Friday, May 31, 2013

Why Can't We All Play Nice?

   This morning I found a note in my email from an O’Dwyer cousin on the west coast, thanking me for my encouragement over the past year.  That got me thinking… let me say firstly, my online escapades have been a delight -- for the most part.  I’ve met cousins who live locally and far away, along with suspected cousins.  We’ve enjoyed helping each other, sharing our successes and  bemoaning our brick walls -- for the most part.

     Then there were the…hmm, how should I put this...the flakes.  Like the cousin I’ll call Helen, because that’s her name.  Helen had lots of information, including the parish of my O’Hora 3rd great grandfather.  Unfortunately, she would have rather had her tonsils removed through her nose with a rusty corkscrew than impart that information to me; though naturally she was very eager to “share” my information.  In the same family line another cousin took everything I was willing to share, then never answered another email I sent.  I know she’s still out there, I see her on the message boards suckering other people.

    Then there was the Warner cousin who emailed me in a state of euphoria to say he’d seen my post on a message board and lived very close to me.  He wanted to share information, adding that he had photos!  Well, that got me a little euphoric too, but when I asked when he might like to get together he disappeared from the face of the planet.

     This vexes me to no end.  I enjoy sharing what I’ve found with others who I know will appreciate what I’m sending them, not to mention heap praise upon me and my sleuthing skills.  I certainly understand not wanting to share personal information, I don’t want to either, and I never to ask for that.  I don’t ever suggest meeting anywhere but a public restaurant or coffee shop, which by the way is where I met my 90 year old cousin Orville, a dear man who told me wonderful stories of when he and my grandmother were young.

     Now for the gems -- along with Orville there is Cousin Rita from Georgia who met with me (in a coffee shop), when she visited New York.  Rita shared everything she had, bless her heart, which was quite a lot.  Rita had records she had commissioned from Ireland!  She was thrilled when I gave her the information I had found on the death of my 3rd great grandmother, information that she and stingy Helen had been searching for.  No, I did not give those records to Helen.  Rita, who was also tired of her curmudgeonly behavior by then, didn't either.  A little genealogy drama there.

Cousin Jack and me
     There was Cousin Ken who saw my post on a Ryan message board and out of the blue sent me digital copies of his grandmother’s Ryan family photos and her handwritten notes on our family. Another great cousin is Jack who freely shares what he has, including photos of our McGarr ancestors.  Over the years Jack has been a wonderful companion in our frustrating search for them, which only recently came to fruition.  I broke my own rule and met him and his lovely wife at their home, but by then we had been corresponding for over a decade.

     In closing let me reiterate, for every Helen I’ve run into there are ten Orvills, Ritas, Kens and Jacks.  They’ve been a joy to hang out with in cyber space and have helped advance my genealogy tremendously.  I decided long ago I will not let a few bad apples, or selfish strawberries (?) deter me from doing what I love, discovering and sharing my heritage. 

Funeral Card Friday /S.S.G. David L. Fennessey

     Another card, or rather, more like a small booklet, found in my O'Hora Grandmother's Bible after it passed to me.  

     Army Staff Sergeant David Lee Fennessey from Buffalo, NY, died in Vietnam in 1967 at the age of 22.  His tour of duty had started only 3 weeks before he was killed by small arms fire in Bien Hoa Province.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thankful Thursday / Village Clerks

     Years ago, before I had ascertained the Irish townland of my Ryan clan, I found myself in the office of the Canandaigua, NY village clerk.  I was there to purchase a copy of my 4th great aunt Mary Ryan Sheehan's death certificate in the hopes that the space for her birthplace would hold something more than the word Ireland.  I had checked all her brothers and sisters certificates and she was my last possibility.

     I went to the office in person rather than send to the state for it, and if you have ever ordered a certificate from the Great State of New York, you know why.  The last one I ordered took a year to arrive, the others a mere 6 to 9 months.  I can get one from Ireland in under 3 weeks for cryin' out loud!

     I filled out the form and handed it back to the clerk, who disappeared into the mysterious recesses that hold all the information we genealogists would give our right arms for, OK... that may be hyperbole, but we'd give alot.  I don't know about you, but my wildest fantasies involve a flashlight and a night in a deserted clerk's office.  

     When the clerk returned she had the book containing the certificate in her hands at which point she said to me, "I don't know if you really want to buy this, all it says is she came from Ireland and her parents were Alice O'Dwyer and Cornelius Ryan, you already know all that."  Then this incredibly awesome , kind, considerate, (I can't think of enough adjectives to do her justice),  woman let me look for myself!  I was stunned!  And grateful, the certificate also held Mary's cause of death that I hadn't know when I entered the office.  In case you are wondering, it was double pneumonia.

     In another village, the clerk is an old schoolmate of mine who pretty much lets me look at whatever I'd like to, I am exceedingly fond of that woman.

     This is in stark contrast to another clerk, in another village which shall remain nameless, (oh what the heck, it was Palmyra), who refused to even check to see if she had the record I needed unless I forked over $22.  Mind you I had the exact death date, there was no need for a search, and I had been taken in earlier by the same person when she didn't have a 1940 death certificate I needed that should have been there. After a call to her boss to whom I explained if they didn't have the record, I would have to spend an additional $22 to get it from the state, I did get the assurance they had the certificate. That's right, I'm not afraid to go over the head of anyone who stands between me and the information I
want need.
     At any rate, today I am thankful for the great ones, the clerks who understand that our passion for family history may sometimes exceed our budgets and accommodate us when they can.  Hats off to you!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wordless Wednesday / USS H J Ellison

This was going to be wordless, but I have too much to say, (smile).

Part of the crew of the HJ Ellison on their 1953 cruise, my Dad is next to the officer on the right.  His younger brother was also on the ship.   As you may well imagine if you have read my blog, September 4 was the highlight of the trip!

Departed, Norfolk, VA 24 April 1953
Oran, Algeria 7 May 1953
Calgleri, Sardinia 12 May 1953
Golfe Juan, France 23 May 1953
Trieste, F. T. T. 28 May 1953
Ancona, Italy 13 June 1953
Bari, Italy 17 June 1953
Athens, Greece 21 June 1953
Kavalla, Greece 25 June 1953
Istanbul, Turkey 30 June 1953
Golf Juan, France 8 July 1953
Gibraltar, B. B. C. 11 July 1953
Plymouth, England 15 July 1953
Bordeaux, France 24 July 1953
Torquay, England 1 Aug 1953
Bremerhaven, Germany 11 Aug 1953
Odda, Norway 15 Aug 1953
Esbjerg, Denmark 20 Aug 1953
Invergordon, Scotland 28 Aug 1953
Londonderry, Ireland 4 Sept 1953
Bremerhaven, Germany 24 Sept 1953
Amsterdam, Holland 29 Sept 1953
Plymouth, England 6 Oct 1953
Arrived, Norfolk, VA 19 Oct 1953

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Those Who Never Retreated From the Clash of Spears

     "Riamh Nar Dhruid O Spairn Iann", is the motto inscribed across the bottom of the flag carried into battle by the Irish Brigade of Civil War fame.  Translated it reads, "those who never retreated from the clash of spears", and they certainly did not.  Their emerald flag was seen rippling over the fields of every major battle the Army of the Potomac engaged in.

     The brigade, made up of Irish immigrants from New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania was nicknamed, "the Sons of Erin". By war's end that had changed to, "the Fearless Sons of Erin".  At their formation in 1862, the brigade, commanded by Thomas Francis Meagher, numbered 3,000 men.  A year later only 300 were left.  The battles of Fair Oaks, Antietam and Fredericksburg among others, had taken ghastly tolls.  After the
General Meagher
bloody battle at Fredericksburg, Confederate General George Pickett wrote to his fiancee, "Your Soldier's heart almost stood still as he watched those sons of Erin fearlessly rush to their death. The brilliant assault on Marye's Heights of their Irish Brigade was beyond description. Why, my darling, we forgot they were fighting us, and cheer after cheer at their fearlessness went up all along our lines." 

Colonel Kelly
In May of 1863, following the battle of Chancellorsville, General Meagher,  upset with the war department's refusal to reinforce the brigade wrote to his superiors resigning his post stating, "the brigade no longer exists". Meagher's resignation was not accepted, though he was reassigned, and the Irish,  now under the command of Colonel Patrick Kelly from Tuam, County Galway, were ordered north to Gettysburg.  At that point, some of the wounded of earlier battles had returned, and their numbers had risen to around 530 men, still far short of their original number.  At Gettysburg, the battalion was ordered to participate in the attack on the Wheatfield, but there was one order of business to attend to first.  

     At the start of the war, Notre Dame University, whose sports teams even today bear the name "Fighting Irish", sent many of it's priests to serve as Union chaplains.  One of these was Father William Corby who was assigned to the Irish Brigade.  Father Corby faithfully followed his brigade throughout their battles, and was there with them at Gettysburg.  Many accounts survive of the moving moment that preceded the battle, as Father Corby stepped onto a boulder, and the entire brigade removed their hats and knelt around him as he offered them absolution.  The statue of Father Corby at Gettysburg is said to grace that same boulder.

      After their engagement at the Wheatfield, only around 300 soldiers remained in the battalion.  They continued to serve their adopted country valiantly and were periodically reinforced, but never reached their original force size.  Colonel Kelly was recommended by no less than Abraham Lincoln to receive a promotion to Brigadier General, but that promotion never came.  Some maintain discrimination against Irish officers was the reason General Halleck refused to promote him.  In June of 1864 Colonel Kelly was killed, shot in the head leading the Irish Brigade in an attack of Confederate earthworks at Petersburg.

     Afterwards, the brigade was disbanded and incorporated into other brigades, only to be reformed in 1865.  The only unit of the old brigade that is still active today is "the Fighting 69th", of the New York National Guard.  They served with distinction in Iraq, securing parts of Baghdad and the airport road known as Route Irish, and also in Afghanistan.

     To their memory and the memory of all soldiers who did their duty as they saw it, and paid a terrible price, a humble thank you.



Thursday, May 23, 2013

Finally, My Newspaper Comes Online!

     OK, I should be cleaning my house right now, or planting my little tomato plants.  Day off from work, decent weather and yet-- here I sit.  While having my morning coffee I made the mistake of checking the Old Fulton NY Post Card site, with all it's wonderful NY newspapers, to see if by any chance the Shortsville Enterprise had been added and hallelujah there it was!  My euphoria was slightly tempered by the fact the early editions were not included, only 1919 and onward.  I had read those early editions on microfilm borrowed from the NYS Library, but no doubt missed a few articles about my relatives.  I had hoped to be able to use the search engine at the Fulton site to be sure I had caught them all.  Then again, later editions are better than nothing. 

     The Enterprise covered part of Ontario County, NY, mostly Shortsville, Manchester and surrounding towns.   In the short time I've been searching the files I have learned quite a few details about my relatives lives.  Nothing earth shattering, but the little things that make family history come to life.  For instance, I've learned that my great grandfather Edward O'Hora, whom I knew suffered terribly from rheumatoid arthritis, traveled to Alden, NY to take the mineral water baths in an attempt to alleviate his pain and was hospitalized several times for his arthritis before his untimely death . I learned his widow Nellie took in a Fresh Air child in the mid 1920's, actually the same one each time, little Julia Whalen, (I didn't even know the Fresh Air program existed that early), and that Nellie's sister who lived in NYC frequently visited the O'Hora farm in the 1920's.  You can take the girl outta the country...

     I've discovered my 2nd great grandfather Philip Power's home was destroyed by fire in the summer of 1928, and that a tenant house on the O'Hora farm burned in August of 1921.  I wasn't aware they had a tenant house.  It was occupied by the Fischer family, which clears up a mystery for me, I have an old photo from an album belonging to great aunt Alice O'Hora with the name Fischer on the back, now I know who the Fischers were.

     There are a few tricks to these old newspapers.  Quite often the date was on the front page only, subsequent pages had no dates.  If your article was on one of those inside pages you were left to puzzle over when the event in question occurred.  There a couple of ways around this, you can look for a date in a legal advertisement or an article on the page.   I've also used obituaries on the page and checked other sources to find the death date of the decedent thereby giving me the publication date, or month and year at least.

     So while I was initially disappointed with the newspaper dates available, I'm delighted with what I've found so far.  Is that thunder I hear in the distance?  I'd better stay inside and do more research...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Five of the Saddest Things I've Learned

     I've found funny, amazing and disturbing things doing research on my family.  I've learned some things that made me proud, and others that made me very sad, as I'm sure you have too.  In no particular order:

    Baby Gladys with sister Inez
  • People still died from botched appendectomies in 1937-- My cousin Gladys Worden, aged 22,  died 11 days after her surgery, suggesting, (to me anyway), the cause was infection.  Her obit read in part, She was a graduate of Manchester High School and had been a member of the Hawaiian Serenaders, a group of women musicians who had entertained frequently in this city and surrounding places.  Funeral from the home Saturday, burial Brookside.
  • Great Grandfather Carlton Warner had 3 wives in 17 years--  I've written about first wife Maggie Power before.  She died of septicemia 6 years after her marriage to Carlton after losing 2 sons and giving birth to my Grandfather.  His second wife was Mary Ferguson, she passed away on their 8th wedding anniversary after a "long illness", leaving Carlton with 4 more children, all little girls.  The final wife, who outlived Carlton was Mildred Wheeler, with whom Carlton had 5 more children.
  • Infant mortality rates-- This one is a heart-breaker, Catherine White Ryan, my 3rd great aunt gave birth to 6 children, all but 2 died in infancy and only 1 outlived her.  My 3rd great aunt Ellen Power Mahoney had even worse luck, Ellen had 9 children, only 1 survived infancy!
  • Cousin Ella Ryan died in 1915 of alcohol abuse-- After  her husband left her and 1 year after her daughter died, Ella drank herself to death.  But it gets sadder, Ella's daughter  Blanche didn't just die, she committed suicide.  From her obit--  Mrs. Blanche Zorsch, 23 years old, who sent a bullet into her right side yesterday morning, died in St. Mary's Hospital at 3:30 o'clock this morning.  Mrs. Zorsch had been separated from her husband.  She resided at 391 Seward Street, while Mr. Zorsch had been living with his parents... yesterday Mrs. Zorsch sent for her husband.  When he arrived at the house he found his wife lying on a bed with a bullet wound in her right side.  A 32-caliber revolver was lying on the bed.
  •  My mother's face-- This photo was taken of my Mother at age 8, not long after her own Mother had been fatally injured before her eyes in her own kitchen by a kerosene explosion.  My Mother has now passed on too, but this photo of her haunts me.  Every time I look at it I wish I could hug that little girl and take the sadness from her eyes.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Given Names

     There are surname distribution maps widely available to assist us in determining a likely spot to search for our ancestors, but taking a look at the given names can also give us clues.  I'm sure almost all Irish researchers know about the "naming pattern", but I repeat it here for those who might not be familiar with this very useful information:

  • First born son named after his father's father
  • Second born son named after his mother's father
  • Third born son named after his father
  • Fourth born son named after his father's oldest brother
  • Fifth born son named after his father's 2nd oldest brother
    or his mother's oldest brother

  • First born daughter named after her mother's mother
  • Second born daughter named after her father's mother
  • Third born daughter named after her mother
  • Fourth born daughter named after her mother's oldest sister
  • Fifth born daughter named after her mother's 2nd oldest sister
    or her father's oldest sister

     This bit of knowledge can be immensely helpful; for instance I know from church records that my 3rd great grandfather Michael Hore married Mary Travers in Rathvilly, Carlow in 1814.  I was given copies of research done by the Carlow Genealogy Project Center (now defunct) by the cousin who commissioned it, sadly now also gone.  Their report claimed that Michael's father was also named Michael.  I can't imagine why they believed this.  Old Irish marriage records did not include parent's names.  I've seen the church record and no, there is no father's name included.  So where could it have come from?  Needless to say I'm very skeptical.  The first two sons of this family were named Patrick and John, using the above pattern, I can see it's much more likely that Patrick was Michael's father.  Not proof by any means, but a distinct possibility. The third born son was indeed named Michael after his father, so it would seem they did follow the pattern in naming their children. 

    I found a baptism for Maria Travers in the nearby parish of Castledermot in 1794, parents John Travers and Margaret Lawler.  This seems to fit the pattern,the second son was named John, and would lead me to believe the first Hore daughter would be named Margaret, instead it was Winifred.  But wait, looking at the 1865 census of New York State, I found that Mary Travers Hore told the census taker she had 8 children, not the 7 listed in church records,  it just might be that the "missing" child, who appears to have been the firstborn of this marriage, was named Margaret.  Another example why it pays to collect every bit of information you can find on an individual.

     I've also found that just as some surnames are more common in certain areas than others, so too are some given names.  David is not a name that springs to mind in relation to 19th century Irish Catholics, but there was a cluster of them in County Waterford, and Andrew was more common in Tipperary.

     In closing, the naming pattern is important to consider, but it's not chiseled in stone.  There are cases where it wasn't strictly followed, and there may be undiscovered children or circumstances the researcher is unaware of.  I puzzled over why it was, the last son of Cornelius Ryan bore his name and not his 3rd son.  Then I found the baptismal records of the 3rd son, Thomas Ryan.  Turns out Thomas had a twin who died shortly after baptism, care to guess his name?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Those Places Thursday

     When my great, great grandfather James O'Hora arrived on America's shores, he immediately traveled to Cayuga County in upstate New York where he had friends and relatives from County Carlow, Ireland already living.  James secured a job on a local farm where he would spend the next several years laboring for J C Reed, a gentleman farmer who lived part of the time in Auburn, and the rest in Aurelius where his farm was located.

     Aurleius was part of the old Military Tract of New York, land reserved for soldiers who had served the state during the Revolutionary War.  The tract was divided into towns, each bearing  a classical name such as Aurelius, Romulus, Cato, Scipio, Ovid... well, you get the idea.  

     The part of Aurelius where Grandpa James lived was known locally as the Half Acre, but it had another moniker, one not so flattering.  In some quarters it was called Hell's Half Acre.  The reason behind this was the number of drinking establishments.  There was one on three of the four corners that made up the center of the area.  Today it is just a quiet crossroads a few miles from Auburn, but it must have been quite a place in the olden days.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Tipperary Family Part 5

     By the summer of 1860 the Ryans had all arrived in America, (except probably Michael).  For the most part they prospered.  Andrew purchased a farm in Perinton, NY on a lane now named Ryan Road, after him.  Anna's husband James White purchased a farm in Manchester, NY and shortly after, the widow Mary Ryan Sheehan bought a small one next door, bringing her aged parents Cornelius and Alice with her.  In January of 1877 the invalid Cornelius passed away at her farm.

     Sarah Ryan married a widower named William Slattery in Palmyra in 1864, becoming stepmother to 3 year old Timothy Slattery.  Little Timothy lost another mother in 1867 when Sarah passed away at the age of 29; William Slattery never remarried.  Ellen Ryan married Edward Maher and several years later moved to Ohio where Edward worked for the railroad.  Ellen died in the summer of 1877 of "child-bed fever", leaving 3 children motherless.

     The youngest of the Ryans, Cornelius Jr. did not become a farmer like most of his family.  Cornelius had more opportunities since he was able to read and write.  He became a shoemaker in one of the 2 shoe shops in Palmyra.  Cornelius married Anne Hennessey and they had a son named Oliver.  Tragically, one month after his sister Ellen died in Ohio, Cornelius Jr. also died and 6 short months later, his wife Anne passed away.  Eight year old Oliver was taken in by Anne's brother Edward and raised with his own children.  Oliver was embraced by the Ryan family also, in 1920 we find a news article describing the fifth reunion of the descendants of Andrew and Cornelius Ryan held that year at Oliver's farm in Farmington, NY.

     It is interesting to note that the Ryan children who attained the greatest age were Andrew, Anna and Mary, all of whom were older when the famine struck Ireland.  One possible conclusion is that their younger siblings were not as well nourished in their formative years and their life spans were shortened as a result.  Andrew died at his home in Perinton of typhoid fever in 1888 at the age of 61, Mary Ryan Sheehan passed away in 1891 at a local hospital of pneumonia when she was 62.  Anna achieved the remarkable age of 90, dying at the farm home of her son Thomas White in 1921 of a paralyzed colon.

     Whenever I write about the members of one of my family lines, I am fascinated by them all, but there is always one person I find myself most drawn to. As I wrote this short story of the Tipperary relatives, it was Alice O’Dwyer who pulled at my heart.

     Ally O’Dwyer suffered tremendous loss in her lifetime.  We have all heard stories of English oppression, the famine and coming to America, heard them so often that the pathos often escapes us.  Seldom do we stop and think of the shattered lives, of the truly awful, heartbreaking times they somehow lived through.  While the stories of her sons John and Michael Ryan have yet to be discovered, they don’t seem to have been part of her later life.  Ally lived through a harrowing famine, watched her children depart for America, was herself driven from her home and country, was widowed and of her six remaining children, incredibly only two, Mary and Anna, survived her, Mary by only a year.  In that awful summer of 1877, Ally lost two of her adult children after already having been widowed in January!

     She was only a few years older than me when she arrived on America’s shores.  Starting over at her children’s ages was one thing, but for a woman approaching her 60th birthday to leave her tiny mountain community and arrive in Manhattan must have been overwhelming.  I don’t know how well I would have handled it, yet she persevered for ninety years, and her story was not unique; her daughter Anna White buried four children!   How did they survive in the face of such tragedy?  Was it their faith or that wonderful Irish trait of sheer stubbornness?  We can only speculate, but I think they must have been remarkably courageous women and men.