Thursday, July 11, 2024

Initial Impressions


It didn't take long, after perusing what remains of records of passengers passing through the port of New Orleans in the early 1850s, to realize that many travelers preferred to identify themselves by their initials. Thus, my chances of finding the right Hugh Stevens in those records suddenly became awash with the possibility of including all travelers going by the name H. Stevens. Every Henry, Harold, and even Horatio immediately took his place alongside the Hugh Stevens I've been searching for.

Another research difficulty in finding travelers in the 1850s: point of origin was sometimes labeled—if at all—by a politically correct designation. Thus, though I've been seeking Irish immigrants arriving in New Orleans, the more likely designation would be Great Britain. Yet another smoke screen gets thrown up to disguise which one of those "H. Stevens" candidates might have been a viable selection.

A further complication, that our Hugh Stevens traveled from Liverpool, England, might tempt a lazy government official to simply record him as being from England, rather than his true residence in Ireland—if any designation was added to the record at all.

Add to that the likelihood that a surname like Stevens could just as easily have been recorded as Stephens, and you begin to see the challenges facing someone who simply wishes to find Hugh Stevens among the thousands who sailed through New Orleans and up the Mississippi.

Hopefully, the one document in which I've been able to spot Hugh Stevens will be mine to view for myself by early next week. Though I'm fairly certain all the basic details I recall about that scant piece of paper will be all that the second copy will reveal, I keep hoping for a revelation. We'll see at that point, which will determine whether my research goal for this month's Twelve Most Wanted will move forward or join the pile of hopeless lost research causes.

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