more useful.

The format for download was selectable from a drop-down menu.

Aspose format for download was selectable from a drop-down menu.

There was also an option to apply Automated Text correction.

The results are downloaded into a file named “results” which is less useful than a file that has the original filename in it.

There is a button for Options on the Home Page, where you can select: Enhance Contrast, Deskew Image and Upscale Resolution.

Aspose options

All of the options were selected in an attempt to get better results, but there was no improvement.


Pen TO Print

Pen TO Print was the best tool in this set of experiments.

Only the first 10 pages are free, so check out the pricing if you need to do more.

Pen TO Print Homepage

Select Handwriting to Text Converter. Then Add Files, by dragging and dropping the file or clicking the plus to open a dialog box to navigate to and select a file (or files). Then select Convert.

Pen TO Print Add Files

The text can be Download as Text or Word document, or copied to the Clipboard. The filename of a downloaded files is the original filename with “Pen2Print-Export” added to it. This feature helps keep track of the transcribed files on your computer.

Pen TO Print Download

This was by far the best of the tools that were tried. The output needs some minor corrections, and formatting. Both of these tasks will engage the brain, and make us think about the content.

Let us know how you do!