Saturday, February 28, 2015

One Happy Family--In Which Dad Is Proven Right

Ryan reunion circa 1920 New York State

     While I was growing up, I remember my father used to say that all the Irish people in our hometown of Manchester, New York were related either by blood or marriage.  I never paid much attention to that, but I'm starting to think he may have been on to something.  As you know, my Gunn ancestors have been getting all the press lately, and last night I worked on that line til the wee hours.  What I found was amazing.  My recently discovered Aunt Johanna Gunn/O'Connor (1852-1906), who lived and died in Listowel, Kerry had a son William O'Connor, who came to America and lived with Johanna's sister Mary Gunn/Power (my 2X great-grandma) in Manchester.  Upon reading William's obituary, I found that his sister Mary O'Connor had also immigrated!  She married Maurice Mahoney and lived in Palmyra, NY just a few miles from her brother William. 

     Mary and Maurice Mahoney had six children, including a daughter named Marguerite (1916-2010).  Marguerite grew up in Palmyra, and in 1945, she married a young man from Limerick named James C. Quinn who was living at the time with relatives in Manchester.  In 1953, their son James Quinn Jr. was born in Manchester.  He was a few years older than me, but I knew Jim.  I went to school with Jim.  We had the same circle of friends and hung out together and we never knew we were cousins!  (I'm glad we never dated or went to the prom or anything.) Third cousins once removed to be precise--so I guess if we had dated it wouldn't have been icky.  There may also be a connection by marriage to the Mahoney family; Mary Gunn/Power's husband Philip, from County Waterford, had a sister named Ellen who married Thomas Mahoney in 1871 in Palmyra.

     This isn't the first instance of this sort of thing I've found.  Sarah Browne, the sister of Mary Gunn/Power's mother Margaret, married Michael Griffin in Palmyra, and their son Michael married Anna Ryan, daughter of my great-great- uncle Andrew Ryan from Tipperary.

     I know this is cliche, but it really is a small world.  Now I need to go tell my father he was right...

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday's Photo/ John Joseph Gunn Of Rochester, NY

John J. Gunn

      I've been spending a good deal of time on my Gunn ancestors this past week, and came across this grainy photograph in the Rochester, NY Democrat & Chronicle from January of 1918.  John was the oldest son of Francis Gunn, the baby brother of my 2nd great grandmother Mary Gunn Power from County Kerry.  Francis came to the USA in 1885 and was a "motorman" in Rochester.  Once here, he married Elizabeth Bunce from Tarbert which is near Ballygologue, Francis' hometown in Kerry.  Their first child, John J. pictured above was born in 1894.

     John joined the Navy during World War1 and was home on furlough when the above picture appeared in the newspaper.  When the 1920 census was taken, John was residing with his parents and working as the foreman of a bakery.  The 1930 census finds him still at home at age 36 working as a railroad agent.

     I couldn't find John in the 1940 census.  His sister, Sister Cecilia Vincent, of the Sisters of St. Joseph named Mr. and Mrs. John J. Gunn of Williamsport, Pennsylvania on her contact list however.  He must have married rather late in life and left the state.  The contact list is not dated, but her obituary in 1948 doesn't mention John so perhaps he was deceased by 1940?  

     Recalling that the Old Fulton Postcards site has newspapers from PA, I ran a search there and sure enough, there was John's obituary in 1940 along with another photograph.

     I also found his wedding in the newspaper, on October 17, five and a half years before his death he had married Margaret Lynch of Elmira, NY, a librarian twelve years his junior.  How sad their marriage was cut so short, not to mention his life--he was only 46 when he died.  Margaret carried on, and five years after John's death she married Dr. Philip Reilly.  I feel fortunate to have found not only one, but two pictures of John.  He must have been someone fairly well known in his day, at least locally.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Unknown John Gunn Now Known?


     I think I may have the identity of John Gunn aged 20 who appeared in the census pictured in yesterday's blog.  I returned to the Irish site where I found a John Gunn being baptized in Listowel in 1879.  He was the son of John Gunn and Debora Neill.  His godfather was George Gunn, and there was indeed a brother named George in this family.  I'm not sure he was exactly godfather material, but who am I to judge?

     If  the elder John Gunn is in fact another son of Margaret Browne and John Gunn, his birth would most likely fall into the large gap between George who was born in 1854, and my 2nd great-grandmother Mary Gunn/Power, born six years later in 1860.  I have found both of their baptisms on the site, along with those of their siblings Sarah and Francis but nothing for John or Johanna.  Of course their records could have been mis-trancribed or illegible. 

     I've found some interesting, though confusing entries for my Gunn family in the church records.  There is a connection of some sort with the Stack family, and many Brownes are mentioned as godparents and witnesses, but who were they?  Sisters, cousins, brothers, uncles--it's impossible to tell from just the church registers.  But every name helps, and may turn up in another document that makes the relationship clearer, like yesterday's 1901 census that spelled out Johanna was Margaret's daughter.  And a scrapbook in an historian's office in America that informed me Sarah Browne Griffin was Mary Gunn/Power's aunt.  Sometimes you get lucky!

     Below is the baptism of Ellen Nash, quite likely the same Ellen Nash who was godmother to John Gunn at the top of this page.  Her mother was Bridget Browne, (a sister of Margaret?) and her godfather was John Gunn, (Margaret's husband?).  I wish the godmother was included here, but alas.

     While we are on the subject of names, some records use the spelling "Gun" and others "Gunn".  I'm sticking with the double n for continuity though if I come up empty in a search I try the single n spelling also.  I'm hopeful that when the actual images of the church registers come online this summer (keeping my fingers crossed) I will find more on this and other families.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Aunt Johanna Found At Last


    My favorite source for church records of my Kerry ancestors is Irish and it's absolutely free.  A few days ago I began putting together a narrative for my Gunn relatives from Ballygologue in Listowel Parish. The earliest ancestors I have found in this line are my 3rd great-grandparents John Gunn and Margaret Browne, both born around 1820.  In researching family members who had immigrated, I found in the 1910 US census of Manchester, NY, Mary Gunn Power, my 2nd great-grandmother and the daughter of John and Margaret. Included in her household was a William O'Connor.  I remembered seeing those names together in the online church records of Listowel, so I did another check.  In 1878 Mary Gunn was godmother to William Connor.  

The mother of the infant was Johanna Gunn.  Her address?  Ballygologue!  Johanna had to be a relative of Mary's, either a sister or at least a cousin.

     Not finding her in any US records, I tended to believe Johanna had remained in Kerry; and if she did, a record of her death could conceivably be found in the Civil Registration Index.  I came up with five possibilities, assuming she was still in Listowel Parish.  All but one of the five, whose death occurred in 1888, were individuals who should be enumerated in the 1901 Irish census.  Turning to the National Archives site, I found ten or twelve Johanna Connors of the right age in 1901 Kerry, but only one lived in Listowel.  I pulled up the transcription and was excited to find some similar names, until I noticed they were grandchildren of Johanna, not her children.  Also in the household was a Margaret Green.  I continued searching, looking next at the 1911 census where I found no likely hits.  Returning to the 1901 entry that had seemed so promising I now noticed that Margaret Green was the head of this household and the mother of Johanna. That seemed to rule out this Johanna as a sister of my Mary Gunn/Power.

    Then I got up for coffee and wandered upstairs to find my reading glasses.  I have my prescription lenses and dollar store cheapies lying all over the house to avoid having to search, but as usual they were all upstairs.  After donning them and sitting back down, I discovered the transcribed name wasn't Margaret Green at all, it was Margaret "Geen".  Geen isn't a surname I've ever heard, but it is awfully close to Gun.  I clicked on the Household Return to view the original document, and there they were!  

     The grandchildren were Margaret's, not Johanna's as in my visually impaired state I had initially thought.  And as you can see above, Margaret's name was indeed Gun not Geen.  William Connor was there too, living with his mother and grandmother before sailing off to his Aunt Mary in America. Finding this census record confirmed that Johanna was a sister of Mary and uncovered another child of Johanna's -- Mary, whom I was previously unaware of.  What I didn't find was also useful; not finding them in the 1911 census tended to confirm that the Margaret Gun I found in the Civil Registration death index from1904 was in fact my 3rd great-grandmother, narrowed the death date for Margaret's husband John since she was widowed in 1901, and also indicated that the Johanna O'Connor who died in Listowel in the spring of 1906 was most likely the right one since the others I located were still alive when the 1911 census was taken.  It also confirms that with the exception of Grandma Mary and her brothers George and Francis, the Gunn family stayed in Ireland.

     I think I'll pick up some more cheap readers next time I'm out...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

My Disappointment Knows No Bounds


     My Father's long awaited DNA results came back!  At last, the truth concerning rumors of Native American ancestry in his family tree would be revealed.  I was very excited when several months earlier, the GEDMatch site found traces of "Amerindian" DNA in my sample.  So excited, that I immediately got Dad a kit for Christmas, (as did quite a few other people apparently, I waited a long time for the processing). The first thing I did when Ancestry finished his test, was upload the file to GEDMatch.  But when the GEDMatch analysis came in, Dad's results were quite different than mine in one area--not a drop of Native DNA was detected.  None!  I would think that if I had gotten mine from him, at least a smidge would have been present.  I couldn't very well have inherited it from him if he had none ... what a let down. Uncle George was probably a teller of untruths.  The historian from South Bristol, New York, (where Uncle George lived), had indicated as much back in 2009 when she mentioned the rumors while skeptically raising an eyebrow, but I couldn't quite let it go.
     So where did my Native American DNA come from?  Is it a mistake, background noise?  Did it come from Mom?  Mother passed away several years ago so testing her is out, although with her dark hair, eyes, and complexion she more closely resembled a Native American than my Irish dad does.  After days of surfing and studying, I think the answer is much more pedestrian; in spite of all the hoopla and promises from the testing companies, using DNA to discover one's ethnicity is still an inexact science.  While it's a great tool for finding cousins and other relatives, when it comes to finding ethnicity...meh, not so much.  

     Although my DNA tested about how I expected it would, based on what I'd found in the traditional way, the "trace" areas that came up were questionable. All the companies use the DNA of their own pool of living people from around the world to compare with test results. They don't use older DNA that might possibly be somewhat different.  But outside of raiding ancient burial sites and testing the remains for DNA, it's about as close as we're going to get for now.  This is why different companies will sometimes come up with dissimilar results for the same DNA sample.

    Searching my DNA matches on Ancestry by surname, I've found several cousins, and Dad is right at the top of my list so I believe the tests are accurate.  As I jokingly told him, "You're my father all right, in case you were wondering." 


Monday, February 2, 2015

Word Spreads


      Two years ago I was searching for the parents of my 2nd great grandfather Morgan Lash who was born in 1823 in Dutchess County, New York, and having no luck.  I looked everywhere I could think of, from Ancestry to Family Search to plain old Google searches.  I scoured newspapers, online books, and census records without finding anything substantive.  There were lots of mentions of him, but the trees ended there.  With so many references to Morgan, surely someone had thought to check his death certificate?  But having nothing to lose, (except $22 and the frustration of dealing with the NY Department of Health and their backlog), I coughed up the money and mailed the application.

     Since I was sure another researcher must have already checked this document and found the space for parent's names blank, I was utterly surprised to find, on it's arrival, Henry Lash and Sarah Fiddler!  I contacted a fellow Lash researcher and shared the information with him, which I soon came to regret as he was definitely not into reciprocity and never shared anything with me, (don't you hate that?).  He sure shared what I had sent him though.  If you look at those websites today you will find Henry and Sarah on all of them.  I'm not complaining here, sharing is a good thing and anyway I would have posted the information myself eventually.  Building on the puzzle pieces you find yourself and those found by others is how we can advance our research more quickly.

     What I am thinking, is how amazing this internet is.  In a relatively short time, the information I found is everywhere!  I'm also thinking how fortunate we are to have this fabulous tool which makes tracing our ancestors is so much easier than back when we had to send letters to courthouses and churches and hope for a response.  My young grandchildren on the other hand take the net for granted, and why wouldn't they?  The TV I take for granted was a pretty big deal for my father's generation.  I don't think I will ever get over my fascination with this wonderful invention on which I spend far too much time.  Like today--as a late winter snowstorm pounds Rochester, New York, and that darn groundhog saw his shadow predicting six more weeks of winter, I will be basking in the glow of my computer screen, I love technology.