William McGinnis on the Census 1850-1855

While the majority of my ancestors came to America in Colonial times, my 3rd great-grandfather, William McGinnis, was one of the most recent to emigrate here. How a refugee of the Great Irish Famine found his way 3,100 miles to rural central New York is beyond me, but he did, and there he succeeded.

The first U.S. Census William was included in was the one taken in 1850, when he was counted as a "Laborer", age 22, living in the home of Miles & Mary Todd, farmers in Lisle, Broome County, New York. A young woman named Susan McGinnis, age 24, was also in the home. She, too was born in Ireland and perhaps emigrated with William earlier that year or the year prior. They were both unmarried, so she wasn't William's wife. Perhaps she was his sister or other relative? Susan was still in Lisle in 1855 and 1860, living as a servant in home of James Howland.


When the 1855 Census was taken, William was still in the same town, but living on a different farm. He was listed as a "Servant", age 26, living on the farm of Moses & Anne Adams. Based on this information, William was born in Ireland about 1829 and came to America around 1850, when he was about 21 or 22 years old. Susan McGinnis was still living in Lisle, but not with William. Instead, a younger woman by the name of "Rosa McGinnis", age 18, was living in the home. She reportedly had arrived in America two years prior, about 1853. Again, they were both unmarried.

Rosa, or "Rose", married James Ryan, with whom he had several children. They lived in Solon, Cortland County, New York. She is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery in Cortland. I believe Rose was William's sister because my father's DNA matches up with Rose's 2nd great grandchild's on Ancestry. Furthermore, William's daughter, Mary Ellen McGinnis, named her only child Rose Ellen Hollenbeck. Perhaps this was William and Rose's mother's name too?

By the time the 1860 census rolled around, William was married to Catherine (aka "Kate") Smith and had a six month old daughter, Mary Ellen McGinnis, my 2nd great-grandmother. They lived in Cortland County for the remainder of their lives.


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