Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What Was In The Attic


     Sitting at my desk here at Ellie's Ancestors headquarters today, it occurs to me I've sort of gotten away from my Irish research lately.  The problem with Irish research being, there are so few resources left unchecked.  I have scoured church records, tithe applotments, Griffiths Valuation, (original and cancelled books), the few census records that remain, and civil registration indexes.  I have checked newspapers here and in Ireland, checked indexes for Irish estate records, (unsuccessfully I might add), Irish court records, (had some luck there with my hooligan ancestors), and local histories on both sides of the Atlantic.  I'm sure there are other more obscure records, but nothing springs to mind.  Feel free to comment here.

     Anyway, I thought I'd do a general Google search for James O'Hora, my great-great-grandfather who came to America from Ricketstown, County Carlow during the famine.  I hadn't done one in awhile and something may have been posted.  Nope.  All I found were posts by myself and a few news articles, also mostly provided by myself.  I can't understand why no one else seems to be researching this line?  Or my McGarr line for that matter?  Browsing a site to which I had sent James' obituary years ago, I came across obits for the O'Brien family.  The O'Brien's lived next door to the O'Hora farm in a wee place called appropriately enough, Littleville.  There were pictures too, so I thought I'd share them here, father and son:

Patrick O'Brien Sr.
Patrick W. O'Brien


    The elder Patrick was born in County Galway.  He was about the same age as Grandpa James and moved to his farm about the same time Grandpa purchased his.  Their children were of similar ages also, and I'd be willing to bet they were happy to have each other in the neighborhood.  A little slice of home as it were.  While his father contented himself with running his large farm, Patrick the younger was a produce dealer, salesman and active in Democratic party politics,  While the obituaries of both indicate they were popular, well-liked members of the community, Patrick W. never married, and his obituary held a shocker right there in the first sentence, "the death ... occurred at Willard State Hospital".   Anyone of a certain age living in the Finger Lakes region of New York, will feel a chill run down their spine at the mere mention of that "hospital".  It was in fact an asylum for the mentally ill, the last place you would expect a well liked industrious young man to end his days at the age of only 51.  Like most of the inmates who came or were committed to Willard, Patrick W. never left, though unlike many he had family who at least saw to his burial.

     When New York State closed Willard in 1995, workers discovered  hundreds of dusty suitcases in an old abandoned building. They had lain there for half a century, some much longer, since their owners had been admitted.  They held bits and pieces of former lives that had slowly faded away behind the locked doors of the asylum. The suitcases were cataloged and later organized into an exhibit.  You can read about it here, and also click on the link "suitcases" in the top bar to see some of them and read about the people who once owned them.


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