I have hit a roadblock tracing the Starrs family in Ireland. Peter J Starrs, born about 1836 in Ireland, immigrated to New York between then and 1860 (most likely in the 1850s). I cannot find who his parents were, if he had any siblings, etc. He married Mary Ann McDowell (1844-1880) who was also born in Ireland, but I do not know if they married in Ireland or the U.S. as I cannot find marriage records or immigration records on them.

I'll start by asking whether anyone can help me by finding a record of Peter J Starrs in the USA prior to the 1870 Census?

Timeline for Peter J Starrs:

  • born about 1836 in Ireland
  • immigrated to New York - sometime between 1836 and 1860 (probably 1850s?)
  • married Mary Ann McDowell (1835-1880; born in Ireland)


  • 1855 immigration record to USA from Ireland: have not 100% verified this is him

    "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:27R4-7DD : accessed 6 January 2016), Peter Stars, 1855; citing NARA microfilm publication M237 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm.

  • 1862 naturalization record: also not 100% verified that it is my Peter starrs, his name is spelled 3 different ways in image of transcript. Application dated 26 Feb 1862, Superior Court of the City of New York, Peter Starrs, age 25 (b. abt 1837), native of Ireland, boiler maker, of 81 East 27th St, New York, naturalized 27 Oct 1864.

    New York, Petitions for Naturalization, 1794-1906, Original images available on Ancestry.com.

  • 1870 census record showing Peter Star, age 40, fishmonger, living in Greenburgh, Westchester, New York with his wife and 3 young boys. Both Peter and wife, Mary, were born in Ireland. The children were all born in New York: George (8), Peter (5), Charles (2).

    "United States Census, 1870," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M82Q-JBT : accessed 5 January 2016), Peter Star, New York, United States; citing p. 78, family 576, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 552,613.

  • 1880 census record showing him still residing in Greenburgh, Westchester, New York with wife and children

    "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MZNF-X4D : accessed 5 January 2016), Peter Starr, Greenburgh, Westchester, New York, United States; citing enumeration district ED 99, sheet 325C, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 0945; FHL microfilm 1,254,945.

  • Wife, Mary McDowell Starrs, died in July 1880. Notice in the New York Herald, 7 Jul 1880 reads: "STARRS.—On the 6th inst., MARY A. McDOWELL, native of county Cavan, Ireland, the beloved wife of Peter Starrs. Relatives and friends are invited to attend the funeral, Thursday, July 8, at half-past one P.M., from her late residence, Irvington, N.Y. The remains will be interred in St. Joseph's Cemetery."

    Original image available on fultonhistory.com

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    Welcome to G&FH SE! As a new user I recommend taking the Tour because our site works a bit differently to discussion forums, bulletin boards and other Q&A sites. You may notice I edited your question to try and "improve" it and you should feel free to do the same. If you wish to provide an email address or link to your family tree, then the place to do that is on your user card.
    – PolyGeo
    Apr 16, 2015 at 7:08
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    Would you be able to edit your question to include the source you have for Peter being born in 1836 in Ireland - does it perhaps come from the 1860 US Federal Census?
    – PolyGeo
    Apr 16, 2015 at 7:13
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    Welcome to G&FH.SE! I also would like to hear how you know all the information you have posted in your question because it may help with finding other clues. Did the information about his immigrating through New York come from stories passed down in the family?
    – Jan Murphy
    Apr 16, 2015 at 15:28
  • I found the 1880 Census Record in FamilySearch so added its source to your question. It would be useful to do the same for the other two facts that you cite. As it stands I think your question is too broad because it is asking multiple questions e.g. when did Peter arrive in US, when did Mary arrive in US, when and where did Peter and Mary marry, etc To focus your question I am going to change its title to try and bite off one question at a time. If the answer to the first question does not answer the others as a "by product" then you can always ask another focussed question.
    – PolyGeo
    Jan 5, 2016 at 4:23
  • A line of enquiry that you may or may not have tried is that the 1880 Census says that their son George is aged 19 and was born in New York. Finding a birth record for him that names his father (and mother) should help place Peter in New York in about 1861.
    – PolyGeo
    Jan 5, 2016 at 4:38

1 Answer 1


This is not a direct answer to the question but hopefully contains a few useful bits of information.

First, the reason why you probably cannot find Peter and his family in the 1865 or 1875 New York State censuses is because those records for Westchester County have not survived. In fact, the first state census for this county to survive is from 1905. It is always a good idea to check the description of a record set to get an idea of its coverage, for example on the New York State Census, 1865 on Ancestry.com. It is unfortunate that these records have not survived because they would help corroborate ages and locations.

As I see it, you only have two records which you are certain contain your Peter Starrs – the 1870 census and 1880 census. The 1870 census shows him as age 40, thus born abt 1830. The 1880 census shows him as 44, thus born abt 1836. On this basis I would make sure you broaden your search enough to include this entire birth range, perhaps 1828-1838.

The obvious piece of information missing from your list is when Peter died. If you can locate his death certificate, that may give another reference point for his age – thus birth date – and could also potentially contain additional information about his birth place, marriage or parentage.

Fortunately, Peter Starr appears in the New York, Wills and Probate Records, 1659-1999 collection on Ancestry.com. His record is indexed as Peter Stare. Peter died intestate (left no will), and the record notes that on 19 Jun 1885, Administration was granted:

"To George J. Starrs son of Peter Starr late of the town of Greenburgh, in Westchester County, deceased, intestate."

While Peter's wife Mary does not appear in this collection, I did come across a record for her in the Estate Inventory records on the Westchester County Archives website:

Starrs, Mary A., 1880, Greenburgh, New York, Estate Inventory, A-0255(199)L, folder 24, file 1880-260

Instructions are given on the website as to how order this record if you so desire.

On the Westchester County Archives there is also a Naturalization Index, however I could not locate any of the Starrs in that index. The index or records may not be complete, or they may have been naturalized elsewhere or not at all.

Going back to Peter, the administration record is very useful as you know he was deceased by 19 Jun 1885. He most likely died around that time, probably 1884-1885.

In this part of New York, vital records are organized and archived at the town or village level. Vital Records were mandated by New York State in 1880 but not all towns were quick on the uptake. I was unable to determine exactly what records are available for Greenburgh. Information about how to order a death record is available on the Greenburgh Town Clerk's Office website. There is an order form on the website, however you may wish to enquire as to the coverage of their records before submitting a search.

If they have a death record for Peter Starrs in 1884-1885 then I think it would be very useful to obtain a copy.

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