Samuel Rolston walked out the Iron Mill door, his hands black with filth from a day of grinding iron. His bones creaked as he forced each step forward, up the hill toward town. And Samuel paused to remember this was the first day of the month: mail day.

Feeling burdened by the extra five blocks he would have to walk to the Boonton New Jersey Post Office, Samuel released a deep sigh and proceeded to the Post. He hoped for a letter from home and he pushed his aching body to make it to the Post Office before closing.

Entering the Post, Samuel nodded at Ol' Mr. Sawyer sorting mail at the front counter. "Do ya' have somethin' for me Will?" Samuel asked as he approached the counter.

"Looks like a letter from the Old Country," Mr. Sawyer remarked as he reached into the canvas mail sack resting in the corner.

Samuel stared at the envelope as he peeled open the side. He had hoped to hear from his family, concerned about his father's poor health. But instead, an unexpected letter lay in his hand. A fellow church member in Cavan, Tyrone, wrote to tell Samuel of his son's voyage to America. "I remember you as a kind and generous soul and I am hoping you will look after young William as he settles himself in America.'

This would not be the first time he and his wife helped new immigrants from his old homeland in Ireland. Samuel Rolston, as most Irishmen in the New World, felt a responsibility to take in their family and neighbors as they immigrated to America.

It was the "way of the Irishman" and Samuel proceeded toward home, eager to tell his wife of their future boarder.

Immigrants came to the New World in groups, either with their families, friends or fellow parishioners. And they typically had contact with a family member or neighbor in America for help prior to their voyage.

Earlier this week, I received contact from a fellow researcher on She wanted me know my ancestor, Samuel Rolston, helped her ancestor the first few years he lived in the States. I explained they must have had a connection from Ireland; their families could have been neighbors or church members.

The relationship cannot be proven, but the unfolding of information is interesting: Samuel Rolston's boarder was an immigrant from Cavan, Tyrone, Ireland. A simple clue that could take my research further into my ancestor's Irish roots.

Study your immigrant ancestor's census records and look deeper into the lives of their boarders and neighbors. Most likely, they had some connection to their homeland and researching those living in their home and around them could provide a wealth of information on your ancestor.

Your immigrant ancestor's helping hand to others could in turn, be a helping hand to your research.

Keep searching for answers,

"Modern Journeys: The Irish In Detroit"
As human beings we have an inner drive to take risks; explore new paths that can push and pull us toward unknowns. And though change can ferment growth, a link to familiarity and sameness keep us grounded. Which has been the crux of immigrant communities throughout history; change and newness within the midst of villages of similarity.

Immigrants have come in waves. The British and Dutch explored and developed the colonies in the 1600's; the Germans flocked to the states in mass in the 1800's; the Russians came to America in the early 1900's. They came for various reasons, many of which included poverty and religious persecution. But as they migrated across America they searched out each other.

Immigrants grabbed hold of their bonds and formed communities across America. Dotting the country with little countries within. Irish, German, Italian villages where they could speak to one another in their native language (many Irish spoke Gaelic languages; not English) and hold on to the only cultural traditions they had known. These little immigrant societies provided a sense of security in a world that at times was strange and intolerant.

The immigrant communities have over the centuries, melded together, assimilating into a more homogeneous world. But many still hold tightly onto to their history and traditions; which can be a goldmine for those of us in genealogy.

All across America, descendants of immigrant communities have festivals, maintain historical societies and publish surname books of genealogical importance.

I found my 18th German ancestors listed within the historical publication of German town, Pennsylvania. While searching for an ancestor within another lineage, I discovered a German ancestor living on a street of the German Village of Columbus, Ohio. And the names of my Irish ancestors were embedded within an Irish surname publication from

It is not hard to discover the remnants of centuries old immigrant communities. In Texas, you may find your German ancestors in the historical publications of where German communities such as New Braunfels, Fredricksburg and Weimer still thrive today.

If your ancestors were Polish, they may have lived in New York, Minnesotaor Connecticut. And If Italian, they could have settled in Tontitown, Arkansas where families with Italian surnames such as Bariola, Fiori and Pianalto still live in the rolling Arkansas hills.

So explore the histories of little countries within a country. You may stumble upon your immigrant ancestor's name rooted within their publications.

It's worth the effort.

I think you could be pleasantly surprised.

Keep searching for answers,


'It was a crisp spring morning in 1831. George Crawford walked to the kitchen table, turned the small tin can over and counted the coins that tumbled out. He slowly pulled out forty shillings, leaving only a small amount of coins in the can. As he handed the shillings over to the tall gentleman standing at the door, George had an overwhelming feeling of relief that this would be the last handed to the English landlord. His eyes moved across the room, taking long pauses at each chair, each wall and then, staring long at Sarah's face, he knew this was his last glance of the only home they knew.

George and Sarah completed the last of their packing: clothes, blankets, Sarah's family china dishes and Rebecca's precious baby bed. Then, they called out to their young girls, "time to go", and for the last time, they walked through their front door. With baby Rebecca in hand, the young family stepped into John Rolston's wagon. George and Sarah both felt a rush of excitement but it was bittersweet, knowing they would never see their family again.

The trip to Londonderry seemed unusually long. As they traveled through the countryside, they took in every moment; long glances at each house and waves at every neighbor. Finally reaching their port, George was struck by the size of the large, beautiful ships waiting for boarders. The lines of passengers were long, but waiting in line was only a minor annoyance, knowing they were to start a new life in a country that Sarah's cousin wrote as 'a land of plenty'.

George, Sarah and their four girls pulled out their trunks and Rebecca's baby bed from the wagon and Sarah kissed her father John, a tearful goodbye. Leaving parents behind for both George and Sarah was painful but a reality they knew they would have to face in this new, wonderful journey. George purchased six tickets and the family stepped onto the ship, ready to embark on their new life.

As the ship left the dock, the family began to settle in, staking out a small area on a lower deck that would be their home for the next four weeks. Early in the voyage, Sarah and George felt contented as they prepared their small area for sleeping and eating. However, as time passed, the trip became tiring and at times unbearable. As the weeks went by, many passengers became ill and tempers flared. Fortunately, the Irish bagpipes eased the weary and provided a feeling of calmness, a sense of home.

The ship finally embarked on the new land Sarah's cousin spoke so highly of and the Crawford family stepped off the dock, prepared for a better life in a country full of opportunities. But dreams are sometimes only dreams, and reality is often mixed with fear and doubt.

George and Sarah continued their travel with their girls on to New Jersey where Sarah's extended family was living. But the Crawford family quickly became dismayed with the anti-Irish sentiment that seemed to permeate every town they entered. The 'land of plenty' was not an easy one for an Irishman, but George Crawford was determined to build a life here.....'

The story above is my interpretation of what happened to my immigrant ancestors: George, Sarah and their daughters from Ireland. The truth of their adventure will never be known, but my mind drifts and I am struck by the hardships they must have endured in order to build a life in America. Immigrant ancestors I never knew, yet their lives have a direct affect on mine. How different would my life be if George Crawford never felt compelled to uproot his family and sail to an unknown world?

Search for your immigrant ancestors but do not stop with the discovery of their passenger lists or immigration records. Look not only at when they came to America but how long it took, where they embarked and where they settled. Read in between the lines, searching for their story. Because finding their story is finding a small piece of yourself.

Keep searching for answers

(Copyright 2011 Cheryl Capps Roach All rights reserved.)