Thursday, April 30, 2015

The NLI Sets A Date!


      Notice to friends and family-- if you are planning any reunions, weddings, parties or other soirees this summer, they must be completed before Monday, July the sixth.  I will be unavailable after that date and for the foreseeable weeks months afterwards.  The National Library of Ireland has finally announced that the digital images of nearly 400,000 pages of Catholic parish registers will go online July 8, 2015!  This is such wonderful news, I'm downright giddy.

     If you'd care to read more about the launch, check this article in the Clare Champion Catholic Parish Records Online.  There won't be an index or transcriptions of the images, but this is gift enough.  And why must all social obligations to cease by the sixth?  So I can rest my eyes for the marathon computer screen viewing and formulate the best plan of examining the records of course...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Not So Scandalous After All


     Remember how as children we would play a game where we all lined up and whispered something into the ear of the child next to us and by the time it got to the end of the line the message was quite different?  Well the same thing happens in family history--it happens alot.  Things get misremembered or misunderstood and passed down the line as facts.  It doesn't take more than a few generations either.  I always heard growing up that my Grandfather's mother Maggie, who passed away when he was 18 months old, had died along with her older son in an epidemic that swept through their tiny village of Manchester, NY in 1907.  The real story was somewhat different, her son Lloyd died at age four of scarlet fever; Maggie didn't pass until two years later of blood poisoning.  As with most fables there is a grain of truth here, they did die in a short time span though not together, and there may well have been an epidemic of the scarlet fever that took little Lloyd.

     More recently I was looking at the Quigley family in Rochester, NY.  The matriarch Ann was the sister of my great-great-grandmother Maria McGarr O'Hora, and I was excited to discover this branch of the family had emigrated to the USA.  I even found a descendant of Ann's who shared some of the family lore with me.  I knew the youngest son was Daniel Quigley, and he lived with his aging mother Ann, seemingly until her death in 1913.  I say seemingly because they lived at 3 Melody St. in Rochester until 1905 after which they abruptly disappeared from the censuses. Ann was buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Rochester, and there is a website that lists all the burials, even those without stones are included since these are the original cemetery records. The thing is, Ann wasn't buried until 1913, where was she those missing years?  I couldn't locate Daniel either in 1910, so I asked my new cousin if she had any ideas.

     Her reply was mystifying.  She wrote that her mother had told her Daniel disappeared and was found dead in Buffalo, NY and she knew nothing more about him.  Looking at the cemetery website, I found that on 2 September 1916 a Daniel Quigley was buried in the same lot as Ann Quigley, but was that even "my" Ann who seemed to have left the planet before the 1910 census, being buried in 1913?

     I began searching Buffalo newspapers, and having nothing else to go on, using the year 1916 in some of the searches.  That produced nothing.  Then I did a simple search at Old Fulton Postcards for ("Daniel Quigley" 1916).  That did the trick, in the Syracuse Post Standard was this:
     The body of Daniel Quigley, which has been held at the County Morgue since he was found dead in bed Thursday morning, was sent to Rochester yesterday.

      The date of the newspaper was September 2, this was definitely the same man buried in Holy Sepulchre but I needed to be sure he was my relative, Daniel and Ann are not uncommon names and while the evidence pointed that way I wanted proof.  The phrasing of the death notice seemed to indicate that there was an earlier article about Daniel, but searches failed to bring it up.  The Old Fulton site does not allow page turning, but you can go to the index page, select a newspaper and view all the files for that publication.  The only identifiers on the files are years and numbers, and there is a file for each and every individual page, so it can be time consuming, unless you know where to start.  I right clicked on the article I had found and copied the file number.  Going to the index I selected the Syracuse Post Standard, went to the year 1916 and looked for file 4093.  Finding that, I simply skipped back 10 or 15 files to find the September 1 edition--easy peasy!  There indeed was an earlier notice of Daniel's death:
     Officials at the County Morgue late last night located a sister of Daniel Quigley who was found dead in bed at his rooming house on South Warren St. yesterday morning.  The county coroner has ruled the death due to natural causes.

     So there really was nothing nefarious about Daniel's death.  The poor fellow just died in his sleep.  He was only 50, which seems young, but then again his father only made it to 42.  I still didn't have absolute proof this was my family member though.  I figured there must have been a notice of some sort in the Rochester paper, and not finding it in a traditional search, I went back to the index.  I selected the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and looked for the September 2 edition.  This took a little longer since I had no file number, but finally I found the article.
     Daniel Quigley died in Syracuse yesterday and the body will be brought to the home of his sister Mrs. F. Deyo, he leaves another sister Ann Hennessy of Kansas City and a brother John Quigley of Atkinson Street.

     That was him alright, I recognized all those names.  I can understand why the last two articles didn't show up in the searches I ran.  The newsprint was in terrible shape, I could barely decipher most of it, but I'm confident I have it right.  As with many stories about our ancestors, there is some truth to this one, Buffalo was the wrong city, but the rest is pretty accurate.

     I'm curious where Ann and Daniel were those last years of her life, and if they were together.  The last glimpse I have of them is in the 1908 City Directory of Rochester.  Maybe the part of the story about Daniel "disappearing" is correct; perhaps after her death he wanted a change of scenery, or could it be he no longer wanted to care for his elderly mother and just skipped town?  That's not the sort of thing likely to be found in newsprint, but I'm still looking for a clue...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

This Is How They Trip You Up

     There are such wonderful things coming online these days, it's getting easier all the time to put together a quality family tree, but  you can't take everything you read at face value.  For instance, while looking through the mortality schedules on Ancestry, I came across a possible relative in Auburn, New York -- the first home to my McGarr and O'Hora ancestors upon their arrival in America. The surname O'Hora is misspelled so often that I just did a search for Auburn and left the name fields blank.  There were only a thousand or so hits, I can scan through those standing on my head.  Really though, I just skipped to the O's, H's and M's.  

     I came across a young boy named Michael O'Herron, who passed away at age 6.  Below is the transcription that came up:

     OK, he died from what?  Ahewonation?  Just on the slight chance there really was a malady with that or a similar spelling, I typed the letters into Google hoping for a definition or an auto-fill.  I did get an auto-fill, not for a disease but for a band called Awolnation, which wasn't a total loss.  I loved their song called "Sail" once I looked them up on You Tube.  (I'm easily side tracked)

     I finished dancing and returned to Ancestry, where I clicked on the actual image, expecting an unreadable jumble but this is what I saw:

     Look at the the bottom line, that is Michael's cause of death, at first glance I could see it said rheumatism.  To top it off, two lines above it is a perfect example of how the census taker formed his letter A as in "Age".  That is how he drew it in the entire document, it never varied and never looked like an R.  Obviously the first letter of the cause of death was not an A.

     The second case is the Daniel McGarr family of Owasco, NY near Auburn.  When I searched for them on Family Search in the 1850 census this is the transcription that came up:

     There is Dan at the top followed by his wife Ann and son Michael.  Then we see the "Stacia" family, Ann, Jos, Mary, Eliza, etc...  Only they're not.  Fifteen year old Ann Stacia was actually Anastasia McGarr, daughter of Dan.  The census enumerator wasn't familiar with the name Anastasia so he turned it into a forename and surname which he then bestowed on her younger brothers and sisters.

     Lastly, one of my favorites.  Were you aware that many years ago Snow White moved to Ireland and settled in Waterford?  Neither was I till I saw this transcription of a tithe applotment on the National Archives site:

     Below is the actual image: 

     Granted, the entry is difficult to read, it looks like Nih' or something, then O'Neil Power, followed by Snowhill and "han".  I'm not positive, but what I think it refers to is the O'Neil Power family of Snowhill, below is from the Landed Estate site:

     It's amazing how helpful these various sites' transcriptions can be, but remember to look for yourself, your interpretation of what the record says is just as valid as a random transcriber's.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

My Circuitous Route To Willie T. In Which I Sing The Praises Of The Internet Yet Again

     While sifting through my family notes the other day, I revisited the mystery of John Sheehan.  After he appeared in the 1870 census of Manchester, NY with his mother and brothers, he vanished.  Literally.  When his mother, my 3rd great-aunt Mary Ryan Sheehan died in 1891, her probate records noted that John's family had neither seen nor heard from him since he departed for Chicago 20 years earlier, and they believed him to be dead.  How dreadful to never know what became of your firstborn, as was Mary's fate.

     I haven't been able to find John either, perhaps he was indeed dead, but now I noticed I hadn't followed up on his brother Cornelius C. Sheehan, which is not like me.  I'm a big fan of cluster genealogy, where you examine the extended family and even the friends and neighbors of your subject. I had a good starting point for Cornelius, his obituary from 1931.  It told me that he lived in Detroit, but was in town on an extended visit to his youngest brother Terrence in Clifton Springs, NY, near Manchester, at the time of his demise. It also says he had a son named Thomas who lived in Los Angeles.  That's quite alot to go on, but I was having trouble locating him.  I did a quick search of the appropriate censuses, which turned up nothing promising.  I then looked at some city directories for Detroit and found several possibilities, but no way of knowing which if any was my man.  I returned to the 1900 census, but the prime candidate's son was named William, not Thomas.  This wasn't a great match but it was the closest I could find; indexed as Cornelius Schan,  born in March (my guy was born in August) and with a son with the wrong name.  But it just might be him, the birth year and place was correct.

1900 Detroit Census-- Cornelius 1857, Lillian 1874  and William 1899
     Since Cornelius' obituary placed his son Thomas in California in 1931, I next pulled up the California Death Index at Rootsweb and typed in, "Thomas Sheehan" (rather than William), "birth in Michigan 1899", which I knew from the above census.  The only name that came up?  William THOMAS Sheehan!  Born June 21, 1899 in Michigan,  died November 20, 1951 in Los Angeles, mother's maiden name, Putnam.  Now that I had Lillian's maiden name, I could look for a marriage.  Which I found at Family Search in their Michigan Marriage Index.  The index read, on May 15, 1895, Lillian Putman (sic) married Cornelius Sheehan from NY, the son of Mary Ryan and Terrence Sheehan Sr.  It was him alright, and get this, Con lied about his age.  He made himself five years younger on his marriage record.  He was in fact a good seventeen years older than the bride, probably why he fudged his birth year.  

     I couldn't locate this family in any more censuses, and as Con was survived by only his brother and a son, perhaps Lillian had passed away, though I couldn't find her in any death indexes.  Then it occurred to me, with that large age difference looming between them, maybe there had been a divorce.  Bingo!  Ancestry has a divorce index for Michigan and there they were.  In 1904 Lillian filed for divorce on the grounds of extreme cruelty.  I was shocked at first, but the more I thought about it, there was no such thing as no-fault divorce back then.  If you wanted out of your marriage you had to come up with a good reason, maybe he wasn't as bad as all that?  William Thomas' birth year of 1899 was a clue to look for a draft record, and in the World War 1 Draft Registration Cards at Family Search I found young William and his mother Lillian Maude Sheehan living in San Francisco in 1918.  She had come to California as a divorcee, via Seattle Washington and a second divorce from one Albert Welke.

William Sheehan's Draft Registration

      The two were in Oakland California by 1920, and Lillian was now married to George Farmer; by 1930 William was himself married to a woman named Esther and they had two children, William T. Jr. and Barbara P.  But what was Esther's maiden name?

     My first try at finding her name was a search for her marriage to William, also at Family Search.  That came up empty, but it did bring up the second marriage of their daughter Barbara which contained Esther's maiden name of Dodge.  I had better luck finding William and Esther's marriage at Ancestry, they had a copy of the marriage certificate dated 1921.  It pays to go back and forth in your searches, different sites have different databases, search engines and indexers too.  What one doesn't have the other might.

William T. Sheehan Sr. and Esther Dodge marriage

     Looking ahead to the 1930 census, William appeared to be an up and coming young real estate agent.  He lived in a Pasadena home valued at $8,000, that would be $109,200 in today's dollars. The 1940 census however would paint a very different picture.

     The great depression which racked America in the 1930's had ruined William.  Nineteen forty found him living in a rented flat in Los Angeles city with his wife and two children.  It said he had lived there in 1935 also, and his income for the year was $0.  Within eleven years he would be dead.  I'm currently looking for an obituary for William, I'm very curious what his final years were like and what his cause of death was, he was only 52 when he passed.  When I find it there will be a sequel to this story.  As always, I am astonished at the primary sources available to me as I sit here in my jammies clutching my coffee cup.  Censuses, obituaries, various certificates, draft registrations...and not transcriptions either, the real thing!  In a matter of hours I have an excellent start on the story of Cornelius C. Sheehan and his descendants.  

     To be continued...