IMMIGRATION, A PERSONAL STORY

A long time ago, in 1696, my relatives on my father’s side of the family came to America. In a wooden ship that departed from Liverpool, two brothers, Henry and Peter Byrom left home from Lancaster, England for the uncertainties and a new life that a new world and a new Continent promised.

The brothers, braved the dangerous journey in a ship very unlike the Cruise ships of today, to reach the shores of Virginia. They were both indentured servants bound by a debt to a benefactor back home who paid for their journey. They initially settled in Essex County, Virginia. My direct descendant, Henry Byrom, worked off his servitude as a gunsmith.

When they and other immigrants landed in Virginia, in the 17th Century, there were no customs agents. No one checked their passports. There was no talk of deporting anyone. Essex County had just been formed in 1692 when the Byrom brothers arrived in 1696. It was formed just cross the river from Richmond County. New land for tobacco farming was available. The colonists were welcome as a lot of hard work was needed to make the colony a success for their parent, England. Courage and a frontier spirit was required if you were to survive the wilderness far from the comforts of life in England.

It is not certain why they came to America. It could have been because Lancaster, and Lancashire County were the hotbed areas of the Quaker Movement that first started in England. The Church of England was not too thrilled with this offshoot of the Christian faith. The concept of the priesthood of the individual was seen as a threat to the Church of England. The followers or seekers were imprisoned and punished for their beliefs. England went so far as to outlaw Quakers from even meeting. The persecution of people of different faiths was not uncommon.

Baptists were not too popular either in England. My direct descendant, Henry Byrom, moved once his servitude was over to Chowan County, North Carolina, where the Byroms have lived ever since. Some time later, they changed the spelling of Byrom to Byrum. It is quite clear when you visit the family burial grounds in Tyner, that you only seem to find either Baptists or Quakers. You, also seem to find the same several family names, like the Jordan’s and the White’s as well.

What happened in America to where you needed papers to join the other pioneers in the New World? If we had today’s thinking of what some think, about immigrants, maybe none of the Quakers or Baptists would have been welcomed because they were of the wrong religion according to the Church of England? Of course, letting the dissenting thinkers of a different view of religion immigrate to a new land 10,000 miles away was a good way to get rid of what was perceived to be trouble makers.

All in all, I am grateful that my ancestors were allowed to come to America, to a new land and a new opportunity. I am also grateful to whoever gave the Byroms the money to come to Virginia.

As an aside to our family story of our immigrant experience, life has come full circle in that my daughter has gone to live in England quite close to where it all began for the Byroms.

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