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In my fifteen years of genealogy research, I have never attempted to cross the pond. The process can be a bit overwhelming, especially when you are accustomed to a specific style of record keeping. The United States system is vastly different than our Irish counterparts, and when you mix in war, famine and other historical events, including losses in historical records; well, it was just easier to focus on my family here in the States.

I always knew that I would get there someday, I just was not sure when that someday would be.

Someday has arrived.

I’ve known about my Irish line for some time. Bridget Conlin arrived in the U.S. sometime in the 1850s, likely traveling with at least one brother, James, and settled in Pittsburgh. She married James McGowan around 1860 in Pittsburgh, and she eventually made her way as a widow to her son’s household in Jefferson County, Alabama.

I knew that James had an interesting story. Some of his descendants – my distant cousins – had done enough research to know that he traveled the western United States with the Army after the conclusion of the Civil War, in which he served in an entirely Irish unit. He saw Arizona, Oregon and Washington, where he finally retired and settled.

For years I have felt an unknown pull to Bridget’s story, a connection to this seemingly strong willed woman in my past. Her life in the States was fairly well documented, but I have always wanted more. Bridget, and her family, has always been a mystery; a mystery I was hesitant to try to solve.

My first significant attempts to locate Bridget, and her brother, and work my way through the puzzle of their life started with the collections on findmypast.

The first hint comes in the form of a tantalizingly close, but not-quite-exact immigration record. It included both Bridget and James, as young children, making the crossing to America at ages five and three respectively. It appears that they were the only Conlins to travel on the Emma Fields, which arrived in New York on 13 Nov 1851.

Will the real Bridget please stand up?

Perhaps this young girl is my 3rd great grandmother, and perhaps not. More research, and time, will hopefully reveal her story. The information we have been able to accumulate so far states that she was born in the late 1830s, which would have made her at least fifteen had she been on the Emma Fields. But it is enough of a hint to keep me going. The addition of a brother named James on this record forces me to recognize it as a potential source, but the date discrepancies say put it aside. I do so cautiously, as to disregard it completely at this early stage would be premature.

Persistence is just as important as patience when it comes to genealogical research, and certainly that applies to any effort when reaching out to your overseas heritage. I plan to take advantage of the Irish tenacity that stems from Bridget and use it to finally tell her story.

Was Bridget on the Emma Fields? Will Jen track her down? Do you have any information that might help Jen with her search? Have you found your Irish ancestors? Let us know in the comments below!

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