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,

Last week I had a day in which boredom washed over me. I knew I should be doing something interesting; creating or researching or reading some earth shattering genealogical study, but my mind instead, stalled.

Attempting to regain focus on my family tree, I pulled up and stared at the records of one of my Irish immigrant ancestors. And suddenly, I became intrigued with a fellow researcher of my ancestor, wondering if he might hold a bit of information on our mutual ancestor.

Zipping an e-mail with a "hello" and "what do you know about our ancestor?", I closed the webpage and went about my boring day. But my fellow researcher was quick on the draw and zipped a response right back.

"Hello again," he said.

Now I really am pathetic, I thought. It seems I have contacted this same fellow researcher in the past and with further dialogue, I calculate him to be my 4th cousin.

He must think I do not have a life; routinely stalking him about our ancestor.

But in our discussion, my 4th cousin revealed he just recently stumbled on surprising and startling information. The passenger list that we had downloaded from is full of transcriptions errors. The index states that our ancestors arrived at the Port of New Orleans from Londonderry; however,--my 4th cousin, fellow researcher and holder of earth shattering news--revealed he had just discovered a wonderful website of Irish immigrants in Delaware:

Mr. Lalley had obtained Irish passenger lists from the Delaware State Archives and published the lists on his website. And lo and behold, the ship of our Irish ancestors actually docked at New Castle, Delaware: a common port of Irish immigrants in the early 1800's.

This new, jaw-dropping information swiftly turned my research around. It all makes sense. The family was found in New Jersey and then settled in Michigan. Why on earth did they port in New Orleans? I wondered for years. But it was on, so I accepted the information as fact, though all along I knew it never made sense.

So, what did I learn from this turn of events? Nothing. It was just a wake-up call to my bored mind with a little reminder of my own number one genealogical principle: Our best resource in genealogy is each other.

Errors in transcriptions of documents will always occur but reaching out and contacting fellow researchers is by far, our very best source of good research.

And so I tip my hat to my 4th cousin and Mr. Lalley of  You both shook up my bored, uncreative mind and restarted my thinking juices.

Thanks. I needed that!

For exploration of your ancestor's passenger lists, try the following websites:
Immigrant Ships
Ellis Island
Castle Garden
German Roots
Olive Tree

Keep searching for answers,

In genealogy and mostly life, I am astounded at those who are satisfied with the words "maybe", "could be" and "possibly" as a final ending to an unanswered question. For me, those are not answers, they are beginnings. They are unacceptable and unsatisfying, leaving me frustrated and exhausted.

Instead, I explore and search until my answer is "definitely and without question." It is how I was built which makes for occasional days of genealogical frustration.

The "maybes" and "possibly's" in my family tree gnaw at my core, especially the identity of the original Irish county of my ancestors. Years of research into my Irish Crawford and Rolston families have lead me to distant cousins. And a fellow descendent of the Crawfords mentioned County Donegal as a possibility of their origin.

Am I content with the possibility that the Crawfords immigrated from County Donegal?

Definitely and without question, not. My mind refuses to accept such a hypothetical what-if answer and so I tread slowly, searching for new records with clues to the Crawford's Irish origins.

Communicating this week with a fellow webmaster, I shared my frustration in determining my ancestor's home county in Ireland. A person of Irish ancestry, my friend discussed his own tribulation in looking for his father's Irish heritage and within his presentation, he recommended DNA testing. As a result, he narrowed his search to one county, allowing greater focused research.

What was once a great unknown to many genealogists, DNA ancestry is on the rise. Both shows: Who Do You Think Your Are? and Finding Your Roots, utilize DNA testing on a routine, weekly basis. It has become so popular, multiple DNA labs are offering ancestral testing and it is becoming a standard request with

The answer from my fellow webmaster intrigued me. If DNA testing helped determine his Irish heritage, perhaps I should give up my struggle and send in my saliva. So I started the process of roaming DNA lab websites, reviewing and studying what type of results I could expect.

The genetic information is overwhelming, difficult to read and understand, but my "need to know" and "definitely and without question" mind is intrigued by the process. Which means after studying every genetic lab known to the world, I will definitely enter the process.

At some point.

In the meantime, I welcome feedback from any of my readers who have participated in DNA ancestry. Please let me know if it has helped you and if it didn't. I am at an exploration stage for DNA testing and I have found that fellow genealogists are the best resources.

My "Maybe" is exhausted and my "definitely and without question" is aching to wag its tail and strut its stuff.

I need to know.

Keep searching for answers,


My years of genealogical research has revealed hundreds of ancestors branching nicely into a well-formed tree. I have unfolded often astonishing discoveries of many grandfathers with surnames unknown to our family before my quest. But I recently reflected on the information known of the lineage of my birth name: Capps.

In genealogy, it is easy to stray off onto wild adventures of various ancestors as our attention is distracted by interesting discoveries, far away from our original point. But this week I swung back to my original point, concentrating on the Capps lineage.

My research had gone back to a Thomas Capps, born approximately 1735 in North Carolina. Not much light has been shed on Thomas Capps; few documents have unsurfaced. But as I stared at Thomas' name, I wondered who might have come before him.

As you progress backwards in your research, moving toward the colonial years, the population was small compared to today. And many living at that time were our original ancestors in the new world.

Knowing that few men with the Capps surname would be living in North Carolina in the early1700's, I played a little game that has brought me good luck in the past: I placed Capps in the search engine with a location of North Carolina and approximate birth of 1700.

And instantly, the name William Capps popped up as an immigrant into North Carolina in 1702. Now obviously this man was born prior to 1700 but I was astounded with evidence of several noted documents for research, one being "Some Pioneers of North Carolina, 1674-1701."

Bingo! I may very well have uncovered the original immigrant of the Capps lineage into North Carolina. And the most chilling part of this little treasure is my possible colonial ancestor of the Capps family, carries the same name of my grandfather: William Capps. He is even listed on one passenger list as Will; the name my grandfather went by.

Is my discovery a proven fact to my lineage?
Of course not; at least not yet. But it is a starting point for further digging on a lineage that I have shamelessly neglected for some time.

And so I have gone back to the basics and revisited my original point. Because no matter how far you stray, the original point is closest to home.

And there is no place like home.

Keep searching for answers,