It wasn’t long ago that I pictured my great grandparents facing the complete unknown when they came to America in the late 1800s and early 1900s. But my research has largely proved that wrong. The O’Connors and O’Keefes followed others from their families and hometowns that came before them. No doubt, what they did took great courage (more than I have), but they had connections.
When looking at old censuses, I found other family members not just in the same cities, but sometimes on the same street. The more I dug into old documents, the more I uncovered a web of associations. Many immigrant ancestors started out by living with relatives upon arrival. Just like we see today.
When walking through the oldest Irish immigrant cemetery in Providence, I was stunned to find the small town of Cloyne, Ireland, on a tombstone from a generation before my ancestors came from there.
Chain migration is a term used by scholars to refer to the social process by which migrants from a particular town follow others from that town to a particular destination. The destination may be in another country or in a new location within the same country. -Wikipedia
This was the home of my great grandfather’s (Daniel O’Connor) older brother, Frank. He arrived a couple of years before Daniel, and hosted him in his first apartment down the street. Frank moved here in 1902 and started his family. A renter, he moved to another place in 1905, then another in 1907, then across Boston in 1910. He, like Daniel, worked in rubber factories. His descendants probably branch out all around me now. I never knew they existed before this project.
Today, this house in Chelsea, Massachusetts, is in tough shape. It houses a couple of apartments with Hispanic names on the mailboxes. While I sat and drew, a man came by and asked if I was selling the place. I assume from his perspective I looked more like a landlord than a tenant.