Saturday, March 10, 2018

One Last Word On The McGarr Children


      I finally got around to trying to track down the baptismal sponsors of William and Mary McGarr,  the children of William Sr. and Catherine of whom I wrote about in my last blog.  William's sponsor was Michael J. Farrell and I found several possibilities for that individual.  Mary's sponsor was another story.

     I speculated that Mary was already ill at the time of her baptism in April of 1871, probably with the scarlet fever that had recently taken the lives of  her two older brothers, and that her baptism was hastily arranged due to that illness.  When I searched for Mary's sponsor, C. McCallion, in the1870 census of Alabama the only match was Charles McCallion of Huntsville, Alabama.  A member of the clergy.  I wrote again to the archives in Mobile who confirmed that Charles McCallion was indeed a member of the Catholic clergy and he was in Alabama at the time of Mary's baptism.  It seems to me, it was likely he who performed the baptism, and on such short notice that he himself took on the role of sponsor.  The already deeply bereaved parents may not have been emotionally up to the task of seeking out an acquaintance to act as Mary's sponsor and with their families being in New York, Father McCallion  stepped in to fill the roll.

     At least that's how I read the clues left to me.  It's amazing how an event in the lives of ordinary people can be reconstructed after the passage of nearly one hundred and fifty years by use of databases, news archives and email.  Twenty years ago I'd have found none of this.  Internet genealogy is truly amazing.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

An Answer, But A Sad One

     What happened to the children of William and Catherine McGarr?  Is it because I'm a mother that I just couldn't let this go or was it curiosity?  Three children and then within the span of a month, no children.  It boggles the mind.  The unimaginable loss, and yet this same tale played out in numerous households in the 19th century.

     An earlier blog tells of the tragedy, but it's not overstating to say it haunts me.  What could have happened to those dear little ones, all under the age of four?  It must have been an illness of some sort but would I ever know exactly what occurred?  All I was certain of, is that within twenty days William and Catherine lost their entire family that horrible April of 1871. Twenty six year old Catherine would bear no more children once William Jr., Robert, and Mary were gone.

     A few days ago I sent an email to the archivist of the Diocese of Mobile, Alabama in the hopes the horrific event of three little lives lost might have merited an explanation of some sort in their burial records.  However, there are no burial records.  When these sad events occurred, Shelby Springs where they lived after leaving Auburn, New York, had no priest, nearby Montavallo was a mission of  the Catholic Church at Selma.  Being a mission, clergy visited Montevallo only several times a year as the archivist informed me.  Residents timed their sacraments such as marriages and baptisms to coincide with the expected arrival of the priest, but of course deaths were not something that could be planned for in advance.  And so, I was told, it was unlikely a priest had attended the burials of the McGarr children and there was no mention of their burials in Selma records.

     It seemed like another wall, no death certificates, no burial records, but then Karen at the archives did a very wonderful thing, she sent me copies of the two baptisms of the McGarr children in her possession, William and Mary's.

William Marion McGarr's baptism. Catherine used her mother's maiden name of Kelly in the record.  Her name was in fact McGarr, the same as William's.
Mary McGarr's baptism

     Robert was the middle child but his baptism was not to be found, probably due to Montavallo's status as a mission without a priest of it's own and poor record keeping.  William was born in 1867 and Mary in 1870.  Robert was the middle child, his grave stone gives his birth year as 1868.  William was baptized in Selma, and Mary in Montavallo.  Her baptism gave her birth-date as September 12, 1870 and she was baptized April 19th.  A long time between birth and baptism to be sure, but with no priest nearby they were probably awaiting a visit from one.  But wait, if she was born in September of 1870 she would have been baptized in April of 1871.  Her brother Robert died April 5th and William April 8th.  And here was Mary being baptized on the 19th in Montavallo!

     That was a bit of a surprise.  Mary too would pass away on the 25th, six days after receiving the sacrament, perhaps she was already ill by the 19th.  Back in 1871 the Church still taught that unbaptized babies went to limbo, did the frantic McGarrs send for a priest to insure Mary's baptism?  It's possible, William was a railroad official and was quite well to do.  The last clue I found was a newspaper article dated April 20, 1871:

     And there it was, the disease that took the children was scarlet fever.  I have to wonder if the newspaper got it wrong and it was little Mary who was ill and not William. I've seen such mistakes in newspapers. Scarlet Fever is rare in adults, but regardless I had found the cause.  It must have been a dreaded disease, in 1874 a two year old relative of mine in San Francisco died from it and in 1907 my grandfather's brother at age four in New York.  I wish I was able to visit their graves, I left flowers at Find a Grave, but it's just not the same...

Monday, February 26, 2018

Declined! In Which Rep. Blackmar's Cause Of Death Is Swept Under The Rug

Esbon Blackmar
     A while ago, while looking for more information about Milo Galloway, I stumbled upon this photo of Esbon Blackmar.  Esbon was a business associate of Milo's and for a short time a United States Representative.  The site where I found the picture was Find A Grave and along with the picture it had a short biography of Esbon which I was surprised to find attributed his death to an accident.  

     Newspapers of the period in which he died all described his passing in November of 1857 as a suicide due to financial setbacks.  The same fate that I believe befell Milo, who died five months before Esbon.  Both were quite well to do men who suddenly lost their fortunes, though the newspaper is strangely quiet about Milo's death.  Other records tell the story however, of lawsuits and defaults.

     I sent a copy of the newspaper article from 1857 to Find A Grave and finally heard back from the individual who maintains Esbon's page-- Declined. General reason: Content submitted does not belong in this data field.  What does that even mean?  Why doesn't a story from a contemporary, local newspaper belong?

     Personally, I believe it's wrong to whitewash history, even if it is that of a relatively unknown person.  Part of genealogy today is about context and the everyday details of ancestor's lives.  Trying to  understand them and their motivations as best we can through our 21st century lens.  Besides which, this sad event occurred over 160 years ago.  For researchers who might be interested, I'm posting the obituary as it appeared in 1857--

SUICIDE OF HON. ESBON BLACKMAR --The  citizens of Newark, Wayne County were thrown into great excitement this morning in consequence of the announcement of the suicide of Hon. Esbon Blackmar, not only a prominent citizen of Wayne County, but well known throughout western New York.  On Monday last, Mr. Blackmar was compelled to yield to the pressure of the times and make an assignment.  It is supposed that his financial embarrassment so depressed his spirits as to cause him to commit self-destruction.  The lifeless body of Mr. Blackmar was found in a spring or shallow well in the cellar of his house.  His head was downward and the feet projecting just above the tile surface of the water.  He represented his district in congress some ten years since and was widely known and esteemed as a man of ability and integrity.  He was largely involved in banking and in produce dealing. -- Rochester Union
     Another news article claimed he was "harassed by creditors" the day before his death and the site WikiVisually notes, "according to published accounts his business failed in the Panic of 1857 and he was in debt for more than $150,000, (about $3.7 million in 2014)."  I understand that suicide is an unpleasant topic, but I would certainly want to know what had happened were it an ancestor of mine.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

So They Hung Patrick After All

     April will be here before I know it and with it, Patrick Hore Day.  I've spent a lot of time thinking about Patrick's short life and hoping that by some miracle his death sentence wasn't carried out.  Perhaps a jailbreak or sentence commuted to transportation.  Alas, last night I found a newspaper article that confirmed Patrick had been hanged as scheduled on April 5th in 1798.

     The second sentence in the above article reports the craven execution of Patrick and three of his fellow patriots.  I first learned of Patrick when several boxes of papers of the Browne-Clayton family were discovered by the National Library.  The following is from those papers:

     United Irishmen Patrick Hore and his gang, namely Christopher Beaghan, Oliver Carey, John Currin, John Howlett and James Muldoon were arrested on 14th March 1798.  They were charged with ‘being evil disposed and Designing persons’ who, on 10th March, had gathered at Mount Neal, Carlow, and ‘wickedly’ conspired 'with certain other persons' to ‘Willfully and of Malice prepare to Kill and Murder the Honorable and Reverend Francis Paul Stratford [brother of the Earl of Aldborough] against the peace of the King. That they on the 10th of March in the 38th year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the third King did at Mount Neal, Carlow between Sunset of said day and Sunrise on the Day next following did Cut down take and Carry Away one Deal Tree, Value 5 shillings, One Ash Tree, Value 3 shillings and one Oak Tree, Value 10 shillings the goods of Francis Paul Stratford, Esquire without his consent, he being the Owner thereof.”
     On 26th March, they appeared before the General Assizes held at Carlow, where upon Information taken by Benjamin Bunbury, revealed that these six men had met earlier in the year at Garristown where they ‘contemptuously maliciously and feloniousy did Administer an Unlawful Oath and Solemn Engagement upon a Book to Mathew Brennan of the import following that is to say "Damnation to the King and All the Royal Family and all his heirs and forces by Sea and Land " and that he [Mathew]should be United with them’. It was further alleged that the day after they met at Mount Neale they were planning ‘Wickedly Unlawfully Maliciously and feloniousy did Compere Confederate and agree together and to and with each other … to Kill and Murder Luke Lyons against the peace’.
     The six men were found guilty and sentenced to be ‘hanged by the neck till dead, execution to be done on Monday the fifth day of April next’.

     When the news article mentions the charge of digging graves it must be in connection to the supposed plots to murder Francis Stratford and Luke Lyons.  It does go on to say that two of the convicted were transported, but if the papers were referring to them as the "Patrick Hore Gang" I don't hold out much hope for Pat.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Whose Naturalization Is That Anyway?

     Yesterday I had to run an errand in a village located between my home and the village of Lyons.  Lyons being the place I have to go in order to view the state censuses for Wayne County, New York.  They aren't online although the original books still exist and have been filmed, transcribed and indexed.  Fortunately, I live in the same area my ancestors settled in, so I keep a running "to do" list of research questions as they arise, arranged by the repository that holds documents that could shed some light on the subject.  If I find myself in the neighborhood of one of those repositories I can just drop in.  Yesterday it was the Wayne County Historians office that was conveniently located near my destination.  I printed off a list of queries filed under WCH and hit the road.

     With the help of Jane, a lovely person who never tires of assisting researchers, or has the good grace not to show it, I made some great discoveries.  One was John Taylor Vincent in the 1855 NYS census of Butler, New York showing him born in "Seretoga" and living with his wife "Sharlott".  Another was the naturalization of my great-great-grandfather Philip Power from Cullen Castle, County Waterford.  Another find was the declaration of Mathew Ryan, a fourth great-uncle, that read he was from not just Ireland as usual, but Tipperary, Ireland!  I also found the 1868 naturalization of Cornelius Ryan.  There were only two men of that name in Palmyra, New York, my third great-grandfather and his son Cornelius Jr.  The document could belong to either one of them.

     The old naturalizations don't offer much information.  A name, residence and former residence, along with names of sponsors is about all they contain.  I knew from  the baptismal registers of Annacarty/Donohill Parish in South Tipperary that Cornelius Jr. was baptized in May of 1844 making him not quite old enough in 1868 to have applied for citizenship in 1863, five years being required to pass before those final citizenship papers could filed.  But in the 19th century people played pretty fast and loose with ages and names.  Both men arrived in the United States in 1860, and both lived in Palmyra.  This would take some digging.

     One of the first things I do when I find documents like these, is to take a look at the sponsors or witnesses to try to determine their relationship to the subject.  In this case it looked like C W Williamson and J F Swain were the sponsors.  After looking through censuses from that time frame and finding nothing, I thought perhaps I was misreading the name Swain, maybe it was Strain so I tired that.

     There in the 1880 census I found John Strain, son of Irish immigrants and a shoe dealer.  Cornelius Jr.'s occupation was shoemaker!  Another clue was that the naturalization was signed by Cornelius; his father could neither read nor write though he could conceivably have learned to sign his name in his 70 or so years.  The clincher was the 1870 census.  It showed that Cornelius Sr. was not a US citizen, but his son's entry indicated he was.  I feel confident saying the naturalization I found yesterday was indeed for Cornelius Jr.


Friday, February 16, 2018

Irish Genealogy News Blog


     If you're doing Irish Genealogy and aren't reading this blog you should be.  Written by Claire Santry the site has so much to offer it's hard to list it all.  There are links, advice, and of course news about the latest Irish records.  It was Clair's blog I turned to to keep me updated as I impatiently awaited the release of the records from the Valuation office a few years back and I stop in at least once a week to catch up on anything I may have missed.  I was excited to read this headline recently-- "Beyond 2022: project aims to recreate the Public Record Office of Ireland before the 1922 fire".  Read about it here.

     That one made me snap to attention!  How wonderful would it be to have those lost records back?  It's a definite step in the right direction that the remnants of the fire along with copies stored off site are being seriously looked at with an eye to digital recreation.  I would however, have to think that quite a few are gone for good.  For instance, how would one begin to recreate those destroyed censuses?  Sadly, outside of church records the early censuses were one of the few documents to mention by name a significant percentage of laboring class Irishmen in the 19th century.  I've found a few Griffith's, Tithe Applotment, and criminal records for some of my ancestors in addition to church records, but that's about it.  One group from County Carlow, the Michael Hore family, appears in none of those records except church registers. They weren't land owners, didn't leave wills, and many couldn't even sign their names.  Those census records are my Holy Grail.

     The Irish Genealogy Toolkit is another creation of Clair Santry's and is also well written and informative.  On a gray, chilly day like this one it's a perfect diversion.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

It's Not Him, In Which I Admit my Error

     Remember my last post when I talked about my Irish mining ancestors and not learning much from the tract books?  Scratch both, I was wrong.  Uncle Edward Hore from Ricketstown, County Carlow was indeed a miner, and he was doing his mining in Amador County California; I have his voter registration from that county stating his birthplace of Ireland, his occupation as miner, and that he was naturalized in Cayuga County, New York in 1860.  In the city of Auburn to be precise.  But there was another gentleman named Edward Hore in Amador County.  The 1880 census says the other Edward was born in Massachusetts.  After studying the entry in the tract book for Edward Hore, I began to notice some dates that didn't add up.

     Above is the entry.  The date of sale is August of 1872, the problem here is that Uncle Edward died in January of 1872.  So could it be his son Edward Jr.?  No, he was only six years old at the time.  The Act of 1862 mentioned in the entry refers to the homestead act passed that year.  After residing on a claim for five years the settler could file for a final certificate (the CTF in the document above) and become the legal owner of the claim.  So maybe 1872 was the year the claim was "proved"?  Nope.  In 1870 Uncle Edward and his family were living in San Francisco not on the claim as he would have been required to do.  And the final certificate dated in 1878 is clearly the moment the claim became the property of Edward from Massachusetts.

     I was a bit disappointed to learn I had the wrong Edward, but glad I had found the truth.  At this point I don't believe Uncle Edward ever owned any land in California or elsewhere.  He lived  a difficult life, fleeing the famine in Ireland, losing three children, and enduring the grueling life of a nineteenth century miner with little to show for it, dying of meningitis in a tenement in San Francisco at a relatively young age.

San Francisco Call, Jan. 27, 1872-- In this city, January 26, Edward O'Hore, a native of County Carlow, Ireland, aged 45 years. [Auburn (NY) papers please copy.]  Friends and acquaintances are respectfully invited to attend the funeral, tomorrow (Sunday) at 2 1/2 o'clock p.m. from his late residence, Beale Street, between Folsom and Howard, without further notice.

     This is exactly why all sources need to be searched out and considered.  Without digging into the land records it would have been easy to assume this was Uncle Edward's claim.