I was browsing the new additions to ancestry.com the other day and came across an interesting find. It’s the “San Francisco, California, Surrendered Alien Certificates, 1906-1946″ database.
The database covers many people who came from Hawaii to California who were not citizens of the US. You may not know that immigrants living in Hawaii at the time Hawaii became a territory did not automatically gain US citizenship. Those born in Hawaii were American citizens. Those born outside of Hawaii (except for those who were already US citizens obviously) had whatever citizenship they maintained before territorial status. I suspect that because many of these immigrants were in Hawaii 10-20 years before annexation they may not have bothered with citizenship. It wasn’t a big deal for them.
When they traveled to California to visit their children or other relatives, they carried an Alien Registration card. The document was designed to allow those who were from US territories who were not citizens the ability to travel to the US.
The card probably does contain a lot of information that you don’t already know about your ancestor. It contain identifying information such has age, hair color, eye color, weight, and height. It states what country they are a citizen of and when they arrived in Hawaii (or whatever territory). It also states their destination.
I didn’t have any luck finding my relatives. However, I found many people from Hawaii with Portuguese sounding names.
Note: Although the database title states that it begins with 1906, the information in the description states that it covers 1912-1921 and 1921-1946. This could explain why I didn’t find any of my relatives. Many of them came over between 1905-1910.
[Ancestry.com is a paid subscription service. You will need access to a paid subscription, either your own or through an institution, in order to access this database.]
There are times when I am more efficient than I thought I was. I was beating myself up for misplacing Patrick Dolan’s probate file when it hit me. I took copious notes from the massive file!
I pulled down the Kelly/Dolan binder, flipped to Patrick Dolan’s section, and began reading. After going through the notes, I was right. There is no location listed for Mary Collis. Her cousin, Bridget (Coyne) Wall, is specifically noted as being “from Boston, MA”, but not most of the other people.
There are very few mentions of Mary Collis. Patrick Dolan’s estate was first opened 28 Jul 1905. Mary (Kelly) Meincke was appointed the administratix at that time.
Then, the 1906 earthquake struck and the file was lost. On 7 Apr 1907, Mary Meincke reapplied for the probate case.
Initially, the heirs were listed as:
Mary Meincke, niece
Catherine McSweagan [sic], niece
Matthew Kelly, nephew
All of them residents of San Francisco. Already there are problems. Patrick’s obituary lists two nephews: William Dolan and Michael Dolan (of whom I have not be able to track down). As Mary (Kelly) Meincke was in charge of Patrick’s affairs, she must have been aware of their existence. Did they die before 1907?
Notices were placed in newspapers in San Francisco and Boston. And, that’s when all hell broke loose. The first objection was filed 13 Aug 1907 by Bridget Wall. Then, followed three other Boston cousins claiming they were the true heirs of Patrick Dolan’s estate and no one else. Bridget Wall’s attorney went as far as accusing the Mary, Catherine, and Matthew as frauds.
On 13 Aug 1907, we see the first mention of Mary Collis. Her attorney makes the same claim as Bridget Wall’s. There is a mention in the file at that time with Mary Collis name and the phrase “appearing at that time”. It follows Bridget Wall and Patrick Coyne’s names, too. I’m not sure if this means they appeared before the court in San Francisco or their representatives did.
26 Mar 1908, depositions were taken by two people. One was Thomas Burke, Esquire, of Brideswall, Corroboy, Athlone, Ireland. He was a material witness brought by Jesse W. Bryan, the attorney for Bridget Wall. He was examined in Ireland by P. Robert Kelly, an attorney.
On the same day a deposition was taken by Mrs. Hanlon of Cambridge, MA. She was examined by Charles Hall Adams, Esq. of Boston, MA.
Bridget Wall also gave a deposition. This is the only place was residency is listed by the heirs names. It lists hers as Boston, MA.
On 16 Oct 1908, there was a final distribution of the estate. The heirs were to divide $3430.45. This is where Mary Collis looses out:
“Mary Collis, illegitimate daughter of Bridget Dolan, deceased sister of Patrick Dolan”
That phrase knocks Mary Collis off the list of heirs–and takes her inheritance with it.
I am not sure why, but the estate is not divided evenly between the Meincke’s, McSweegan’s, Kelly’s, and Coyne’s. Perhaps there was already partial payment to the San Francisco group prior to 1907. Or, maybe the court turned up something that proved the Coyne’s were full relations of Patrick Dolan’s and the others were not. Whatever the case, Bridget Wall and Thomas Coyne got 1/4 of the estate and the rest only got 1/6.
Most of the money was paid out 16 Oct 1908. The probate case was closed 12 Aug 1915.
The information above is all that points to Mary Collis being a part of the Dolan family.
A couple of things are curious to me.
1. Who was Thomas Burke and what did he know about the Dolan’s? Was he speaking on behalf of Mary Collis in Ireland? Or, was he providing information on the Dolan’s from local records?
2. If Bridget Coyne gave testimony, why didn’t Mary Collis?
It is frustrating to know that their is someone I need to attach to my tree, yet, I have so little information to go on. It’s next to impossible to research a name without a locality and time frame.
After I wrote my blog post last night about Mary Collis, daughter of Bridget Dolan, something occurred to me. How do I know that Mary Collis ever came to America?
Every thing I know about Mary Collis came from the refiled probate records for her Uncle, Patrick Dolan. I have part of that file in my binder under Patrick Dolan. The majority of the file is packed away somewhere in a yet to be located box from moving two years ago.
I am guessing that since I made no entry on your family group sheet for residency that it was not specified in the probate file. The file was very specific in some place and not so in others. For instance, there is testimony from a lawyer in Athlone, County Roscommon, Ireland, and a woman who lived near the Coyne cousin’s in Boston, MA. While the file contains the questioned asked, it doesn’t contain the answers given.
So now, I’m back at square one. I have Mary’s name, her mother’s name, and the fact that she was alive up until the probate was settled in 1915. That’s it.
How can you find a person if you aren’t even sure what country they lived in?