Place of birth versus nationality often confusing in genealogy research

040316 ROSWELL, GA: Names and dates line the voluminous records at the Church of Latter Day Saints Family History Center, where people come to research their family's genealogy. Family History Center at 500 Norcross Street in Roswell. For Helen Cauley feature on Geneaology - Family Trees. (Parker C. Smith/Special)

Credit: Special

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040316 ROSWELL, GA: Names and dates line the voluminous records at the Church of Latter Day Saints Family History Center, where people come to research their family's genealogy. Family History Center at 500 Norcross Street in Roswell. For Helen Cauley feature on Geneaology - Family Trees. (Parker C. Smith/Special)

Credit: Special

A reader asked me: If an ancestor’s parents were Italian, but that person was born in a province within the Austro-Hungarian empire, is he Italian or Austro-Hungarian?

Also, a local man was born in Beirut to Americans working abroad. Is he Lebanese or American? My brother-in-law’s grandparents were Polish by origin but born within the Russian Empire. I am sure they felt totally Polish even though that country did not reappear politically until 1918.

The census and other forms ask for your “Place of Birth,” not your ethnic origins. Census takers in the U.S. had strict instructions on what was permissible to put down on the form (beginning in 1850) and how to refer to certain countries. The bottom line is your place of birth, the exact location of your birth, is the political entity at the time, but your nationality or ethnicity is a different story.

Founding of Georgia Lunch and Learn topic

On February 11 at noon, I will be the speaker for this free virtual event — “The Founding of Georgia. 1732-1734. How the Georgia Trustees vetted potential colonists and recruited city-folk to settle the Georgia frontier.” It’s part of the Georgia Archives Lunch and Learn series.

To join in,via MicrosoftTeams, check the website GeorgiaArchives.org for the link, details and more information, or call 678-364-3710. This lecture breaks new grounds by using newspapers and English parish records at Ancestry.com to learn more about where Georgia’s first settlers were actually from. A question for the audience: What would you have asked potential Georgia settlers if you were a trustee? '

Finding Your Roots season in progress

“Finding Your Roots” began its 8th season January 4 on local PBS stations. It runs through April 19 on Tuesdays at 8 p. m., with a mix of new celebrities and repeats from previous seasons. Some of interest are Mario Lopez (Feb. 1), Tony Danza (Feb. 8), Leslie Odom Jr. (Feb. 22), Regina King (April 12) and Erin Burnett (April 19).

Contact Kenneth H. Thomas Jr., P. O. Box 901, Decatur, Ga., 30031 or at www.kenthomasongenealogy.com.