While madly dashing about—despite best-laid plans—with last minute preparations for our imminent departure for the homeland of my husband’s forebears, I couldn’t help but dwell on one thought: the difference between our trip across the Atlantic and that of our ancestors.
Granted, times have changed. Much. Today, we will board a jetliner, while they boarded the evolutionary precursor to the ocean liner. Today, our belongings will fit into two suitcases—and the obligatory carry-on bags, without which I couldn’t possibly travel—and, though temporarily, we’ll leave the vast majority of our personal belongings behind. Our ancestors likely could fit all their life’s belongings into the same baggage over which I gripe about such things as fifty pound weight limits.
Our non-stop journey will cost us a good night’s sleep but after ten hours' travel time, will deposit us at our destination in only slightly bedraggled condition. Theirs? Apparently the weeks it took to navigate the Atlantic Ocean were only the beginning of their travel woes.
I ran across an informative essay on the many aspects of emigration from Ireland, thanks to a file in one of those Facebook genealogy groups I told you about. A member had provided the link to this website in a document—“Useful Genealogy Websites"—posted on the Tipperary Genealogy Facebook group. If you have a few minutes to absorb the content, it is well worth the read.
The value of the composition is in its accounting of the many steps prerequisite to the actual emigration journey. Though sympathetic to the plight of those having to leave their homeland and face the hazards of trans-Atlantic crossing, I had never realized how exhausted these people had to have been at the start of their journey. Yes, there was the impact of the deplorable famine weakening many—plus the ravages by the diseases which often accompany such deprivation. But in addition to that, it was apparently a marathon these emigrants endured, just in the processes required of them merely to leave their homeland.
From travel beginning in their rural townlands to the Irish port from which they would connect to England, to the obstacles they faced in trying to secure passage on the ocean-going vessel itself, let alone the hardships of third or fourth class passage (hint: the class where cattle are given preference over human passengers) across the Atlantic, the challenges seemed insurmountable. Our Irish ancestors who made it across—I ruefully note the “poorer emigrants” heading not to New York but to destinations in Canada—were indeed Olympians at their endurance trials, world class travelers of a very different sort.
As for me and my traveling companion, all we will have to complain about will be the lack of one night’s sleep. A small price to pay in comparison.
By the time you join me here tomorrow, I’ll likely be grabbing my bags at the luggage carousel in Dublin. If all goes well despite the unpredictable rendezvous with wifi services coupled with time zone disparities, the following days will bring you brief posts—including photos of a rather amateurish sort—of our travel and research progress.
Above: "An emigrant ship, Dublin bay, sunset," 1853 oil on canvas by Dublin resident Edwin Hayes; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.