Friday, August 5, 2011

On the Way

By the time you read this, I'll be headed to Lafayette, in Lafayette, or headed back to Indianapolis from my research trip to Lafayette. I'm hoping to have something to report tomorrow on results.

In the bigger picture, who is John Stevens, anyhow? Such an insignificant life, a blip on the radar of past history. And yet, I yearn to know more about him. Regardless of his lack of significance for the rest of the world, he is, after all, one of my husband's ancestors.

I often wonder what drew him to Lafayette. When he left his homeland in County Mayo, Ireland, was it for sheer misery? Were the poverty-stricken conditions there his only motivation for choosing the risky route of crossing the ocean in the doubtful vessels of the mid-1800s? Or did he know exactly where he was going?

Was it for a specific job that he emigrated? Irish laborers became in demand as the westward expansion revved into action during that century. There were canals to be dug--later, railroads to be built, much of which work was achieved on the backs of recent immigrants. Could this have been John Stevens' calling?

Or did he first arrive in New Orleans, merely hoping to escape his prior lot in life, not knowing at that point what his next step might be? I recently learned that there was a large community in that port--but I have yet to learn from that chapter of regional history why that might have been so. There is so much to learn as I repeat this journey with the ancestor I've never met.

One mere afternoon at a small research library may not reveal much. But I'm hoping that I will have some news tomorrow to share--news of research progress. But isn't that the hope of every family historian?

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