Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tuesday's Tip/Tithes on Family Search


      I'm sitting here bleary eyed in my jammies this morning because I needed to check a tithe applotment last night.  Rather than go to the National Archives of Ireland site, I decided to try Family Search's version.  Turns out it's easier to use than the Irish site--typing Patrick Crotty at the NAI site got no hits at all while Family Search came up with several hits.  The problem here is the tithe assessor used the abbreviation Patrk and the NAI site uses exact spelling, always a gamble with Irish names.  Further, while both sites had two entries for Patrick, after I finally found him on the NAI one, only Family Search noted that they were for two different years.

     Another big benefit of the Family Search site is you can turn the page!  At the other site the page with the entry you sought appears and you're done.  Family Search lets you page through the entire parish book.  The great thing about this is there were sometimes notes in the front and/or back of the book, which I didn't realize until I looked through a few.  Looking at Ricketstown, home of my O'Hora ancestors in County Carlow I found notes about how the collected sums were divided, and that they were due half in May and half in November.  There were also notes pertaining to a dispute initiated by the Rev. Whitty as to how the sums should be divided.

     Looking at my Daniel McGarr family in Ballyraggan, Graney,  Kildare I was disappointed to find their entry is still listed on Family Search and NAI as "Danl McGaw of Ballyraggon, Granard, Longford".  Look at the above image, the parish clearly does NOT read "Granard", nor is the county "Longford".  However, I also found this very interesting note at the end of the book:
"Be it remembered that no tithe has been paid for potatoes in the above parish from time immemorial and that no part of the above sum so agreed on was intended as composition for such tithes."

     I'm not sure how it came about, but in different places even within the same county, items that were taxable varied.  Grasslands used for grazing (owned by the landlord of course) were exempt, while in some parishes potatoes were taxable, and as we see in the Applotment book for Graney, in others they were not.

     So now you understand why I'm still in my jammies at 10 a.m., there are alot of pages to read through...I need more coffee.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Nollaig Beannaithe agus Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh.
             Blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year to you

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Scandalous Saturday/Johanna Shea

     Today's blog is about a crime committed in 1877 Auburn, New York against a young girl named Johanna Shea.  Johanna, or Hannah as she was known, was the daughter of Thomas Shea and his wife Mary O'Hora.  Mary was born in 1846 to John O'Hora and his wife Catherine McGarr in Ballyraggan, Kildare. Mary's father John was the brother of my great-great-grandfather James O'Hora, and her mother Catherine was the sister of my great-great-grandmother Maria McGarr O'Hora.  Got that?  The McGarr sisters married the O'Hora brothers.

     Mary was brought to America as an infant during the famine, and after marrying Thomas Shea lived in the town of Owasco near Auburn, New York.  Her uncle James and Aunt Maria lived right next door to her there.  She died in 1872, quite possibly in childbirth, leaving behind her husband Thomas and three children.  Hannah, the oldest was only nine years old at the time of her mother's death.  Thomas remarried the following year, a woman named Jane, and had several more children.

     Nothing else remarkable seemed to happen in this family until early 1877. This article is from the Auburn NY Journal:
An Amorous Old Man Comes To Grief 
   Alvin Goodell, a man 65 years of age, an old resident of Moravia, and a man of property, was arraigned before Justice Edmonds, charged with assault upon the person of a little girl, Hannah Shea, aged 12 years [she was actually closer to 14] and daughter of Thos. Shea living in the eastern part of the town.  Goodell lives alone, and enticed the girl into his residence, detaining her overnight. A suit for civil damages has been instituted against Goodell by the father of the girl.

     I cannot imagine how terrified this young girl must have been, and I would rather not imagine what this demented man may have done to her.  It appears Alvin Goodell was always what the neighbors would have called a little odd.  The Gazetteer and Business Directory of Cayuga County for 1867-68 lists a "Dr." Alvin Goodell of Moravia, healing spiritual medium and shoe dealer.  Strange combination, and I would think the residents of rural Cayuga County would most likely have been practitioners of the "old time religion" rather than spiritualism, but you never know.  Alvin paid for all his property some way and spiritualism was popular in America during that period.

     The civil suit against the "doctor" went forward and Hanna Shea was awarded $5,000.  Goodell, who was out on bail at the time, skipped town rather than pay up or risk further incarceration.  

     Never fear however, Hannah got her money in the end--Goodell's property was put on the auction block in order to pay her.  At that auction, Hannah's father Thomas spent $1,460 to  purchase the brick buildings on the corner of South and Main St. in Auburn seen above.  Left click on the photo and you can see the name Shea's over the green doorway of the building on the right, and also on a larger black sign over the awning of the same building.  A little poetic justice there.  I luckily found the postcard picturing the building on Ebay, which I search regularly for items pertaining to my ancestors.

     In January of 1878 Alvin Goodell was apprehended in St. Louis and returned to Auburn where he was put on trial. Found guilty of criminal assault, he was sentenced to eight years in Auburn Prison.  Not nearly long enough.  Hannah grew up, married a man named John Rahrle and had a daughter of her own.  She passed away in 1942 in Auburn.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Funeral Card Friday/ Thomas Whelan 1921 Dublin


    The woman pictured above is Mrs. Whelan/Wheelan of Clifden, County Galway in the Provence of Connaught.  Dressed in the typical costume of a country woman, Mrs. Whelan had probably never been to Dublin before in her life.  She was only there in 1921 to attend the trial of her 22 year old son Thomas, accused of killing Capt. Baggallay, a British soldier.   

     In spite of the appearance at trial of five witnesses, including the parish priest, all of whom swore Thomas was at Mass at the time of Baggallay's death, he was found guilty and sentenced to hang.  His mother was outside Mountjoy Prison when he died, part of an enormous crowd that began to gather before dawn.  As the prison bell tolled at 6 a.m. Mrs. Whelan knew her son was gone.  To view a photo of Thomas the day before his execution, look here

     The woman on the right is Maude Gonne MacBride, actress and widow of Major John MacBride who was himself executed by the British for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Month's Mind


     Some newspapers published near Rochester, NY and  newly available online, have recently come to my attention.  In one of them I found this article:

     A month's mind Mass was celebrated last Tuesday morning for the repose of the soul of James O'Hora.

   James O'Hora was my great-great-grandfather. Like hundreds of thousands of his Irish countrymen and women he traveled to America during the famine, leaving the small townland of Ricketstown he would never see again except in memory.  James died at his home in Littleville, New York one fall evening in 1902 at the age of 75.  It was sudden and unexpected--while smoking his pipe his heart stopped or so the newspaper said.  His death certificated attributed his death to heart disease.

     While I've lost other Catholic family members over the years, I have never before heard the term "months mind".  I looked around the internet and it would appear this Mass is quite commonly celebrated in Ireland around the one month anniversary of a death, but not very often elsewhere. They even put notices in the paper before the event.  We of course have Masses offered for our departed loved ones, but I'm completely unfamiliar with this  "months mind".  I think it's a lovely custom though. Usually, the funeral follows shortly after a death, when grief is so intense it's difficult to take in everything that is happening.  I don't recall half of what transpired at the funeral of my first husband, I was in shock.

     After a month has passed however, most people are beginning to come to terms with what has happened, the process is far from over but it has begun in most cases.  I can imagine a service then bringing family members and friends together when emotions aren't so raw. Reuniting them in their grief, but also in remembrance of their lost loved one and most important of all, in support of each other.

     It seems to me the Irish have this death thing down.  Even today in Ireland, at least in the countryside, the deceased is often  "waked" at home, not in an impersonal, sanitized funeral home.  Irish persons here in the USA did likewise not so very long ago.  My Grandmother held her mother's and her uncle's wakes at her home in the late 1930's. I really dislike funeral parlors, there is something so cold and off-putting about them, (sorry funeral directors).  I've told my children not to even think about calling hours in a funeral parlor when my time comes.  I want a good old fashioned Irish wake, at home, and none of that embalming stuff either, so don't dawdle.  

     I know it's unconventional kids, but when have I ever been conventional?  Just come over, hang out with me for awhile, put on my favorite Irish tunes, and pour some Irish whiskey for whoever shows up.  Then afterwards, find a good Irish pub, relax, tell a few stories.  Maybe compose your eulogy for my funeral Mass, or take up a collection for my 7 foot Celtic cross.  And one month later, have another Mass said and hug each other.  Grandpa James and I WILL be watching.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Church Record Sunday/In Which I Find Father York and Teddy Roosevelt

    In a previous blog I described a 1927 First Communion certificate I found in a thrift store for a ridiculously low price.  I've always been enchanted by Catholic lithography with it's soft beautiful colors and gilded edges.  I still have the holy cards the sisters handed out as rewards in the classroom, along with the plastic rosaries.  Any alumnus of parochial school will remember those pale green rosaries.  So when I spotted another Communion certificate on Ebay last week I bid on it.  Actually I made an offer and it was accepted, you can do that sometimes.  

     I have three now, all of Irish children--I had to find some way to narrow the scope of the collection lest I go broke or run out of wall space.  This new one pictured above, is the certificate of little Ellen McNamara who made her First Communion at St. Brigid's in the spring of 1926 and it's signed by the Rev. John C. York.


       Naturally I wanted to test my sleuthing skills and track down Ellen McNamara -- it's what I do.  I began by typing in "Rev. John C. York" and St. Brigid as search terms on Google, hoping to find the location of the Church.  Immediately, Brooklyn, NY came up. I'm sure it's the right St Brigid's, the site also says Father John C. York was there in the 1920's.  I hoped this would narrow my search for Ellen and it did.  The 1925 New York census lists one Ellen and two Helen's of roughly the right age in Brooklyn.  

     The article I found on Google about St. Brigid's mentioned it served the Irish neighborhoods of Ridgewood and Bushwick. I found Ellen McNamara in the 1925 census living in Ridgewood.  The only problem is she was born in 1920 meaning she would have been six years old in 1926.  Six seems young to be making one's First Communion.  But after looking around the internet, I found it's definitely not unheard of.  And you know censuses and ages...

      I believe Ellen of Ridgewood is my girl, but another slight possibility is a Helen McNamara living on Lincoln Place in Brooklyn, about four miles from the Church and yet another one living on Park Place, about five miles from the Church.  Both these girls are several years older than Ellen in Ridgewood, and I really think there were closer churches than St. Brigid's they would have attended.  

     I haven't found much about Ellen's life, her father was Thomas an electrician, her mother was named Mary, and she had a younger brother James--that's about it so far.  I did find an amazing photo of Father York however, taken in 1912.  He's the one standing in front of the window, that man on the left in spectacles?  His good friend Teddy Roosevelt.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Funeral Card Friday/Limerick Funeral

    On the night of March 27, 1921, the Irish War of Independence was in full swing.  Three of Limerick's leading citizens were home with their families that evening, before morning all three would be dead and one of their wives wounded.

     The caption on the photo above reads: 
 Final prayers being uttered in the Gaelic tongue as the coffins of Irishmen killed in reprisals were committed to the Republican Plot of the cemetery in Limerick.  The bodies were those of Alderman Clancy, Mayor of Limerick; Mr. M. O'Callaghan, ex-mayor, and Mr. Joseph O'Donoghue; a prominent local Sinn Feiner.  They had been shot dead in their homes by a body of armed men.

     Translation-- That night in Limerick, the Back and Tans, members of the crown forces in Ireland, murdered the mayor and the ex mayor along with a member of Sinn Feine.   George Clancy and Michael O'Callaghan were shot dead in their own homes, Mrs. Clancy was shot trying to defend her husband from the assassins; Joseph O'Donoghue was found shot to death in the street.  No one was ever brought to justice for these crimes.  

     In case you're wondering, the "Republican Plot" was a section of the cemetery set aside for Irish patriots who supported an Irish republic apart from England.  Many cemeteries had such plots.  An Irish Republican is in no way related to the American political party of that name.

    You can find more here  -- while this link is to a preview of the book, Limerick's Fighting Story 1916-1921: Told by the Men Who Made It, most of the section written by Mrs. Clancy is readable by using the search term "curfew murders".  A few lines from the book:

     Raids were an outstanding feature of  the English campaign against Irish nationality in the years 1916 to 1921.  They usually took place late at night when the people had retired, or in the early hours of the morning; and the searchers were not provided with anything in the nature of a search warrant.  At first the armed forces were usually accompanied by a responsible police or military officer but as time went on, unauthorized raids freely took place... in the final stages of the terror, armed forces of the crown raided private houses with the set purpose of murdering prominent republicans.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Documentaries Online


I've written before about You Tube.  There is so much more to this website than rap music and Uncle Martin performing Danny Boy on his accordion.  Two documentaries I've seen and recommend are:  
Death or Canada/Fleeing the Famine

part 1    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVYdmqnYHZo
part 2    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfmhVYCJ6M U

     This is a full length documentary that tells the parallel stories of the search in modern day Toronto for the location of  a fever hospital established for Irish famine immigrants pouring into Toronto in Black '47 and the Willises, one of those immigrant families who arrived that year.  This film brought home the horror and heartbreak of the tragedy like no other film I've viewed.  The scene at the docks brought tears to my eyes.

     The second documentary is The Irish in America:Long Journey Home
part 1  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xONqZXzQ1yY
part 2  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybntHGbrPAs
part 3  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOWfr9Ysuok

     This aired on PBS a few years ago, and like all their documentaries is very well done.  It opens with the famine and continues on through the 20th century.  The story of Al Smith, and his attempt to become the first Catholic president figures prominently.

     Lastly, I want to mention a short Irish film, around 15 minutes in length about the Portumna workhouse.  It's very informative, and I found the lilt of the Irish voices of the narrators alone made it worth viewing.  There's so much to be found at You Tube, from history to travelogues--take a look around.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Hey Santa


     I was reading a genealogy blog purporting to list the best Christmas gifts for genealogists, first on the list?  A freaking cookbook.  Are you kidding me?  Who has time to cook? I have ancestors to find.  Another suggestion was a book called A Cup of Comfort For Christmas, which kinda sounds like a rip-off of the Chicken Soup books, then there were some downloadable family tree charts, ho hum...the only thing on the list I found interesting was the Flip-Pal mobile scanner, now that could be useful.

Finding most of the suggested gifts  so uninspiring, I decided to make my own list--

1) I'm willing to bet those bozos dedicated civil servants at the NYS Department of Health haven't thought of this -- gift cards!  Can you imagine?  No longer would I receive puzzled looks and blank stares when I request death certificates for Christmas.

2) I lack the time to sweep my floor everyday, so these little babies would come in handy.  I could sweep every time I got up to refill my coffee mug

3) I'm always writing notes to myself which I promptly lose, so sticky notes are a must--these even have categories and a built in excuse in the bottom right hand corner

4) Fuzzy Bunny!  I occasionally clean my desk and computer screen, this adorable bunny gets the job done and leaves a "zesty lemon scent" according to the advert.  He could also double as a lemon scented punching bag when I can't find my dead relatives in a census I know they should be in

5) I spend enormous amounts of time in cemeteries, and naturally I take copious notes while I'm there.  With this attractive notebook they would all be in one place

    There you have it, my top five Christmas gifts for the genealogists on your list.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Egyptians in Ireland

     The Irish were Egyptians? Do tell. This popular ditty was copyrighted in the 1920's, meaning the copyright has long expired--leaving me free to publish the lyrics here:

I've studied things Egyptic
Those writings weird and cryptic
Upon the tombs that dot Sahara's sands,
I've solved each strange inscription
Left by each wise Egyptian
And hold the mystic secret in my hands:
The Irish were Egyptians long ago,
Just read between the lines and you will know

It must have been the Irish who built the Pyramids
For no one else could carry up the bricks.
It must have been a Doyle
That dug the river Nile,
For no one but an Irishman would fight a crocodile.

I think those Micks were Turks,
Mohammedans and Gurks.
They speak of "Irish Turkey" till today,
Cleopatra was a colleen who came from Conamarra,
She lost her nationality while roaming the Sahara,
So all the Hooligans and all the Dooligans
Must have been Egyptians long ago.

     Cute huh?  It made me chuckle a little, but then I started thinking--what if there was a grain of truth here?  So I powered up the ThinkCenter (that actually is the name of the computer we use here at Ellie's Ancestor's, I'm not making that up) and found some evidence.

     Claudius Ptolomy (you may have heard of him) was a Greek who lived in Egypt, and it was there in the early second century he wrote his Geographia, a sort of atlas of the known world.  It includes in its maps what is believed to be Ireland.  This seems to imply the Egyptians must have had knowledge of Ireland at an even earlier date since it would take awhile to explore an island well enough to map it accurately.

     And how about this?  In the 1950's a Dr. Sean O'Riordan of Trinity College conducted a dig at the Mound of the Hostages at Tara.  He found a burial site containing skeletal remains wearing beads that were made in the very same way as the beads worn by King Tut (you may have heard of him too).  Even the designs on the beads were identical to those of the boy king.

     And speaking of Egyptian royalty, the story of Scota has been around a long time.  It appears in the Annals of the Four Masters which by the way, have been proven accurate on many matters over the years.  If you aren't familiar with the Annals, also known as the Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland, briefly--they were compiled in the 1600's mostly from existing annals though some of the writing is original.  A Franciscan Brother, Michael O'Clery, assisted by three laymen scoured the island painstakingly copying any historical manuscripts they could find. The result of their labors was the iconic Annals.

     But back to Scota.  The Annals have this to say--  "The age of the world 3500.  The fleet of the sons of Milidh [Milesius of Spain] came to Ireland at the end of this year, to take it from the Tuatha-De-Dannans, and they fought the battle of Sliabh Mis with them on the third year after landing.  In this battle fell Scota, the daughter of Pharaoh, wife of Milidh; and the grave of Scota is between Sliabh Mis and the sea."  Scota's sons were ultimately victorious and their sons and grandsons became kings of Ireland.  It's also said that Scotland was named for Scota.

Fragment of Psalter
     In more recent times, the Irish National Museum announced in September of 2010 that a 1,200 year old psalter found in an Irish peat bog, was written on Egyptian papyrus and enclosed in a leather Egyptian binding.
     So was there contact between Ireland and Egypt?  Were the old Irish kings descendants of an Egyptian Pharaoh?  Well, the distance between the two countries seems far easier to traverse than the miles St. Brendan and his crew traveled across the north Atlantic to discover America.  From Egypt to Spain was a short pleasant sail across the Mediterranean, and from Spain to Ireland was an easy journey.  My money is on the Four Masters.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Madness Monday/Smith...Nuff Said?

Edwin left and his brother Harold Smith

      Smiths—a lot of us have them, so how do we trace them?  My late husband was a Smith. I have some family photos his mother gave me, but finding the story of these people was not so easy.  I wanted to trace this line mostly for my children, and partly just to prove I could do it.

Chester Eliphalet Smith and wife Mary Mol
     Of course I started with the present and worked back in time.  I knew my husband’s grandfather’s name was Edwin, and Edwin’s father was Chester.  I found Chester E. in the 1900 census in Macedon, NY.  He was then a recently married man born in Michigan, his parents were both born in New York and his new wife Mary was an immigrant from Holland. The1905 NYS census showed Chester's family now included a young son named Edwin! I had the right Smith family.  Looking around a little more I found Chester’s middle name, Eliphalet.  This would turn out to be a real stroke of luck.  There were a lot more Chester Smiths than I had bargained on, but Eliphalet Smiths? Not so many.  And I figured Eliphalet just had to be a family name; why else would anyone hang that on a child?  

      I actually did find a few Eliphalet Smiths but none seemed likely to be Chester E.’s father.  I wasn’t having much luck in New York censuses, so I turned to Michigan.  That is where I found another Chester--Chester Hyde Smith and his wife Frances, and there with them was Chester E!  Even better was an old history of Genesee County Michigan, wherein a Charles Lillie told the writers this about his parents--

     "E. F. Lillie and his wife Sarah (Gale) Lillie were both natives of the state of New York, where they grew up and were married.  He was of Scotch-Irish descent... one daughter, Frances, married Chester Smith." 

     Frances’ maiden name was Lillie, and her father?  E.F. Lillie was in fact Eliphalet Freemon Lillie!  No wonder I never found an Eliphalet Smith, it was a name from the maternal Lillie line.

      I’m not sure who Chester Hyde’s parents were.  From what he told the census taker, they were born in Vermont.  There are an awful lot of Smiths in Vermont, and though I know Chester Hyde was born in New York in 1820, those early censuses were head of household only-- which means church records are required here, baptismal records--but which ones?  From what town?  Chester Hyde isn’t in the census as a child and I don’t know what his father’s name was.  There was a Chester Smith living in Yates County, New York in 1830-1850 who could be his father, the 1850 census says he was from Vermont--that may be a good place to start looking for church records. 

       A young adult “Chester H. Smith” turns up in Calhoun County Michigan in 1850, married to a woman named Alina.  The 1860 census shows him married to Susan and also shows twenty two year old Mary Carver Nettleton, sixteen year old Willie Nettleton and three year old Charles S. Nettleton in the household.  By 1870 Susan is gone and Chester H. is now married to Frances though Charles is still with him, albeit with the surname Smith.  It could be Charles' middle initial S. was for Smith all along and he was a nephew. The other Nettletons are not mentioned.

     I don’t want to give the impression that this was a snap, it took me many weeks of digging to find the sources and piece it all together and obviously there is lots more to check out, but I’m happy to have gotten this far.  And these aren’t my relatives anyway, my kids should take it from here, I’ve given them a good start right?