Friday, January 23, 2015

Google Street View Does It Again

My original photo of the shoe shop, taken after the introduction of electricity judging from the light on the right

     Last summer I did a blog about my 4th great-uncle Cornelius Ryan Jr. who was a cobbler in Palmyra, New York.  Looking through a book about Palmyra from the Images of America series, which I've done numerous times, I this time noticed another photo of the shop where he worked, this one taken in 1875, probably about a year and a half before Cornelius died.  He may even be in the photo.  Below, in the far lower right you see the same little shop as above--

The description of this photo said the cobblestone building, the one on the far left with the awning and what looks like a door on the second floor, was still standing so I did a search for Market Street in Palmyra, NY at Google Maps, then zeroed in with the Street View option.  Below is the same building today with a for real second story door.  Call me crazy, but that seems like a bad idea.

     You can see the wee shoe shop no longer exists, nor do the wooden sidewalks.  The space where it sat is an alley now, and the building next to the ally has been renovated or it's an entirely different structure than in the older photograph.  The cobblestone and brick buildings though are unmistakably the same ones pictured in 1875.

     I've had very good luck with Google Street Views and use it regularly, so I feel comfortable recommending it.  It's always fun to see our ancestor's old stomping grounds, and this is the next best thing to visiting.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday's Tip/Another Way To Find Death Dates


     Finding the date of an ancestor's death can be a big step forward.  It opens up the possibilities of finding a will or an obituary with next of kin listed, among other things. The newspaper sites are an obvious place to start, but at times the software they use for indexing will miss a name that is hard to read due to damage to the newspaper or the poor quality of microfilm that was used.  Sometimes however, we get a second chance.

     Some of the older papers printed a "Necrology" for the previous year.  More common in smaller towns, these would usually appear in the early part of January and list everyone in town who had died the year before.  It's just a list of names and dates and often ages, but it tells you what time frame you should be concentrating on in your search for a full blown obituary and other records that would be generated by a death.  So it you can't find the record you seek in the year you believe the death occurred, try January of the following year.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday's Photo/Nina Watts Nyquist 1882 Kansas

     This little cherub is Nina Elba Elanora Watts.  The photograph was taken in April of 1884 when Nina was nineteen months old.  Nina's parents were John and Matilda Watts, Swedish immigrants who like so many of their compatriots settled on the US prairie.  Unlike most however, John was not a farmer; he was a cabinet maker and merchant in Topeka.  Judging from the elegant clothing little Nina is wearing, he was a very successful one.

     The family included a son John Jr. and Nina's two sisters Ester and Aggie.  Her mother Matilda gave birth to six children, but only three attained any great age, Nina, John Jr. and Ester.  At age 23 Nina married Carl Nyquist, himself the son of Swedish immigrants.  Carl rose to be a vice-president of the Rock Island & Chicago railroad, so Nina probably lived a comfortable life after her marriage.  He died in California in 1959.  Nina and Carl had one son Carl Jr. who passed away in 1966, before his mother who died in Banning California on September 17th, 1973.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Down Survey Website


     Lately, I've been musing on my McGarr ancestors from Ballyraggan, Kildare.  I've traced them back to the early 1820's at that location, but still don't know where Daniel, my 3rd great-grandfather was born.  Most of the McGarrs in early records are in Kildare so there's a good chance that is the county of his birth, but what about his father?  It truly vexes me that the records stop about the time of Daniel's birth around 1795, and even earlier in many spots in Ireland.  I read on a genealogy website that there were McGarrs in Dublin in the 17th century, which is right next door to Kildare, but there was no clue as to where the writer found this information. I've personally seen McGarr records from 18th century Dublin, but have no way to link them to my family.

     I tried searches for "McGarr surname" and "McGarr family" but the results were disappointing.  One site claimed a Scottish origin and another Irish.  While looking around the net I stumbled upon this site hosted by Trinity College,  Down Survey Homepage, and I've spent the past two days engrossed. The website is packed with information about the 1641 rebellion of the Ulster Irish against the English and Scottish settlers to whom their homes and farms had been given.  No wonder they rebelled.

     Click on the heading, "About this Website", and a page is displayed showing a timeline of events from the rebellion in1641, to the end of this sad chapter in Irish history in 1669.  The tab, Down Survey Maps, is next but the Historical GIS is better for my purposes.  This page allows you to search the maps by landowner's name or religion.  Or you can zoom in on the map and locate your townland of interest on your own, which worked better for me.  Once you have maximized the map to it's limit you can then move the cursor over various townlands, click, and the name and religion of the owner appears along with the townland name for the years 1641 and 1670.   Those of you familiar with Irish history will recognize this as the time of Cromwell and the transplantation to Connaught of Catholics in Ireland, as well as their deportation as slaves to colonies in America and Barbados.  In townland after townland I clicked on, the results were the same-- a Catholic owner in 1641 and a Protestant in 1670.

     As you see in the first photo, I found Ballyraggan on the GIS map and it proved to be an exception to the ownership rule.  In both years the owners were the powerful, Catholic, Fitzgerald family whose descendants still owned it in Daniel McGarr's time.  I don't know if Daniel's forebears were anywhere near Ballyraggan in 1641, various websites also disagree on how much our ancestors moved about.  One will claim they were very attached to their homes and the graves of their ancestors and stayed put, while others will claim they moved great distances more often than we think.  Still, it was somehow gratifying to see that Ballyraggan existed way back then, as did Ballygowloge in Kerry from whence my Gunn family hailed, and Cullencastle in Waterford, home to my Power and Crotty families.  I recall reading somewhere that townlands are very ancient land divisions, and it appears to be true.

     None of this really got me any closer to my genealogical goals, but I know some nameless ancestor of mine lived through these trying times, and survived them, else I wouldn't be writing this. Not knowing their names doesn't lessen my compassion for them, nor lessen my desire to know more about the times they lived in.

Monday, January 5, 2015

More Discoveries In Deeds


      I wrote awhile ago about  The Things You Find In Land Records. They can be used to find far more than details about property  transactions.  In that particular case I had discovered that in 1825 Grandma Armina Galloway was renting a house for "a kernel of grain per year", the reason why was also contained in the deed.  Recently I made another discovery in a deed.  For years I've been trying to find the death date of my fourth-great-grandfather Silvester Worden.  (He was a literate man, and he spelled his name with an i)  All I knew was that he passed away sometime between the 1840 and 1850 censuses; in the latter census his widow Pelina and their youngest child Ruth were living with Silvester Jr. in South Bristol, NY.  Silvester Sr. was born about 1792, so I figured his death probably occurred closer to 1850.  

     New York did not keep any records of deaths in the time-frame I'm interested in, and I found no stone for Silvester in any online cemetery listing.  Ontario County, of which South Bristol is a part, has a pretty extensive site for tombstones, but no Silvester with a y or an i.  I spoke with the Bristol town historian years ago and no luck there either, so I'd just about resigned myself to not knowing the exact year of his death.  Then I read the deed.

     That document dated November 1848, in which George Worden was purchasing 20 acres of land for $70, started out like any other deed, but then it got interesting.  After the usual legal mumbo-jumbo it went on to describe the tract of land George was buying,

"being part and parcel of the tract of land contracted... the 23rd of Aug. 1834 to Sylvester Worden, father of the said grantee."

      That single sentence tells me so much.  It proves the grantee George Worden was in fact the son of Silvester, (i or y it's the same guy), it tells me that the land was originally contracted to Silvester which means basically that the owner held the mortgage, Sylvester didn't own it outright, and it gives me a big clue that this was the year Silvester died.  If he had been making payments on this land since the summer of 1834 his family wasn't going to just hand it back in 1848.  And it explains why the price was only $70.  The sale coming at the end of 1848, strongly suggests that sometime earlier in that year Silvester passed away and his son George took over the land.

     In another case I was able to narrow the date of death for the mother of Silvester Worden Sr. using a deed.  In 1828 his father, (yet another Silvester) sold a piece of land.  Had Mrs. Worden been living, she would have been privately questioned as to whether she voluntarily agreed to the sale, and her answer would have been recorded in the deed.  Since that did not happen it's a good indication she was not alive at that time.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tuesday's Tip/Misspelled Place Names


     I'm sure you've come across this scenario in your research, I have numerous times--you find a record with a place name that seems to exist only in the imagination of the parish priest or other local official.  For instance, I found a baptism that took place in Baltinglass Parish, County Wicklow.  The parent's address was Crossnacool.  I excitedly looked for Crossnacool on the net, but it seemed to be a mythical place.

     An easy solution that often works is to try Google Maps.  Using the search term Baltinglass Wicklow Google Maps on Google brings up a map of Baltinglass naturally.  But one of the options in the box that appears in the upper left corner is "Search Nearby".  Selecting that option, I typed in the first seven letters of Crossnacool and found Crossnacole, obviously the right name for the townland.  

     The beauty of this method is that county borders do not enter into the equation, useful when as in the case of Baltinglass, the parish encompasses several counties and the place could be in either one of them.  As long as the townland is in the vicinity it will appear. This also eliminates the extra step of having to check the locations of possible townlands you might find in compiled lists to see if they're even in the right neighborhood.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Rootsireland As Index


     I rose extra early this morning since this is the only time I seem to have for doing genealogy lately.  Just three days remain on my subscription to rootsireland, and I'm determined to get the most out of them.  With the fantastic news that the parish records for Ireland will be coming online this summer, I've been using the freedom my subscription gives me to look at many of the transcribed records on the site instead of just the few I'm certain of; and I've found lots of peripheral relatives-- brothers, sisters, and cousins.  For instance, my great-great-grandfather James Hore, born in Ricketstown, County Carlow had a sister named Winifred who remained in Ireland after most of her family had sailed away to America in the 1840's.  Before purchasing my subscription I didn't want to pay for the individual records of her family, but now I've found eight of her children.  I suspect there is one more at least since there is a big gap between two of these children, so when the parish records from Rathvilly Parish go online I can concentrate on the years this child would have been born.  Some transcribed records for the parish are online now at

     Winifred and  her husband Thomas Lalor had a daughter named Catherine Lalor who married Michael Lalor in 1881. I found seven children for them, all baptized at Baltinglass, but again there is a gap. I couldn't find this family in the 1901 census, but they do appear in 1911 in Baltinglass and sure enough, Kate says she had eight children and all of them are alive.  I still don't know the missing child's name, it was old enough to be on it's own in 1911, but I do know I need to scour the parish records for the years it was probably born.  

     Knowing the names and order of birth can be useful due to the naming pattern used in Irish families, which is why I also need to find a baptism for an eighth child Aunt Winifred and Grandpa James Hore's mother Mary told a US census taker about in 1865 New York.  I've only located seven children for her and this eighth one was probably born first, making his or her name very significant.

     Come summer, some sense may be made of these two odd entries from rootsireland:
Dennis Lalor baptized 18 Feb 1849 at Baltinglass 
Parents- Thomas Lalor and Winifred Dean of Clough
Sponsors- Richard Slater & Mary
Denis Lalor baptized 18 Feb 1849 at Baltinglass 
Parents- Thomas Lalor and Winifred Hoar of Clough
Sponsors- Richard Kelly & Mary Hoar
Something is clearly not kosher here, Denis and Dennis Lalor baptized the same day, in the same place, with the same father.  Add to that, the  first names of the mothers were identical in both records, as were the sponsor's first names.  These are just some of the transcriptions to be investigated on that glorious day when the records come online.  Even entries on rootsireland that seem correct need to be checked against the originals, that's something that should always be done if possible.  With spelling variations, old handwriting and deteriorating registers that didn't microfilm well, transcriptions are not always accurate.  And nobody knows how to spot our ancestor's names in old records like we do.

     You may wonder why I'm so interested in the baptisms and marriages of very distant relatives?  Besides giving a fuller picture of my direct ancestor's lives while in Ireland, these records represent family members who didn't emigrate.  That means they likely have descendants still living in Ireland, and that means I have cousins in Ireland, and that means when I finally visit Ireland I will have family waiting if I can track them down!  Along with my pal Dara.