Paperback Payback

VLUU L310W L313 M310W / Samsung L310W L313 M310WWhen “Where’s Merrill?” was published as an e-book, 18 months ago, many of my clients and associates asked if they could purchase a copy of the novel in paperback. At that time I said that the answer was ‘no’ because paper-printing costs were unrealistic. You see – my novel was written for the e-book market. It was written “in color” – a new concept – and there are several (crucial) color photos and diagrams embedded within the story.

BUT – I always wanted to see a paper version (before the movie, of course). So I have formatted a colorful paperback edition, and made it available from an amenable publisher, at a {ahem} rock-bottom price. WELL – at a little over 20 dollars, it’s an expensive book …. but that’s the going rate if you want full colour and glossy, combined.

“Where’s Merrill?” has featured regularly in Amazon’s Top Ten Best-Seller chart in the genealogy category. This is unusual for a novel also listed in the fictional mystery and thriller genres. It’s a cross-over book. Fact-based fiction, I call it.

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 The author will not make a cent from paperback sales. It’s payback time!

Thank-you clients … for sharing your unique and wonderful family histories.

Purchase at Amazon (in paperback)

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Jest for Genealogists

I’ve got to admit that when I am commissioned to research the ancestral family members of my clients, I (very, very) occasionally guffaw at the new names discovered – and then wonder how to break the news. I use my own experience as guidance. Regular readers will know that I am still searching for the resting place of my elusive [great-aunt] Fanny. This remark brings titters from my younger nephews and nieces, usually set off by their own children.

For the uninitiated, “fanny” is a funny word on both sides of the Atlantic, today – but it’s a beautiful and historical female forename – and it has no etymological link to front or back bottoms!

So … when I was browsing the US city directories, searching for another elusive Irish immigrant ancestor, round about 1903, I must admit that I spat out my coffee and laughed out loud … briefly. I am a professional, y’know.

And so … whatever happened to William and Leonard? Did their Syracuse saloon bar ever take off? Did they know that most European emigrants were wetting themselves, before having a drink? Was the bar partnership name manufactured as an hilarious publicity stunt?

“D’ya fancy a pint down at the D & K?” Take a look:

1903 Dick & Kuntz saloon

 

 

My unorthodox family gravestone that says it all – but also hides so much more

It took me many years to locate my great-grandmother’s grave. Her maiden name was Kate Stenson, but everyone in Ireland knew her as Kit. She was born in 1852 in Ballincurry, a County Sligo townland located between Tubbercurry and Curry. After marrying my GGF Thomas Neary in 1874, her name became Mrs Catherine Neary. She delivered twelve children, and subsequently became the grandmother of 24 grandchildren, the majority of whom were called NEARY (including my father).

As Kit’s youngest son, my grandfather Ned ended up caring for his widowed mother at the home place in Tullinaglug, up until the late 1930’s. At that point, for financial reasons, Ned elected to relocate his growing family to England – but Kit, in her mid-80’s remained in Ireland. Family lore told that Kit went to live with the only one of her six daughters that got married and lived in the west of Ireland; the others having emigrated to New York and/or died before Kit. For a long while, the identity of this daughter was uncertain … but elderly family members recalled that she lived in the coastal resort of Enniscrone, after her marriage to a man called Mullaney.

Extensive research eventually verified that my great-aunt Bridget Neary had initially emigrated to New York City in the late 1890’s, as did eight of her siblings, but Bridget returned home broken-hearted 10 years later. Apparently, a sister had “stolen” Bridget’s first love interest in NYC, and went on to marry him. Within months of re-settling in County Sligo, Bridget married a carpenter called Patrick Mullaney from Enniscrone. On this basis, my search for Kit Stenson’s grave headed in the Enniscrone direction – in the days before the online indexing of headstones!

VLUU L310W L313 M310W / Samsung L310W L313 M310WOne summer’s afternoon, a trek around Kilglass cemetery miraculously located Kate Stenson Neary’s grave in a position high on the hill towards the rear of the graveyard, among older more weather-beaten headstones – but more ancestral mysteries were instantly raised. Catherine Neary died in 1944 aged 92, and she was buried in a grave already containing two corpses with names which meant nothing to me, or my family.

Kate Stenson’s grave is marked by the inscription “Grandmother of the Mullany Brothers [of] Enniscrone.” The grand headstone reveals that a male and female both named Fox, and who both died in Jan 1939 aged in their 70’s, are buried in the same plot. I could only guess that this mystery couple had a connection to the equally unfamiliar Mullany Brothers.

On the base of the main headstone, I detected some roughly inscribed words which have been rather unprofessionally added at some later date (after 1944), perhaps without removing the stone to a mason’s yard. These words read as “Erected By Her Son ?? Thomas Neary”. There are two engraved marks before the name Thomas which I cannot make out. My grandfather’s brother Thomas was a US Army career soldier and lifelong bachelor boy.

VLUU L310W L313 M310W / Samsung L310W L313 M310WAfter a bit more research, and lots of head-scratching, I developed a plausible theory about Neary family events back in 1944. My theory is that Kate Stenson passed away at the grand old age of 92, after being resident in Enniscrone for no more than about the last 8 years of her life. This was a financially depressed era in Ireland, and the World War was still raging around Europe and farther afield. Her daughter, Bridget [Mullany] would have sent letters to my grandfather Ned in England, and other siblings in the Bronx and around NYC, including bachelor Thomas, to inform them that their mother had passed away. The war would certainly have prevented travel from the US for a funeral, and probably also from England. I reckon that the Mullany family could not afford a new burial plot, so they opted to bury Kate in the grave used by some family relatives called Fox. I discovered that the mother of Bridget’s husband, Patrick Mullany, was called Mary Fox, and that Patrick was raised as a child by aunts and uncles named Fox. The extra grave inhabitants were siblings of Patrick’s mother who never married. Initially, this grave would have remained without a significant headstone after the 1939 interments and again immediately after September 1944 when my GGM Catherine was laid to rest..

My guess is that Thomas was still in the US at this time, probably offering his services to the war effort, even if just in a clerical capacity. When the war was over, Thomas most likely officially retired from US Army service, and he would have received a generous pension. I think that he kindly offered to send money to the Mullany family to ensure that his mother had a suitable memorial headstone.

The Mullanys then (sort of) respectfully obliged Thomas’s wishes, and hence we get the gravestone listing the grave’s occupants – with Catherine Neary listed as the primary “resident”. Next, I think that Bridget & the Mullanys would have been surprised when later in the 1940’s, Thomas advised that he intended to return to Sligo to see out his final days as soon as trans-Atlantic passenger travel routes were safely re-established. However, Thomas got the greater shock when he visited the Kilglass cemetery for the first time to pay his respects to his deceased mother. Here he found his mother’s remains lying in a grave alongside two strangers (in Neary family terms). Furthermore, the grave inscription paid homage to the fact that Kate was the grandmother of Bridget’s children; three local brothers who were builders aged in their mere 20’s. No mention of her father Charles Stenson, or Thomas Neary her husband, or Thomas the son who paid for the headstone, or the other ten Neary siblings, or Tullinaglug, Kate’s home for over 60 years.

I believe that Thomas would have been justifiably alarmed by the fact that the Mullany’s had effectively hijacked his mother’s memorable lifetime. Kate gave birth to 12 children. Many had overcome adversity and forged good lives in and around New York. My grandfather Ned had looked after his mother and the family farm for over 20 years as the main bread-winner. The Mullany’s had belatedly got to know Kate very late in her life – why should this family feature in isolation on her tombstone?

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        “Erected by her son ? ? Thomas Neary”

I can imagine Thomas & Bridget exchanging a few heated words about the bizarre headstone inscription. I think this resulted in the amateurish additional words being added at the base of the headstone, as a compromise to an angry or bemused Thomas. I can just picture one of the “jack-of-all-trades” Mullany brothers saying that they would personally inscribe a tribute to Thomas on the foot of the stone – and they made a right old mess of the inscription. The illegible marks before Thomas’s name could even be a spelling error which was crudely obliterated, but remains as a sign of unprofessional stone-masonry forever more.

In my opinion, the whole episode was triggered by Bridget’s rejection as a potential bride-to-be in the 1900’s decade in New York. Two of her sisters married two out of three very eligible Irish sibling bachelors in America. One of these handsome men became a fully qualified and renowned Civil Engineer and lived in the eye-catching big Bronx Reservoir House. Bridget must have felt bitter and jealous of her sisters’ good fortune when she returned to Ireland as an aging spinster. She had to settle for marrying a local small-town building tradesman, six years her junior. By the time her mother Kit Stenson died in 1944, it is likely that Bridget had disowned her successful siblings in New York, apart from Thomas who only emigrated after the Mullany/Neary wedding. Bridget’s bitterness is evident on Kit’s gravestone. The inscription acknowledges the relationship of my great-grandmother to Bridget’s own family, and no-one else …. except for those telling extra words added in amateurish fashion recording that my great-uncle Tom Neary actually funded the selfish memorial.

I might be interpreting the evidence wrongly, and doing my distant Mullany cousins a disservice. As might be expected from this tale, there has been no direct communication between Nearys and Mullanys for almost 50 years. If anyone can shed more light on the burial events of 1944, then please step forward.

Retired US Army soldier Tom died in Ireland in 1954. The whereabouts of his grave, and that of his father Thomas (the husband of Kit Stenson, and my GGF) have yet to be located.

Book Review: Where’s Merrill?

Bobbi King’s take on “Where’s Merrill?” via Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter

The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

Where’s Merrill? By Gearóid O’Neary. Self-published as an e-book. 2013. 117 pages.

It’s relaxing to sit down and read a book just for pleasure’s sake. Set aside the hefty genealogy reference guides and just escape into an easy and comfortable read.

Where’s Merrill would be a good story to slip into. I have it on my e-reader, and it’s an agreeable way to pass the time on a crowded airplane, relax while on vacation, or read just propped up on the living room couch.

Merrill is a fictional genealogical thriller based on factual events and people, but written with artistic license permitting character embellishment and dramatic plot building.

View original post 255 more words

Bobbi King of EOGN reviews “Where’s Merrill?”

 

 

EASTMAN’S ONLINE GENEALOGY NEWSLETTER

It’s relaxing to sit down and read a book just for pleasure’s sake. Set aside the hefty genealogy reference guides and just escape into an easy and comfortable read.

Where’s Merrill would be a good story to slip into. I have it on my e-reader, and it’s an agreeable way to pass the time on a crowded airplane, relax while on vacation, or read just propped up on the living room couch.

Merrill is a fictional genealogical thriller based on factual events and people, but written with artistic license permitting character embellishment and dramatic plot building.

The central character is Merrill Harrison, whose story begins in 1890s-era Kansas. The author narrates two stories back and forth between Merrill and Jed, the researching genealogist of today who is unraveling the background of the Harrisons. But not disconcertingly so, the narrative is clearly-presented and easy to follow.

There are several characters, of which Merrill is the most dissolute. He becomes an embarrassment to his family and the kind of ancestor we don’t want to find in our family trees. Family box charts inserted into the chapters aid in keeping everyone straight, a familiar approach to us all. There are twists and turns to the plot, and interesting research tactics to read about as the professional present-day Jed character goes about methodically stalking the elusive Merrill.

Mr. O’Neary has a quirky way of writing. It’s a little stumbly, and he doesn’t break any new ground in the creative writing genre, but I didn’t find any of that to be a detriment to the read. Mr. O’Neary obviously likes to write, he obviously likes to tell a story, and that’s exactly what he did.

We can enjoy his story, and he should be pleased that he got his story into publication, no mean feat by anyone’s standards.

We’re all happy.

You can purchase Where’s Merrill from Amazon as a Kindle ebook at http://goo.gl/uAOk4U.

Ancestry Research-wise … Ireland regresses from ground-breaker to stone-age in 15 days

Those of you who follow the latest news in genealogy research developments will be well aware that July 3rd 2014 was a momentous day in Ireland. The indices to the Republic’s civil records of births, marriages and deaths up to 2013 were made available to viewers online. It was a marvelous occasion, celebrating over 6 month’s hard work by dedicated civil servants (at great cost to the public purse), rightly trumpeted by government Ministers as a big step forward in promoting Irish ancestry to the vast worldwide diaspora.

ig website

Temporarily? For over a month, and counting?

15 days later the website was closed down … by a [Nanny] State watchdog voicing concerns about data protection. Billy Hawkes, Ireland’s Data Protection Commisioner, declared that a monumental “cock-up” had occurred. It seems that one Irishman was concerned that his DOB and mother’s maiden name were now traceable via the civil birth registers, so the whole website was abandoned overnight. This unprotected public data is available to any Irish resident or visitor to Ireland who cares to venture into one of two General Register Office research rooms.

Our neighbours in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland appear to have no such concerns regarding the publicity of DOB’s or the maiden surnames of citizen’s mothers. All are traceable (for recent decades), if you know how to interrogate British government-funded websites which promote the identification of births, marriages and deaths of loved ones, relatives and ancestors.

Billy Hawkes seems to be overly concerned that some half-wits use their DOB or mother’s maiden name as their sole “password” on unidentified websites of extreme importance to the financial security and privacy of all citizens of the Irish Republic. Really? There are only two High Street banks left in Ireland, after the recent mismanagement of the nation’s economy … by the Government. Neither bank requests DOB’s or maiden names as account passwords – in isolation. Nor does any financial institution to my knowledge. Sensibly, they all have double or triple encrypted password protection for electronic account access, with at least one alphanumerical password randomly selected by the money processor, not the account holder.

Yes, we know that Facebook demands to know its sad users’ birthdays … so that other saddos can send an annual image of a cake or balloon … BUT daft gossip via social media platforms is not of national importance … IMHO … LOL … as they say on FB or similar.

Things are moving on …. yet Billy Hawkes and the Government as a whole remain tight-lipped. Thanks for spending all my income tax on a commendable genealogy research promotion exercise that you cannot agree on. Shame on you all.

Latest announcement by the Department of Heritage, Arts and the Gaeltacht

Personally, I believe that Ireland’s Office for Data Protection is very culpable in this ludicrous affair. Surely, part of its role is to oversee and guide any publicized venture that intends to make more personal data readily available to the masses. This office’s staff were fully aware of the Irish civil BMD database project, yet they stood back and then claimed to be shocked by the end result … which they did not even check out until a third party raised a minor concern. What do these nameless Data Protection officials do all day? Swap jokes on Facebook?

Billy Hawkes and his team could redeem themselves by recommending that the Irish government funds a series of public service announcements aimed at warning the less computer-savvy man in the street not to use a DOB, marriage date or family maiden name (or forename or address or phone number or bank account number, etc) as their deadly secret “password” which gains immediate entry into all sorts of private online accounts and personal files … if the ill-educated man wishes to retain privacy, of course. It’s a free world, and many social media users seem to like to share everything about their humdrum private lives with total strangers (including addresses, DOB’s, marriage anniversaries and full family details c/w excruciating photos). Then again, if such a public service announcement was made, Billy Hawkes would be justifiably accused of scare-mongering because every IT expert would point out that personal electronic banking and payment systems cannot be hacked by simply entering an associated DOB or name.

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