Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thankful Thursday - They're Not New Here

I used to be jealous of all of those genealogists out there who found their ancestors' names in the vast rolls of those coming through Ellis Island to become American citizens. To have such a monument one could point to, that one could visit, just seemed to me to be the ultimate in genealogy fame. Early on in my research, I looked at names on the Ellis Island lists and hoped that just maybe, "that one" belonged to me. 

No such luck. 

As I continued on my path, however, I began to realize that maybe I was the lucky one. There was no Ellis Island in 1628 when the Winthrop Fleet arrived in Massachusetts, but my ancestors got off the boat anyway. New Amsterdam was geographically close, but my ancestors lived and worked there without having gone through those turnstyles and gates. One ancestral line arrived in New Orleans, traveling by boat to the frontier of Illinois, writing letters back to England about the opportunities that could be found here. Those folks from Massachusetts eventually came to Illinois by flatboat down the Ohio River. An entire North Carolina family braved Cumberland Gap, stopped in Tennessee, and came on to Illinois before statehood in 1818. 

Both my maternal and paternal lines, and most of their branches, were established in Illinois before 1840. That's 170 years of being neighborly, considering that 90 percent of them have lived within two or three adjoining counties. When I think of the convergence of these lines (and utter a slight giggle at the rather "close" convergence of a couple of them), I realize just how thankful I am that I need not go far from home to bring my ancestry to life. They're not new here. 

Perhaps that says something about how exciting my ancestors were. Perhaps that says something about the constitution of my ancestors, about their goals and dreams, and their strengths and weaknesses.  

Or perhaps, just perhaps, they knew I was coming. 

1 comment:

  1. For a while I felt the same way. I can't even find immigration records for some of my lines because they didn't got through a place like Ellis Island. But there is something neat about having lines that have lived in America for so long. They weren't part of the immigration "boom" but they helped build the country in other ways. Thank you for the reminder!