Friday, January 21, 2011

Return to St. Pat's Cemetery

    He wasn’t there, he just was not there!  And neither was she.  Spring had sprung and I had returned to the mountain known as St. Patrick’s Cemetery.  Some kind soul had cataloged the tombstones in the cemetery and posted the list online, and John Crotty was on the list.  Only he wasn’t there.  His wife was not on the list, but she should have been, where else would she be?  I had been up and down the cliff twice now, searched high and low, (excuse the pun) and nothing.  My family had a time honored tradition of leaving their loved ones final resting places unmarked; their thoughts seemed to be, we know where we planted them, why waste good money on tom foolery like a tombstone.  Far into the 1900’s few stones were placed.  But John must have had one, he was on the list. 
     John Crotty was the brother of my g.g.g. grandmother Honora Crotty.  She and John were born in the early 1800’s to Patrick and Ellen Crotty in County Waterford, Ireland.  John came to the US around 1854; Honora, the widow of Edmund Power didn’t arrive until almost 1880. Both lived in Farmington, NY, John with his wife Ellen and their daughter Mary while Honora resided with her daughter and son in law Ellen and Thomas Mahoney.  (That’s three different individuals named Ellen; I used to dislike my name, which is also Ellen, until I discovered how much the Irish appeared to like it.)
     Walking back towards my car I noticed an overgrown area two thirds of the way up and figured I may as well check it out, and there he was.  Under branches and vines, surrounded by weeds I found Uncle John.  I set about clearing the debris then pulled the weeds, and there on the side of his tombstone I discovered an inscription for Aunt Ellen Crotty, nee Mullett.  When the cemetery was being cataloged no one had looked at the side of the monument, not that I could blame them, it wasn’t easy to get to even by St. Patrick’s standards.   I wound up setting some flat stones into the hill by their plot as steps to make the climb easier.
     After my exertions I descended, (tripped) to a lower point and as I stood under a large pine tree looking back at their graves, musing on John and Ellen’s lives I heard a tinkling sound.  Looking up I saw someone had placed a small wind chime high in the tree.  How nice I thought, and then I looked higher … there sat the biggest bird I had ever seen in my life!  This raptor creature was as big as my entire upper body, and it was silently staring at me.   I am not a superstitions woman, but being Irish I have enough sense not to fool around with known harbingers of death!  Yet again I beat a hasty retreat from St. Patrick’s.  Maybe next time I’ll bring a body guard.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Records Coming

Fantastic news Irish researchers!  To wit:
Irish Times   Friday, 29 October 2010   John Grenham   
     The National Library of Ireland (NLI) is planning to scan all 520 microfilms that make up its collection of Roman Catholic parish registers and put the scans online.  While they won't be transcribed (so genealogists will still be going cross-eyed and pulling their hair out with frustration at the many illegible pages of records) nor indexed, this step would be hugely beneficial.  The project is still some way off, but scanning and uploading 520 films to the web isn't an enormous undertaking and should be achievable within a year from now.
       Within a year?  This is literally the answer to a prayer, no longer will we have to travel to Ireland or pay others to look for Catholic records that may not even exist.  No more choosing between spending our limited time in Ireland pouring over microfilm or touring the country of our fore bearers.  Anyone who has done research in unindexed microfilm knows how long it can take to locate relevant entries; especially when the original records were old and in the case of Catholic records, in Latin.  I’ve become fairly proficient at reading Latin by now and I can tell you every priest had his own version.  They are all similar though, so after reading a few entries you get the hang of each writer’s usage.
     As for Irish history centers, my experience is limited and mixed.  I contacted Waterford’s center and was told there was a good chance the records I needed did not exist and for $132 they would confirm this.  On the other hand, I had great luck with Tipperary Family History Research (     For around $23 they will do a single search for an ancestor’s baptismal or marriage record; if the person sought is found, further searches can be carried out.  This organization has the records for the 46 parishes that comprise the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly.  I found them to be reasonably priced, and prompt when I contacted them for help in trying to locate the townlands of my Ryan and O’Dwyer ancestors who from US records, I knew came from Tipperary.  
     Early in my research I thought, “With a name like Cornelius my Ryan great-great grandfather should be easy to find”.  Ha!  What a fool I was.  While not overly common in the US, Cornelius is anything but rare in old Ireland.  Add the fact that Ryan is the most common surname in Tipperary and my chances were dimming.  Fortunately I knew the maiden name of Cornelius’ wife, Alice O’Dwyer from her death certificate in the US.  I also had most of their children’s names; TFHR was able to locate the marriage record and the baptisms, along with two formerly unknown children.  I now know they were living in Churchfield in South Tipp when they married and their first child was born there, others being born in Goldengarden and Alleen.  I also learned their nicknames were Connor and Allie, one of those delightful bits of information that make them seem more three dimensional.  That leaves just one set of great great grandparents townlands yet to be discovered.  I hope they start scanning soon.