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.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Apologia For Grandfather

William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth Colony

     The past few days I've been reading everything I could find about my Mayflower ancestor and 11th great- grandfather John Billington.  John is on my Mother's side of the family, and so distant in time that it's hard to find concrete facts about him.  One article claims a completely different scenario than the next.  All agree John was born around 1580 in England and came to what would become the United States on the Mayflower in 1620.  All also agree that John has the dubious distinction of being the first man hanged in New England.  Not all agree however, on how the story unfolded.

     Common belief is that John Billington and his family were troublemakers from the start and the murder charge that would cost him his life was the culmination of a dissolute life.  But circumstances need to be examined here.  Everyone knows the Puritans, or Saints as they flatteringly called themselves, were escaping religious persecution when they set sail for the new world.  Not everyone on the Mayflower was a Puritan however.  In order to make ends meet, Anglicans and even a few Catholics were sold spots on the voyage; much to the chagrin of the Puritans who immediately took to calling them "strangers".  Among the strangers was John Billington and his wife Ellen/Elinor and their two young sons John Jr. and Francis.  Several articles claim the Billington family may have been Catholic which would have made them even more unlikeable to the Puritans.

     And dislike them they did.  It was believed that John was mixed up in disputes and a mutiny on the Mayflower, and his son Francis, (my 10th great-grandfather), almost ended the whole enterprise by firing a gun near a barrel of gunpowder on board, nearly transporting them all to kingdom come prematurely.  Governor William Bradford, in his writings called the Billingtons, "the most profane family", and there are records indicating John was often reprimanded for speaking his mind and generally annoying the powers that be.  But who was in charge at Plymouth?  The Puritans--and a more self-righteous, intolerant group would be hard to find.  It should be remembered these were the same people responsible for the terror of the Salem witch trials.

      The biggest differences among the articles about the Billingtons surround the death of John Newcomen, for which John Billington was executed.  One version holds that John Newcomen was found dead in woods belonging to John Billington, others claim that while John Billington did shoot John N., he then immediately sought help for the injured man.  One says John Billington stalked the man, another that John N. was given to poaching on the land of others, had been warned several times to desist, and that John Billington was only trying to scare him when he shot in his direction.  One says the victim was shot in the back, and yet another that the shoulder wound, (from the front),  was survivable, but infection set in.  One even says John Billington was innocent and offers as proof the writings of a neighbor who called him, "beloved by many".

     Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  John Billington and his family clearly did irritate the Puritans who were running the show in Plymouth, but so did many others who dared exhibit any individuality.  Shooting another man is wrong, but one stealing and scaring away the game John needed to feed his family might well provoke him to fire in his direction.  Judging actions that took place centuries ago, in a time so radically different from our own, is nearly impossible.  So I'm cutting 11th great-grandpa some slack. I don't think the "Saints" would have liked me much either, I can see myself in the stocks now.

Monday, December 1, 2014

This Is HUGE!


      I am so excited!!!!  This is Christmas, New Year's, St. Patrick's Day and Halloween all rolled into one!  Only better!
Click this link for the best news an Irish genealogist could have:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

An Irish Thanksgiving


     So just how do the Irish celebrate Thanksgiving?  They don't -- it's a North American holiday.  It could be argued however, that first Thanksgiving would not have occurred without the intervention of an Irishman. Times were getting desperate for the Pilgrims in America, they had foolishly set sail from England in September of 1620 and never made landfall in Massachusetts until November; they didn't arrive in Plymouth until late December.  New England winters being what they are, and were, it's somewhat amazing they survived at all, in fact more than half of them did die that first winter, but all was not lost.

     As it happened, one of the Pilgrims was the daughter of a Dublin merchant.  Like any good father he was probably worried about his child in a strange new land, especially in the winter months, and he determined to do something to assist her and her fellow travelers. That assistance arrived in February of 1621 aboard The Lyon, in the form of food and drink and other supplies.  Without that shipment, there would have been more deaths, and most likely the abandonment of Plymouth Colony, and no "first Thanksgiving".  Hence the claim, the Irish saved Thanksgiving, not to mention civilization as we know it, but that's a story for another day.

    I wish you all a happy, safe day, and thank you for reading.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Not Just Anyone Could Get Married In Ohio

     Yesterday I was running some searches for my Ryan/Maher relatives who settled in Lexington, Ohio in the latter half of the 19th century.  At Family Search I found some Ohio records, and among them was the marriage of  Margaret Maher, daughter of Edward Maher and my 3rd great-aunt Ellen Ryan to William H. Zehner.  I also found the marriage of Margaret's daughter and only child, Helen A. Zehner to Walter R. Muth.  I had long ago discerned this information, but it was gratifying to see it confirmed in official records. What was surprising though was the forms themselves.

     Above is Margaret's marriage license from July of 1897, in it we see that in 1897 Ohio, the groom was required to be 21 years of age, but the bride only 18.  I was not aware a man had to be that old to marry in the 19th century.  In Ohio Territory back in 1788, 14 was the age a husband was required to have attained before tying the knot. There was no minimum age for the bride.  OK, next part--not more closely related than 2nd cousins-- that makes sense; next, the couple had to be of "the same color".  That one raised my eyebrows a bit, interracial marriages were not very common back then, but I had no idea Ohio outlawed them.

Helen Zehner and Walter Muth's License Application
           By 1915 when Helen was married, it appears things had loosened up a bit race-wise, but some new restrictions had been added.  Now the form asked if either of the couple were, "an habitual drunkard, epileptic, imbecile or insane, or if they were under the influence of any intoxicating liquor or narcotic drug".  Because we all know an habitual drunkard never lies???  Maybe it was to make any future divorce proceedings easier as in, "He never told me he was such a freaking imbecile."  Yes, I know, when they said "imbecile" they meant mentally impaired in some way, and I guess it's better than the formerly used term "idiot", but not much.  And epileptic?  That one really surprised me, so I Googled it and discovered that around the turn of the century many states had similar laws.  In the UK a law forbidding people with epilepsy to marry was on the books until 1970!

     Also uncommon in bygone days were divorces, but Helen had at least one.  Sometime before 1929 she and Walter Muth split, as in that year "Helen Grader" of Cleveland appeared as the informant on her mother Margaret's death certificate.  I cannot find Helen after the 1920 census, or her son Walter Jr. either until he resurfaces in 1940 living with his father Walter Sr.  The elder Walter was then proprietor of a beauty salon where he worked as a beautician, and his son managed a retail variety store.  Walter Jr. says in this census he was living with his father in 1935, so perhaps Helen had passed away by then?  And really, why do I care so much about these peripheral relatives?  

     Because it totally ticks me off that I can't figure out what happened to Helen.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Friday's Photo/Joseph Krebsbach & Mary Noll Wedding Day And Unlikely Death

     This attractive young couple are Joseph Krebsbach and his wife the former Mary Noll.  Joseph and Mary were both born in Wisconsin to German immigrant parents in 1869, and were married November 9 in 1892 when this picture was snapped.  I love these old photos that show the fashions of their day.  The Krebsbach's lived in Sheboygan after their marriage, and became parents to two children, Edward, born in 1894 and Irene, born in 1899.  Joseph died as a result of a freak accident at his place of employment in 1923, his obituary is below...

Sheboygan Press Telegram - May 21, 1923 
    The serious injury suffered by Joseph Krebsbach, 1701 N. Eleventh street, last week at the Sheboygan Novelty Company when struck by a flying wood splinter in the abdomen, resulted fatally when he died at 3 o'clock in St. Nicholas hospital Sunday afternoon. A splinter five inches long had pierced the abdominal wall to a depth of about four inches when Mr. Krebsbach was working at a machine where lumber was being sawed. He had pulled the splinter out himself and was rushed to the hospital immediately.
    Mr. Krebsbach had worked at the Sheboygan Novelty company for a period of 30 years and was a foreman at the plant. He was born at Charlesburg September 4, 1869 and came to Sheboygan in 1891. In 1892 he was married to Miss Mary Noll, their union being blessed by two children, Miss Irene and Edward Krebsbach living at home. He is also survived by his wife.
    A member of the Catholic Order of Foresters and of the Arbeiter Verein, Mr. Krebsbach was well known and a highly respected citizen of Sheboygan. A large circle of friends and acquaintances mourn his sudden demise.
    Funeral services will be held from Holy Name church. Rt. Rev. Msgr Thill will officiate and interment will be made in the North Side Catholic Cemetery.

     Events like this are so sobering.  One second all is right, and just that fast, an accident occurs that will cost a man his life and forever change three others.  The 1940 census shows a 70 year old Mary and her children Edward, aged 48 and Irene, aged 39 still living together in Sheboygan.  Mary passed away in December of 1943 and is buried next to Joseph in Calvary Cemetery, formerly known as North Side Catholic, in Sheboygan.  Their two children also rest there.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I Wasn't Even Looking For That! In Which I Try The New Roots Ireland


     I finally took the plunge and purchased a one month subscription to Roots Ireland, the site with all the church records.  RI recently changed from pay per view to subscription, and I hadn't taken a real look since the switch.  I've read some negative comments about how the search function has changed also, so I wanted to see if it was as bad as I'd heard.  I have to say, it's not.  You can no longer search on a 20 year span, but 10 seems sufficient for most searches, and if not, just re-do the search with a different start year.  I do wish the search engine wasn't so fussy about combinations of surnames and parishes, and it's still pretty touchy about spelling, searching for the name Honora does not bring up Honor for example, and  it would be nice to see the computerized index each heritage center works from since some spellings are quite bizarre.  I discovered there is a link for name variations, but you really have to look for it.  When a search has been done, take a look at the name in red over the generated hits, in between the first and last name you will see (plus variants)  this is a link even though it doesn't look like one.  Clicking it brings up the different spellings of the name you entered that the search engine will check for.

     Lately I've been looking at my Power relatives in the Tramore area, so I started with them.  Seeing as a large section of the Catholic records no longer exist for Tramore I wasn't expecting any breakthroughs when I typed "Mary Power" and her parent's names, "Edmond Power & Honora Crotty" of Tramore Parish in the baptism search.  As I expected--nothing.  I then decided to try to find her parent's marriage, so I clicked the box to switch to the marriage search form.  This particular search engine auto-fills the name and other data of the previous search to the new search for you, and before I could change the name in the search to Edmond Power, up popped several marriages for Mary Power.  I knew from US census and church records that Mary's husband was Thomas Ryan and I'd always assumed they married in the USA, but when I looked at the record, there he was!  They hadn't married in New York after all, but right in Mary's home parish; and I know it's them because unlike most old marriage records, this one gave the names of the happy couple's parents.  It also gave their address, Picardstown, and named Edmond Power as a witness, quite possibly Mary's brother.  I've always known there were other Power siblings I was missing, there are huge gaps between the ages of the three I've found so I'm always excited to get a lead on more Power's.

     One word of advice, when doing a marriage search try it first without the parent's names, even though there is a space for them.  In most old Irish records the parent's names were not recorded and if your search includes them your results will come up negative even if the marriage (sans parents) in in the database.

     Since Mary and Thomas were married in1860 and didn't show up in US census records until 1870 I figured it was worthwhile to look for the baptisms of some children in Ireland.  I found Patrick Ryan born 1861 in Picardstown, and John Ryan born in Tramore in 1863.  His godfather was Edmond Power, (I'll just bet he's Mary's brother).  Neither of these boys are in the 1870 US census with Thomas and Mary, only daughters Catherine and Ella, both born in New York.  Oddly, in both the 1900 and 1910 censuses Mary says she gave birth to only two children.  

     All in all I was pleased with the subscription.  I'd been tinkering with the old site's free searches for awhile and keeping a list of records I wanted to buy once a sale was announced, (they used to have them occasionally), so I had enough to keep me busy for several days, and of course new things pop up--like that marriage  and the baptism records.  It's very nice to be able to view the records of interest without stopping to wonder if they are really worth purchasing, I feel like I've gotten my money's worth on this one.