Saturday, July 14, 2018

Immigrant Ancestors: Newfoundland to Colorado

All eight of my great-grandparents were born in the United States.

Climb back just one more generation, however, and we meet my most recent immigrant ancestors: three second great-grandparents.

The earliest of these three to arrive in the US was William John Stevens, who immigrated with his parents as a baby.

William John Stevens

William John Stevens

The 1880 US Federal Census enumerated a one-year-old Willie, his three older siblings, and their parents (my third great-grandparents) - Thomas and Susan (Day) Stevens - living with Thomas' younger brother Richard in Idaho Springs, Colorado.

It appears that the family emigrated from Newfoundland (well before it would become part of Canada in 1949) to Colorado shortly after William's birth.

William's death certificate corroborates his birth in Newfoundland and gives his exact birth date as March 29, 1879.

William John Stevens death certificate extract

The Stevens family's move must have happened sometime between William's birth date and June 1, 1880 when the US census was enumerated.

The 1880 census illustrates that the Stevens family was mobile within the soon-to-be Canadian territories before immigrating to the US.

We learn that the Stevens patriarch, Thomas, was born in England in about 1845. His wife, Susan Elizabeth (Day) Stevens, was born in about 1843 in Nova Scotia. Their first three children were each born in Nova Scotia. Willie, though, was the first and only to be born in Newfoundland.

1880 US Federal Census enumerating the Stevens family in Idaho Springs, Colorado

Geographically, the move from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland is the opposite direction from the United States. What could have motivated the family's peculiar route? Work opportunities, I assume.

A Wandering Path

Migration paths can be difficult to trace during this time period, but the clues - however faint - exist. A couple additional hints about the family's migration path come from this census and William's death record.

First, the birth place for Thomas' brother, with whom the family was living, was enumerated as Wisconsin. It would seem that my fourth great-grandparents had immigrated from England to Wisconsin. I don't currently know their identities.

Second, William's death certificate mistakenly states that his father Thomas was born in Michigan. Was Michigan on the informant's brain because the family lived in the state for a time between Newfoundland and Colorado? Was Michigan their entry point from Canada to the United States?

And Miles To Go

I would love to learn more about the immigration story of my third great-grandfather Thomas K. Stevens, which apparently included a trans-Atlantic voyage and then an overland trek across half the North American continent.

Born in England in about 1845, there should be a civil record of his birth that would shed light on his parents' identities.

What prompted him to sail from England to Nova Scotia? Did he also make the journey with his parents as a child like William, or did he journey alone as a young adult?

Immigration stories are fascinating windows into our ancestors' journeys for new opportunities and a better life. Clearly, courage and persistence were required to undertake a move in an era when transit was a time-intensive labor and what awaited you at your destination was uncertain. It's an endeavor for which I have great admiration.

Who were your most recent immigrant ancestors? Have you retraced their journey?