I just finished consulting with the participants of the wonderful Salt Lake Christmas Tour that comes every year to the Family History Library. It’s been a wonderful experience for more than 20 years.
This year, from teaching classes and consulting non-stop all week, I found myself giving the same advice: “Don’t be so quick to jump over the water in your research.” This principle applies to Catholic and Protestant immigrant research. By way of illustration, I will focus on an early Scots-Irish example.
If tracing a family from Ohio back to Ulster, one must realize that there were possibly stops along the way. The people in the 1700s and early 1800s were on the frontier and traveled in clusters or packs, as I like to call them. It was dangerous times, and families did not travel alone. To eventually find a place of origin in Ulster, research needs to consider the entire pack. To find out where one in the pack was from would be to discover where your ancestor originated. This is great if groups of Ulster Scots families traveled together; however, the stops along the way must be considered.
The theoretical Ohio family in 1810 may have been in East Tennessee by 1800, North Carolina by 1780 and only then back to Ulster sometime in the 1760s. In this case, the original Ulster pack of associates breaks down along the way. If you do not know where in East Tennessee, then trace the frontier group (the pack) from Ohio back to East Tennessee first. Then identify that same or somewhat different group of people, including your ancestor, back from East Tennessee to North Carolina. If that is where the original group settled from Ulster, then it is in North Carolina where you begin to reconstruct the original Ulster pack of immigrants.
If you do not already have a place in Ulster already, then you need to refrain from trying to jumping from Ohio directly back to Ulster. Customarily, the straight jump over the water approach will not work. Identifying the original group of immigrants in North Carolina, and then tracing them back to Ulster is typically how it works.
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