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When I first decided to begin researching my family tree I spent most of the first year not just learning about all the resources that were available to me at the time but also unlearning heaps of assumptions I had about emigration.  

One of the first things I learned that there was a difference between immigration and emigration; immigration being the act of going to a country whereas emigration refers to exiting a country.  

One of my next big surprises was when I read an article that said that one-third of immigrants to America eventually returned to their native countries.  Up to then I had vaguely assumed that all immigrants had arrived via Ellis Island and promply kissed the ground of the promised land and in spite of early hardships eventually found their feet and they all lived happily ever after.  How green can one be?

But this article hit a cord with me. "Immigrants Who Returned Home" by Donna Przecha This was of particular interest to me because I had even back when I had barely begun to get my feet wet so-to-speak I began to wonder if my Great Grandfather might have done just that. There were too many things about him that just didn’t add up.

For one thing in spite of many, many hours pouring over census records, vital statistics and passenger lists I could only find one actual record that proved that the guy had even existed.  He did marry my Great Grandmother.  Other than that it was all vague stories passed from my Grandfather to my Father.  And as my Father was an expert on revisionist history none of his stories were ever taken very seriously by the family.

But two good things came to me from reading that article. I learned what I considered very interesting facts about the immigration/emigration patterns that took place in the 17th through 19th century in this country and I was able to take a bunch of highly suspect family legends and weave them together to create a fanciful history of my Great Grandfather’s life.  It’s pure fiction of course and I have indicated that in the biographical notes in my family history software but it was fun making it up.  I did inherit my Father’s over active imagination but like to think that I have been able to keep a firm grip on reality in spite of where my head might be at the time.

According to the information in the article I read there are many reasons why people returned home.  The US didn’t start keeping records on departing passengers until 1908 and I haven’t been able to even find any official statistics.  Before 1908 the records that were kept didn’t indicate the reason’s why the person was returning or whether or not the person was leaving permanently, for business or for pleasure such as a visit home or simply a vacation.  They also don’t indicate if the trip is the first arrival/departure to/from the US or if the traveler made multiple trips. So even if you do suspect that an ancestor might have thrown in the towel and went home there is really no easy way to prove it other than to search through thousands of records to see if they show up again.  It was just more effort that I care to put into finding him.  But the question remains floating around in the back of my mind.

My purely made up out of mostly thin air hypothesis is based on the one solid fact I have.  His marriage to my Great Grandmother.  He was 19 years old and she was a 47 years old, and a fairly well off widow.  He fathered two children by her (she already had nine by her first husband) blew all her money and then disappeared into thin air.  I am conjecturing that his Daddy bought him a one way ticket over here (family legend is that he imigrated to avoid military conscription) and after Daddy died Mommy sent him a one way ticket back. This saves me from putting any more effort into researching him.  Of course he could have changed or altered his name and started another life and family some place else or just disappeared for any numbered of reasons.  I briefly considered time travel or being beamed down and then back up by the Starship Enterprise but even my imagination has it's limits.  

If, in the future any of my descendants want to pick up on this and try to find him themselves, well I wish them the best of luck.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  I've also discovered ancestors (6+ / 0-)

    who went back to the "old country", but they came back to the states.

    My great grandfather Barney immigrated to the U.S. in 1874, then went back a few years later and returned with his sister.  A couple of years after that, Barney's father, step-mother and the rest of the children came over.

    Barney went back to Germany again around 1908, but that was just to visit relatives.

    I also discovered that  my g-g-g-grandmother's brother Peter, who immigrated first in 1843, went back to Germany and returned in 1854 with my g-g-grandfather, John Riemann (Peter's nephew).

    I'm not really sure why they felt they needed to go back to Germany only to return to the U.S. with more relatives.  I know they made money while they were here, so I'm assuming they didn't trust anyone to take the money back to give to their relatives in order to pay for their passage here.

  •  We have open dates in December (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mayim, cfk, jeanette0605, klompendanser, Jim H

    for anyone who wants to host a GFHC Open Thread

    Our Current Schedule

    Oct 30 (Midweek) TayTay
    Nov 2 DrLori
    Nov 9 mayim
    Nov 16 Land of Enchantment
    Nov 23 figbash
    Nov 30 klompendanser

    Anyone want a December date?

    Also, TayTay promises a fun midweek open thread for Halloween, so don't forget to look for it.

  •  Thanks, Jeanette (5+ / 0-)

    I  haven't found anything like that, but who knows.  I wish there were better records or time machines.  :)

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 04:50:42 PM PDT

  •  The only instance I've found like this so (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jim H, edwardssl, mayim, jeanette0605

    far in my tree was in 17th Century Massachusetts. My 8g-grandfather entered into a marriage contract with a young widow with two children, with extensive arrangements to provide for these children; the couple was married in 1647, then according to the records he up and left without saying when he was going to return. He eventually came back a year later -- some speculation that he returned to England to clear up the estate of his wife's first husband, but she apparently wasn't quite so sure of that, and she was pregnant (I don't know if the child was born before or after her husband returned).

    They eventually had a total nine children together, and he often had to bail his adult stepsons out of scrapes, so I guess whatever the issue was they worked it out.

    "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

    by klompendanser on Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 08:44:52 PM PDT

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