I have an ancestor named Richard Dugdale who was probably born in 1845 (although 1844 and 1848 are also possible) somewhere in England (possibly Manchester or Bristol) and died in 1909 in Massachusetts. I am looking for suggestions about how to narrow down the date of his immigration to hopefully help figure out where he came from in England. Here is what I know:

Based on his death certificate, his parents were James Dugdale and Susanna(h) Preston, and both died in the US.

Regarding Richard Dugdale's immigration -

  • The 1885 Rhode Island census lists him as an alien
  • The 1900 US census says he immigrated in 1853 and had been naturalized.
  • The 1905 Rhode Island census says he immigrated in 1857.
  • I have a possible but unconfirmed naturalization card for a Richard Dugdale who immigrated in June 1859 via New York City and naturalized in 1888.
  • I have a possible but unconfirmed passenger manifest from June (can't make out the date) 1860 for the S.S. City of Washington arriving in New York City with passengers of Susan Dugdale (female, 50), Ely (female, 24), a male I can't read (23), Richard (male, 10) and Susan (female, 5) [note that I would expect Richard to be 15 in 1860 and there is no James].
  • As of October 9, 1862, Richard was serving aboard the USS Sabine, so he was obviously in the country by then.

I have been unable to locate Richard or his parents in either the 1860 or 1880 census, but I do have them in the 1865 and 1875 Rhode Island censuses and Richard but not James in the 1870 US census.

The only sibling I am reasonably sure of for Richard is Susannah Isabella Dugdale, born 1854. I do have a will and codicil for James Dugdale that might help identify them, but, unfortunately, I have been unable to read most of it because of the very tight handwriting (it is slanted remarkably far to the right and is very "flat"). It is no secret though that I am very bad at reading cursive.

So, given all of that information, can anyone suggest an approach that would help me narrow down or confirm a date of immigration? The 1860 passenger list seems most promising to me, since three of the names and two of the ages match known members of the family and it only differs by a year from the naturalization card. However, the age discrepancy for Richard troubles me, especially given he was serving as a fireman in the Navy barely two years later. And I have no idea why James would not travel with the rest of his family. I also cannot explain why no two documents match each other and why they vary by seven full years.

  • 2
    Re James not traveling with his family. It is reputed to be perfectly common for guys to emigrate for work, get enough money to set up a home and only then, send for their family. So I don't see that as a problem. Re mismatched documents - it happens. In fact, being flippant, mismatched documents are so common that one would be suspicious of matching! More seriously, of course, with the poor rate of survival of passenger lists of that era, it genuinely might not be them.
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 9:40

2 Answers 2


I think you have identified the correct passenger list, being the SS City of Washington departing from Liverpool and arriving in New York on 19 Jun 1860. The relevant excerpt shows Susan (50), Eliz[abeth] (24), Anna (25), Thomas (23), Richard (16), and Susan (5):

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I can see why Richard might be mistaken as age 11, but after comparing it to the other 6s and 1s on the page, I am quite confident it says 16.

Richard's baptism on 1 Jan 1845 in Manchester Parish Church (found in the Manchester Baptisms on Ancestry.co.uk) shows him as son of James & Susannah Dugdale, of Ardwick, spindle maker:

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He appears in the new GRO Index as his birth registered in September quarter 1844 in Chorlton registration district (which contained Ardwick), with mother's maiden name listed as Preston as expected:

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Baptisms for some of his siblings in Ringley St Saviour, Lancashire (source Manchester Baptisms on Ancestry.co.uk as above):

  • 20 Sep 1835, Mary, d. of James & Susannah Dugdale, of Great Bolton, spindle maker
  • 23 May 1837, Thomas, s. of James & Susannah Dugdale, of Farnworth, spindle maker
  • 7 Oct 1839, John, s. of James & Susannah Dugdale, of Ardwick, spindle maker
  • 6 Mar 1842, Mary Ann, d. of James & Susannah Dugdale, of Ardwick, spindle maker

You can find the births of John (Dec qtr 1839), Mary Ann (Mar qtr 1842), and Susannah Isabella (Sep qtr 1854) in the GRO index, all with mother's maiden name Preston. There may be other siblings who died in infancy.

I was unable to find the family on the 1851 census. Unfortunately for parts of Manchester the 1851 census sustained bad water damage, so there are some parts that are no longer legible. The Dugdales may be contained in the lost records.

James and Susan appear on the 1841 census at Ashton Row, Ardwick, Manchester, Lancashire (HO 107/578/4, f 42, p 2) along with children Wilfred (8) and Thomas (4):

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Wilfred Preston s. of John & Susan Dugdale, of Kersley, labourer, was baptised 16 Jun 1833 in Ringley. It will require further investigation to determine whether this is simply an error (John should read James), or there was actually a John Dugdale. Also it will take a bit more research to work out where the other children were on this census, although I expect they lost a few children in infancy.

I recommend as your next step you order the birth certificate from the GRO for Richard, to see when he was born and confirm the parents' names.

In summary, lots of leads to follow up on here, but I think there's good evidence that you did locate the correct passenger list. I think the naturalization record is also the correct one, even though it is a year and a day off for the date of immigration. Any dates that people have to recite off memory, whether that be a birth date or an immigration date, have to be treated with caution.

  • Wow... this is an absolutely tremendous response. Thank you very, very much!! I have been trying to trace them back to England for a couple of years now and you found far more than I ever have. I did have the baptism record you mentioned, but I was never totally sure it was the right family, since I don't know how complete records in England are and how common the name Dugdale is. Since I can stay in New England with the rest of my family until the 1600's, I sort of took the easy way out and focused on the records around here that I understood until recently. Now I shall focus on England.
    – Jack
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 3:31
  • The presence of the name Wilfred is quite suggestive, as that name was used as a middle name for one of Richard's sons and as a given name for his grandson.
    – Jack
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 11:33

Since the question of age has been addressed in the previous answer, I will address the question of how to narrow down the date range for the date of immigration. One caution: some families had family members who went back and forth multiple times, so be open to the possibility that some of them have more than one arrival date. You have records from the end of Richard Dugdale's life -- now you can try to fill in the gap by working backwards from what you already have.

The earliest historical document from the US side listed in the question is 1885. I would start with the information given in that state census and shift to a new approach.

Objective 0: Create specific research questions

As you make your research plan, try to formulate specific research questions. You may not be able to tackle all of them at once, so make a list and write them down as they occur to you. Start a research journal or notebook (either paper or digital) so you can write things down and come back to them later. If you haven't already done so, start a research log of the specific things you want to search for (think of it as your 'wishlist') and then make note of the results as you search.

Objective 1: Study the Locality

After I have made an initial survey of the easy-to-find records (aka "low-hanging fruit"), I start a project to study the locality where the family lives. Do you have a map? Do you understand the terrain, and how it might affect how people travel? Do you know the history of the area, in particular, when the counties were created? Do you have a list of what records would have been created in that time period (both online and offline)? Have you searched the internet and/or genealogical periodicals for articles and posts written about other people in that time and place? Looking at the bibliographies and material that was cited by other researchers can give you pointers to record groups you might have missed.

Objective 2: study the record groups

Very little of the material we use to "do genealogy" was created for that purpose -- except for authored works (books and articles in genealogy publications) that are published in order to share the results of genealogical research, everything else we use was made for some other reason. Do you understand the 'genealogy' of the records themselves? Who created the records, and for what purpose? Where can you access the originals? Do the repositories which hold your records have research guides, or have they written scope and content statements about them?

If you haven't found your research subject in a particular database, have you looked for information about "known issues" (missing pages, pages that were microfilmed out of order, portions which have no index, or only a partial index)? Do you have a good idea of the content of records, especially the information that might be in the record, but is often not indexed / extracted?

Objective 3: Have you searched all possible jurisdictions?

In the United States, records can be created and held at several different levels -- the town/city level, the county level, the state level, and the federal level. Have you determined which jurisdictions existed at the time you are researching, and have you checked them all?

Objective 4: The search for strays

Records, like people, can migrate, and be housed in repositories far from where they were originally 'born'. Have you searched for material about your research subjects in repositories outside the area?

Objective 5: Build a research toolbox

Here are some resources to get you started:

Resources for the research process:

Resources for reviewing the immigration and naturalization records you've found already, and for finding more:

  • 1
    These are very good suggestions, thank you. I will say, I do have US records for this family back as far as 1862. Also, I'm pretty familiar with the RI/Mass. border area because they and other relatives stayed there until the 1910's. What I have been having trouble with is immigration records and records from England. My concern always is "how complete is the record set?" and thus how likely is it to have caught two people with the same name. With the records I mentioned, I just don't have a good sense of this, which always makes me wary of proceeding, even if I get a possible match.
    – Jack
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 3:42
  • For English records, one essential reference is Mark Herber's Ancestral Trails -- it's an outstanding survey of surviving record groups. I can't get a direct link to the detail page, but you can search for it here: genealogical.com
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 5:06
  • For sorting out same-name problems, my standard procedure is to attempt to prove I have records from different people -- I try to establish timelines from cradle-to-grave for each person. If I'm in error, the evidence usually convinces me all the records belong to the same person, for more reasons than the simple "same time, same place, same name, must be the same person" mantra. Understanding the scope and content of the records can be a huge help.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 5:13

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