Crossing the Pond

tall shipCrossing the Pond is a segment of our blog that will explore one of the more difficult questions in genealogy. Where did my ancestor live before immigration? It is a common question many of us want to answer, but it can be tough to solve for a variety of reasons.

Finding that elusive ancestor in their homeland can be a very rich and rewarding experience. Learning about our immigrant’s customs, history, trials, and tribulations gives us, the genealogist, a deeper understanding of that person. It puts flesh on their bones transforming them from names, dates, and places on a page to real people with profound and complex lives.

Our ancestors moved for many reasons, many times they were “pushed” out of a place or “pulled” to a specific location. These pushes and pulls varied for different groups and may have changed over time. We will explore many of these factors.

Most all of us are from traceable immigrant families. Eventually, we will want to tackle that odyssey of discovering their nativity. For some ancestors, it is a simple process. They left many detailed records explaining their family origins while others have tough and complicated immigration issues with seemingly few and/or disjointed records. It is my opinion that these complex nativity questions are when research and analysis get fun.

It has been my experience that most immigration questions are solved with detailed U.S. research. Many of the more complicated problems require research and analysis of what Elizabeth Shown Mills terms, the F.A.N. Club. Digging deeply into the family, associates, and neighbors of our immigrant are necessary to understanding their lives. F.A.N. club research can be a long and involved process.

Genealogy is not always easy, so be prepared for your research to be difficult and trying as you get further back in time. Researchers have to have a proper mindset, examine everything–trust nothing, and always perform a reasonably exhaustive search to correctly answer difficult genealogical questions. A researcher can learn so much about their antecedent and how sociological forces affected their lives. For me, it has answered many questions I have had about my family; why do we have the particular customs, entrenchments, attachments, and detachments that we have?

I believe most questions are not too difficult to resolve or, at least, come to some conclusion. By examining an issue from every angle, the researcher learns about their ancestor and how they interacted within their slice of history. On occasion, it could take years of research and hundreds of hours of study of very narrow subjects such as religious customs, migration patterns, shipping routes, or specific socioeconomic issues of a region. Forces outside of our control like “burned counties” or in the case of Ireland “burned countries” may stymie some. Then again there are the ancestors that tell you their every move and contemplation they had. If you choose to engage in these pursuits, the rewards can be very sweet and satisfying.

I welcome you to Crossing the Pond and hope my experiences and observations can help you unlock the mysteries of your family.

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