27 December 2011


     I'm not one for making New Year's resolutions, mostly because I am not one for keeping them well. I do have one major resolution that I intend to keep this year, and that is to create and publish a book of my Irish family history. I've been waiting to find the location in Ireland for my Magee and Maguire ancestors, but I realize that research is never ending, and at some point a published book will at least preserve my family history to date. I am always telling my audiences at my presentations not to put off that trip to Ireland or that family history project, so it is about time I take my own advice. So, this year, I am announcing my genealogical resolution publicly, so that I have witnesses to ensure I get my project done!
      Happy New Year!
 I wish for major family history discoveries for all of us in 2012!
     Even though it is the busy holiday season, the folks at the Ireland Genealogy Projects have continued their valuable work putting free Irish records online. Below are their most recent updates.
DUBLIN Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Glasnevin - Part 9
FERMANAGH Genealogy Archives - Church
Derryvullan (CoI) Births 1878-1916 (Tirkennedy, Enniskillen)
LIMERICK Genealogy Archives - Obituaries
Assorted Obituaries
LIMERICK Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary
LONDONDERRY/DERRY, Military & Constabulary
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary
LONGFORD Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary
LOUTH Genealogy Archives
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary
MAYO Genealogy Archives - Land Records
Encumbered Estate property of CHARLES BLAKE, Esq.(Coolcon and Garrymore) 1852
Encumbered Estate property of CHARLES BLAKE, Esq.(Carraskeane) 1852
Encumbered Estate property of CHARLES BLAKE, Esq.1852.(Clonkeen,
Curramore, Ballyglass, Knockanroe, Ballinphuil & Gortnanning)
OFFALY (Kings) Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary

22 December 2011


     One of the most fascinating ancestor mysteries I have found is that of fellow researcher Rosemarie, whose grandfather Patrick Kearney left poems as his legacy. According to family lore, Patrick was born in the mid or late 1860's in County Kilkenny. He settled in Philadelphia by 1893, where he later married Delia Robinson from Co. Mayo. However, Rosemarie cannot trace his roots back to Kilkenny. We have been reading through Patrick's poems for clues as to his boyhood home.
     On such poem is his Christmas poem. I am reprinting it below as a tribute to all our ancestors, at Christmas time and throughout the year.  If any readers have any idea what church in Ireland (perhaps in Kilkenny?) is described in the poem, please contact me!
by Patrick Kearney

Christmas comes but once a year,
   It brings us peace and joy and cheer.
It rouses memories long since asleep
   Of scenes and friends far across the deep.
Scenes more glorious than any artist paints,
   Of the hills and valleys of our Isle of Saints
As a child, I remember the first Christmas morn
   That I head the story of how Our Lord was born.

I searched the house, as in a dream,
   The floor was swept , all things were clean.
I still can feel the glowing heat
   Cast by the fire of bog, deal and peat.
Outside 'twas dark and the clouds hung low,
   But it looked like Christmas, with so much snow
As we trudged along 'oer the country road
   Our hearts were weighed with a joyous load.

Merry Christmas to all, as each neighbor pass,
   The goal ahead was that early Mass.
They knew peace was there and good will toward men
   As when pronounced by the Angels at Bethlehem,
The Franciscan Church we now can see.
   In veneration we called it the Friary.
As I entered its portals I was too thrilled to pray
   As I gazed on the crib built by Father Day.

A more able pen than mine would fail
   To describe the scene at the Altar rail.
The stable was there true to life
    O'er which the Star of Bethlehem cast its luminous light.
The walls, the manger and the thatched roof
   And the floor were kicked the ass's hoof.
Water came bubbling, slow at first
   To cool and quench the Blessed Mother's thirst...

Oh! She looked so queenly, and yet so mild
   As she gazed upon our God, her Child.
As it's her dearest wish to be called our Mother,
   In all humility we can call Him brother.
I thought St. Joseph looked so sad,
   Oh! If I could cheer him wouldn't I be glad.
But I'm sure all his joy was kept within
   For that's characteristic of all great like him.

I looked in wonder at the rushing stream
Of water brought forth for our Heavenly
I had heard how water once flowed from a
By the power of God through Aaron's
And here was Our Lord in His first hour
   Performing a miracle of equal power.
Though there was no room for them at the Inn
   He proved that the world belonged to Him.

I suppose Christmas in Ireland will be always
      the same,
   They celebrate in spirit as well as name.
They're always reminded of their glorious past
   When religious persecution made them hold more fast
To the ancient Faith which naught could sever.
   Like it's Divine Founder it will go on for ever.
   I think I hear you say, 'he forgot the cow'
    Well, no, she was in the crib, so I must leave
      you now.
--Patrick Kearney

19 December 2011


     Time is short this week, I know, but technology can help you create last minute gifts of family history quickly. Some ideas from fellow researchers:
  • ancestor charts (the perennial favorite): Print out a family tree and frame it or have it laminated.
  • old photographs: Time to share those old family photos! Make a collage of old photos or frame one or two special ancestors. Or, scan and copy your entire photo collection.
  • family records:  Have you found records that other relatives might appreciate possessing? For example, records of a cousin's parent? Make a gift of the records (don't forget to make yourself a copy first). You can create a binder for them in no time at all, or place them in a nice memento box if you are short on time. Not only will you be creating a gift, you will help to preserve family records by distributing them.
  • DVD's: If you are handy with video programs, make a short DVD from old family videos. Videos of family Christmas gatherings are especially appreciated during the holidays.
  • recipes: Are you the keeper of grandmom's secret recipe box? Time to share! Create a family recipe box or make a quick recipe binder.
  • gifts for the genealogy buff (or that person you want to infect with family history fever): Give a gift subscription for an online database or pay for a DNA analysis.
  • newspaper articles: Create a gift of newspaper articles for a relevant date, such as a person's date of birth.
     Many of these gifts can be assembled quickly in a three ring binder if you are short on time and funds. Or, place them in a memory box or treasure chest. With gifts of family history, it's the thought--or record--that counts!

13 December 2011


     Not finding an ancestor's records? There are many reasons why a life event might not be recorded, and these reasons might have been "hushed up" by the family. Your ancestors were human, and they might have done scandalous, illegal, or immoral things in their lives. If there is a problem with addiction or mental illness among their living descendants, you should consider the possibility that your ancestors coped with these problems in their lives, also. Don't forget that many illnesses and behaviors that carried a stigma or were illegal in past times may not be considered as scandalous today.
     I have met researchers who become upset or embarrassed when I have raised the possibility of an out of wedlock birth in their tree or an ancestor who abandoned the family. These emotional reactions can create brick walls in our research. Don't allow your sensibilities to cloud your research!

  •       Birth out of wedlock/kidnapping/abandonment. Consider these possibilities if name and age discrepancies occur in a family and cannot be easily explained. 
   I've seen family trees where a "sister" was in fact a child of a sibling, and the "mother" a grandmother or aunt.
     I have heard of two instances in which a child was kidnapped by another relative or family friend when the child's mother died in childbirth (yes, kidnapped--taken right out of the cradle without the father's permission or knowledge!).
     I have researched a case in which some but not all of the children were placed in an orphanage by parents who were struggling financially.
     I have encountered a case in which the researcher assumed that a young woman and small child with the same surname as the household was a daughter in law. However, the young woman turned out to be a daughter who was a single mother and gave her child the family surname instead of that of the birth father.
  • Suicide. In the past in some churches, a victim of suicide could not be buried in church yard or consecrated grounds. In those cases, no record was kept by the church of the burial or death.
  • Bigamy. I have seen family trees containing men with two simultaneous families (and they were not early Mormons, either).
  • Desertion. I have had quite a few researchers tell me about their ancestor who was hard to find because the ancestor deserted the family.
  • Criminal/victim. I have spoken to researchers whose ancestors were murderers, and others whose ancestors were victims of murder. Usually, a researcher is "lucky" in both cases, because there are news reports and coroners' inquests that leave a paper trail. However, the families often covered up the story.
  •  Illness. Both mental and physical illnesses or conditions were often covered up by families.
  •  Name changes/ Family strife. Even today, I know individuals who have changed their names after an estrangement with their family or other life circumstance (such as a religious conversion). Many of us have encountered name changes in our family tree. There is often a story underlying the name change. The change was not always made by some "Ellis Island official," as the popular myth goes. On the contrary, I've read that the immigration officials were rather careful about the immigrants' names. Most name changes were done by immigrants after they settled in their new land--and often families were divided on the change.
     These hushed-up stories are often the mortar in our genealogical brick walls. If an ancestor seems to be a mystery, perhaps he or she was, in fact, involved in one!

08 December 2011


     I have been following the Ireland XO (Ireland Reaches Out) initiative on this blog. This project aims to trace those persons who emigrated from Irish parishes, thereby meeting halfway, in effect, the descendants of the Irish Diaspora who are tracing their ancestors back to Ireland. The number of Irish parishes taking part in the project has grown over the past year. Now the project is reaching out to family historians by providing online resources and bulletin boards. The online site is currently a "beta" version, but holds much promise as a prime resource for online Irish genealogy research. Check out the new features via the link below:


     If your ancestor is one of the 1.1 million people buried in Dublin's Glasnevin Cemetery, you are in luck. The Glasnevin Trust has placed the cemetery records online, as well as those for Dardistown, Goldenbridge, Newlands Cross, and Palmerstown. Altogether, there are records dating back to 1828 for 1.5 million people. The Trust has been working for 20 years to make this project a reality. Another boon for Irish family historians!

05 December 2011


     Beginning in January, I will also be writing a monthly piece for the Certificate of Irish Heritage website. (Won't be getting paid, so this is not a commercial announcement! Just pleased to be able to reach a wider audience with my posts). Today, they are featuring a short piece I wrote about our ancestors' calling to us across the ages. I hope you enjoy it!
ARTICLE: HANDS CLASPED ACROSS TIME article on Certificate of Irish Heritage site

At Peggy Lagan's cottage, Innishatieve, Co. Tyrone 1995


DONEGAL Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary Enlistees
KERRY Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary Records
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary Enlistees
KILKENNY Genealogy Archives - Military
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary Enlistees
KILDARE Genealogy Archives - Military
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary Enlistees
FERMANAGH Genealogy Archives - Military Records
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary Enlistees
TIPPERARY Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Aglish & Gortnahoe Headstones
TIPPERARY Genealogy Archives - Photos
Twomileborris Cemetery Photo
WESTMEATH Genealogy Archives - Land
William Hankinson's Ledger Fearmore Townland, 1852-1884
WESTMEATH Genealogy Archives - Bible
John & Bridge Coughlin Bible (from Moat)
WICKLOW Headstone Index
Glenealy Parish Church Cemetery (additional headstones)

02 December 2011


     Because of the hectic nature of the winter holidays, family history research is often pushed aside. Shopping, decorating, wrapping, cooking and church services take center stage in our lives in the month of December. But, for many families, Christmas is the only time of the year that family members come together en masse. Don't lose the chance to steer the conversation towards reminiscing. Recalling family memories together is not only a bonding experience, but could lead to family history discoveries.
     You might consider making a game night out of the experience. In October, I had the pleasure of meeting Carol and Mary Jane McPhee at a Toronto book festival. The two sisters have created a game called "LifeTimes: The Game of Reminiscence." The game consists of 125 cards with vintage photos and 500 "Remember?" prompts that invite storytelling and conversation. Currently, the game comes in a 1950's edition, and I am hoping the sisters expand it into other decades (although perhaps many of us will want the 60's kept secret!). Most  of the prompts can be used for other time periods, as well, so even if you want to explore other decades, you can do it fairly well with the 50's set.
     Each card has a general theme for the prompts. For example, the card that contains the saying "Be home when the street lights come on" has the following prompts: "What was your family's signal for bringing the kids in?" "Try and recall a game played by the children in your neighborhood," and "What were some fears parents had for their children? Are these fears different today?"
     Carol and Mary Jane created the game to help their mother with memory loss. They wanted to develop a "positive tool" to get their mother "more relaxed and to a happy place." They soon found that the game resonated not only with their mother and other elderly persons, but with their friends and even younger generations.
     I can envision so many ways a family historian can use these cards. They are excellent writing prompts for anyone writing their memoirs or personal essays. They are also great memory jogging tools. I have often found myself stymied when interviewing family members for movies or oral histories. Some relatives close up like clams, and the questions on these cards are sure to pry some interesting stories out of them. I like reading over some of the cards in private and losing myself down memory lane.
     The game is available to order online, and can be shipped to Canada and the USA.

(Disclaimer: I am not associated in any way with LifeTimes or the McPhee sisters, nor have I received any payment or reward for this review).