Irish Genealogical Society of Michigan
There are times when you find the road you've taken has twists, turns but no detour. It continues to follow the same path no matter how confused you feel when you pull out the map and look for new clues to your desired destination. You look again, pause to stare at each crossroad with great contemplation, then, you feel pulled to venture on.

It seems the transcontinental path I have been taking at late, with the revelations of the immigration of my great great grandparents from Ireland, continue to bring further exploration of their story. As my mind yearns for more answers, I am compelled to discuss their venture with you. Perhaps discussion will reveal pathways unknown, bringing new knowledge to explore.

My great great grandparents, George and Sarah Crawford of Ulster Ireland, migrated to New Jersey with their four daughters sometime after their arrival to America in 1831. Records for verification are scarce but having found a birth certificate of their fifth daughter in New Jersey in 1836, their roadmap becomes more defined. The Crawford's early years in America, living on the eastern coast, are without definition but their continued migration to Michigan has presented a story providing peaks of interest for my journey.

George Crawford was a farmer and the dream of owning his own farm, being his own man without payment of rent to landlords, was most likely what drew him to America.
And the Irish farmers were drawn to the vast farmland offered in Michigan in the early 1830's. The Irish were some of the first immigrants to settle Michigan, soon after the French. Then afterwards came the Germans and Dutch. But the migration of Irish immigrants continued to increase, making them the largest ethnic group in Michigan by the 1850's

Statehood in Michigan was in 1837, which brings me back to my ancestor George Crawford. George made his way to Michigan sometime before statehood as his land records place him as a resident of Detroit at the time of his purchase of 80 acres in Commerce, Michigan in 1837. George settled his family in Oakland County Michigan where he and Sarah helped to establish the Presbyterian Church in Commerce. The road becomes even more defined, as I pull out my magnifying glass for closer inspection of each census of Commerce; finding neighbors, pastors, merchants, in the township of Commerce, many of Irish descent.

It was a community that continued to grow, more neighbors surrounding the Crawford's property with each census, but as the population increased, the Irish population grew with it. It was the 'Irish chain migration'':A practice established by Irish immigrants in America by which one individual establishes a new life and then with communication back home, brings family and friends from the 'old country' to their new homeland. And as one of the first settlers of Commerce, Michigan, George Crawford seemed to be head of the chain.

It is a fascinating phenomenon, chain migration, and it gives explanation to the many ethnic communities found throughout America in the 1800's. The German community of Pennsylvania, the Bohemians of Wisconsin and the Dutch, German and Irish of New York.

As a family historian, the road to your immigrant ancestors, are found within the history of these ethnic communities. I found mine within a surname publication of the Irish Genealogical Society of Michigan.Find your German ancestor's history within the Germantown Historical Society or perhaps your Bohemian ancestor through the Wisconsin Historical Society. Many provide a wealth of publications compiled of immigrant family surnames. And perhaps by studying some these publications, you may also find your immigrant ancestor pulling the chain.

Keep searching for answers,

(Source: Ireland and The Americas: Culture,
Politics and History)



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