Monday, September 19, 2016

Pass The Nodoz


     Well, I've done it again.  Upon reading that Find My Past was offering a free look at their new Irish records until midnight yesterday I hastened to the site.  The long, long, long awaited Valuation Office Books were included!  In my rush I failed to notice that the books were to be free forever.  I had missed the email notifying me of this momentous event, having been preoccupied with family events, and only viewed it late last night.  Midnight?  Damn!  So even though exhausted by the aforementioned family matters, I settled in for a long session.  We're talking Valuation Books after all!

     I found some really good information and some disappointments.  I located the entry for great-great-great-grandfather Daniel McGarr by finally just searching his townland of Ballyraggan.  McGarr seems like such a simple name to spell, but it never works out that way.  This time it was indexed as Magan--that's a new one.  This was a house book and had some wonderful information.  I knew from the Irish census taken years after his demise, that there were several out buildings on Daniel's farm, which was occupied at the time of the census by his late daughter Sarah's husband Thomas Hughes; but I had no idea if the buildings were there during Daniel's lifetime.

     As seen above, the question is settled.  Along with the house, there was what appears to be a Cow House, (that one made me giggle), a barn and stable, and another I can't quite make out--it looks like Cas House or Car House, still puzzling that one out.  I wrote to the Valuation Office years ago and they sent me wonderful copies from the cancelled books of Daniel's holding, detailing decade by decade the current occupiers so I almost didn't waste my "limited" time looking for him.  But this information from the house book was not included in the packet sent to me by the VO, so I was glad to have found it.

     I also located another 3rd great grandfather, Connor Ryan, in Goldengarden, Tipperary and got a peek at his life there on the estate of Lord Hawarden.  He had only a house and barn which really didn't surprise me.  While Grandpa Daniel on the Fitzgerald estate had a generous (for the era) lease, Hawarden was very stingy about giving them out.  Grandpa Connor was probably hesitant to make major improvements to his holding with no real assurance he'd be there long.

     The disappointing parts?  Still nothing on my Hore/O'Hore/Hoare family, another seemingly simple name that gets mangled.  Just nothing, not in these records nor the tithe applotments.  I know their address from their children's baptisms, but they are nowhere in sight.  The other disappointment is that I was under the impression the cancelled books were to be included, but they aren't there.  The bright side is, I can again write to the Valuation Office and request copies of Connor Ryan's cancelled book entries now that I know for sure he's there in the records.  It's a great time to be an Irish researcher!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Of Blogs And Cousins And Long Distance Genealogy


     It began with an innocent enough email from a far distant cousin, (in both distance and genetics), inviting me to join in her search for details of our Vincent family from Halfmoon, Saratoga, New York.  We initially connected through this blog, and have shared bits and pieces over time, but that one email has elevated our collaboration to something approaching obsession.  Like so many of these family journeys, this one has twisted and turned and taken us far afield of the original quest.  (Which in truth I'm not sure I even remember, and since I'm the undisputed queen of lost emails, will probably have to ask my cousin to remind me of.)

     Together we have uncovered a staggering amount of information and on the way proved beyond any doubt that the genealogy, published in book form, of the line of Revolutionary War soldier Captain Jeremiah Vincent, his son John and John's son Thomas,(my fourth great-grandfather), is incorrect and incomplete.  How did we do it?  By egging each other on from opposite ends of the continent for one thing, but once again the amazing internet played a huge roll.  From census records and a genealogical society application on Ancestry, to wills and land deeds at Family Search; from a guardianship noted in the previously mentioned book to burials on the Find a Grave site, along with obituaries and other sources, a picture slowly emerged from the shadows of centuries.

     The book claimed Thomas, son of John Vincent and Mary Clements, died and was buried in French Cemetery in Victory, Cayuga Co. NY in 1842, which we found to be true.  It also claimed his wife Matilda Taylor died in 1847 and was buried in Saratoga County, which is not.  In fact, Matilda married a man named Rockwell Rood after Thomas' death and lived until 1890.  I found her with Rockwell and several of her Vincent daughters in the 1850 census and other sources.  There is in fact a Matilda Vincent buried in Saratoga, her stone even reads "wife of Thomas" however-- there is also a Thomas Vincent buried there with her.  The author of the genealogy book apparently overlooked that and so didn't consider this could be a different couple, which it was.  Clearly Thomas can't be buried in both Cayuga AND Saratoga.

     The guardianship was major in the search.  The book and every single tree and site I've viewed claim that John Vincent and Mary Clements had only one child, the above mentioned Thomas.  Yet guardianship papers filed in 1817 named Mary Vincent and John Clements (who turned out to be Mary's brother) guardians of the minor children Matilda, Thomas, Maria and Janet Vincent.  Now our search began in earnest to find these children, (except of course Thomas whom we had already documented).  And we did find them with the exception of Maria.  Pretty good detective work if I do say so, since they were married females using their husband's surnames.

     There's lots more-- for instance, as it happened Mary Clements Vincent also remarried, but to detail all our findings and sources here would take me six or seven pages and I like to keep these posts concise and readable.  Any Vincent's out there who would like to know more can email me, but a few points apply to all researchers:
  1.  Just because a genealogy has been published in book form or any other form doesn't mean it's infallible.  
  2. Those trees on Ancestry whose only source is another unsourced tree?  Great for clues but not much more. No matter how many trees say the same thing, if they just copied it from each other it's the same as one tree.
  3. What seems like a sure bet, like in the burial of, "Matilda wife of Thomas Vincent", is sometimes just a coincidence.
  4. Genealogy is ever so much fun with a co-conspirator.
  5. Lastly--verify, verify, verify. I always spend a little time trying to disprove my current theory.  It may not be fast, but when I'm done I'm reasonably sure the finished genealogy is accurate.





Saturday, September 10, 2016

Irish Registrations Come Online!


     I've spent the past few days grabbing every spare moment to pour over the newly released birth, marriage and death registers at Irish, and resenting the need to tear myself away for things like sleeping, eating and working. (Have you ever noticed how people will look at you strangely when you lament you'd rather be searching for dead people than writing production lists?)

     These are images of the actual full records, the kind you formerly had to send away to the GRO to obtain!  The death records cover the years 1891 to 1965, marriages from 1882-1940 and births from 1864-1915.  That's sort of late for those of us whose ancestors were famine immigrants, but still a way to help trace family members who stayed behind in Ireland and conceivably aid in finding some living relatives there.  I've been able to view records for many individuals I located in the indexes that have been available online for some time, and confirm they were in fact the ancestors I believed them to be--and in one case proven wrong.

     Unfortunately the death records don't give parent's names so it's not always easy to be sure exactly whose death you're looking at unless the informant's name is a familiar one, particularly if the deceased is a woman now bearing her husband's surname.  The marriage records do give the father's full name along with his occupation and the birth records give both parent's names.  All also give a townland.

     So far I've confirmed several theories and found the occupation of James Quigley of Baltinglass, husband of my 3rd great-aunt Anne McGarr.  One record states he was a "dealer" and another that he was a shopkeeper.  I'm not sure what sort of shopkeeper signs his name with an X, but there you are.  I also discovered a sad story about a distant cousin being orphaned at age 15 when both his parents died within a few years of each other of TB.  Somehow their son escaped that dreadful killer to be the informant on his grandmother's death record ten years later, but in four more years he too would succumb.  

     The records aren't yet complete but more are being added over time. You may will be annoyed by the repeated requests to prove you aren't a robot, but it's well worth that small aggravation, and be sure not to add the apostrophe if you're searching for a name like O'Connor, the search engine doesn't recognize it and will return a negative result.  I hope you find some interesting family facts in these new records, and there are rumors that by month's end the long awaited cancelled books will arrive online.  Keeping my fingers crossed...

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Adjusting My Sails (And Dates?)

     I was very excited to find the immigrant ship of my great-great-grandfather James O'Hora, (aka James Hore), the other day.  In the early days the family used the "Hore" spelling, something I knew from other documents and news articles.

     In the New York Passenger Lists, on, I found--"Jas Hore arrived May 23, 1849 from Liverpool aboard the Ambassadress".  The name, the age and the debarkation port of Liverpool all exactly matched what I already knew about James !  He first appeared in US census records in 1850, so an immigration date of 1849 fit nicely too.  I'd finally discovered when James arrived, it all fit... only it didn't.  I've poured over newspaper lists of ship arrivals in New York Harbor for that year and the closest I can find is a ship that looks like it reads Ambassadress arriving May 1st, not the 23rd.

     It certainly resembles "Ship Amb..."with a "dre" near the end followed by the name of the ship's master, and contains the correct number of letters.

    Now take a look at the ship's manifest above, it clearly says  Michael Foody, Master, swore to the correctness of his passenger list on May 3rd, and he did so on a Port Of New York form.  I suppose it's possible the ship arrived very late on the 1st and Michael didn't get around to submitting his passenger list until the 3rd; after all in 1849 there was no immigrant processing going on in New York.  Passengers at that time simply strolled off their ships and onto the South Street wharves, hence no great rush to submit the passenger list.  It wasn't until 1855 that Castle Garden opened as a processing center.  That is why I always try to confirm the ship's arrival date in news articles, just to be precise.

     Still, why would the Ancestry index say it arrived on the 23rd?  Nothing in this document suggests May 23rd, I've read every single page of it.  And I'm not buying for a second that the ship sailed on May 3rd and made it from Liverpool to New York in under three weeks.

     I've seen the 23rd arrival date on other sites too, though perhaps it was copied from Ancestry.  I noticed in a British newspaper article, which I couldn't read in it's entirety due to the lack of a subscription, mention of a date of March 23 in connection with the Ambassadress. Perhaps that date, Mar 23, was mistaken for May 23, but again-- nothing on the form suggests that.  I'd go ahead and get a subscription to the newspaper site but for the fact I would use it only rarely; my Irish ancestors were never mentioned therein.

     Another one of those little contradictions that make genealogy so frustrating interesting.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wednesday's Website/Railroad Retirement Records


     The railroad played a huge part in my hometown of Manchester New York's history.  When the Lehigh Valley Railroad opened their freight transfer yard there in 1892 the population soared.  Everyone worked for, or knew someone who worked for, the railroad--engineers, firemen, gandy dancers and engine repairmen all found employment in this little village. The number of saloons also soared, but that's a story for another blog.

     Today's website is an index to the records of the Railroad Retirement Board.  Just click on the Collection tab and scroll down to the last listing.  The search results will give a birth and death or retirement date, so it's helpful to have that information. Many of my Irish immigrant ancestors and their children worked for the New York Central and Lehigh Valley railroads, and I've already found two of them in the index. 

    With the information generated by the search you can ask the National Archives to send you a copy of your subject's file.  The beauty of this is that requesting the documents directly from the RR Retirement Board would set you back $27-- the only charge from NARA is a copying fee of 80 cents per page.  There is even a handy link on the results page that leads to the NARA site.

     Many of our Irish immigrant ancestors and their descendants were employed by various railroads and since this is a national database you might just find them there.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

John Gunn, Flax Farmer?

Ah, it was a tedious old crop, flax right enough, and it was a hungry, greedy crop too but the fields around the Cleggan were good flax fields and there was money in it. I miss it, it's beautiful blue color. The fields were the color of a summer sky, and when it was scutched it was so golden that it burned and glimmered as the sun and moon had mixed and fallen on it.
                                                                                                  W J Smythe
     One of my great-great-great-grandparents whom I know very little about is John Gunn.  I estimate his birth took place around 1825 give or take, as his first known child was born about 1850, the tail end of the famine.  I know he lived in Ballygologue in County Kerry, very near Listowel, because that is the address the PP wrote in the register when his children were baptized.  I know he married Margaret Browne because when my great-great-grandmother, his daughter Mary Elizabeth, married Philip Power in Palmyra, NY, that is what St. Anne's PP wrote in the marriage register as the bride's mother's name.  Finally, from his death certificate I know he died in Ballygologue 3 October1871 of chronic bronchitis, an illness of "some days" duration.

     That's about it.  What was going on in between those dates?  What did he do to earn a living?  Other than the births of his children, those years are a complete blank. John was only in the neighborhood of fifty when he died, and what was chronic bronchitis and how did one get it?  MedicineNet says chronic bronchitis is a cough that produces sputum, lasts three months or more, and recurs. It must have been an unpleasant way to go, and equally so for his family who had to listen to the poor man cough himself to death.

     Several sites say cigarette smoking is the main cause today.  Was John a smoker?  I don't think cigarettes were common in 19th century County Kerry, though they did have pipes.  The west of Ireland was a pretty poor place, I would think tobacco was a luxury item probably not indulged in daily.  In fact one site I looked at confirms that, but claims peasants smoked Coltsfoot instead, which is actually used to soothe lungs. So what else might have caused this disease?

     Reading further on the amazing internet, I found that in John's era cases were often related to  one's occupation, in John's instance all I knew is that he was a laborer per his death certificate. That covers alot of ground.  I doubt there were many factories in Ballygologue, or in Listowel for that matter, the west of Ireland was quite bereft of industrialization at that time.  One thing they did have was flax! 

     In the "Parliamentary Papers 1850-1908 vol. 34", I found this-- "Bronchitis is a trade disease among flax workers."  That's interesting, but was flax even cultivated in John's area?  Found in "A Pamphlet, the Result of Practical Experience of the Benefits of An Extended System Of Flax Husbandry", published in 1870, is this reference to Listowel--"Flax of excellent quality is grown here; the land is generally let in small holdings, and the gentry are favorable to it's extended growth."  So-- there was flax farming going on in John's vicinity; but was he involved in it?  I hate to admit it but I don't know, and I have no idea how to research the topic any further.  There was a Flax Growers List for County Kerry circa 1796, but there are no Gunns on it and most of the farmers seem to be from the Dingle Peninsula or further south.  Of course John himself would not have appeared on a list from that early date, but I had hoped perhaps a relative would.

     I'm certainly not ready to throw in the towel, I'm still searching for obscure sources so if anyone has any ideas, I'm open.  I think flax growing/processing is a perfectly good theory of the cause of John's illness...

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday's Tip/Hard To Read Baptismal Records


      Looking through the early parish records of Castledermot is challenging to say the least.  Many of the pages are so faded there is no earthly way they could be deciphered, though I wonder if the FBI could use some method to read them?

     I was looking for my Travers ancestors and not finding very much.  I tried the Ancestry index along with the one at Find My Past with only a few hits.  Using the indexes I did locate a baptism in 1793 for ____ Travers of Lucas and Maria Travers.  

     I'm not sure how they came up with Lucas, the name does appear to begin with an L, but I certainly can't make out the rest. I also wondered, was the child's last name really Travers or was that the mother's maiden name?  Above, you can see the name Maria Travers is clear, as are the sponsor's  names SS Pat. Malone & Ann Corrigan, but the others are quite indistinct.

     To attempt to find the answer, I skipped ahead a few pages and backwards a few pages until I came to a fully legible entry and used this to determine in what manner the baptisms were being recorded.  Some parishes did not include the mother's surnames at all in early records while others did, which is what I needed to know.  After reading the clear entry I saw that in this particular parish, the priest entered the child's first and last name, followed by first name of the father and next, the first and maiden name of the mother.  That meant the child's last name was NOT Travers, that was Maria's maiden name.  Looking at the entry I can see the child's surname really doesn't look like Travers either--I can't make it out but sometimes it's easier to tell what an entry doesn't say than what it does.  In this case the surname appears to end with a Y.  I see a definite down-stroke.

     It's important that you use another entry as close as possible to the one you're having trouble reading, as sometimes baptisms were entered in different ways by different priests in the same parish over the years.  For instance, I've also seen records that use the child's first name followed by the father's first and last name followed by the mother's name with or without her maiden name.

     Another method that sometimes works is to upload the image to a photo editing site.  I've been using Befunky, but there are other free sites.  Try the "sharpen" setting or playing with the contrast.  You can also adjust the blues and other colors to improve the readability.