Welcome to August. With as abrupt a start to a month as any—arriving promptly on a Monday, no less—August may be for some the signal to return to school. Or take a last-gasp-of-summer vacation trip. Or be sociable and meet the neighbors for National Night Out.
For me? It's time to face the music with one aggravating family history brick wall: the line of John Stevens. My father-in-law's founding immigrant ancestor, John Stevens came to the United States, supposedly, from County Mayo in northern Ireland. That, at least, was what he claimed on his naturalization paperwork.
Can I find any other way to verify that claim? Of course not. That would be too easy. I have pursued that question for years, to no avail. But I'm willing to explore the question once again.
This time, I'll be taking a different approach. Instead of focusing on the question itself—where did John Stevens come from?—I'll broaden my search. This month, we'll explore the history of that particular surname, as well as the history of the Stevens surname in John's native Ireland. We'll also delve into what can be discovered about emigration from County Mayo—John's ship came in to port at New Orleans, not the customary routes we've noticed from other Irish immigrant family members.
While such exploration may not permit us to arrive at our destination of finding John Stevens' identity in records back in Ireland, we will at least develop a better understanding of this man by painting his life's picture with these admittedly more broad brush strokes. We'll start tomorrow by reviewing what we've already found on John Stevens, the immigrant who moved to tiny Lafayette, Indiana, in 1850.