Whatever you want, apparently.
The name is derived from Greenhalgh, but after looking at the many other variations of Greenhalgh, it’s a wonder I was able to trace anything at all. Fortunately the change to Greenalch was fairly recent, genealogically speaking, and I was able to connect the two spellings. And after seeing what the census did to it, I’m beginning to wonder if census-takers weren’t the ones who caused immigrants to change name spellings:
1870 census: Name?
My 3x great-grandfather: Ellis Greenhalgh.
1870 census: Huh?
My 3x great-grandfather: Ellis Greenhalgh.
1870 census: Alice Greenwald?
My 3x great-grandfather: No. Ellis. E-L-L-I-S. Greenhalgh. G-R-E-E-N-H-A-L-G-H.
1870 census: Allies Grinalsh?
My 3x great-grandfather: Whatever.
But, before we get to Ellis, the first Greenalch I encountered in my research is my great-great-grandmother, Alice Greenalch, born in 1856 in Terrry Hill, Durham, England to William and Esther. According to my grandmother’s notes, Alice immigrated to the US with her widowed mother, nine siblings, and her uncle, John (Jack) Morris. As I’ve learned over the past year, her notes are a mixed bag—factual information along with inaccuracies. The difficulty is ferreting out which is which.
I also had an undocumented Greenalch/Greenhalgh tree back to 1763 and information, both provided to me from a distant cousin and that were part of the oral history from her side of the family (some of this comes directly from her notes and some is paraphrased): When Alice came to the States she couldn't understand why everything was draped in black as she did not know that President Abraham Lincoln had just been assassinated. She said she was 11 when they arrived in the US and often talked about coming from Germany and that her Uncle Dutch worked in Germany before they came. The family apparently went wherever they could find work.
Lots of clues to investigate. My go-to resource is the census, so I reviewed the above history and figured I’d use the Lincoln assassination and the age of 11 years to come up with the likely first census record for the Greenalches. That gave me 1865 and 1867 as targets, so 1870 seemed like a good place to start. Nothing. By 1880, they were living where the next several generations would live, Cameron County, PA. Alice had married and Esther had remarried to a Costello. Esther’s remaining children in the home were listed as Greenwald.
So how could I track the family from England to 1880 in the US? Perhaps with immigration information from the censuses. Blank in 1910, but 1867 on the 1920 census. Of course, by then Alice “knew” she arrived at the age of 11, so the immigration year she would give for the census obviously would be 1867.
I started my search of immigration information. I could tell this was going to be really difficult to track down. With search parameters too tight, I found nothing and with them looser, there were too many records to review. I even tried searching on Alice’s uncle, John Morris. I eventually found a Greenhalgh family arriving in 1863, but not all the names made sense. Still I saved the record, just in case.
I haven’t done much family research beyond US borders, mainly because there’s still so much to do here. I made an exception in this case because I thought I might be able to locate the family in the English census. That might help narrow down an immigration date and would also begin documentation of the family tree that had been provided to me. Sweet relief (but still required determination, as the Greenhalghes of Lancashire, England clearly are not creative when it comes to first names—lots of repeats). I found them in the 1861 census, but Alice’s father was named Ellis, not William, confirming what was in the family tree. (I also found Alice’s grandfather, James, in both 1851 and 1861 and the marriage of Ellis and Esther in the Family Search Index of England Marriages, but for now I’m focusing on the family in the US. Nevertheless, good clues for future research.) I didn’t find the family in the 1871 census, so the immigration date of 1867 still seemed logical.
I went back to the US census, my stalwart friend. I narrowed my focus to 1870 and broadened the parameters for the names. Unbelievably, I found Ellis Greenhalgh (not dead in England after all) as Allies Grinalsh in Elk County, PA, not far from where the family would finally settle. So I’m pretty confident they arrived mid-to-late 1860s, but I’ll keep working on it. Who knows how the name might have been documented and transcribed from a passenger list?