Monday, January 1, 2024

Ancestor #7: What Happened to Hugh?


Among the tools added in the past year at, one I appreciated the most was their beta offering which included the option to view a family tree in "fan view." Just changing the way the pedigree chart looked helped me spot areas in my trees which needed more work. I took that viewing option one step further, and made a fan view version for each set of eight great-grandparents for my parents and my in-laws, and posted then on my desktop for instant reference (and hopefully, inspiration to get busy on needed research projects).

Some of the diagrams were indeed perfect for that inspiration, such as the diagram for Thomas Taliaferro Broyles, my mother's great-grandfather whose diagram I shared in a post when Ancestry unveiled that beta version back in September. You can easily spot those empty family branches screaming for attention. But today, as I shift focus on my Twelve Most Wanted for research projects in 2024 to those missing ancestors in my father-in-law's roots, the diagrams I spot for his family look more like what I call "egg-head" drawings than the half-eaten pie-shaped diagram for someone like ol' Tom. How do you plan a year's research strategy from hint-less diagrams like those Irish ancestors in my father-in-law's roots?

There was one exception, thankfully. I had entered an unnamed father for my husband's second great-grandfather, John Stevens. The reason for that unnamed entry was that I had found an immigration record for a man named Hugh Stevens—a man who had taken the exact same route from Ireland's County Mayo to Lafayette, Indiana, as John Stevens had done at almost precisely the same month in a previous year. While I had no idea of the relationship, the coincidence was almost begging me to assume they were brothers, and that was exactly where I placed him in my father-in-law's tree, after creating a place holder for the two brothers' father.

The only problem was that almost immediately after Hugh arrived in Lafayette, he seemed to disappear. What happened to Hugh after that point?

Of course, it would be redundant to say he died; people traveling anywhere in the world in the 1850s would be dead by now. But how soon after his arrival would that have happened? Did he acquire a malady from his trans-Atlantic passage and collapse shortly after greeting his relative in a new world? Or could he have moved on, perhaps marrying and starting a family of his own before his demise?

I have ulterior reasons for wondering about these questions. Even though I attempted this same research poject two years ago, I still can't place the Stevens family's specific townland of origin in County Mayo, and hope to trace Hugh to discover more about John's roots. In addition, it would be doubly helpful to find any DNA matches from another branch of the Stevens line. Right now, there only are three matches from John's line but nobody else—not even guesses as to who might have been in the previous generation. Finding any sign of Hugh might be very helpful, indeed.

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