Thursday, December 29, 2016

Tuesday's Tip On Thursday

     I just figured this one out, and couldn't wait five more days to share it with you.  Especially since those holiday gifts of DNA kits will be making their appearance on in the coming weeks.
     You know how you open your DNA page and find a promising match to your kit only to discover the other person has no family tree to compare with yours?  Sometimes there is a way around that.  Click on the kit anyway, and the box below will appear--

     Just because the match has no tree attached to their DNA kit doesn't necessarily mean they don't have one floating around somewhere on Ancestry which they have neglected to attach.  That's not always true, but in some cases it is.  See the blue box above?  If there is a tree, you can find it by clicking there.  If there isn't, the box will be green and prompt you to suggest to the other party they add one.  Slick advertising huh?

     Wishing everyone a wonderful, discovery filled New Year and many DNA matches!

Monday, December 12, 2016

When It All Comes Together

George & Mary A. Vincent Matteson With Children

     We here at Ellie's Ancestors Headquarters in snowy upstate New York are hard at work sorting out the children of my 3rd great-grandparents Thomas Vincent and Matilda Taylor.  I'm pleased to say another child has been accounted for, I'm 99% sure.  Best of all, there are tons of pictures of this person online!  I never find pictures, this is very exciting.

     Mary Augusta Vincent, born in 1838 was the seventh child in her family; she can be found with her mother Matilda and step-father Rockwell Rood in 1850 and 1855.  I cannot locate her in 1860, but in 1865 she is living with her sister Louisa Hurd and her family in Cohocton, Steuben County, New York.  After that the lady vanishes.  I searched census returns, Find A Grave, cemetery records, newspapers, all the data I have on her siblings--there was no trace of Mary Augusta after 1865.

     I ran broad searches on and Family with very little in the way of results, except in Ancestry Family Trees.  There, in several trees I found a woman of the right age named Mary A. Vincent who married George Washington Matteson and went homesteading in Nebraska.  Many of the trees said her parents were Abram and Mahala Vincent of Brant, Erie County, New York while a few claimed a David Vincent from England and his wife from Ireland were Mary's parents.  All available census records for Mary Vincent Matteson say her parents were both born in New York -- that ruled out David from England.  There was indeed a Vincent family in Brant, NY headed by Abram Vincent, with him were Mahala and a daughter Mary A. born in 1835. This was certainly the family indicated in the Ancestry trees, but was this Mary A.Vincent really the future wife of George W. Matteson?

     One way to prove she wasn't, (and help prove Mary Augusta was), was to figure out what had became of Abe & Mahala's Mary.  To do that I spent hours searching for clues.  I found that Mary Vincent of Brant did not appear in any census in New York after 1855.  Where was she in 1860?  The online trees all said Mary and George were married in July of 1865 and that seemed right, their first child was born in 1866.  I did find George Matteson in NY State's 1865 census taken in June, a month before his wedding, living with his parents in Cortland County.  If Mary of Brant had really married George in '65 she should have been in the 1860 census under her maiden name.  On the other hand, I couldn't find Mary Augusta that year either.  Two of the trees said the marriage occurred in Steuben Country, the sources being a pension record and a church record although neither was provided with the tree.  Still, remember who was living in Steuben County in 1865... Mary Augusta!

     Now, hoping that Mary of Brant had married and stayed local, I did a search of the 1860 census of Brant for any woman named Mary, no last name, born 1835 +/- 5 years.  Surprisingly, there were only a few after weeding out the ones who were still living with their parents.  I was able to narrow it down to three possibilities.  Two of them didn't pan out, but Mary the wife of James Stevens was another story.  I found the couple in Brant in 1860, then in Evans, Town of Angola just a few miles away for following censuses.  Find A Grave gave me her death date and the tantalizing clue, "Mary V. Stevens",  V for Vincent?  I discovered her children's names, obituaries and other articles, but nothing to indicate who Mary Steven's parents were, though her obituary in an Angola newspaper contained what would prove to be the break I needed.

Mrs. Mary Stevens, widow of James Stevens, died at the home of her daughter Mrs. Jesse Stone in Conneaut, Ohio at age 90...

      Using this information I was able to find her daughter Rachel Stone's death notice that indicated her passing took place in Ohio in 1940, which led me to Ohio Death Records at

     There, near the bottom, Mother-- Mary Vincent born at Brant, New York.  Proving that Mary A. Vincent, daughter of Abram and Mahala Vincent of Brant, NY did not marry George Matteson and the censuses over the years prove she did not move to Nebraska.

     Adding all these facts to others; like Mary A. Vincent Matteson naming her first daughter Frances (Mary Augusta's sister Frances had recently died), and naming her youngest daughter Ella Augusta, and not least-- there just weren't all that many women named Mary Vincent born about 1838 in New York; especially when one considers she married a bit later than most women, at age 26, and many of her contemporaries bearing the same name were Vincents only by marriage.  The NYS census of 1865 lists only ten women named Mary Vincent in the entire state who were born between 1835 and 1839.  Of that number, five are wives, one is a daughter with her parents, one is of mixed race and one is Mary Augusta.  The other two are unlikely due to location.  Given all this evidence, I do think I've finally found Mary Augusta!  Or, Mary Augusta Vincent Matteson!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tuesday's Tip/Another Way To Research


     Hello!  It's been awhile since I posted here, I've been engrossed in my Vincent research and meeting new cousins!  The tip I want to share today has to do with research.  As I've been amassing data on this family, I've found that I needed someplace to organize it all but I didn't want to put my theories into my personal genealogy software just yet, since they are only unproven theories, and because what if tomorrow all the un-filed photographs, folders, documents, and stacks of books that have built up on my desk were to suddenly collapse and crush me?  I wouldn't want my survivors looking at that software and being led down the wrong genealogical path.  (I think about stuff like that)

     My solution was Ancestry Family Trees.  I created a Vincent tree and unlike my other trees on Ancestry, I made this one private since it contains large amounts of unproven information.  The benefit of this is twofold -- firstly, everything is organized in one place and secondly, Ancestry looks at my tree and sends me hints.  Including birth and death certificates, census records, marriage records, military records, photos, fellow researcher's trees, and family stories so far.  As new databases are added to the site, Ancestry will automatically search them for my persons of interest.  I can tweak the tree, adding and changing names to see if more tips pop up, and then change it back. The tree needn't be detailed; names, approximate dates and a location if you have one will do.  And I can delete the tree at any time or make it public.

     It's made documenting this family and storing what I find much easier and quicker than searching Ancestry's mountain of databases manually, though I wouldn't rely on it entirely since oddball spellings do pop up.  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Mary Is Maria And That S Is An L


     We've heard it a million times-- don't assume online trees are correct.  Nor should you believe family histories published, bound and sitting on a shelf in your local library are free from error.  I've even written about that very subject, so why did I assume the book about my family was right?  Not only was it NOT right, it really hampered my research since for a long time I believed that it was right.

     I've been trying to sort out the children of my third great-grandparents Thomas Vincent and Matilda Taylor of Halfmoon in Saratoga County, New York.  I'd already discovered that the information about that couple contained in the book was not correct and neither I've found, is alot of it about their children.  For instance, the book's "Mary S. Vincent" born in July of 1827 was not named Mary and her middle initial wasn't S.  She was in fact Maria L.Vincent, though the date of July 1827 was right.  How did I come to that conclusion?  First of all, I could find absolutely no mention of Mary S. anywhere except in the book which made me suspicious.  Granted, she would have been difficult to trace since she would not have appeared in any census under her own name until 1850, by which time she most likely would have been married and/or possibly deceased.  But to leave no trace at all?  That does happen, but it was too soon to give up on her.

     Whilst pondering this, I ran a search among the matches to my DNA test at Ancestry using the surname VINCENT as a filter.  One hit was for an individual with a "Maria LeCresia Vincent" born in Cayuga County, New York in their tree.  At first glance I discounted the possibility of them being related, this Maria's father was James of Dutchess and Greene Counties and her mother Mary Bullis.  None of that sounded particularly familiar, and yet...that Cayuga County birthplace gave me pause.  Cayuga County is where Thomas and Matilda Taylor Vincent were living at the time of his death in 1842.  Taking a closer look at Maria LeCresia, I saw that the online tree said she had married Isaac Corwin Price in Dix, New York.  Dix? That is where Matilda Taylor and her second husband lived following Thomas Vincent's death in Cayuga County.

     Now my curiosity was really piqued so I took a look at the New York State Census of 1855.  This is a great census, it not only gives the individual's county of birth if that birthplace was in New York State, but it also gives the individual's relationship to the head of household.  That useful bit of information doesn't show up in federal censuses until 1880.  Maria L. Price told the enumerator she was born in Saratoga County, home county of Thomas and Matilda before they moved westward in New York!  I located a news article confirming her marriage  in Dix, "Maria Louisa Vincent" was the name used.

     Following the Price family through the years I tracked their move to Farmington, Tioga, Pennsylvania; just 36 miles from Dix, New York and the births and sadly, deaths of children of Maria. Several of them with names that matched names in her Vincent family, as did Maria's name--her father Thomas had a younger sister named Maria.  The 1900 census confirmed her birth date as July 1827, but the coup de grace was the death certificate of Maria Price. Father's name?  Thomas Vincent!  The document appears to have been filled in by a barely literate person, (it was Sarah Price Bailey, daughter of Maria L.), but the name Thomas Vincent is quite clear.  Either Sarah didn't know where her mother and grandparents were born, or more likely had no idea how to spell it as she simply replied "don't know" to those questions.  She writes Maria L's mother Matilda's name as something resembling M~a even though the form asked for Matilda's maiden name and not her first.  

     Later death certificates for Maria's adult children variously  give her birthplace as Wolcott, New York, Cayuga County, New York and Montour Falls, New York.  The only document giving Maria's place of birth as Saratoga County is the 1855 census, which is the one time she herself gave the information.  I can see why the Ancestry tree got that wrong, but it does suggest she spent some time in Cayuga County, very close to Wolcott, in her youth, while Montour Falls is only eight miles from the Beaver Dams neighborhood in the Town of Dix where her mother Matilda lived.

     I'm not sure where the online tree got the names James Vincent and Mary Bullis as Maria L's parents, or the middle name of LeCresia.  I tend to think the name was probably Louisa as in the news article about her marriage, but newspapers often get that sort of thing wrong so I'm withholding final judgement on that.  I am however, convinced  I've finally found Thomas and Matilda's daughter.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday/Jane Watkins of Manchester, NY

Jane Watkins

     I almost didn't write this blog, the subject is not a pleasant one.  A short time ago I wrote about Edwin Watkins, a former slave who along with his family lived in the small town of Manchester in upstate NY.  Edwin seemed to fit right in to Manchester, he was even elected to the position of school trustee in 1865.  His son Edwin Jr. married a woman named Jane whose fate was to die in childbirth, like so many of her 19th century sisters.  Edwin Jr. eventually moved to Auburn, NY and remarried. When he died in 1921, his widow wished to receive his Civil War pension--but first she had to prove the first wife's demise.  

     The story of how some prominent men of Manchester replaced Jane's broken tombstone and sent a photo of the new stone to the pension office is told here.  Thinking that stone might be of interest in a "Tombstone Tuesday" blog I decided to seek it out.  Oddly enough the stone wasn't listed in the online cemetery inventory, but the burial records showed Jane Watkins and infant in row 32, close to my 2nd great-grandfather Paul Worden. I also had a description of it's location from the news article (see above link).

    This should be easy enough to find I thought.  After pausing to say hi to Grandpa Paul I looked and looked...nothing.  Then I spotted a stone in the extreme south west corner almost completely hidden by tree branches.  Walking over I could see no inscription at all which struck me as odd, the stone wasn't all that old?  But it was blank, not a mark to be seen.  I started back to my car then stopped.  No. They didn't.  They wouldn't.  

     I retraced my steps back to the stone, and climbing in among the branches I looked at the back.  They did.  There on the back of the stone was the name Jane; to say I was horrified would be an understatement.  All the other stones in this cemetery faced the traditional east, Jane's faced west.  I couldn't get a good shot of the inscription since there was no light in the foliage.  I guess the residents of my hometown regressed a bit between 1860 and 1921.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Finding Vincent Graves/In Which I Ruin Yet Another Manicure

Section of French Cemetery

     Thursday, October 6th dawned clear and sunny.  By mid-day when my chauffeur husband and I began the 40 mile trek to Victory, New York where French Cemetery lay, the mercury had risen into the high seventies.  Perfect weather for grave hunting.  Victory is located in Cayuga County and is a very rural place with farms and fields interspersed between wooded areas.

     As we drove deeper into the countryside I couldn't help but wonder what had compelled anyone to move there in the first place?  There was no industry, no canal, no port or railroad to draw them; all I could think is that most likely it was due to Victory being part of New York's "military tract", land the state set aside to reward Revolutionary War soldiers.  After a wrong turn or two we came upon the cemetery on a slight rise along the road.  French Cemetery is a very unassuming burial place and not terribly large, good news since I had never been there before and had no idea where my people rested.  At that point though, something unusual happened.  I stepped out of the car and began walking south, but immediately stopped.  I then turned around and quickly walked north to the far end of the cemetery, and straight to the
grave of my twice widowed 4th great-grandmother Mary Clements Vincent Howland in the back row.  I couldn't even read her stained stone until I was standing right in front of it, but something drew me to that spot.

     Before we left home I had pulled up the online inventory of the cemetery and given my husband a list of names to look for, but of course I had already found Grandma Mary and right there next to her was her two year old granddaughter Mary Jane Wetherel, the child of her daughter Janet Vincent.  To the right of Mary Jane were two partially buried tombstones, one of which was snapped in two.  I looked down at them and experienced a case of deja vu-- it was Uncle Milo's stone all over again.  There was only one thing to do, I got down and started digging.  I had no tools (when will I ever learn?) other than the bottle opener on my key-chain.  (I'm fond of Guinness--it doesn't have a screw top-- don't judge me.)

     I set my husband on lookout duty for wildlife, as the day before our trip there had been an attack by a rabid coyote one town over and I wasn't taking any chances, genealogy and hydrophobia do not mix.  I finally uncovered most of the broken stone, and while I
Matilda Vincent Wife of John Irish
could read only the first few letters of the name, "MA", I could clearly make out the words,"wife of John Irish".  This was Matilda Vincent, another of Mary Clements Vincent Howland's daughters!  The day was getting hotter, and the second stone was buried even deeper than the broken one; I was getting a little discouraged when my husband retrieved a claw hammer from the car, the perfect tool for ripping turf.  Bit by bit the inscription was revealed, it was the grave of Thomas Vincent, son of Mary, brother of Matilda and Uncle of Mary Jane!  

THMs Vincent

     This was what I'd been hoping to find ever since I read their names in the online inventory, which was an alphabetized list giving no indication of who was buried next to whom.  Each of these individuals had a different last name, Howland, Wetherel, Irish, Vincent--but they were family, my family, and they were right there together just as family should be.  A short distance away was the grave of Anna Irish, sister-in-law of Matilda. 

     My husband retreated to the air conditioning of the car leaving me a few moments alone graveside.  It's puzzling how close one can feel to ancestors one has never met; as I stood there looking down on their graves I though of how over one hundred and sixty years ago ancestors of mine had stood in the same spot where I now stood, grieving as they bade farewell to their loved ones. They had done so several times in the summer of 1847 when an epidemic swept through town taking Matilda and Mary Jane.  Two of Matilda's children also died at that time and are probably there with their mother but apparently have no stones.  I raised my eyes and gazed over the rolling countryside, which seemed to be completely unchanged from the days they were here and felt such a connection to them.  Thomas' stone had the following epitaph:

Upon his grave shall blessings rest
Kind good & pious were his ways
They loved him most who knew him
And their affection speaks his praise    

     But it was three simple words carved near the bottom of little Mary Jane's stone that brought tears to my eyes:

All is well

Mary Jane
daughter of
Darius & Janet
died Aug 12, 1847
Aged 2 yrs 3 mo
& 15 ds


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Edwin Watkins Part Two/Edwin & Isabel's Family

     In time Isabel would forgive the shock and embarrassment of asking the Harmon sisters to vacate their own home, but I doubt she ever forgot it.  She and Edward got on with their lives in the log cabin and before long, children began to arrive.  The 1850 census shows Edward and Isabella Watkins, both aged 38 along with Edwin age 6, James age 5 and Celinda age 3.  All were born in New York excepting Isabel who gave her birthplace as Connecticut.

     Looking at another old newspaper column by Mr. Osgood about his younger days, I read, "We climbed the hill and arrived at the log cabin where Edwin (Edward) Watkins lived.  The family came out to greet us.  A couple of candles were on the table in front of the open widow and Eliza stood in the doorway with a string of large red beads around her neck.  Eliza was Bill's sister and their father was Steve Watkins, another giant of a man.  It was said he was never beaten by any man on the Erie Canal from New York to Buffalo. However, one day a gent put a knife into Steve, and the children came to live with their uncle."  

     This meant Edwin Sr., (or Edward as he appears in census records and will in this blog hereafter to distinguish him from his son), must have had a brother named Steve who was apparently employed on the canal.  Returning to the 1850 census I had no trouble finding Stephen and Elizabeth Watkins both age 25 living in Manchester.  With them were Louisa age 3 and William age 1.  Eliza must not have been born yet.  So, Edward did have a relative nearby after all.  I searched and searched, but could find no further mention of the murder of Steve Watkins.  I did find an article from 1859 describing a Willard Bates being charged with assault & battery after breaking a window sash over the head of a man named Steve Watkins in Canandaigua, NY.  It probably was Edward's brother--the 1860 census shows that Stephen and Elizabeth had moved to that place, along with children William, Eliza, Frances, Stephen and Sarah Watkins ages 12 to 2.

     I checked the NYS census of 1865 hoping to find the county of Stephen's birthplace, the 1855 had left that column blank, but I couldn't locate him.  He must have died between 1860 and 1865.  I found his children William and Eliza with their Uncle Edward, but no trace of Elizabeth and the other children.  Also in Edward's household was his son Edwin J. and Edwin's new wife Jane. That census also revealed that the elder Edward was born in Steuben County, NY and  Edwin J. and the other children in Ontario County.  

     Checking the 1820 census for Steuben County I found a total of one hundred eight individuals under the "free colored persons" heading and forty six slaves, mostly concentrated around Painted Post and Bath, NY.  They weren't enumerated by name so I have no way of knowing who they were, but I did find among the free men, Simon and King Watkins.  They were indexed as "Walkins", but it looks like Watkins to me.  Given the family composition of both men, I'm betting Simon was  Stephen and Edward's father.

     It was around the time of the 1865 census that Edward was elected a trustee of the school district.  All indications are that Edward and his family, with the exception of Stephen of course, were doing well in Manchester.  When Isabel Watkins died she left a will leaving land which bordered Edward's land, to her daughter Celinda.  Clearly The Watkins family had been able to purchase real estate.

     The 1870 Manchester census shows young Edwin J. and his wife Jane now in their own household with a 3 year old daughter, little Hattie.  In 1875 they had been joined by twelve year old Sarah Newport, sister of Jane.  Yes!  Now I had a maiden name for Jane and I found her in 1860 living in Sodus, NY with her family. Manchester's 1880 census tells a sad story.  Edwin was now a widower living alone.  Manchester Village Cemetery, next to the Baptist Church on Main Street, records the burial of Jane Watkins and Infant Watkins, no date given.  What happened?  Was the infant buried with Jane little Hattie or was it another baby?  It's hard to be sure, in 19th century records I've seen children much older than three referred to as infants; on the other hand, death in childbirth was not uncommon at that time.  It turned out to be the latter.  Looking for Hattie in 1880 I found her living with her aunt Celinda and Celinda's husband Charles Ross.  That is the last census in which Edwin J. appears in Manchester, by 1892 he is living alone in Auburn, NY and working as a laborer.

     Perhaps the pain of losing Jane and their baby was more than Edwin could stand to be constantly reminded of, perhaps he felt inadequate to raise a small girl like Hattie on his own.  His mother Isabel passed away in 1881 and so was unavailable to help him; sending her to Celinda must have seemed like the best solution for everyone.  But Edwin had one more surprise for me.  In an article about the history of Manchester Cemetery which appeared in an 1952 edition of the local paper was this--"Edwin Watkins, the colored man who lived on North Avenue... served in the Civil War.  His wife died Oct 2, 1875 at 23 years of age.  Edwin moved to Auburn and remarried.  After his death his second wife, [named as Josephine in the 1900 census], applied for a widow's pension, but had no proof of his first wife's death.  However, Alvin Dewey and Eugene Payne went to the cemetery, replaced the old broken headstone with a new one, took the picture and sent it to the proper authorities.  In the south west corner of the cemetery the stone still stands."  

     Neither man had probably ever met Josephine Watkins who lived in Auburn, and one would think the church burial records and a notarized statement would have satisfied the authorities.  Alvin and Eugene must have done all this out of affection for their old childhood friend Edwin J.

     In Ancestry's US Colored Troops Military Service Records, I found Edwin J. Watkins born in Manchester, enlisted at Palmyra, NY on 23 August 1864, his description says he was six feet tall--another family giant.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Edwin Watkins of Manchester, NY Part One


     My last post included a reference to Edwin Watkins, a man supposedly born into slavery who lived in Manchester, NY in the years after the Civil War.  I became curious about Edwin, I knew of no other former slaves living in Manchester.  What had brought him here and was he happy and well treated in Manchester?  Had he really been a slave and what became of him?

     While I haven't been able to answer all those questions, I have learned quite a bit about Edwin and his family.  In a weekly column by Carlos Osgood called "The Homestead" that appeared in the local paper there was more information about Edwin.  Mr. Osgood speaks of roaming the Manchester woods as a young boy and visiting Edwin, by then quite elderly, calling him a great orator, and goes on to state, "Edwin lived with the Deacon [James Harlan] away back in 1825".  Looking at the 1850 census, the first one in which I could find Edwin, he says he was born in 1812.  That means he would have been a child of about 13 in 1825.  The census also says he was born in New York State.  Slavery ended fairly early in New York, but I wasn't sure of the date so I checked the net and found this: 

In 1799, New York passed a Gradual Emancipation act that freed slave children born after July 4, 1799, but indentured them until they were young adults. In 1817 a new law passed that would free slaves born before 1799 but not until 1827. By the 1830 census there were only 75 slaves in New York.

    So Edwin could have been born into slavery and later freed.  Deacon Harlan was a well known abolitionist, so it's not surprising he would take Edwin in.  In fact, Edwin became one of the family, Mr. Osgood went on, "When the Deacon had company Edwin was invited into the parlor to meet the guests, and when they went to church, which was every Sunday, Edwin sat on the front seat of the big family carriage, and sat with the Deacon and his daughters in the family pew."  In other words, the Deacon practiced what he preached.

     The 1850 census revealed Edwin, (recorded as Edward), was married and had a family of his own by that time, and Mr. Osgood was enlightening on that topic as well, noting--  "Edwin began smiling on a girl who lived with the Yeomans family at Walworth.  In fact she had grown up there.  She had been carefully trained in housekeeping and needlework and they thought a great deal of her.  Whether she was born a slave is more than I know."  He then repeats the story of Edwin's courtship as he heard it from Edwin himself, "One evening Edwin and his girl were sitting in the kitchen when Mr. Yeomans passed through saying 'Isabel, what have you got that damned man hanging around here for?'  Then Edwin rose to the occasion saying he could not see why he should be treated in this manner for he owned one of the best farms in Manchester with a big brick house and a good log tenant house.  He said he owned six good horses and a lot of cattle.  Adding that he was a prominent member of the Baptist church and for several years had sung in the choir."  

     The Yeomans eventually relented, even sending Isabel off with a generous dowry.  So she and  Edwin were married that Christmas; moving into the log house since Edwin told his new bride the brick house was currently rented and he couldn't take possession until spring.  This went on quite well, until the day Isabel walked over to the brick house and asked the Deacon's daughters when they were going to move out.  Edwin must have had some explaining to do at that point!

Next blog--Edwin and Isabell's family...


Monday, October 3, 2016

Politics Past

     As the most bizarre presidential campaign ever seen by the staff here at Ellie's Ancestors painfully winds to a close, we are reminded of a time when the political process was more dignified--or perhaps not.

     We refer you to the following, which appeared in the Shortsville NY Enterprise in 1930, written by Carlos P. Osgood, an elderly, long time resident of the area who recorded his early memories in a weekly column called, "The Homestead".  The piece below details an election held in 1868 for the position of school district trustee which just happens to involve my 3rd great-grandfather Paul Worden as one of the candidates:

     The trusteeship was held for a number of years by such people as TJ McLouth, E. Peirce and Anson Lapham, a rather imposing list of names, but we find that on October 16, 1865, Edwin Watkins, colored, born a slave, was elected trustee.  The main object of being trustee was the hiring of the teachers and also handling the financial affairs of the district, which amounted in some years to as much as $60.

     Things must have drifted along smoothly until the October meeting of 1868, when there seemed to be a quite marked division of opinion as to whether Henry B. Nichols or Paul Worden would be elected for trustee.  The night was dark and the rain fell down, but I was allowed to go with my father to the meeting.  He drove the old white horse, hitched to the old-fashioned buggy with a leather top, with a leather apron in front of us.  Over in the field that now belongs to Oscar Randall, across from the schoolhouse, "Teen" Worden [brother of Paul] had built a shelter of cornstalks and also built a fire to furnish light and warmth while he was husking corn and singing something like this:

With my love on the land
And my body in the sea
And the blue waves rolling over me

     The schoolhouse was pretty well filled with people when we arrived.  Thomas J. McClouth was chosen chairman and Burrus Osgood clerk.  Mr. McLouth was a quite tall, spare built gentleman, with a large amount of dignity.  He wore a high, white beaver hat of the Henry Harrison type and a long, tall, cut-away coat.  He had been a member of the State Legislature and was active in the organization of the Republican party.

     My grandfather, Ezra Peirce, was there.  Ezra was an immense man, weighed probably two hundred  and twenty-five pounds, but was simply big and boney; a giant in strength and very vigorous.  He wore a soft, black hat and a sack coat and was decidedly a Democrat.  Grandfather had also been a member of the Legislature, so when moments later a discussion of parliamentary rules arose, a good time was had by all.

      After awhile Mr. Henry B. Nichols arose to address the meeting.  Certain young men present had been over in the field where Worden was husking corn and had shelled a few ears and put the shelled corn in their coat pockets.  It is well to state at this time the room was dimly lighted, in fact, was lighted by one tallow candle and three or four lanterns with perforated tin sides, and the light coming through these openings made the walls of the room look as though they were breaking out.

     Mr. Nichols was just getting warmed up in his oratory when a couple handsful of grape and canister or shrapnel, or maybe it was shelled corn, flew through the air, caught the orator in the face and resounded vigorously from the beaver hat of the chairman.  Then my grandfather Ezra rose and I was sitting beside him.  I had never noticed before how large he was as he waved that immense hand toward the offending youths, as he told them what would happen should any more of that corn be thrown.  Order was restored and Paul Worden was elected trustee.

     I enjoy this article, and not just because Grandpa Paul is involved.  There is so much here conjuring up images of the past, the horse pulled buggy with a leather apron for wet weather, the description of the dimly lit school room before the days of electricity, the type of song that was popular; not to mention the delightful surprise of learning that voters from my home area were open minded enough in 1865 to elect a man born into slavery to office.  

     I would bet many small town newspapers ran such columns, well worth reading.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Pass The Nodoz


     Well, I've done it again.  Upon reading that Find My Past was offering a free look at their new Irish records until midnight yesterday I hastened to the site.  The long, long, long awaited Valuation Office Books were included!  In my rush I failed to notice that the books were to be free forever.  I had missed the email notifying me of this momentous event, having been preoccupied with family events, and only viewed it late last night.  Midnight?  Damn!  So even though exhausted by the aforementioned family matters, I settled in for a long session.  We're talking Valuation Books after all!

     I found some really good information and some disappointments.  I located the entry for great-great-great-grandfather Daniel McGarr by finally just searching his townland of Ballyraggan.  McGarr seems like such a simple name to spell, but it never works out that way.  This time it was indexed as Magan--that's a new one.  This was a house book and had some wonderful information.  I knew from the Irish census taken years after his demise, that there were several out buildings on Daniel's farm, which was occupied at the time of the census by his late daughter Sarah's husband Thomas Hughes; but I had no idea if the buildings were there during Daniel's lifetime.

     As seen above, the question is settled.  Along with the house, there was what appears to be a Cow House, (that one made me giggle), a barn and stable, and another I can't quite make out--it looks like Cas House or Car House, still puzzling that one out.  I wrote to the Valuation Office years ago and they sent me wonderful copies from the cancelled books of Daniel's holding, detailing decade by decade the current occupiers so I almost didn't waste my "limited" time looking for him.  But this information from the house book was not included in the packet sent to me by the VO, so I was glad to have found it.

     I also located another 3rd great grandfather, Connor Ryan, in Goldengarden, Tipperary and got a peek at his life there on the estate of Lord Hawarden.  He had only a house and barn which really didn't surprise me.  While Grandpa Daniel on the Fitzgerald estate had a generous (for the era) lease, Hawarden was very stingy about giving them out.  Grandpa Connor was probably hesitant to make major improvements to his holding with no real assurance he'd be there long.

     The disappointing parts?  Still nothing on my Hore/O'Hore/Hoare family, another seemingly simple name that gets mangled.  Just nothing, not in these records nor the tithe applotments.  I know their address from their children's baptisms, but they are nowhere in sight.  The other disappointment is that I was under the impression the cancelled books were to be included, but they aren't there.  The bright side is, I can again write to the Valuation Office and request copies of Connor Ryan's cancelled book entries now that I know for sure he's there in the records.  It's a great time to be an Irish researcher!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Of Blogs And Cousins And Long Distance Genealogy


     It began with an innocent enough email from a far distant cousin, (in both distance and genetics), inviting me to join in her search for details of our Vincent family from Halfmoon, Saratoga, New York.  We initially connected through this blog, and have shared bits and pieces over time, but that one email has elevated our collaboration to something approaching obsession.  Like so many of these family journeys, this one has twisted and turned and taken us far afield of the original quest.  (Which in truth I'm not sure I even remember, and since I'm the undisputed queen of lost emails, will probably have to ask my cousin to remind me of.)

     Together we have uncovered a staggering amount of information and on the way proved beyond any doubt that the genealogy, published in book form, of the line of Revolutionary War soldier Captain Jeremiah Vincent, his son John and John's son Thomas,(my fourth great-grandfather), is incorrect and incomplete.  How did we do it?  By egging each other on from opposite ends of the continent for one thing, but once again the amazing internet played a huge roll.  From census records and a genealogical society application on Ancestry, to wills and land deeds at Family Search; from a guardianship noted in the previously mentioned book to burials on the Find a Grave site, along with obituaries and other sources, a picture slowly emerged from the shadows of centuries.

     The book claimed Thomas, son of John Vincent and Mary Clements, died and was buried in French Cemetery in Victory, Cayuga Co. NY in 1842, which we found to be true.  It also claimed his wife Matilda Taylor died in 1847 and was buried in Saratoga County, which is not.  In fact, Matilda married a man named Rockwell Rood after Thomas' death and lived until 1890.  I found her with Rockwell and several of her Vincent daughters in the 1850 census and other sources.  There is in fact a Matilda Vincent buried in Saratoga, her stone even reads "wife of Thomas" however-- there is also a Thomas Vincent buried there with her.  The author of the genealogy book apparently overlooked that and so didn't consider this could be a different couple, which it was.  Clearly Thomas can't be buried in both Cayuga AND Saratoga.

     The guardianship was major in the search.  The book and every single tree and site I've viewed claim that John Vincent and Mary Clements had only one child, the above mentioned Thomas.  Yet guardianship papers filed in 1817 named Mary Vincent and John Clements (who turned out to be Mary's brother) guardians of the minor children Matilda, Thomas, Maria and Janet Vincent.  Now our search began in earnest to find these children, (except of course Thomas whom we had already documented).  And we did find them with the exception of Maria.  Pretty good detective work if I do say so, since they were married females using their husband's surnames.

     There's lots more-- for instance, as it happened Mary Clements Vincent also remarried, but to detail all our findings and sources here would take me six or seven pages and I like to keep these posts concise and readable.  Any Vincent's out there who would like to know more can email me, but a few points apply to all researchers:
  1.  Just because a genealogy has been published in book form or any other form doesn't mean it's infallible.  
  2. Those trees on Ancestry whose only source is another unsourced tree?  Great for clues but not much more. No matter how many trees say the same thing, if they just copied it from each other it's the same as one tree.
  3. What seems like a sure bet, like in the burial of, "Matilda wife of Thomas Vincent", is sometimes just a coincidence.
  4. Genealogy is ever so much fun with a co-conspirator.
  5. Lastly--verify, verify, verify. I always spend a little time trying to disprove my current theory.  It may not be fast, but when I'm done I'm reasonably sure the finished genealogy is accurate.





Saturday, September 10, 2016

Irish Registrations Come Online!


     I've spent the past few days grabbing every spare moment to pour over the newly released birth, marriage and death registers at Irish, and resenting the need to tear myself away for things like sleeping, eating and working. (Have you ever noticed how people will look at you strangely when you lament you'd rather be searching for dead people than writing production lists?)

     These are images of the actual full records, the kind you formerly had to send away to the GRO to obtain!  The death records cover the years 1891 to 1965, marriages from 1882-1940 and births from 1864-1915.  That's sort of late for those of us whose ancestors were famine immigrants, but still a way to help trace family members who stayed behind in Ireland and conceivably aid in finding some living relatives there.  I've been able to view records for many individuals I located in the indexes that have been available online for some time, and confirm they were in fact the ancestors I believed them to be--and in one case proven wrong.

     Unfortunately the death records don't give parent's names so it's not always easy to be sure exactly whose death you're looking at unless the informant's name is a familiar one, particularly if the deceased is a woman now bearing her husband's surname.  The marriage records do give the father's full name along with his occupation and the birth records give both parent's names.  All also give a townland.

     So far I've confirmed several theories and found the occupation of James Quigley of Baltinglass, husband of my 3rd great-aunt Anne McGarr.  One record states he was a "dealer" and another that he was a shopkeeper.  I'm not sure what sort of shopkeeper signs his name with an X, but there you are.  I also discovered a sad story about a distant cousin being orphaned at age 15 when both his parents died within a few years of each other of TB.  Somehow their son escaped that dreadful killer to be the informant on his grandmother's death record ten years later, but in four more years he too would succumb.  

     The records aren't yet complete but more are being added over time. You may will be annoyed by the repeated requests to prove you aren't a robot, but it's well worth that small aggravation, and be sure not to add the apostrophe if you're searching for a name like O'Connor, the search engine doesn't recognize it and will return a negative result.  I hope you find some interesting family facts in these new records, and there are rumors that by month's end the long awaited cancelled books will arrive online.  Keeping my fingers crossed...

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Adjusting My Sails (And Dates?)

     I was very excited to find the immigrant ship of my great-great-grandfather James O'Hora, (aka James Hore), the other day.  In the early days the family used the "Hore" spelling, something I knew from other documents and news articles.

     In the New York Passenger Lists, on, I found--"Jas Hore arrived May 23, 1849 from Liverpool aboard the Ambassadress".  The name, the age and the debarkation port of Liverpool all exactly matched what I already knew about James !  He first appeared in US census records in 1850, so an immigration date of 1849 fit nicely too.  I'd finally discovered when James arrived, it all fit... only it didn't.  I've poured over newspaper lists of ship arrivals in New York Harbor for that year and the closest I can find is a ship that looks like it reads Ambassadress arriving May 1st, not the 23rd.

     It certainly resembles "Ship Amb..."with a "dre" near the end followed by the name of the ship's master, and contains the correct number of letters.

    Now take a look at the ship's manifest above, it clearly says  Michael Foody, Master, swore to the correctness of his passenger list on May 3rd, and he did so on a Port Of New York form.  I suppose it's possible the ship arrived very late on the 1st and Michael didn't get around to submitting his passenger list until the 3rd; after all in 1849 there was no immigrant processing going on in New York.  Passengers at that time simply strolled off their ships and onto the South Street wharves, hence no great rush to submit the passenger list.  It wasn't until 1855 that Castle Garden opened as a processing center.  That is why I always try to confirm the ship's arrival date in news articles, just to be precise.

     Still, why would the Ancestry index say it arrived on the 23rd?  Nothing in this document suggests May 23rd, I've read every single page of it.  And I'm not buying for a second that the ship sailed on May 3rd and made it from Liverpool to New York in under three weeks.

     I've seen the 23rd arrival date on other sites too, though perhaps it was copied from Ancestry.  I noticed in a British newspaper article, which I couldn't read in it's entirety due to the lack of a subscription, mention of a date of March 23 in connection with the Ambassadress. Perhaps that date, Mar 23, was mistaken for May 23, but again-- nothing on the form suggests that.  I'd go ahead and get a subscription to the newspaper site but for the fact I would use it only rarely; my Irish ancestors were never mentioned therein.

     Another one of those little contradictions that make genealogy so frustrating interesting.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wednesday's Website/Railroad Retirement Records


     The railroad played a huge part in my hometown of Manchester New York's history.  When the Lehigh Valley Railroad opened their freight transfer yard there in 1892 the population soared.  Everyone worked for, or knew someone who worked for, the railroad--engineers, firemen, gandy dancers and engine repairmen all found employment in this little village. The number of saloons also soared, but that's a story for another blog.

     Today's website is an index to the records of the Railroad Retirement Board.  Just click on the Collection tab and scroll down to the last listing.  The search results will give a birth and death or retirement date, so it's helpful to have that information. Many of my Irish immigrant ancestors and their children worked for the New York Central and Lehigh Valley railroads, and I've already found two of them in the index. 

    With the information generated by the search you can ask the National Archives to send you a copy of your subject's file.  The beauty of this is that requesting the documents directly from the RR Retirement Board would set you back $27-- the only charge from NARA is a copying fee of 80 cents per page.  There is even a handy link on the results page that leads to the NARA site.

     Many of our Irish immigrant ancestors and their descendants were employed by various railroads and since this is a national database you might just find them there.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

John Gunn, Flax Farmer?

Ah, it was a tedious old crop, flax right enough, and it was a hungry, greedy crop too but the fields around the Cleggan were good flax fields and there was money in it. I miss it, it's beautiful blue color. The fields were the color of a summer sky, and when it was scutched it was so golden that it burned and glimmered as the sun and moon had mixed and fallen on it.
                                                                                                  W J Smythe
     One of my great-great-great-grandparents whom I know very little about is John Gunn.  I estimate his birth took place around 1825 give or take, as his first known child was born about 1850, the tail end of the famine.  I know he lived in Ballygologue in County Kerry, very near Listowel, because that is the address the PP wrote in the register when his children were baptized.  I know he married Margaret Browne because when my great-great-grandmother, his daughter Mary Elizabeth, married Philip Power in Palmyra, NY, that is what St. Anne's PP wrote in the marriage register as the bride's mother's name.  Finally, from his death certificate I know he died in Ballygologue 3 October1871 of chronic bronchitis, an illness of "some days" duration.

     That's about it.  What was going on in between those dates?  What did he do to earn a living?  Other than the births of his children, those years are a complete blank. John was only in the neighborhood of fifty when he died, and what was chronic bronchitis and how did one get it?  MedicineNet says chronic bronchitis is a cough that produces sputum, lasts three months or more, and recurs. It must have been an unpleasant way to go, and equally so for his family who had to listen to the poor man cough himself to death.

     Several sites say cigarette smoking is the main cause today.  Was John a smoker?  I don't think cigarettes were common in 19th century County Kerry, though they did have pipes.  The west of Ireland was a pretty poor place, I would think tobacco was a luxury item probably not indulged in daily.  In fact one site I looked at confirms that, but claims peasants smoked Coltsfoot instead, which is actually used to soothe lungs. So what else might have caused this disease?

     Reading further on the amazing internet, I found that in John's era cases were often related to  one's occupation, in John's instance all I knew is that he was a laborer per his death certificate. That covers alot of ground.  I doubt there were many factories in Ballygologue, or in Listowel for that matter, the west of Ireland was quite bereft of industrialization at that time.  One thing they did have was flax! 

     In the "Parliamentary Papers 1850-1908 vol. 34", I found this-- "Bronchitis is a trade disease among flax workers."  That's interesting, but was flax even cultivated in John's area?  Found in "A Pamphlet, the Result of Practical Experience of the Benefits of An Extended System Of Flax Husbandry", published in 1870, is this reference to Listowel--"Flax of excellent quality is grown here; the land is generally let in small holdings, and the gentry are favorable to it's extended growth."  So-- there was flax farming going on in John's vicinity; but was he involved in it?  I hate to admit it but I don't know, and I have no idea how to research the topic any further.  There was a Flax Growers List for County Kerry circa 1796, but there are no Gunns on it and most of the farmers seem to be from the Dingle Peninsula or further south.  Of course John himself would not have appeared on a list from that early date, but I had hoped perhaps a relative would.

     I'm certainly not ready to throw in the towel, I'm still searching for obscure sources so if anyone has any ideas, I'm open.  I think flax growing/processing is a perfectly good theory of the cause of John's illness...

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday's Tip/Hard To Read Baptismal Records


      Looking through the early parish records of Castledermot is challenging to say the least.  Many of the pages are so faded there is no earthly way they could be deciphered, though I wonder if the FBI could use some method to read them?

     I was looking for my Travers ancestors and not finding very much.  I tried the Ancestry index along with the one at Find My Past with only a few hits.  Using the indexes I did locate a baptism in 1793 for ____ Travers of Lucas and Maria Travers.  

     I'm not sure how they came up with Lucas, the name does appear to begin with an L, but I certainly can't make out the rest. I also wondered, was the child's last name really Travers or was that the mother's maiden name?  Above, you can see the name Maria Travers is clear, as are the sponsor's  names SS Pat. Malone & Ann Corrigan, but the others are quite indistinct.

     To attempt to find the answer, I skipped ahead a few pages and backwards a few pages until I came to a fully legible entry and used this to determine in what manner the baptisms were being recorded.  Some parishes did not include the mother's surnames at all in early records while others did, which is what I needed to know.  After reading the clear entry I saw that in this particular parish, the priest entered the child's first and last name, followed by first name of the father and next, the first and maiden name of the mother.  That meant the child's last name was NOT Travers, that was Maria's maiden name.  Looking at the entry I can see the child's surname really doesn't look like Travers either--I can't make it out but sometimes it's easier to tell what an entry doesn't say than what it does.  In this case the surname appears to end with a Y.  I see a definite down-stroke.

     It's important that you use another entry as close as possible to the one you're having trouble reading, as sometimes baptisms were entered in different ways by different priests in the same parish over the years.  For instance, I've also seen records that use the child's first name followed by the father's first and last name followed by the mother's name with or without her maiden name.

     Another method that sometimes works is to upload the image to a photo editing site.  I've been using Befunky, but there are other free sites.  Try the "sharpen" setting or playing with the contrast.  You can also adjust the blues and other colors to improve the readability.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Musings On A Summer Night


     You may have noticed a discernible uptick in my number of blog posts lately.  Yes, I'm on vacation!!  More of a stay-cation since I'm just hanging around home, but I'm enjoying every minute of it.  I've spent hours researching on the net, writing and just relaxing on my deck, which is where I was until a few minutes ago.  We're experiencing a heat wave here in New York, temps were in the mid-ninety's and the humidity made it seem like a sauna--cliche I know, but in this case it's no exaggeration.  

     Sitting here alone on a warm summer's eve listening to the "peepers" is the perfect time for reflecting on my ancestors.  I've written before about how I would love to be able to get inside their heads. To really understand them, their thoughts and concerns, their likes and dislikes--in short, their world.  Time and again I find myself wondering what they would have thought of some event or object.

     It's a lovely starry night and the temps are down to around 80 now, the last of the fireflies are blinking out, their mating ritual completed for another year.  They won't be back until next spring and I will miss them, but even the fireflies make me wonder--did my ancestors enjoy them as much as I do?  Suddenly that seems like a pressing question, so to the computer I go.  It turns out there are no fireflies in Ireland, which made me sort of sad, but they did have something called a glow worm.  They are insects, not worms, and they don't fly, but they do glow like a firefly.  Being such a rural place in the 19th century, Ireland must have been full of them I would think?

     Earlier I saw a shooting star streaking it's way across the sky, surely the ancestors must have enjoyed spotting those.  Again, Ireland was rural--no lights to distract from the beautiful glimmer of the overhead stars.  I like to think these simple little gifts of nature brought them some joy in their straightened circumstances.  I used to believe I was fairly atypical to feel such a connection and curiosity with and for these long ago kin, but after meeting so many similarly minded people, both on the net and in person I know I'm not alone.  Say, I wonder if there are peepers in Ireland????

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Leaving of Liverpool Part 2

     In a previous blog, The Leaving Of Liverpool, I wrote about finding the immigrant ship of my 3rd great grandmother Mary Travers Hore.  She sailed on the packet ship America which entered New York harbor on August 13th of 1852.  I knew from the ship's manifest that the America left from Liverpool, but not the date of it's departure.  I began the search to find that date, just because I'm curious about things like that, and I've finally found an answer.

     The ad above, from the Liverpool Mercury of 18 June 1852, stated that "the splendid American Packet ship" America would sail punctually on the 24th instant, (instant means that same month), meaning it only took 20 days for Grandmother to reach New York; pretty good time for those days before steam.  The packet ships were known for keeping to their schedules which made travel easier than the days when immigrants might have spent days or weeks in Liverpool waiting for their ship to finally begin it's trip down the Mersey.

     I'm still curious about her time directly before the ship sailed.  I haven't been able to find any other familiar names on the manifest, no one who might have been traveling with her, though it's possible of course a neighbor or friend may have.  She must have been widowed by that time since no husband is listed with her.  Mary, age 50, would have had to leave her small townland of Ricketstown in County Carlow and travel about 45 miles to Dublin to catch the ferry to Liverpool-- then navigate that city to her ship's berth on the Waterloo Dock.  Did she do this all on her own?  I like to think perhaps her son Patrick or daughter Winifred, the only two of her children still in Ireland, accompanied her as far as Dublin and possibly to Liverpool; the ferry wasn't terribly expensive.  It's little details like that that intrigue me--the ones that are lost within a generation or two and are so hard to recover.  What I wouldn't give for a detailed diary...


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Wednesday's Website/California Digital Newspapers


      I love old newspapers, what genealogist doesn't?  Today's website California Digital Newspaper Collection as the title implies, is a collection of newspapers covering most of the state of California.  On the home page, across the top, you will find a search tab which allows you to search by individual newspapers, a titles tab listing all the newspapers available on the site along with their dates and a county map tab which takes you to a clickable map of counties.  Just click on the county of interest to generate a list of newspapers available for that place.  A useful source of information even if the dates you need aren't yet digitized.

     I've found many references to my O'Hore family who settled in San Francisco using this site, like the death notice below of Edward O'Hore Jr. son of my 3rd great uncle.  Edward Sr. was born in Rathvilly Parish, County Carlow but moved his family to California in the early 1860's, becoming a miner before ending his days in a tenement in SF.

     As you can see, the search terms are highlighted on the newspaper page and it's an easy site to navigate.  Hope you find something useful.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Mayflower Descendant Twice, Me?


     In a previous blog, here I wrote about my 11th great-grandfather John Billington, a controversial passenger who sailed on the Mayflower.  Well amazingly enough, or maybe not all that amazing, I have found that another progenitor was on that storied ship;  Francis Eaton who is also on my mother's side of the tree.  It doesn't surprise me at all that both these Mayflower passengers were on Mom's side; my father's family were relative latecomers, not reaching America's shores until during and after the potato famine for the most part.

     The new ancestor is Francis Eaton, born in England in 1596.  Yes, 1596. That. Is. Mind boggling.  Men were mincing about in neck ruffs, codpieces and hosiery at that time.  It's a time so far removed from my experience that in truth, I can't begin to summon any real feelings about this individual.  Yes, he's my 11th or 12th great-grandfather, but I really can't make any emotional connection.  Anyway--Francis and his third wife begat Benjamin after arriving in modern day Massachusetts.  Benjamin begat Benjamin Jr., who begat another Francis around 1700.  Francis and his second wife Lydia Fuller had a son  in 1734 whom they named Silvanus.  We're now approaching a time I can begin to relate to-- slightly.

     This brings us to Annis Eaton born in Massachusetts just before the American Revolution.  Annis married Joseph Foster Jr. and they were the first direct ancestors of this line to move to New York State and into Wayne County where my mother's family lived for many decades after.  Annis' son Asahel Foster was one of the pioneers of Wolcott, NY; he married Hannah Gregory and they had at least one child, Lucinda, born in 1832.  Hannah died in 1834 and Asahel then married her younger sister Martha who bore him six more children--five girls and finally a boy, Asahel Jr.  I wonder how many more children there would have been had he not gotten that son in 1852?

     This is where the Galloway's come in, Asahel's third daughter, Clarissa, married George Galloway.  Their granddaughter Grace was my mother's mother who died in a tragic fire leaving seven children under the age of twelve, the youngest being eight months. 

     I often wonder how other researchers feel about their far distant ancestors?  I'm very curious about them and find myself reading histories of their time and place and studying costume sites online to see how they may have dressed, but I admit it, I feel somewhat emotionally detached. Francis Eaton was born 420 years ago.  When you say it like that, it doesn't seem all that long a time and yet everything has changed-- attitudes, modern conveniences even gender rolls, no woman today would be content with being her husband's chattel.  I will likely find more Mayflower ancestors on Mom's side, but to tell you the truth, I'm more impressed with my 8th great-grandmother Winifred the witch than I am with my Pilgrims.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Workhouse Howl*


     The workhouse at Baltinglass sat a mile from town on seven acres of land.  All that survives today are the blueprint-like drawings above; even the records no longer exist, lost to fire in 1920.  Poorhouses were established in Ireland as early as 1703 when the Irish Parliament authorized a "House of Industry" in Dublin to provide sustenance for the poor and infirm along with orphaned children.  Over the years, more facilities were built around the island at Waterford, Limerick, Belfast, Cork and a few other localities.  

     With the Act of Union in 1800, Ireland became part of England.  The British answer to the question of  Irish pauperism was to export their workhouse system to Ireland.  While that system may have worked well  in England, Ireland's real problem was the lack of work or other means of supporting oneself.  The idea of being confined to a workhouse was repugnant to the population of Ireland and it was a dreadful and dreaded last resort.  To discourage anyone taking advantage of the system, conditions were made as unpleasant as possible.  Whole families were required to enter the workhouse together, helping landlords clear their property of them, but they couldn't remain together.  Men and women were sent to different quarters and even more cruelly, children over the age of two were taken from their mothers.  Their diet was poor, as was their treatment by the staff.  Conditions worsened during the famine years with rising numbers of inmates and the fevers that afflicted the malnourished population spreading quickly in the confined quarters of  a workhouse.

     I thought my ancestors had all escaped that horror until yesterday.  I feel like I've uncovered most of the information about my direct ancestors currently available on the internet, so I've begun expanding my search to their siblings.  While looking through the parish records the NLI has made available online I came across the baptism of Sarah Holmes in October of 1846, the second year of the famine. Sarah was the daughter of George Holmes and Mary Hore; Mary being a distant cousin of mine and the daughter of my 3rd great-grandfather Michael Hore's brother John.  As I looked at the entry in the Baltinglass Parish register giving the family address, I caught my breath--it read "Workhouse".

     The entry is not in great shape, but I can make out 1846 Spt 6- Holmes Sarah of Geo. & Mary Hora or Horan, Workhouse.  Sponsors ? Hayden and Bridget Breene, I think.  I hate to think of my ancestors, or anyone's ancestors, being relegated to such a ghastly place, or of a tiny baby being born there amidst the crowding and disease.  There were four older Holmes children in 1846 ranging from 17 year old James to 7 year old Thomas, all would have been separated from their parents.  How did this family end up there, how did their state become so destitute that the only alternative was the nightmarish workhouse?  Did George Holmes die, or the famine and resulting evictions cause them to lose everything?  Did baby Sarah survive and what became of them afterwards?  It seems there is still plenty to uncover about my family if I go far enough afield.

* The workhouse howl was a cry of grief and utter despair that not infrequently was heard echoing through the halls of those institutions