'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.)


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