Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tuesday's Tip/Misspelled Place Names

     I'm sure you've come across this scenario in your research, I have numerous times--you find a record with a place name that seems to exist only in the imagination of the parish priest or other local official.  For instance, I found a baptism that took place in Baltinglass Parish, County Wicklow.  The parent's address was Crossnacool.  I excitedly looked for Crossnacool on the net, but it seemed to be a mythical place.

     An easy solution that often works is to try Google Maps.  Using the search term Baltinglass Wicklow Google Maps on Google brings up a map of Baltinglass naturally.  But one of the options in the box that appears in the upper left corner is "Search Nearby".  Selecting that option, I typed in the first seven letters of Crossnacool and found Crossnacole, obviously the right name for the townland.  

     The beauty of this method is that county borders do not enter into the equation, useful when as in the case of Baltinglass, the parish encompasses several counties and the place could be in either one of them.  As long as the townland is in the vicinity it will appear. This also eliminates the extra step of having to check the locations of possible townlands you might find in compiled lists to see if they're even in the right neighborhood.

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 http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~irlcar2/Baptism_Rathvilly.htm

     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 of Plymouth Plantation

     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.