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,



05/28/2012 12:32pm

This is a great post Cheryl, it is so true of the Irish that those who emigrated before were a source of great kindness and strength to those who were forced to emigrate after them - it must have been extremely moving to have read of your ancestor Samuel Rolston's kindness towards a new arrival to New Jersey.

And as a new wave of emigration hits Ireland lets hope that the same generousity of spirit that sustained our ancestors will too be apparent as others now leave for a new life away from the Emerald Isle.

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