Thursday, August 28, 2014

Oh Double Helix Of Mine


     Another birthday has come and gone.  One of the gifts I received this year was a DNA test from my son-in-law.  I've been thinking about getting one for a long time and I'm so excited!  I know very little about DNA, but I'm hoping this test will prove or disprove the rumored Native American blood in my tree.  But can it?  I'm not sure.  It would be a very small amount and over 200 years in the past.  But that's not all that long ago genetically speaking, is it?  I did some reading at Ancestry, where the test came from and I'm still not confident about what to expect.  I did learn on their site that the MT DNA test I was thinking about getting is primarily useful for tracking your maternal line's migration out of Africa 20,000 years ago, so in my case is probably not worth the cost.

     But back to the test at hand.  Here at Ellie's Ancestor's, we pride ourselves on reading directions as a last resort only.  The ones accompanying the test were very short however, and I really wanted to get this I skimmed them.  Then I started worrying--what if I had just eaten a chicken leg for dinner, would the chicken's DNA be mixed up with mine?  Would toothpaste affect the results?  So finally I read the whole thing, (all ten sentences), and yes, you should wait half an hour after eating or drinking before doing the test.  It was 10 pm when I read all this, and had eaten some popcorn and brushed my teeth so I had to wait until at least 10:30.  But around 11 I got thirsty and unthinkingly had a glass of pop, damn!  Now it would be 11:30 before I could test.  I waited an extra 20 minutes to be safe, (NOTHING must go wrong with this), and around midnight I began.

     By the way, the cheek swab thing is apparently in the past, at least over at Ancestry.  The box contained a tube with a small funnel conveniently attached into which one is required to spit.  And keep on spitting until the black line is reached, (not including bubbles), DO NOT overfill!  So of course I went over the black line.  I dumped a little out but it was too much, so back to spitting.  After what I judged to be the the right amount of spit had been deposited in the tube, I twisted the funnel off and replaced it with a cap containing a blue liquid that is released when you screw it onto the tube.  It stabilizes the DNA, and you know it's working right when the blue liquid streams into the tube with the carefully gathered spit.  This threw me again.  Was it tight enough?  I didn't want any leaks, NOTHING must go wrong with this test!  So I gave it another twist...was that a crack I heard?  Was it too tight?  I have actually broken plastic caps by twisting them too tightly, but no it was fine, whew!  Now the tube gets sealed in a little bio-hazard bag, inserted into the provided postage paid box, and mailed to the lab.

     This presented another challenge.  My local mail delivery leaves a bit to be desired.  I regularly receive mail intended for my neighbors, and on several occasions have gotten mail meant for the next town over!  I was not about to trust my precious DNA test to those yokels. Instead I took it to work and put it in my drawer, (rather than leave it in a hot car), and afterwards, mailed it from the large post office across the street.  Leaving nothing to chance, I took it inside and stood in line 20 minutes so I could place it directly in the clerk's hands.  He found this odd for some reason.

     When I arrived home I returned to Ancestry's site to register my test's numbers.  You are a number, not a name as far as the test is concerned. have to log in to do this, so it seems to me they know exactly who you are, but since I have no outstanding warrents and no immediate plans to commit a felony I'm not really concerned by this.  What did concern me was making sure I got the numbers on my test entered correctly, so I went over it several times and then made my husband triple check it.  DNA is nerve wracking!

     Now all I have to do is wait.  The web site said 6 to 8 weeks, so I figure I'll have my results by Halloween.  Which somehow seems very appropriate.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday's Tip/Don't Lose Those Maybes


      I sometimes tend to be slightly disorganized.  And frankly, my short term memory is nothing to boast about, so I tend to misplace things...and people.  Occasionally I come across an individual in church records or a census and think, this person could very well be a sister or brother, parent, cousin--somehow related to an ancestor I'm researching.  So what do I do?  I begin researching this new person to see if I can find a connection of course, all the while scribbling notes hopefully in a notebook, but often as not it's on a piece of scrap paper because I'm not sure this person is even  a family member and then I promptly loose said piece of paper or forget which notebook my notes are in.  Even if I place my notes in a word document I am perfectly capable of misplacing the file,  though I'm getting much better at using consistent labeling.

     Having tired of this, I now enter the person of interest where I think they may fit in my family tree using my genealogy software.  I make a note that this is an unproven relationship, and insert my notes.  Sometimes I even make the person's middle name "Maybe" just to amuse myself.  This accomplishes two things, when I want to resume my research on this person the notes are at my fingertips, and it also serves to remind me, (because of that short term memory thing),
there is a possible relative out there I need to keep in mind. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Those Places Thursday/Grandmother's Bed


     When I was small, I spent alot of time with my Grandmother Mary O'Hora.  Grandma had two sons, her sister Alice also had two sons.  Then I came along and Grandma had won the lottery--finally a little girl!  A snapshot of my first birthday shows a barely visible small girl's face peering out from a sea of teddy bears and frilly baby dresses.  

     My Mother had several illnesses during my childhood, and it was to Grandmother's house I always went to be taken care of.  Her house was an old one compared to my parent's 50's ranch home, with plaster walls, a chopped up floor plan featuring the ubiquitous front parlor, and a weird antique heating system.  Coming into Grandma's house on a snowy winter day was a real treat--there in the middle of the floor was a giant grate situated over the furnace in the basement.  I used to make straight for it and stand there letting the heat envelope my cold little bones.  The heating on the second floor consisted solely of openings in the floor covered by grates so heat from the first floor could rise to the upper regions of the house.  This was a wonderful arrangement because the opening in the bathroom on the second floor was located directly above the kitchen sink down on the first floor.  My brother and I spent many hours eaves-dropping while below us Mother, Grandma and assorted Aunts chatted and gossiped as they prepared countless family meals over the years, no one ever looked up thank goodness.

     There was however, one downside to the whole,"hole in the floor", as heating system.  The upstairs was cold-- quite cold in the winter months.  Not freezing, but definitely chillier than my 50's ranch house dwelling self was accustomed to.  On overnight visits my brother and I had a room with twin beds heaped with blankets.  But when it was just me I got to snuggle in Grandma's bed.  It seemed huge, at home I had a little twin bed like the one in Grandma's other bedroom.  But even better, I got to hear about Grandma using bed warmers as a child, and other wonderful stories about her life on the farm where she was born; descriptions of the older generation I never had a chance to meet, with their lilting Irish accents I never got to hear. I loved those nights when it was just Grandma and me.

     Grandmother passed away suddenly one day, of an aneurism near her heart.  I was a grown woman with children of my own, but it was devastating.  My whole life Grandma had always been there, spoiling my children just as she had spoiled me.  A few years later Grandfather followed her, and some of their furniture was sold, and some hauled to my parent's basement.  It was strange, right there were all their possessions, but where were they?  It didn't sit right that those "things" should outlast something as precious as their lives.  It still doesn't.  One of the pieces of furniture stored in the basement was the bed Grandma and I had shared on those long ago nights of my childhood.  Now my bed.  

     Yes, I brought it home and I sleep in it every night.  It's not an expensive bed, nor would I consider it an antique, though I now hear it referred to as "mid-century".  It's solid, sturdy oak and has a bookcase headboard which comes in very handy considering how much I like to read before slumber.  Just typical 50's blonde wood furniture, but it's our bed, Grandma and me, and I wouldn't trade it for the finest antique.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What Was In The Attic


     Sitting at my desk here at Ellie's Ancestors headquarters today, it occurs to me I've sort of gotten away from my Irish research lately.  The problem with Irish research being, there are so few resources left unchecked.  I have scoured church records, tithe applotments, Griffiths Valuation, (original and cancelled books), the few census records that remain, and civil registration indexes.  I have checked newspapers here and in Ireland, checked indexes for Irish estate records, (unsuccessfully I might add), Irish court records, (had some luck there with my hooligan ancestors), and local histories on both sides of the Atlantic.  I'm sure there are other more obscure records, but nothing springs to mind.  Feel free to comment here.

     Anyway, I thought I'd do a general Google search for James O'Hora, my great-great-grandfather who came to America from Ricketstown, County Carlow during the famine.  I hadn't done one in awhile and something may have been posted.  Nope.  All I found were posts by myself and a few news articles, also mostly provided by myself.  I can't understand why no one else seems to be researching this line?  Or my McGarr line for that matter?  Browsing a site to which I had sent James' obituary years ago, I came across obits for the O'Brien family.  The O'Brien's lived next door to the O'Hora farm in a wee place called appropriately enough, Littleville.  There were pictures too, so I thought I'd share them here, father and son:

Patrick O'Brien Sr.
Patrick W. O'Brien


    The elder Patrick was born in County Galway.  He was about the same age as Grandpa James and moved to his farm about the same time Grandpa purchased his.  Their children were of similar ages also, and I'd be willing to bet they were happy to have each other in the neighborhood.  A little slice of home as it were.  While his father contented himself with running his large farm, Patrick the younger was a produce dealer, salesman and active in Democratic party politics,  While the obituaries of both indicate they were popular, well-liked members of the community, Patrick W. never married, and his obituary held a shocker right there in the first sentence, "the death ... occurred at Willard State Hospital".   Anyone of a certain age living in the Finger Lakes region of New York, will feel a chill run down their spine at the mere mention of that "hospital".  It was in fact an asylum for the mentally ill, the last place you would expect a well liked industrious young man to end his days at the age of only 51.  Like most of the inmates who came or were committed to Willard, Patrick W. never left, though unlike many he had family who at least saw to his burial.

     When New York State closed Willard in 1995, workers discovered  hundreds of dusty suitcases in an old abandoned building. They had lain there for half a century, some much longer, since their owners had been admitted.  They held bits and pieces of former lives that had slowly faded away behind the locked doors of the asylum. The suitcases were cataloged and later organized into an exhibit.  You can read about it here, and also click on the link "suitcases" in the top bar to see some of them and read about the people who once owned them.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Finding Those Newspapers


 I am still being stymied in my attempts to find an obituary and/or cause of death for my 4th great uncle Milo Galloway.  You may recall Milo became a very wealthy man during the period the Erie Canal was being built across New York, only to lose his fortune in a lawsuit.  Milo died just eight days after the judgement came down, which of course piqued my curiosity.  Actually it's driving me to distraction that I can't figure out what happened!

     There are some great websites full of newspapers out there, but not for the years I need, they seem to dance all around the year 1857.  I found one at the Old Fulton site called, "The Wayne Democratic Press", but there was no mention of Milo's death, and I didn't just do a search, I pulled up the files for June of 1857, and I read every page of that paper with a fine toothed comb.  Nothing!  Zip!  It's crazy that a wealthy, well known man passes away and there is not a word in the paper, how could that be?  Did the shock of losing his fortune cause a stroke?  Apoplexy? A psychotic break and suicide?  Then I found this in the Rochester, NY newspaper, that I also searched for Milo's death:

The citizens of Newark, Wayne Co., were thrown into great excitement this morning in consequence of the announcement of the suicide of Hon. Esbon Blackmar, not only a prominent citizen of Wayne Co., but well known throughout Western New York. On Monday last Mr. B. was compelled to yield to the pressure of the times, and make an assignment. It is supposed that his financial embarrassments so depressed his spirits as to cause him to commit self-destruction. The lifeless body of Mr. B. was found in a spring or shallow well in the cellar of his house. His head was downward, and the feet projecting just above the surface of the water. Mr. Blackman represented his district in congress some ten years since, and was widely known and esteemed as a man of ability, and integrity. He was largely engaged in banking, and in produce dealing.

     Esbon Blackmar just happened to have been a business associate of Milo!  They had several land deals together... now I was really curious.  If Esbon could do away with himself why not Milo?  I needed to find that obituary, but I didn't know where to look next. Then I thought of the New York Newspaper Project. With the proliferation of newspaper sites, the project has been discontinued, but the index is still online here. Click on the county you're interested in and a list of newspapers and the years they were published, arranged by town, will appear. The papers themselves are not online, but the index at least tells you what is available for the time period and location you need, and which repositories have the microfilm.  If none of the repositories are near you,  you can borrow the film through inter-library loan from the New York State Library, the compilers of the index.

     Using the index this morning, I have located two likely newspapers.  Now I just have to get my hands on those films.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tombstone Tuesday/Ella Ryan Glossender of Palmyra, NY

      When my great-great-grandfather Philip Power arrived in America from Cullen Castle, County Waterford in 1874, he had two sisters already here--Ellen and Mary.  Mary Power married Thomas Ryan in Palmyra, NY, and they had two daughters.  The oldest daughter, Catherine Ryan, married a local businessman named Riffenburg, and lived a comfortable life, her sister Ella was not so fortunate. Ella's husband left her and her 23 year old daughter Blanche committed suicide.  One year after her child's death, Ella drank herself to death at the age of 46.  The cause given on her death certificate was gastritis, heart failure, drinking habit.

     Ella rests in St. Anne's Cemetery in Palmyra, or rather she rests  just outside it as you can see from the picture.   The priest in Palmyra was not amused by Ella's antics and refused to bury her in sacred ground.