Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What's in a Name...

Beatrice - (Gaelic:"bringer of joy", "blesses").

November has given me two blessings named Beatrice in my lifetime, both who have brought a lot of joy into my life. The first was my mother and the second is my niece (her granddaughter and namesake).  With Beatrice not being the most common name, you'd think it would be easier to find records when looking back in the family tree.  Not quite the case when dealing with an Irish genealogy.  It was actually quite popular back in the day.

I had always heard Mom mention that she had been named after an aunt named Beatrice.  I'm still trying to find said relative, with no luck as of yet. Of course, with all the diminutives and nicknames, finding an ancestor's given name can be quite the quandry.  I can't tell you how many forms of Elizabeth i've tried  (Liza, Betty, Beth, Lizzie, just to name a few - and God only knows how they get Peggy from Margaret) in locating my grandfather's sister's records. Additionally, many folks went by their middle names rather than their first (which i'm finding to be the case with my grandmother's father). Don't let it discourage you though.  Determination wins out in the long run (from what they tell me).

Case in point is my grandfather's sister Helen.  All the census' for 1901 and 1911 the name was listed as Ellen.  When researching the census' themselves, i found that many of the census takers were from England and had a tough time understanding the Irish brogue.  Hence Helen became Ellen.  In 1911, they saw Ellen on the previous census and it continued in the census record.  It only clarified itself, when thanks to the aid of a cousin, we located a picture of sister Helen (who actually was a sister - nun that is).  Helen's archival record from the convent confirmed the date of  birth (which proved her to be the Ellen on the census).

Additionally, let's not forget naming traditions were used quite a bit more in times past.  First born sons were named after their grandfather many times (which can be quite useful when locating relatives further back in the tree).  Keep an eye out for similar names amongst the branches of the family as well.  They may lead you back to even further generations and uncover another whole set of names to look for.  And in genealogy, that's the name of the game!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Memories.....

Well, as I won't be able to sleep tonight (i should have known better than to watch  Dark Secret of Harvest Home) , I thought i might share a bit of my family Halloween memories.  Mom had a bit of a dark side when she saw the opportunity to scare the kids a bit.  She loved dark stormy nights, when the lights went out, and the wind went howling through the trees. Then every so softly she'd start reciting the poem she learned when she was just a girl... About the Gobluns coming to eat you up!
Little Orphant Annie
Little Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay,
An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an' brush the crumbs away,
An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an' sweep,
An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an'-keep;
An' all us other children, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an' has the mostest fun
A-list'nin' to the witch-tales 'at Annie tells about,
An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you
Ef you
Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn't say his prayers,--
An' when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an' his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An' when they turn't the kivvers down, he wuzn't there at all!
An' they seeked him in the rafter-room, an' cubby-hole, an' press,
An' seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an' ever'-wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an' roundabout:--
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you
An' one time a little girl 'ud allus laugh an' grin,
An' make fun of ever' one, an' all her blood-an'-kin;
An' wunst, when they was "company," an' ole folks wuz there,
She mocked 'em an' shocked 'em, an' said she didn't care!
An' thist as she kicked her heels, an' turn't to run an' hide,
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin' by her side,
An' they snatched her through the ceilin' 'fore she knowed what she's about!
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you
An' little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An' the lamp-wick sputters, an' the wind goes woo-oo!
An' you hear the crickets quit, an' the moon is gray,
An' the lightnin'-bugs in dew is all squenched away,--
You better mind yer parunts, an' yer teachurs fond an' dear,
An' churish them 'at loves you, an' dry the orphant's tear,
An' he'p the pore an' needy ones 'at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you
  - James Whitcomb Riley

To this day, my sister and I still cringe when we hear those words.  Needless to say, having experienced many sleepless nights over the years because of that poem,  i find it rather satisfying that i can pass it on, and scare the hell out of our next generation!  Yes, I do have my mother's twisted sense of humor!

Happy Halloween, folks!!!!  Keep an eye out for the Gobbluns!!!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Gang's all here....

It's been quite a summer!  Recently, I attended a reunion of some of our old neighborhood where we grew up, as well as impromptu family get-togethers when cousins came up to the area.  It was great to see everyone again and catch up with what's been happening with them all.  I got to see the next generations (the big kids to the smallest).  Amazing how when folks collaborate, the memories come flying right back.  Things we hadn't thought of in years bounce to the front of our minds.

Now that the weather starts to chill and the holidays loom ever closer, i find myself ready to relax and get back into my research during the colder months.   I was glad to present the first hard copy of my research to my cousin Gordon (like most folks in the family - i call him Skip) , who has always been the one to keep in touch with all the family. 

Enjoy the winter folks.  A toast to our families, one and all!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Pay it Forward...

My initial objective when i first started my research was to trace my family tree back to my great grandparents.  Having accomplished that goal, with the help of great online resources, i wanted to help others with their research.   I decided to volunteer my skills to the World Archive Project through, keying in data from scanned records, so they are indexed on the Ancestry website.

The World Archive project allows people to help others gain access to new records that will help them in their own research.  It also allows the data entry operators know what new records will be coming online, and if it is useful to them.  The greatest benefit to me,personally, is knowing i can provide one more clue to someone solving their family mysteries.

Give back, pay it forward, any way you say it - help others when you can.  It may not seem like much, but your efforts can mean a great deal to the people you've helped.

Friday, August 23, 2013

O' Canada....

This morning started like any other, checking my email and Facebook.  I noticed my niece posted that she had to help her daughter with a family tree assignment.  Having done a little investigating on her mom's tree before, i thought i'd do a quick search to see what else i could come up with for her.  Lo and behold, i found a trail of records, going back three generations.  Her mom's father was from Canada originally.  Amazingly, i was able to find a clear document trail back to his parents and even to his grandparent who came from Scotland.  I wish all my records could be as easy to find.

What a rush!  I still get so exciting uncovering another clue, another step into the past. My sister-in-law just celebrated her birthday, and have i got THE present for her.  I can't wait to share it with her!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Mass of Information....

A friend recently asked where she should start looking for information to start her family tree.  She was quite surprised when i told her to check through the mass cards, floral / memorial cards and funeral guest registers from her parents.  Granted, it may seem ghoulish, but its a valuable source of information.  Check through the signatures and separate the ones you know from the ones you don't know.  Many times these names may be relatives that came to pay their respects.  Also, make note of the funeral home  and cemetery so you can update your parents internment information.

When you have your list of unidentified folks, search for them online and with other family members who may recognize the names.  Make note of any titles (Dr., Sr., Fr., etc) as these will give you extra occupational clues to search by.

When checking mass cards, make note of where the church is that the mass is being said in.  That will let your know approximately the area where this new contact lived.  If it's in the town your parent grew up in, keep a note that it may be the parish to check with for baptismal and marriage records.

My biggest set of records are all the memorial cards my parents gathered over the years.  Mom had them secreted in the bottoms of drawers, in envelopes with old greeting cards, among old letters and diaries.  It was quite a pile to work on. 

Go through each item carefully and put each type together as a group, so you can refer back to them easily.  Even the littlest items can provide the largest clues.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Family Photos...

Good news!!! I finally figured out a way to add family photos with an album gallery.  I'm not the tech-head I used to be, but it will work.  I still have to make some adjustments to the pic sizes, but it's getting there.  Check out the "Family Photos" tab on the menu bar.   Hope this can work for other folks pages as well.  Enjoy!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Proof Positive...

It's been quite a week for my tree.  We've actually received the information on my  grandfather's sister, the Franciscan nun.  In the archival record we received from the order, she was born Helen Patricia McCann, daughter of James McCann and Mary Peyton. 

I can't tell you how happy i was to see those two names.  I finally have the proof that i have the right family in my tree.  As I never had my grandfather's death certificate, i could never verify 100% that I had his correct parents listed....up until now that is. 

While there are still questions surrounding Sister Marian, my lengthiest mystery has now come to a close. With James and Mary confirmed as their parents, i can breathe easier, secure in the knowledge that my work has been verified.

Evidence in genealogical records can be hard to come by as we all know.  Proving each member of your tree can be a mind-numbing experience.  The reward, however, is well worth the effort.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Picture Perfect.....

It's amazing the effect a picture can have on a person.  I recently received a picture
from my cousin Joanne (who i recently met through Ancestry) of my grandfather with his
brothers and sister-in-law.  I instantly recognized the face, even though i was only a
kid when he passed. I couldn't thank Joanne enough for sending me the photo, as it was
one no one in my family had ever seen.  I am so glad i started this project years back.
It's photos like this and the new family members i've met along the way that keep
inspiring me.

Share your family photos when you can.  You never know the effect they'll have.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

And then there was......Nun

Big news!!!  My cousin Bob (who i met through Ancestry) recently came across a mass card for his grandfather's sister - the Sister.  Pardon the bad pun, but this has been such a breakthrough.  According to the card, the mass was for Sister Marian Therese McCann (8/17/1891 - 2/15/1972) who was a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis.  It lists her burial at Resurrection Cemetery (trying to find out which one yet - getting more info). If the birthdate is correct, it would most likely be my grandfather's sister Eliza, who became Marian Therese when she joined the order.  Eliza (aka Lizzie) lived with my grandparents upon her arrival in the US according to the 1910 census, but I was unable to find any record of her in the next census.  I think i found my reason. 

On another note, i also got introduced to a new cousin, Joanne, who Bob suggested correspond with me regarding her own research project.  It's such a pleasure making new friends and meeting new family.  Family finds family, and we all keep trying to find more of ours.  Happy hunting!!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Recipe for Success...

This summer has been rather rainy so far. It's days like this that all you want to do
is curl up on the couch with a cup of tea, a good book and comfort food.  One of my
favorites that Mom used to make was Colcannon, a combination of mashed potatoes and
cabbage (along with generous amounts of cream, butter, salt and pepper).  Perhaps it's
the Irish bloodlines or a flashback to the famine, but everything always seemed better
when accompanied by a side order of potatoes (mashed, baked, fried, boiled name

Some Irish favorites still make their way to our tables, even if only a few times a
year.  What would St. Pat's be like without Corned Beef and Cabbage.  Irish Stew, Soda
bread and Boxty (potato pancakes) were some of the dishes passed on to our mothers
(although Mom's soda bread making left something to the imagination).

Food has always been an integral part of every culture. Kitchen traditions have been a
great way to teach your kids about their cultures and bring the family together.  Half
of our family gatherings end up with most of us in the kitchen, either eating, cooking
or just shooting the breeze.  Family picnics (if the sun ever comes out this summer)
are a great way to get together and get caught up.    Pull that barbecue out of the
garage and get the charcoal going.  A day in the sun with good food, family and friends
 can make the summer even more enjoyable.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

School Daze.....

Shifted gears yet again to relieve some of the frustration of the current mysteries i'm working on, so I thought I'd do a bit of browsing throught the yearbooks on Ancestry to see if I could find any of my family.  While i wasn't able to find my immediate family, i did make an interesting discovery.  I came across my Uncle Bill's picture.  He was a history professor at Seton Hall back in those days (1940's).  I immediately emailed my find to his daughters, who I know would enjoy it.

I hadn't realized how many yearbooks have already been digitized for the archive.  I was suprised to find as many as i did.  I still have to check out more current yearbooks, to see if i can find the cousins around my age or so.  I don't know if my yearbook is there, but if not, i may volunteer and scan it in for the records.  Take out those yearbooks that are sitting in the bookcase, see if it's already been added to the collection. It's a fun trip down memory lane at the very least

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

And the Mystery Continues.....

I know it's been a bit since my last post.  I've been working on the latest mystery of
the true history of Margaret Kelly, my grandmother.  According to my father, Margaret
and my grandfather met in Ireland and married prior to emigrating to the United States.
However, when i found the US census information for the couple, it showed them both
emigrating when they were very young - Margaret in 1888. I had a stroke of luck
checking and found that my grandmother's father was named Michael.  I
was able to find Michael, his wife Mary, and children James(2 yrs) and Margaret (7
mos).  So now i have some information i can use to track her family. Pretty exciting
The newest conundrum though is her husband Bernard emigrating to the US in 1890.  The
records i have of Bernard show him in Ireland yet until 1912.  I still have to locate
their arrival record in order to see if they returned to Ireland or if I have the wrong
family in my research. The search goes on.  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Shoebox Blues...

No matter if it's cleaning up the closets or cleaning up your online research, the shoeboxes are always a source of anxiety.  Half the time i'm afraid of opening them up, hoping i don't find an unpaid bill, or the insurance card that should be in the car.  Same goes with my Ancestry shoebox.  I've recently started going throught the items i've saved, seeing if they're still applicable to the people on my tree or if they've been proven false and I can discard them. 

My God!  How much stuff did I put in here?!  But i plow through and lo and behold find some verifying information on an ancestor i've been researching.  On an old census record, i found that my maternal grandfather and grandmother had his sister Lizzie living with them for a short time when she first came over.  This verifies that i have the correct family for him on my other research.  I've had the document all this time and never bothered to look back over everything.
Well now i've added it to my monthly calendar.  I'm hoping to find more suprises.  Take the time to go back through all your notes and review them.  Something that may have not seemed important at the time may just be critical now.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Switching over...

It's been a great few weeks finding out more about my grandfather's family.  But dead ends can be a bit frustrating, so it's time to switch gears.  Still on the family history, but on a different branch.  I've still got a bit of a mystery on my paternal grandmother's family, so that's my next target.  It's always a good idea when you get frustrated in your research to take a step back and try something related, but different.  Start checking out the coats of arms, or the history of the area your ancestors lived.  Plan that trip to Ireland (if i could just follow my own advice - but my wallet says no currently).  Once you get involved in a side area, your mind will open up and you'll be open to new possibilities in your main research.  Give it a try. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pardon Our Appearance....

Sorry for any technical difficulties folks.  I've been playing around with the templates for the page.  Want to get just the right look.  Hope you are all enjoying your research.  Summer's coming finally, so that always seems to help.  Have fun.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Step By Step...

What a great week!  With some of the information i found on my grandfather's family, i was able to narrow it down even more.  I have the right ancestors now, it seems.  The dates work out on the children's birth years,  the location works as well (the next village over - one letter difference in the village name) .  My work is almost done (considering my original scope was to get back to my great grandparents - now I've gone back even further).  I just have to confirm a few more facts to ensure all is correct in my research.  One fact i have may be the lynchpin i need - one of my grandfather's sister was a nun.  I haven't found where she was stationed or which sister it was unfortunately.  I've got to keep digging.   Hope all is going well with your research.  Let me know how you're making out and if there's any good sites you've found yourself.  Would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mystery Solved...!

What a great day!  Why am I so happy?  I found some of the answers to my own puzzling mystery in the McCann Family tree.  Following up on an email i received from a cousin i met through, i did a little more digging and came up with a link to the site- a website i had glanced at a few times, but not used much.  Well it's worth the cost of buying the credits.  While i didn't pinpoint my grandfather's exact family info, i did narrow it down quite a bit, and while on the site, i was able to locate my grandmother's parents marriage record - which gave me info on my great-great grandparents.  A whole other generation uncovered!!!!  What a rush!  I can't wait to share the info with the family. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Usual Suspects...

Just like any good detective, genealogy researchers start by talking to the witnesses.  In this case, your family members.   If you think about it, how often do you get to talk to your siblings?  Not often i would think, with everyone's busy schedules, work, family, etc.  I barely see some of my family, maybe once or twice a year.  With that in mind, make it a special occasion for you all to get together.  A family lunch just to get together, no particular holiday or special event. 

Explain to your family what work you've done so far and what questions have come up.  See if they remember any particular details (what job they held, what clubs they belonged to, etc).  Some new info, or a new angle, may come up that will help you in your investigation.  To share a personal story, i had been talking to my sister and one brother when they were visiting.  The subject of our father's family came up, as we didn't know much information at the time.  My sister mentioned that my grandfather died from complications of Parkinson's disease - a fact I never knew.  What a surprise!  Medical histories can be beneficial to families, especially when knowing there is a potential for recurrence in future generations. 

Bring out the family albums so all can see, giving a visual cue that may spark a memory or two.  It's also a great idea to share family photos so each family member can have a copy of the older pics.  See if they can bring some of their albums too, so you can see which photos to get copies of for your own collection.

Even if it doesn't get you a ton of answers, a day with your family can be a perfect gift, a good memory to share, and a tradition to pass on.   In future get-togethers, visit your cousins, uncles, aunts, and so forth.  Bringing a family close is the greatest result.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Starting your Tree

 You've got your motivation, now to get everything down on paper.  Write it all down, starting with your immediate family and then work backwards, putting each individual's information you know on the branches.  Once you've got down the information, now you can identify the blank spots and how you can obtain the answers.
As you work, put all the details you know or have heard about each individual.  Most of these facts won't show their value until much later in your research. 
Now step back a second.  Look down at your work.  You've got your basic tree.  Notice any holes in the branches?  Start a list of questions on a seperate sheet of paper.   What info do you need to find these answers?  Get that deerstalker out of mothballs, Sherlock.  You're solving a new mystery.

Why oh why....

Why do I want to find out about my family tree?  Good question.  It's not like I'm running into half of them each day.  I see them at funerals, for the most part.  For some, that can be enough.

I, on the other hand, wanted to find a bit more.  I wanted to know my history.  How we came to be in the US.  What causes people to leave their homes and families behind, quite possibly never to be seen again? Do we know where our relatives are back in Ireland?  Are any still there?

Motivation can come through many forms.  Seeing old pictures, a family story, or even just a mention of a name, can set that fire in you to find out more.  Keep the fire going! 

On my own part, it was not having my grandparents around when i was growing up, that made me want to find out more about them.  My mother's father was the only grandparent I ever met in person.  I remember Pop only a bit.  I think i was about six years old or so when he passed.  The most prevalent memory of him was getting whisker burn from him kissing you when you visited.

The other motivation was what to leave when I'm gone.  As i don't have any children of my own, i wanted to leave a bit of a legacy for the rest of the kids in the family.  Something to remember me by.  Hmmm - Remember?  That's it!  I'll give them their history!

Whatever your motivation, discovering your family history can be a great reward.  It will provide you with hours of puzzles, good memories, suprises and smiles.  Enjoy your journey!

Friday, April 19, 2013

My Family Tree

It's been quite a journey over the years, finding out where my family came from.  After years of fumbling my way around, I now know the tools and methods the professionals use and have had some good luck locating and verifying the people that make up my ancestral tree. I've also found a few tips of my own to share. 

My particular tree winds its way back to Ireland - County Roscommon to be precise.  Both sets of grandparents were born in the county - in Ballaghaderreen, Boyle and Rooskey. 

Wanting to share my success, I thought i'd help folks learn how to track down their Irish roots.  "Hey, why not make a blog?", i thought.  So here we go folks.  Hope you enjoy the ride, and get some useful info that you can use in your own research.