I started with my husband’s family as my sister has already done a lot of research on our side of the family. It has been surprising. I have not got very far with his mother’s side of the family. We knew the names of his mother’s parents (his grandparents) and easily found the details of their parents (his great grandparents) from birth certificates. I have been looking at the Census Returns through ancestry.co.uk which has name indexes to the Returns and record sheets for each person.
Here is the surprise: his great grandmother is recorded in both the 1881 and 1891 Census Returns, giving her place of birth as America and in the record sheet for the 1891 Census it gives her place of birth as American Samoa. I can’t see anything on the actual Census Returns at all that indicates Samoa, so where has that information come from? I’ve emailed Ancestry and so far haven’t heard back. I don’t know where to find any more information – looking at the indexes it seems as though you have to know in which state a person was born before you can check their details. I cannot find their marriage in the Marriage Index for 1837 – 1983 so it seems like a dead end. Her maiden name is on her daughter’s birth certificate in 1878 as Agnes Henderson when the family was living in Chorlton, Manchester. She was born about 1850 or 1851 going off her age as stated in the Census Returns.
Photograph of American Samoa from Wikipedia Engraving of view of Manchester (Cottonopolis) from Wikipedia
It is difficult to find out when Agnes came to England and when and where she was married. If she was from American Samoa she must have found Manchester in the 1880s very different. There are some records of immigrants in the National Archives, but it may be like looking for a needle in a haystack.