One of the things I find hardest to imagine about my ancestors’ lives is what it must have been like to emigrate. I’m sure some of them were leaving behind real hardship for the promise of better opportunities, but what must it have been like, boarding a small ship to the other side of the ocean, or the other side of the world, knowing that you would probably never see your home or your family again?
My family history is full of stories of emigration, which I’ll hopefully write more about in future posts:
- the two sisters who set off from Co Tipperary together in the 1880s for a new life in Sydney, Australia.
- my 3x great-grandfather, born in 1801, who emigrated to Ontario in his 60s with some of his adult children, and then came back to Ireland in his 80s.
- the 16-year-old girl who followed her sister to America, married there, and wrote, over a few years, an increasingly heartbreaking series of letters home about her poor health and the deaths of her children, the final letter sent to her mother by her grieving widower.
- the young Co Tyrone man who emigrated to New Zealand and married a woman there who came from the same village back home.
- the large family born and raised in Ireland by Scottish parents, who emigrated to Abington, Massachusetts, and always claimed to have been born in Scotland.
- the Scottish widow and her children who followed her eldest son to Minnesota and ended up having a township named after them.
- the men who left their wives at home to go in search of work, only to settle down abroad with second families.