27 June 2013


     I have long been fascinated by the Nativist riots that exploded against the Irish immigrants in Philadelphia in 1844. Many of my Irish ancestors lived in the area affected by the riots and attended the churches that were attacked and burned. So, when I heard that Philadelphia local historian and genealogist Kenneth W. Milano recently published The Philadelphia Nativist Riots: Irish Kensington Erupts (Charleston: The History Press), I contacted him immediately (well, right after purchasing the book!).

    Even if your immigrant ancestors did not live in Philadelphia, Kenneth's book sheds light on the hardships and discrimination that Irish immigrants often faced after arriving in the United States.
DEBORAH: Why should a family historian research the local history of their ancestral places?
KENNETH: "Local history allows us to put meat on the bones of our family trees...it fills in the picture of what life must have been like to live, work and worship during various time periods, even if our family was not famous or even mentioned. If researching your family history, it would be wise to seek out the local historian from the area (every area seems to have at least one), as they may be able to reveal information about your family, tell of little used sources, etc..."
DEBORAH: When and how did you become interested in the riots of 1844?
KENNETH: "My interest in the history of Kensington and Fishtown [Philadelphia neighborhoods where the rioting occurred] naturally led me to the Riots of 1844. As a practicing Catholic, this also intrigued my interest. I had written about the riots when I had my weekly history column in the Fishtown Star (2007-2011). After the column ended, I went back and picked out the material I wrote up on the riots. At the same time, a friend asked me to research the history of St. Michael's, in particular, to write biographies of the founders of the church, which wound up being many of the men who had properties damaged during the riots."
DEBORAH: Did any aspect of the riots or of Irish Philadelphia history surprise you?
KENNETH: "It was rather amazing that about half of the rioters were teenagers (on both sides), and that twelve year old Robert McQuillan (whose descendants I met) was given one year in prison for throwing rocks during the riots. It was also amazing that the Nativist Party had a theological arm, 100 ministers from various denominations in Philadelphia, particularly Presbyterian, who signed a constitution to form the American Protestant Association, which was basically an anti-Catholic society. These were men of the cloth? Why should we be surprised that the men in the streets were rioting if their preachers were egging them on?"
DEBORAH: Where did you find sources for your book?
KENNETH:  "The Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia City Archives, both have several court registers which were helpful in figuring out who was arrested and tried for the riots. Old newspapers available from genealogybank.com were also very helpful in reading through the court testimony of the articles to be able to give a "blow by blow" account. Biographies were compiled for the leaders of the riots (on both sides) by using the normal methods of old newspapers, vital records, church records, census and city directories. Histories of the event, histories of the churches involved, participants' memoirs, and contemporary diaries/letters were also very helpful."
DEBORAH: As a genealogist, do you have any advice for family history researchers?
KENNETH: "I never found a reason to hire a genealogist who is not based in the city where you need research done. I always hire folks who live in the city where I need research conducted. For example, why hire someone in Utah, if you need research done on a family who lived in Philadelphia? I would also use local experts, and if they are not helpful, then move out from there..."
     Kenneth W. Milano, who graduated cum laude in American History from Temple University in 1995,  has been doing genealogical and historical research for over twenty years. He has been taking clients since 2004. Kenneth also catalogues historical manuscripts for the book selling firm of Michael Brown Rare Americana LLC in Philadelphia. His website is www.kennethwmilano.com , where information on his genealogical and historical research services and publications can be found.
     Besides writing a column "The Rest is History" for the Fishtown Star between 2007-2011 (284 articles!) Kenneth has authored six books with History Press of Charleston, S.C.:
Remembering Kensington and Fishtown
History of Penn Treaty Park
History of the Kensington Soup Society
Hidden History of Kensington and Fishtown
Palmer Cemetery and the Historical Burial Grounds of Kensington and Fishtown
The Philadelphia Nativist Riots: Irish Kensington Erupts


24 June 2013


     The Irish Times reports that the European Union might restrict public access to records, effectively closing significant sources of genealogical research in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe:

21 June 2013


     I am re-posting (below) a short post from my blog about family stories, Spilling the Family Beans, because it raises important questions that family historians and genealogists often fail to consider as we plough our way through family records and stories and secrets.
     When asked whether family history information and records should be placed in the public domain and be easily accessible, many researchers answer ""yes" reflexively. But there are layers upon layers of questions to consider, many of them raised by the recently documentary Stories We Tell. I certainly do not have all the answers, and neither does this movie, but the questions are important and should be pondered by all family history researchers.
     My post reprinted as follows:
     When I was a young assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, I was intrigued by and amazed at the different stories told by eyewitnesses to the same crime. Each person who witnessed a crime saw the event from a different angle and perspective. The eyewitnesses' own backgrounds and emotions and prejudices colored their perceptions, and especially, their recollections. Where did the truth reside?
    These questions and more are addressed in director Sarah Polley's exquisite documentary Stories We Tell. What are our family stories? How are family secrets kept secret? Where is the truth in our stories? Whose version is the true version? Is there a true version? Who "owns" the story? Who "owns" the right to tell the story or to keep it hidden?
     I want to write pages and pages about the questions raised by Stories We Tell. But this movie is so full of surprises that I would certainly trip up and include a spoiler or two. So, watch the trailer:
    If the movie is not playing in a theatre near you, consider buying or renting the DVD version, scheduled to be released in September.

15 June 2013


    The Public Record Office in Northern Ireland (PRONI) has announced that they have found no trace of the 1926 census for Northern Ireland. This census was the first undertaken after the partition of Ireland.
     Read the full BBC report: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-22848416

09 June 2013


Oscar Cat joins me in an
     Most of us have had an ARRRGGGHHHH moment during our family research. You, know, those moments that make you 1) at best, wonder what goes on in the minds of family members, or 2) at worst, make you want to turn to violence (in between are a whole range of emotions from bewilderment to hurt to anger).
     I've heard tales of ARRRGGGHHHH moments from fellow researchers--most having to do with relatives who hid family history information, records, or photos from the rest of the family.
     Thou shalt not covet, I know, but I sure do covet certain relatives' closets, in which, I imagine, lurks every birth record I have hunted for thirty years! Once, I finally obtained a baptismal certificate for which I had spent years hunting. I announced the great news to an aunt, who said, "Oh, I have that baptismal certificate, and I think it says something entirely different."
     What do these moments tell us as researchers? We have to be pests. Family history insects. We have to pester and pester and bug our family members until we are quite sure we cannot wring any more information out of them. Then we have to try anew with greater effort to find out more.
     Usually, after such an ARRRGGGHHHH moment, when I ask a relative why he or she did not inform me of the key information previously, the equally bewildered relative answers, "You never asked." Sometimes people truly forget a piece of family information, and do need to be asked very specifically about it. Other times, our relatives do not realize how much time and effort we family historians put into our work. They have no idea how important a record or fact may be to us. They may even assume that we know what they know!
     I recently discovered the surname of my great grandmother's sister. I have been researching this particular family, on and off,  since I was eight years old. I hit a brick wall decades ago with that family line.
     When I called my mother to share the great news, she said, "I knew that name. I wrote to her when I was a young girl."
     Then the kicker:
     "You wrote to her daughter when you were a girl, too."
     I suddenly realized my mother was correct. I did write to that cousin when I was young. I had forgotten the name entirely. Worse yet, I had not saved any of the letters.
     So I looked into a mirror at myself and yelled

03 June 2013


More free online records from the volunteers at the Ireland Genealogy Projects:
DERRY/LONDONDERRY Genealogy Archives
Protestants in favour of Catholic Emancipation 1812 (Colerain)

DOWN Genealogy Archives - Miscellaneous
Protestants in favor of Catholic Emancipation 1812 (Downpatrick)

DUBLIN Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Cruagh Cemetery Pt. 2, Rockbrook, Co. Dublin

FERMANAGH Genealogy Archives - Church
Births, Marriages, Deaths recorded at Tempo (CoI)

FERMANAGH Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Donagh Old Cemetery
Maguiresbridge, Church of Ireland Cemetery

KILKENNY Genealogy Archives - Church Records
Callan Parish, Assorted Baptisms - 1843

LEITRIM Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Killasnet Graveyard & 15th Century Church site

MONAGHAN Genealogy Archives - Miscellaneous
Protestants in favour of Catholic Emancipation 1812

ROSCOMMON Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1857 Irish Constabulary

SLIGO Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1857 Irish Constabulary men

TIPPERARY Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1857 Irish Constabulary man

TYRONE Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1857 Irish Constabulary men

WESTMEATH Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary Records
1857 Irish Constabulary men

WEXFORD Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1857 Irish Constabulary men

WATERFORD Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1857 Irish Constabulary men

WICKLOW Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Killoughter Cemetery
& Hollywood, St.Kevins Church of Ireland

WICKLOW Genealogy Archives - Military
1857 Irish Constabulary men