Sunday, July 21, 2013

What I Learned Writing About John's Daughters

St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, Auburn, NY
     Committing the stories of the O'Hora sisters to paper was very helpful in pointing out to me where gaps in my research exist, and what I need to concentrate on finding next.  For one thing, after sitting down and putting it all together I now realize I need to review the records of St. Mary's Church since that is the parish the family belonged to.

     It also points up the immense value of obituaries as a source of family information, take for example the obituary of Elizabeth O'Hora Ferris:
      The death of Elizabeth, wife of William Ferris, occurred at the family home, No. 34 Fitch Avenue, Sunday morning, after an illness of several weeks' duration. Mrs. Ferris was an estimable woman, a devoted wife and loving mother. She is survived by her husband, William Ferris, and eight children, Edward, John, Frank, Elizabeth, Teresa, Etta May and Gertrude of this city, and Cecelia Ferris of Rochester, also two brothers, Daniel and John O'Hora, and one sister, Mrs. Katherine Willis. The funeral will be held tomorrow morning from the family home with services at St Mary's church at 9:30, the burial will be in the family plot in St. Joseph's Cemetery.

     From this obituary we learn Elizabeth's place of death and the family address, which can be very important in the event there are several families of the same name you are trying to differentiate between.  We see that Elizabeth died of natural causes and learn her husband's first name and that he outlived her. We find the names of her surviving children and see that only two of her four brothers survived her; it also confirms her sister Catherine's married name and tells us her daughter Cecilia left Auburn and lived in Rochester.  If we didn't already know it, this obituary also tells us that since her funeral was at St. Mary's, she was a Catholic, along with her place of burial.  That's alot of information from one article.

     Often in obituaries you can find daughter's married names and where they lived. Using lists of survivors, it's possible to determine approximate death dates for other family members.  That is--the person in question died after this person's obituary was written but before this other person's.  This is assuming the newspaper got it right, they don't always.  My 3rd great Uncle Philip Power was accidentally omitted from his mother's list of survivors even though he was very much alive.

     A wonderful source of death information is Find A Grave.  Searching old newspapers can be tedious, and even if the newspaper is online and searchable you can still come up with many, many hits; too many to read through in some cases.  If you can find the deceased in the Find A Grave database, you'll not only have the death date in most cases, you then have a year to focus on if you're using microfilm or a year to add to your newspaper search terms.  Keep in mind though, sometimes even tombstones have incorrect dates.

    Before I researched the O'Hora sisters, I had no idea that the Elizabeth Ferris who was attacked by William Travers was his own aunt, or that the young men arrested at Catherine McGarr O'Hora's home at that chicken dinner so long ago were in fact her grandsons.  I can surmise how disturbing it must have been to Maria and Bridget McGarr, who also lived in Auburn, to see their older sister Catherine slide into poverty and alcohol abuse. It became evident that the children of the daughters who died young were troubled individuals, while Elizabeth's children seemed to steer clear of trouble for the most part.  And no, this doesn't add much to my family tree, but I don't do straight genealogy, I do family history.  I want to know the details of their everyday lives.

     Finally, writing about the family of John O'Hora helped me see more clearly how this family related to each other, and what their lives were like, and a rowdy bunch they seemed to be. Nonetheless, they are my rowdy bunch of Irishmen and women and I love 'em all.


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