Immigration Paths in America

Tracing the path your family took from the port where your immigrant ancestors arrived at where you were born is an essential part of your family history.

In Colonial America, ports developed where colonists had developed goods for exports such as tobacco, dried fish, timber, and flax. Shipping routes between Europe and America developed primarily to take American exports to Europe. The ships made the Atlantic passage to pick up raw materials in the American colonies. For the return voyage to America, the ships carried finished goods ordered by colonial merchants and also new immigrants. Some immigrants freely determined their destination and paid their passage to one of these ports. However, many other were recruited by colonial governors or land speculators to settle in specific colonies. Immigrants were needed to settle and clear land and make money for those who the British government granted land charters. The arrival port was determined by what group paid the captain to bring the indentured immigrants. After our ancestors landed, they usually moved away from the seaport seeking available land. Late arrivals moved further west, pushing against what was considered the frontier and Indian territory. They also turned south down the Great Valley Road into the Shenandoah Valley and further into the Piedmonts of North and South Carolina.

Colonial roads usually developed over already established Indian trails. As settlements were established, roads expanded to handle carts and wagons, and more immigrants came. Two exceptions were Forbes and Braddock’s Roads which British soldiers built over previous Indian trails to handle cannon and wagons during the French and Indian Wars of the 1750s. After the Revolutionary War, settlers pushed westward through the Appalachian Mountains to find new land in western New York, Ohio, and Kentucky. They used and expanded Daniel Boone’s Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky and Tennessee. They followed the Indian trail along the New and Kanawha Rivers to the Ohio River and Kentucky. Forbes and Braddock’s Roads transformed from a military road to a westward migration road as settle pushed to Pittsburgh and the Ohio River, which became a major natural highway to new lands in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Settlers in the Northeast used the Mohawk and Catskill Turnpikes to push into western New York and then Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan,

Use land transactions, tax records, and probate records to determine where your ancestors settled in colonial history and the early 1800s. Census records after 1850 make tracing the migration path much easier. If they arrived in the late 1800s or early 1900s, find the train route they took from the port to where they found work. Identify why their friends or relatives were there – they were your ancestors’ destination.

Map the route, find accounts of life in these areas when your ancestors were there. Did any historical events happen around and affect them?

Find their story, write about it, and save it for your future generations.

Get Organized!

Success in our genealogy research will come more accessible if we are organized. Being organized allows us to quickly access what information we have and keep us on the correct path to find more information.

Being organized means we can quickly find all of the information we have on an individual to do the next search. I also believe it means we can quickly review what we have for an individual to restart our search for his documents after being away from his details for a while.

I do not rely on rows of cabinets and piles of color-coded folders to retrieve my information. I found storage space is always in demand and never enough when you have paper copies. So I now save only electronic copies. My laptop, thumb drives, and external hard drives give me all the space I need to store my copies. They are also easier to carry when I am going to a library or archive to do research.

The most challenging aspect of saving electronic copies is labeling my files with a consistent naming system. Our computers will automatically sort our files alphabetically, so our files need names that place them in a predictable order. In addition, the naming system will allow us to find and review the documents quickly.

However, the most critical aspect of my organization system is prioritizing compiling the information from my documents into summaries for each ancestor. This step is because summaries are the core document in my research method and organization.

Benefits of Summaries

  1. Lists everything I have found for an individual in one place
  2. I can quickly find the criteria  needed to do the next search
  3. The summaries make my research efficient
  4. I spend less time searching my files and more time finding more documents
  5. The system also allows me to analyze the summaries to see what I need to do next and see the stories in the information I found.
  6. Its format is flexible, and I can easily add information in a logical order
  7. It is readable and understood by our non-genealogist family members so we can exchange our treasure-trove of stories
  8. Listing the information in chronological order allows our ancestor’s story to develop and reveal itself to us as we do our research.
  9. Combining the individual summaries is the beginning of our written family history.

Saving the documents using an organized system is essential, but organizing the information that is in the documents is critical to our success. The summaries are the core of my research, and the family histories that I publish for my grandchildren come directly from these crucial narratives.

Begin compiling your data into summaries to be more successful and having more fun!

Scotch-Irish Emigration

The largest group to leave Ireland in the 1700s was the Scotch-Irish. Their ancestors had just arrived from Scotland about 100 years before, but by the early 1700s, they had enough of the British discrimination against them. They decided to leave and then packed everything they had – clothing, personal items, tools, farm implements, and weapons. They were never returning to Ireland. The English laws did not allow the Scots to own any land. So, their only ties to Ireland were the family members they left behind. Many were prosperous farmers and skilled tradesmen who were the backbone of Ulster agriculture and the linen industry. They were farmers, but many were active in the linen trade to supplement their farm income. However, the continued threats of higher rents and fluctuating prices drove even the prosperous tenant farmers to emigrate to America.[1]

Many had money and could afford the passage. If the Scotsmen did not have the 3 pounds 10 shillings needed for the passage, they willingly agreed to be indentured workers in America. They signed contracts with agents or ship captains. They knew the shipping company would sell their indenture contract after arriving in the colonies to farmers, merchants, or tradesmen who needed workers. The agreement was for five to seven years of labor in America and paid for their passage.

Ironically, the Ulster linen trade established the overseas trade routes between the Ulster ports and the American colonies that enabled their immigration to America. Ships hauled many tons of flaxseed and other materials from Pennsylvania to Ulster and were eager to fill their empty cargo holds for the return trip to America. The captains willingly accepted the Scottish emigrants’ money to pay for their passage to America, thus generating new revenue for the ship’s owner.

After the Scots in Ireland made arrangements for passage to America, packed their belongings, they said goodbye to friends and family, loaded their carts, and made their way to the Ulster ports of Londonderry, Portrush, Larne, Belfast, and Newry. Their small ships sailed for Philadelphia and Charleston with about fifty passengers on-board.[2]

Filling the cargo holds with immigrants also solved a desperate problem for the American colonies who needed more workers. Many governors and land promoters in the American colonies offered land, tools, and seed to the immigrants. They sent out advertisements and hired agents to recruit workers to come to America. Charleston, South Carolina, and Philadelphia became the primary destination for the Ulster immigrant, and during the mid-1700s, Charleston rivaled Philadelphia as the port of entry for the Ulster-Scots. After arrival, the immigrants found cheap land without a landlord. They discovered the English Penal Laws did not exist in the colonies, and they did not have to tithe to two different churches. America offered the Scotch-Irish a new beginning and hope for their families.


[1] Blethen, H. Tyler; Curtis W. Wood Jr. From Ulster to Carolina: The Migration of the Scotch-Irish to Southwestern North Carolina, North Carolina Office of Archives and History.

[2] Blethen, H. Tyler; Curtis W. Wood Jr. From Ulster to Carolina: The Migration of the Scotch-Irish to Southwestern North Carolina, North Carolina Office of Archives and History.

What Name Should We Use?

The name of our ancestors can lead to confusion when we find possible variations in the documents. So, what name should we use when we document our research?

I think the question comes up for most people when referring to how to enter the name on a family tree. I tend to use the name most people will use in recognizing the individual in my family tree. In most cases, I will put the baptismal name in parentheses if different.

I place more importance on writing a narrative of the individual for my family history. In the narrative, I can give the various names used in chronological order as I found them on the documents. We may never know why the variants were used. Many may be from the clerk’s understanding of what the name should be – right or wrong and with inadvertent misspellings. In some cases, it is the preference of the individual. Call the individual by the name they prefer but record all rest noting where you found that variation.

Writing a family history narrative for each ancestor gives me the flexibility to list all the names used and lessen the confusion found in the documents. Knowing the name variations helps us find more documents and stories because we have more choices to use in our search criteria. However, let the focus of our research be on our ancestors’ lives and their stories. The narratives make my family history come alive for other family members and give a complete view of their lives.

Tips on Writing Family History

My Plan of Action

  1. Focus my research and then log information for one person, one location, and one time period
  2. Next, research the family group,
  3. Next, research collateral friends and family,
  4. Next, move on to my next direct ancestor,
  5. Revisit each ancestor as I find new sources of information.

Save information by adding details to a summary for each person.

Below are three examples showing one of my statements and how I expanded it after finding more related details.

Step One: Encyclopedic Statement of Fact

My grandfather Stefan Zuchowski was born on December 26, 1893, to Leopold Zuchowski and Anny Dmochowski in Dmochy Kudly, Poland.

Step Two: Improved Statement of Birth

The baptismal certificate for my grandfather Stefan John Zuchowski listed that he was born in Dmochy Kudly, Russia, on December 26, 1893, to Leopold Zuchowski and Anny Dmochowski. He was baptized the next day at the nearby Catholic Parish Church, Peter and Paul the Apostles, in Czyzew.  Steve’s parents were descendants of minor Polish nobles who had owned large estates.

Final Narrative: Expand interest by adding descriptions from pictures and other accounts

The birth of my grandfather, Stefan Zuchowski, was in a small cottage in the farming village of Dmochy Kudly, Poland, on December 26, 1893. The next day, his parents Leopold Zuchowski and Anna Dmochowska, carried him five miles down the dirt road to the Catholic Church of Peter and Paul the Apostles to be baptized in Czyzew. Steve’s parents were descendants of minor Polish nobles who had owned large estates.

Where Did I get my information for my final narrative? I was creative in my words, but I did not make up the details.

  • Birth and Baptismal Dates – from Stefan’s baptismal record
  • Birthplace and location of church – from Stefan’s baptismal record
  • Descendant from Nobility – notation in the baptismal and marriage records of his parents
  • Size of the cottage – from vintage pictures of the village
  • Condition of roads – from a vintage picture of the village

Points to Remember:

  • Record your facts in chronological order
  • Be accurate but let your personality be part of the narrative
  • Try to vary your information flow
  • Add descriptive information when you can
  • Think of documents as information representing an experience for the family
  • Find other accounts to expand the details of an experience that will give life to your ancestor. The accounts may be of different people as long as they describe the place and time for your ancestor. Use the information from the account to describe the background and history surrounding your ancestor. Use specific information not general history and it must show a direct effect on your ancestors.

Celebrating Easter with our Ancestors

Easter was an important celebration for my Polish ancestors, and I find it exciting when I feel I have found a way to celebrate it with my deceased ancestors.

The season begins long-before Easter Sunday with zapusty or pre-Lenten traditions. Do you remember when the nuns at your school sat us down to list what we were giving up for Lent? Candy was a popular item on my friends and my list. I also remember Sister Valentine marching me and my fellow first-graders to a pew in the Church on Ash Wednesday to be marked with ashes on my forehead. Over the next few years, I understood the symbolism of this ritual. Adults in various countries made their lists, but they came together at Mardi Gras or Carnival for a tremendous round of merrymaking on the days. I never experienced a Mardi Gras-type celebration, but I remember the careful steps the nuns had their students do in preparations for the Lenten season.

How can we come closer to our ancestors during the Easter season?

  • Enjoy a special snack with our family eating the traditional Paczki on Fat Tuesday.
  • Make egg decorating a family activity with both the simple one and two-color eggs and some family members trying to make the intricate Pisanki eggs.
  • Have our Polish priest bless willows and hang over our doorways.

Most importantly, celebrate our Easter family feast with traditional Polish foods such as the traditional egg slices, sausages, pierogi, soups, vegetables, and a chocolate egg hunt for the children. (In 2021, the size of this gathering should be smaller, but the use of virtual devices could have our normal attendance using multiple locations.)

Always, celebrate our Polish heritage of traditional holidays and let our children and grandchildren learn about their ancestors.

New Book, Irish Immigration to America

My new book, “Irish Immigration to America,” is now available on Amazon. This should become a great resource and a must-have when writing your Irish family history. When did your Irish ancestors immigrate, where did they leave, why did they leave, how did they get here? The author hopes you find the answer to some of these questions. The book will give insight into the immigration of your ancestors. Irish immigration had many factors, and the Great Potato Famine only magnified the main causes.

 

Available on Amazon

Who are Your Ancestors?

After all your work finding genealogy documents, what are you doing to save them? Will your family keep them or throw them out when you are no longer here? Most family members do not understand our charts and family trees, but they love the stories. Find the stories in your documents. Dig out the details. What was the address of the house – find a picture to see how large it was. Where did they work? Who were their neighbors? Where did they shop? Find photos of the neighborhood.

How are you saving the stories? You can publish a newsletter and send out regular issues to all your family members. You can create a blog or do videos. I publish family history books with narratives that tell a story and include many pictures from the family albums, copies of all of my documents, and some family trees.

Who will do it if not you? Save the stories for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Let them know their ancestors.

Haller’s Army during WW I

 

Here is a must-see video for all of you who had relatives serving in Haller’s Army during WW I. The video tells the story of one man’s search for information about his great-grandfather’s service. He found many pictures and films showing many details beyond what you have read in the past. It covers the formation, training, and post-war service in Poland. The video may not be about your ancestor, but it will give you fantastic insight into what they experienced.

Watch the video

Christmas Suggestions for Your Czech Friends and Relatives