As the family historian, my designated office (the bottom kitchen drawer) is filled with stacks of loose documents, files, records of various ancestors: A collection of names, some more significant than others, but all of some importance to my ongoing search. It is interesting how we recall particular ancestors, whether as a result of their story or perhaps from the unusualness of their name. But having a name different from the norm was often unusual in the 17th, 18th and even 19th centuries.

Being children of the 20th century, we have become familiar with a plethora of names. Bookstores are abundant with the latest on 'new age' baby names. So when I became involved in researching my ancestors, I was struck by the repetition of names. And with repetition comes confusion: struggling to find the correct documentation for each generation of Robert or John or George. Wondering 'was that land record for Robert Sr or perhaps it's for his uncle Robert, no wait...maybe it was his son Robert, or maybe...'

In an attempt to provide some form of direction for my 'Jack' ancestors from Tennessee, I gathered all historical documents together, placed them in order and began writing their story for my book. Feeling quite proud of my research, I began putting Abraham Jack's history to print. As I continued to weave stories through my manuscript, I brought in his son James and then on to his grandson Jeremiah. But then I began finding documents of an Abraham Jack, grandson of Abraham Jack but cousin to my ancestor, Abraham Jack. At that point, I began to feel pressure building in my head, temples throbbing, as I wondered which Abraham Jack I was writing about. 'Was it Abraham Jack of 1689 or 1732 or perhaps 1786'. I suddenly screamed:'These people had no imagination'! Stepping away from my work, exhausted for the rest of the day.

If you become as addicted to genealogy as I, you will soon learn one of the more significant rules: Names are repeated from generation to generation to generation. And if you learn this, the heavenly genealogical doors will spring open or at least crack slightly, giving insight into leads for the next generation of names. With this discovery, you may begin to see a pattern in the naming of children. One guide I recently ran across listed the following:
First-born son is named after the father's father.
Second-born son is named after the mother's father.
Third-born son is named after the father.
Fourth-born son is named after the father's eldest brother.
Fifth-born son is named after the father's second brother or mother's oldest brother.
First-born daughter is named after the mother's mother.
Second-born daughter is named after the father's mother.
Third-born daughter is named after the mother.
Fourth-born daughter is named after the mother's eldest sister.
Fifth-born daughter is named after the mother's second oldest sister or father's oldest sister.

When I read the above formula, I ran to my laptop to immediately compare my own ancestral naming patterns with the formula, hoping to find some enlightenment on how my ancestors named each generation. But what I discovered is what most family historians come to realize: Children typically carried a name from a previous generation but unfortunately, there is no 'real formula' for ancestral naming patterns. Descendants were often named after the parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and yes, names were often repeated with each generation. But like my ancestors, the chronology of their naming pattern was often at random. Unless of course your ancestors were the 'Jacks', naming everyone 'Abraham Jack' in order to simplify the name pool!

So what assumptions can you draw from ancestral naming patterns? The clues to the discovery of names of ancestors unknown are right in front of your eyes. The names of your great great grandparents are most likely found within the generations of descendants that followed. And keeping this in mind, may help move your genealogical door open a bit further or perhaps, help kick it in!

Keep searching for answers,

(Source: Ancestry Daily News-4/27/2005))

After years spent in front of my laptop, searching every website, e-book, blog, to find pieces of my genealogical puzzle, I reached the decision that more effort should be made with my husband's ancestral search. As with most families, the family historian is assumed by default and I have taken the assignment with great passion. But the intensity of passion is fueled by an inner spark and my spark at late has been dim. Not from a lack of interest in genealogy, but more as a result of a feeling of contentedness. A sense of satisfaction with knowledge found, puzzles solved, book written. Or so I thought.

With the undertaking of reviewing my husband's ancestral lineages and genealogical documents, I became reacquainted with his family tree. Focusing on a particular ancestor, I began the familiar search on Census records were brought forward and with a question of military service, I began searching the Civil War Pension Index. A match was quickly revealed for my husband's ancestor, shouting out: "Here he is, I found his Civil War Pension file!".

And with that, my spark began to flicker.

Perhaps new files have been added to the Civil War Pension Index: records seem to be added daily, once again reminding me to keep searching and always go back to look again. So with a feeling of new energy and renewed curiosity, I decided to run all of my own ancestors of Civil War eligibility through the search engine once more. And as I casually added one of my great great grandfather's names to the search, the inner spark not only flickered, it began to flare.
I discovered that Wesley Lewis, my paternal great great grandfather, was a Farrier with the Union's First Arkansas Calvary during the Civil War. Such information is remarkable, as Arkansas joined the Confederacy in 1861, and Union sympathizers often faced physical harassment from the Confederate armies. The First Arkansas Calvary was a result of a few men from the hills of northwestern Arkansas, crossing the state boarder into Missouri, escaping the Confederates. Noticing the Arkansas refugee's movement into Missouri, Federal officers raised a regiment and the Union's First Arkansas Calvary was formed.

The ragtag group of the newly formed Union troops undertook their first battle at Prairie Grove, Arkansas on the seventh of December 1862. Overwhelmed by a sudden Confederate attack, the soldiers quickly fled and their military performance was considered weak. The First Arkansas was reassigned as garrisons to the town of Fayetteville, where they were relegated to escorting wagon trains and providing neighborhood patrols. But the turning point for the Union First Arkansas 'Mountain Feds', was a result of their overwhelming victory in a bloody battle with the Confederate troops in Fayetteville on the 18th of April 1863.

After three hours of battle, the First Arkansas Calvary held their ground and the Confederates retreated.

A feeling of triumph resulted in a stronger, more cohesive unit and the First Arkansas Calvary proudly served Fayetteville and northwestern Arkansas until they were mustered out of service in August 1865. Becoming the most famous Union regiment raised from the state.

The discovery of my ancestor's Civil War history and the heroic story of his experience, has once again brought spark and passion to my eternal genealogical flame. Providing further inspiration to undertake my husband's ancestral search and a renewed passion to restart mine.

Keep searching for answers,

(Source: The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture)

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)


'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.)