Unclaimed Persons Celebrates Ninth Anniversary and Launches New Website

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter

The following announcement was written by Unclaimed Persons:

Every life is worth remembering, and this month Unclaimed Persons (UP) celebrates its ninth anniversary helping to unite the remains of deceased individuals with their next of kin.

Alone in death and tucked away on dark shelves or cold gurneys in morgues across the country, thousands of deceased individuals whose names are known to coroners, medical examiners, and a handful of friends have no known family members to claim their remains. Homelessness, mental illness, long-term estrangement, deaths of all apparent next of kin, and other circumstances have severed familial connections. Ever-increasing caseloads and shrinking budgets make it nearly impossible for many medical examiners, coroners, and investigators to find these individuals’ relatives without help.

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The second Neary / O’Rourke marriage

It was great-aunt Maggie Neary’s 132nd birthday on 6th April 2017. Right on cue on this birthday, a long-lost photo of Maggie on her wedding day in 1913 emerged from an old family chest. Margaret Neary married John O’Rourke, a fully qualified NYC Civil Engineer originally from Leitrim, on 18th June 1913 in the Bronx.

Just under 10 years earlier, Maggie’s eldest sister Mary Neary married John’s eldest brother, Charlie O’Rourke at St Philip Neri’s Catholic Church in the Bronx. A family tale in New York relates that Maggie’s older sister Bridget once courted John O’Rourke and hoped that he would eventually propose marriage. This romance was progressing steadily as John completed his Civil Engineering studies – and then Maggie Neary arrived on the Bronx scene when she arrived in New York with her brother Matthew in 1905. Poor Bridget Neary’s dreams were dashed when John & Maggie started to “walk out” together at weekends. A few years later, John O’Rourke’s engineering career was flourishing and he was ready to settle down. John proposed to Maggie, and Bridget Neary returned to Ireland broken-hearted. A year after arriving home in Tullinaglug, Bridget married a Sligo man at St Attracta’s church in Tourlestrane- maybe on the rebound.

Meanwhile, Maggie & John married and conceived 5 children, the last being Eileen born in 1925. Eileen O’Rourke’s daughter Maura sent me this great photo on Maggie’s 132nd birthday … after a root about in an old family chest.

1913 photo (Maggie Neary on her wedding day)

More Merrill revelations – 5 years on

It is both commendable and crazy that I and a few other genealogy super-sleuths have been searching for Merrill for a whole five years now. Why bother? Well – the case of Merrill’s mysterious disappearance 80 years ago and the consequential investigations in the 21st century do provide hope for family historians still searching for more mundane snippets of info to bolster their Family Tree.

Just this week, I discovered Merrill’s middle name for the first time. I always knew the initial – E. I will not disclose the name or research source, just yet (because it’s not in the Where’s Merrill? book), but I was rather disappointed by the name after years of speculation and theorizing. I had guessed that the name had Biblical connotations which didn’t suit Merrill’s thoroughly modern lifestyle in the 1920’s and 1930’s – hence he kept it secret from everyone, at work and in social circles. Something like Elijah or Ezekiel came to mind; a name that a Christian regular non-attendee at church might like to hide in Midwest business boardrooms and bars.

Anyway, the choice of a child’s name says more about the child’s parents than the poor youngster-cum-adult who has to live with the moniker into old age …. normally. A second discovery this week was a photo of Merrill’s father taken not long before Merrill “disappeared.” It prompted me to compare it to the earliest photo I found showing William Harrison, father of Merrill. Both of these are shown below.

My great-aunt Margaret

margaret-neary

A great photo of my great-aunt Margaret Neary aged in her early 20’s shortly after her arrival in New York from Tullinaglug in 1905. My grandfather Ned was aged 10 when he waved goodbye at the Sligo homestead to Maggie and his 18 year-old brother Matthew (who traveled with Maggie). He next saw Maggie 30 years later when she visited Tullinaglug in 1935 to show off her youngest child named Eileen [O’Rourke]. Later that year, Ned named his second daughter Eileen – yes, my godmother Auntie Eileen [Jones]. Shortly after 1935, Ned and his growing family left the tiny Sligo cottage and moved to Withnell, Lancashire in England.

At least Ned did meet his siblings Maggie and Matthew. His eldest sister Mary left Tullinaglug for NY before Ned was born – meaning that he never ever saw her! This year, I had the pleasure of showing one of Mary’s American grandsons around the Tullinaglug homestead.

5.0 out of 5 stars – Read this!

I really enjoyed “Where’s Merrill?

1934 October (Merrill)I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. The story is interesting and creatively written. It takes you through the process of the genealogist, Jed, who you get to know while he is researching Merrill. As the process is never a straight path, you get Merrill’s imaginative story as it unfolds. Using different coloured text when alternating from past to present was very clever. There are diagrams of Merrill’s family tree as you go along and new people are found and added. The diagrams are handy, though it is written clearly enough that you can follow along without having to refer to them. Anyone having an interest in genealogy would want to give this a read!

Assemblage artist Susan Moloney’s review of “Where’s Merrill?
www.MoloneyArt.com

A search ending that every Irish Ancestry Researcher will embrace

Back in 2014, we were thrilled to read about the gradual success that a determined Mary O’Connor Tossell from Florida had in tracking down the Irish roots of her O’Connor ancestors. The process took almost 20 years! As Mary told us, looking for a specific O’Connor family in Ireland is like searching for relatives called Smith or Jones in the USA or UK – but without an inkling of their address.

Read the full, fabulous tale of Mary’s ups and downs in the excellent published article by clicking on this link: A story every Irish Ancestry Researcher should read

Now – in 2016 – the story has the ending it deserves: Mary being welcomed back “home” to County Kerry by her O’Connor cousins at the very property her ancestors abandoned way back in the Black year of 1847. Of course, as we learned, the old homestead is now used as a cow-shed, but this didn’t hinder Mary’s unbridled joy at literally standing in the footsteps of her Irish forefathers. Mary kindly wrote to me to try and express her feelings, and share a few photos of the momentous occasion, as follows:

I cannot put into words what it was like seeing and being in “the cow house”… it was a very emotional experience; it was a bit overwhelming. My cousins who helped me make the connection greeted me with a big hug and a kiss on both cheeks… it was beyond all my expectations. Some of my other new-found cousins traveled from County Kildare and County Clare in Ireland to meet me in Dingle. It was the end of an incredible journey ….. I was back among “my own ones.”
My message to researchers… Never give up! And now we have DNA!

Mary in the most special cow-house in the world

[The former home of Hugh & Johanna O’Connor of An Chlais, and their son Maurice who emigrated to America during the Great Famine]

Book #review – ★★★★★★ – Can you award a book 6 stars?

What an incredible captivating read.

So much so that “Where’s Merrill?” is the first book in years that I’ve read twice. After the first chapter or so I was hooked and it was my sole activity until I had finished it. This fact-based novel is a great advert for the practice of genealogy. I loved the idea of different colour text creatively used to distinguish the different activities occurring in different eras and countries involved in the “Where’s Merrill?” saga. Never come across that before in all my reading years.  Will be on the lookout for any further works by this writer.

D …. Formby…. UK.

Get the book here!

The Top 100 Most Common Surnames in Ireland in 1890

Are your Irish ancestors represented here?

Where's Merrill?

1. Murphy 26. Wilson 51. Sweeney 76. Kenny
2. Kelly 27. Dunne 52. Hayes 77. Sheehan
3. O’Sullivan 28. Brennan 53. Kavanagh 78. Ward
4. Walsh 29. Burke 54. Power 79. Whelan
5. Smith (McGowan) 30. Collins 55. McGrath 80. Lyons
6. O’Brien 31. Campbell 56. Moran 81. Reid
7. Byrne 32. Clarke 57. Brady 82. Graham
8. Ryan 33. Johns(t)on 58. Stewart/Stuart 83. Higgins
9. O’Connor 34. Hughes 59. Casey 84. Cullen
10. O’Neill 35. O’Farrell 60. Foley 85. Keane/MacCahan(e)
11. O’Reilly 36. Fitzgerald 61. Fitzpatrick 86. King
12. Doyle 37. Brown 62. O’Leary 87. Maher/Meagher
13. McCarthy 38. Martin/MacGillmartin 63. MacDonnell 88. MacKenna
14. Gallagher 39. Maguire 64. MacMahon 89. Bell
15. O’Doherty 40. Nolan/Knowlan 65. Donnelly 90. Scott
16. Kennedy 41. Flynn 66. Regan 91. Hogan
17. Lynch 42. Thom(p)son 67. Donovan 92. O’Keefe
18. Murray 43. O’Callaghan 68. Burns 93. Magee
19. Quinn 44. O’Donnell 69…

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Great Read !! #bookreview

I was always taught that when you start reading a book you have to be captured almost instantly – certainly within the 1st chapter – to know whether it’s worth reading the rest of it …well I was certainly captured with “Where’s Merrill?”

Amazon - Top Ten Thrillers

I can tell you that !!!!

M T Cooper (somewhere in England)

You can choose your friends – but not your Ancestors

Where's Merrill?

A recent purchaser of my novel “Where’s Merrill?” posted a mediocre review, and made the following bizarre observation:

“Write about someone more interesting next time”

Considering that this true story is sub-titled a genealogical thriller, and that it is now listed for sale as a genealogy reference book as well as a fictionalized thriller, the reviewer seems to have completely missed the point about Family History research. You cannot choose your ancestors. They are who they were. They are not made-up characters or a figment of a fantasy writer’s creative but far-fetched mind. It took all my willpower to not commit the author’s Cardinal Sin of responding directly to the negative reviewer with my personal feelings about the ridiculousness of their publicized opinion.

When you research your own family history, you might start out with a little knowledge about your ancestors’ backgrounds based upon memory or passed-down tales. However, when…

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Not-so-romantic Ireland of old

Where's Merrill?

In my work as a professional genealogist, overseas clients who are the descendants of Irish immigrants regularly relate to me the passed-down stories of why their ancestors had to leave the beautiful island of Ireland. More often than not, these tales are wildly romanticized having been created by ancestors who lived centuries ago, safe in the knowledge that their claims could not be checked out; well, not in their lifetimes anyway.

I have heard a story about a Kerryman who once lived in a grand castle until he was forced to flee Ireland as part of a honorable settlement between warring clans, thereby bringing peace forever more to his native region. Then there was the Corkonian Catholic who passed every course on offer at Trinity College with flying colours only to find that jealous business-owning Protestant families would not employ his inventive engineering skills, so he had to relocate to America to…

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The Top 100 Most Common Surnames in Ireland in 1890

1. Murphy 26. Wilson 51. Sweeney 76. Kenny
2. Kelly 27. Dunne 52. Hayes 77. Sheehan
3. O’Sullivan 28. Brennan 53. Kavanagh 78. Ward
4. Walsh 29. Burke 54. Power 79. Whelan
5. Smith (McGowan) 30. Collins 55. McGrath 80. Lyons
6. O’Brien 31. Campbell 56. Moran 81. Reid
7. Byrne 32. Clarke 57. Brady 82. Graham
8. Ryan 33. Johns(t)on 58. Stewart/Stuart 83. Higgins
9. O’Connor 34. Hughes 59. Casey 84. Cullen
10. O’Neill 35. O’Farrell 60. Foley 85. Keane/MacCahan(e)
11. O’Reilly 36. Fitzgerald 61. Fitzpatrick 86. King
12. Doyle 37. Brown 62. O’Leary 87. Maher/Meagher
13. McCarthy 38. Martin/MacGillmartin 63. MacDonnell 88. MacKenna
14. Gallagher 39. Maguire 64. MacMahon 89. Bell
15. O’Doherty 40. Nolan/Knowlan 65. Donnelly 90. Scott
16. Kennedy 41. Flynn 66. Regan 91. Hogan
17. Lynch 42. Thom(p)son 67. Donovan 92. O’Keefe
18. Murray 43. O’Callaghan 68. Burns 93. Magee
19. Quinn 44. O’Donnell 69. Flanagan 94. MacNamara
20. Moore 45. Duffy 70. Mullan 95. MacDonald
21. McLaughlin 46. O’Mahon(e)y 71. Barry 96. MacDermot(t)
22. O’Carroll 47. Boyle 72. Kane 97. Moloney
23. Connolly 48. Healy 73. Robinson 98. O’Rourke
24. Daly 49. O’Shea 74. Cunningham 99. Buckley
25. O’Connell 50. White 75. Griffin 100. O’Dwyer

Notes:

  • These survey results are based upon all Irish birth registrations in the year 1890.
  • McGowan is an Anglicization of the Irish surname MacGobhann, with Gobha meaning blacksmith in English. As a consequence, many McGowan families became known as Smyth or Smith after further Anglicization.

Another Irish Drowning Tragedy ~ this time inland

On the morning of Thursday, 4th September 1828, twenty people travelling from the village of Annaghdown to Galway city on the rickety old Lough Corrib ferry boat Caisleán Nua were drowned. The boat was overloaded with too many passengers trying to get to Galway Fair, and the additional freight of timber and ten sheep did not help matters. In fact, it was one of the sheep that initiated this sailing disaster.

The Connaught Journal newspaper of September 4 published this harrowing account of events in the evening edition:

An old row-boat in a rotten and leaky condition, started from Annaghdown early in the morning, a distance from Galway up Lough Corrib of about eight miles, having, it is calculated, about 31 persons on board, who were coming to the fair of Galway; the boat and passengers proceeded without obstruction until they arrived opposite Bushy Park within two miles of Galway, when she suddenly went down and all on board perished except about 12 persons who were fortunately rescued from their perilous situation by another boat. Eighteen of the bodies of these unhappy creatures were taken out of the lake in the course of the day and presented a most heart-rending scene, being surrounded by their friends who came to identify them, and by whom they were removed in a boat to Annaghdown.

The boat was in such an unsound state as to render her unfit for the passage. The unfortunate accident happened by a sheep putting its leg through one of the planks, which produced a leak, in order to stop which one of the passengers applied his great coat to the aperture and stamped it with his foot. In doing so he started one of the planks altogether, which caused the boat’s immediate sinking, having been overloaded; ten sheep, a quantity of lumber, and about 31 persons being on board.

Eighteen of the bodies have been found; 12 have escaped, and one is missing. Major Dickson and a party of the 64th Regiment attended and rendered every humane assistance in their power. An inquest was held on the bodies by John Blakeney Esq., Coroner, at which James O’Hara, Esq., M.P., and J. H. Burke, Esq., Mayor, attended, and the jury returned a verdict of “accidental drowning”.

The following are the names of the persons drowned and taken out of the lake: Bridget Farragher, Mary Costello, Judith Ryan, Bridget Hynes, Mary Newell, Winifred Jourdan, Mary Flynn, Bridget Curley, Catherine Mulloy, Mary Carr, Michael Farragher, Michael Cahill, John Cosgrove, John Concannon, Thomas Burke, Patrick Forde, John Forde and Timothy Goaley.

P.S. two more drowned bodies were later discovered these being Thomas Cahill and Mary Ruane, making a total of 20. John Cosgrove, a local man, saved two women, but was also drowned in trying to save a third victim of the tragedy.

Annaghdown Pier memorial

                             Annaghdown Pier memorial

The following poem was composed by the renowned travelling blind Irish poet, Antoine Ó Raifteiri, as a lament to the twenty people drowned at Menlo, Galway, on that fateful day in 1828.

Original Irish version of “Eanach Dhúin” [Annaghdown]:

Má fhaighimse sláinte is fada bheidh trácht

Ar an méid a bádh as Eanach Dhúin.
‘S mo thrua ‘márach gach athair ‘s máthair
Bean is páiste ‘tá á sileadh súl!
A Rí na nGrást a cheap neamh is párthas,
Nar bheag an tábhacht dúinn beirt no triúr,
Ach lá chomh breá leis gan gaoth ná báisteach
Lán a bháid acu scuab ar shiúl.

Nár mhór an t-íonadh ós comhair na ndaoine

Á bhfeicáil sínte ar chúl a gcinn,
Screadadh ‘gus caoineadh a scanródh daoine,
Gruaig á cíoradh ‘s an chreach á roinnt.
Bhí buachaillí óg ann tíocht an fhómhair,
Á síneadh chrochar, is a dtabhairt go cill.
‘S gurb é gléas a bpósta a bhí dá dtoramh
‘S a Rí na Glóire nár mhór an feall.
English language translation:
If my health is spared I’ll be long relating

Of that boat that sailed out of Anach Cuain.
And the keening after of mother and father
And child by the harbour, the mournful croon!
King of Graces, who died to save us,
T’were a small affair but for one or two,
But a boat-load bravely in calm day sailing
Without storm or rain to be swept to doom.

What wild despair was on all the faces

To see them there in the light of day,
In every place there was lamentation,
And tearing of hair as the wreck was shared.
And boys there lying when crops were ripening,
From the strength of life they were borne to clay
In their wedding clothes for their wake they robed them
O King of Glory, man’s hope is in vain.

A nice short story

The sun was shining again in Claddagh, at last. The previous two months had been very dark, almost black on some days, then simply gray and gloomy for long periods afterwards. Jed and Sue are putting the finishing touches to the springtime overhaul of their front garden as Postman Pat’s little green van glides to a halt by the river bridge.

“There’s a lovely smell in my van for a change,” says Pat.

“You had your fortnightly shower then, Pat? Or was it the auld tin bath in front of the turf fire?” quips Jed.

“Nah – it’s coming from the back here. Look Sue. In this parcel with your address on.”

Sue picks up the scent as Pat waves around a bulky padded envelope. “Mmm. Lovely!”

2015 candle“It’s my guess it’s from the States, and I’ll bet you 50 Euros it’s a scented candle from one of Jed’s genealogy groupies,” challenges the old sage, Pat.

“Patrick, you con artist. I can see the Air Mail stickers from here – and they’re not groupies; they are my valued clients. And a special few are now my even more valued friends.” Jed approaches the bridge and gives cheeky Pat a playful slap across the back of the postman’s balding head with one of his gardening gloves. Sue studies the parcel, and declines Pat’s ridiculously tempting offer to make some quick bucks in the roadside guessing game.

“You must think we were born yesterday, you old rogue. Look at this sticker, ‘description of goods – candle’ and it gives off a heavenly smell. Voila! There’ll be no beer money contribution from us today, Mr Postman.”

“Aw shucks, Sue,” says Pat with a wink, getting ready to depart the scene.

Jed and Sue come together and embrace each other, and the parcel. “It’s from Connie!” they both declare out loud in unison.

“…. and Tom, I bet,” mutters the know-all mailman.

“No more bets, please, Pat. Drive on.” Jed and Sue wave Pat away, but he’ll be back for more fun soon.

1961 Photographic Tour of Ireland (part 11)

Where would the Parkers head next after Donegal, after leaving the Republic and heading into Northern Ireland in 1961? Yes – of course – to see the famous Giant’s Causeway. And what a great photo Lily took ….

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  “It’s a load of old basalt” says Gordon

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                                                Fancy a Bushmills, Lily?

Onwards, round the North Antrim coast road past Cushendall, approaching Waterfoot. Here it is – one of the most photographed natural arches which is actually “unnatural.”

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This arch, cut into the red sandstone rocks at Red Bay, was designed and constructed by Francis Turnley to allow faster and more direct access between Carnlough, Waterfoot and Cushendall. Perhaps Gordon’s dad, John, remembered this image from the old Gallaher’s cigarette cards which featured Ireland’s most scenic places.

Red Bay

2015 Red Bay

1961 Photographic Tour of Ireland (part 4)

Love Connemara. The real Ireland.

Where's Merrill?

Between Oughterard & Maam Cross, Co. Galway Farm boys at work and play on the road to Maam Cross

As the Parkers motored westwards into Connemara, the sights and scenes got very rural and rugged once again …..

????????????????????????????????????????????????                                                                          Heading home from the market at Maam Cross

????????????????????????                                                              Lough Corrib

????????????????????????????????????????? Turf sods drying on the banks of Lough Bofin in the shadows of the Twelve Pins, County Galway

?????????????????????????????? Ballynahinch Lake on the road to Clifden

??????????????????????? Glendalough, near Recess

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1961 Photographic Tour of Ireland (part 1)

Over the next few days, I am going to treat you to a unique Tour of Ireland captured on 61 marvelous photographs taken in the summer of ’61. This was the Parker family’s holiday album, and it has been kindly shared by Gordon Parker.

Gordon was aged about 15 years when his parents, John & Lily, carefully planned a road trip tour of Ireland as their summer break. Considering that the family was based in North London, with no Irish connections, this was quite an adventurous plan for the time in question.

KodachromeFilm_for_colour_slides

What makes this family holiday interesting for us is that Lily Parker had developed a keen interest in photography, so the whole tour was captured on Kodachrome II – a new camera film introduced specifically for the burgeoning colour slide market. I am no photography expert, but I find that the old slides are  quite unique and rich in warm colours, and they avoid the glare of modern digital snaps.

Thankfully, Lily’s son, Gordon Parker, has now painstakingly converted each 1961 slide into a 2014 digital image – so we can all re-live the highlights of the Parker’s 1961 summer holiday.

As with all family holiday shots, the majority of Lily’s pictures were scenic landscapes (which rarely change over the decades), but she did manage to capture several images of everyday Irish life from over 50 years ago which are very special, and which will bring back memories to many.

The Parkers route plan took them straight to the west coast. As with most Irish holidaymakers today, the vacation only kicked off in proper style when their car reached Kerry, arguably Ireland’s most scenic county. Lily did not take out her precious camera until the family had spent a night in Killarney.

1961 Gordon & John Parker near Killarney

John Parker & son, lost in               Kerry’s beauty

Her first shots of her husband and son, and two street scenes in Killarney town, are tentative and relatively normal. It seems like Lily needed to see the Lakes of Killarney to kick-start the creativity of her subsequent photographic images.

 

 

As you will see over the coming days, Lily Parker captured many, many special images of “dear old Ireland” in 1961.

 

 

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                      Everyday life in Killarney in 1961

 

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                                          Killarney Cathedral (through an alley)

 

 

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                                         The Gap of Dunloe (from Killarney)

 

 

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                                                                    Drung Hill

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                        The Gap of Dunloe from below Moll’s Gap, County Kerry

 

 

 

Where’s Merrill? …. where’s the novel

Now available in paperback:

Where's Merrill?

The e-book version of Where’s Merrill? [A Genealogical Thriller] was published on 28th February 2013 and subsequently released in paperback during 2014. It is available to purchase for just a few dollars from:

© AMAZON or

© LULU or

© SMASHWORDS

WM manuscript cover blog #1 copy           #1 AMAZON Best-Seller 2014

Go on …. read it and try to help solve some lingering mysteries

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Murder in Medieval Kilmactigue

VLUU L310W L313 M310W / Samsung L310W L313 M310WThe oldest memorial stone in the graveyards of Kilmactigue parish in south County Sligo commemorates the death of a local resident in the 16th century. The image  on the right obviously portrays the more modern recreation of the inscribed obituary of Tadhg Dall Ó hUiginn which can be found at Banada Abbey cemetery. The story behind the premature death of Tadhg (pronounced as Tigue or Ty-g) reveals the perils of being an Irish literary artist in Medieval times. As shown, Tadhg Dall was a renowned Poet and Scholar who was often asked to recite his nationalistic compositions in the courtyards of provincial Irish lords and clan leaders.

Tadhg was descended from a family of respected professional poets from the north of the Connacht region in the west of Ireland. He was given the distinguishing middle name of “Dall” because he was blind, and this is the Irish language word for blind. He made his home in the townland of Coolrecuil in Kilmactigue parish. Tadhg’s brother Maol Muire also rose to prominence as an Archbishop of the Tuam Diocese.

For centuries, the Ó hUiginn family had been aligned to the O’Conor clan of Sligo, their historical patrons, but by the 1500’s, the O’Hara’s had the upper hand in the south of the county, and Kilmactigue became the O’Hara stronghold. It appears that Tadhg Dall’s bravery in speaking out about the injustice meted out by the ruling O’Hara’s to his fellow parishioners, cost him his life.

An inquisition held at Ballymote in 1593 recorded that Tadhg Dall had died at Coolrecuil on the last day of March 1591. Many years later, a special chancery inquisition in 1617 provided further details of the circumstances of Tadhg Dall’s untimely death as he entered middle age. The 1617 inquest notes tell us that members of the Ó hEadhra (O’Hara) sept from Cashel Carragh, Kilmacteige, were detained in 1591 for murdering one Teige Dall O Higgen his wife and childe in the year one thousand five hundred ninetee and one or thereabouts”. Apparently, Tadhg had composed a satirical poem which narrated the actions of six “robbers,” all called O’Hara. The ruling Lord of the Manor was outraged and reacted by ordering that Tadhg Dall’s tongue be cut out. The obedient perpetrators clearly went even further and butchered all the inhabitants of the Ó hUiginn cottage in Coolrecuil.

The ancient poetic works of Tadhg Dall and his forefathers were preserved in early 17th century manuscripts created by banished Irish exiles living on mainland Europe. Fortunately, Tadhg Dall’s bloodline was also preserved because his nine year-old son, Tadhg Óg Ó hÚigínn, was absent from his childhood home when the murderous O’Hara gang spilled blood in medieval Coolrecuil. Tadgh Óg’s grandson, Pól Ó hUiginn also became a scholar and preacher of repute, although he defiantly converted to Protestantism after falling out of favour with his Roman Catholic peers.

In a perverse way, the gruesome events of 31st March 1591 at Coolrecuil have permitted historians to compile the oldest definitive Family Tree of a non-aristocratic resident of Kilmacteigue parish. Here is the upper part of the Ó hÚigínn tree covering the pre-18th century years which rarely feature in typical Irish Ancestry research projects.

1315 Irish FT #1

Do you believe in Fairy Stories?

Bridget Boland & husband Michael Cleary

Bridget and her husband Michael

Bridget Boland was born at Ballyvadlea, between the towns of Drangan and Cloneen in County Tipperary on 19th February 1867. She was the youngest child and only daughter of Patrick Boland and Bridget Keating. She attended Convent School in Drangan and was later apprenticed to a dressmaker. On 6th August 1887, she married a local cooper [barrel-maker] named Michael Cleary, after which she worked successfully as a dressmaker and egg seller. The couple remained childless and Bridget was recognized to be an unusually independent woman for this era in rural Ireland.

After her mother died in 1894, Bridget developed a habit of visiting the so-called fairy forts in the district. Local superstition named such places as haunts of the fey folk. Perhaps Bridget was seeking supernatural help to overcome her infertility.

Bridget became severely ill on 6th March 1895. Her headache, fever, and congestion were diagnosed as bronchitis by the local doctor, but family members thought that her lassitude indicated a clear case of fairy stroke. Michael Cleary, in particular, became convinced that his wife’s spirit had been stolen by the fairies.

As a consequence, for the next nine days, Bridget was forced to endure the rigours of a secret fairy trial. Bridget’s family and neighbors confined her to the house, and then doused her with urine and hens’ dung to keep the evil fairies away. Next, Bridget was force-fed all manner of odious potions and dry herbs. At the peak of the “trial,” Michael scarred his sickly wife with red-hot fire brands in an effort to force the occupying fairy within Bridget to release her good spirits, and enable her to make a recovery. The wicked fairy was not to be overpowered, and retaliated by weakening Bridget even more.

In the predawn hours of March 16th, Bridget was dressed in her best clothes and taken before the hearth where her husband doused her with lamp oil and burned her to death. Bridget’s body was then wrapped in a sheet and buried in a shallow grave in a bog ditch little more than 1000 yards from the Cleary cottage. The body was discovered five days later and a coroner’s inquest was held. Nine of Bridget’s family members were arrested on charges of murder. The subsequent trial became a religious and political showcase in which different parties attempted to quash potential Home Rule for Ireland by denigrating the whole population as superstitious primitives. Prominent Catholic churchmen who attempted to defend the actions of a grief-stricken family were duly rounded on and made a laughing stock as supporters of supernatural nonsense. “What is the difference in believing in God and his angels, as opposed to the Devil and his demonic fairies?” This was the national argument in the Spring of 1895.

1895 photo (Bridget Cleary's grave, Drangan)

Four stones between the cemetery wall and the crucifix indicate Bridget’s final resting place

In the end, Michael Cleary was convicted of manslaughter and served fifteen years of his twenty year sentence at hard labor. Bridget’s elderly father, Patrick Boland, served six months hard labor. Several cousins and an uncle of the deceased also served sentences between three to five years.

Bridget’s body, unclaimed by her incarcerated kin, and untouched by the local RC church reluctant to associate themselves with a scandal so steeped in superstition, was quietly buried one evening by two constables just outside the churchyard wall at the Drangan and Cloneen Parish Church, not far from her mother’s grave within the Holy Cemetery.

December 1836: OS Memoirs – Parish of Kilmactigue #1

Compiled by Lance-Corporal Henry Trimble

The Anders Family of Carns Townland

“The oldest and first family that became inhabitants in the parish of Kilmacteigue was the name of Anders. There were 7 brothers of them and it appears they were the first that ever employed a horse beast as an assistant in reclaiming a portion of ground. However, in them days people were quite simple. This Anders found it necessary in providing a pair of creels for equipping the horse, and when tackling the horse first they brought the horse inside of their house, and when they fitted the creels each side of the horse they could not conceive how the horse would get out of the door.

donkey creel

Remaining some time in a deep study, they concluded the only method was to throw down the gable of the house. Consequently they done so and permitted the horse and creels to get out. However, they never thought of taking the creels and tackling the horse outside of the house so as to prevent this serious trouble and expense.”

As related by Mr Williams of Carns

[Ornance Survey Memoirs]

GEAROID O’NEARY: THE ASTOUNDING TRUE STORY JUST HAD TO BE SHARED

Interview with Bulgarian author & journalist Ognian Georgiev:

Land Of Books

Gearoid O’Neary debuted as an author with his book “Where’s Merrill”. It’s a genealogical mystery thriller. The novel is based on a real life events. Let’s learn something more about the book and the author.

Gearoid_pic

– What is your book Where’s Merrill about?
– This novel is based closely upon a real-life ancestry research case, and written in the style of a mystery thriller. In essence there are two stories in one novel; one set in the present and the other in past times. The genealogist in the present gradually unravels many secrets about the family of an ancestor called Merrill. This man disappeared from the planet in his middle age over 75 years ago. No death record. No burial. Nothing.
WM_manuscript_cover
– Why did you decide to write the story?
– I am a professional genealogist, and I discovered the mysterious facts about Merrill and his ancestors. The astounding…

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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.

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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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South Sligo National Schools – Largan & Kilmactigue outdo Drimina

No sooner had I publicized the fact that a very old photo of the (named) pupils of Drimina National School existed, dating from the 1920’s, and not one, but two, even older photos come to light from the relatively small Kilmacteigue RC Parish in South County Sligo. The photo below features the pupils in attendance at the tiny Largan National School overlooking the beautiful Lough Talt in November 1913. As you will see, a name has been put to each schoolchild. Do you know any of these families? Were they your ancestors?

1913 November 6 - Largan NS

Largan National School – 6th November 1913.

Back Row: Joe Murry, Joe Murry, Tom Cooke, Willie Curley, Joe Deehan, Francis Murry, Martin Deehan, Pat Walsh, Joe Gallagher, Annie Cooke, John Henry Murry, Beezie O’Donnell, Mike Curley, Bridget Mullarkey, Jim O’Connor, Mary Kate Cooke, Mary O’Connor, Mary Walsh, Maggie Henigan, Florrie Henigan, Kate Quinn, Delia Quinn, Mary Jane Goldrick, Mary Kate Deehan, Mary Ellen Mullarkey, Kate Mullarkey.

Front Row: Martin Quinn, Micheal Walsh, Jim Goldrick, John Lang, Jim Quinn, John William Mullarkey, Mike Quinn, Annie Kate Goldrick, Mary Ann Durcan, Kate Curley, Mary Agnes Murry, Emma Goldrick, Mary Frances Murry, Bridget Curley, Annie Theresa Mullarkey, Maggie Lang, Kate Deehan, Mary Walsh, Kate Kildunne, Maggie Deehan.

The next day, the unknown professional photographer set up his tripod at nearby Kilmactigue National School. This excellent photo was the result:

1913 nov 7 - Kilmactigue NS

If only all genealogies were this simple

First off, the formalities. It was our Shankley’s fourth birthday on US Independence Day, yesterday. Straightaway I should point out that Shankley is a pedigree male Bengal domestic cat because a pet named Shankley appears in my genealogical thriller novel “Where’s Merrill?” in a different guise. Being a Bengal, Shankley’s 4th birthday is a significant milestone for him. He can now be classed as an adult and he is certainly refraining from starting childish daily play fights with his younger feline house-mates as was his way a year ago.

As part of the birthday celebration, we took out Shankley’s birth certificate to respectfully remember his parentage. Yes – pedigree animals have their own birth certificates – and some breeders provide documents which are far better in content than human counterparts. Take a look at Shankley’s birth cert below. Professional genealogists would be obsolete if national authorities ever started to request such detailed information when the birth of a human baby was registered.

2010 birth cert (Shankley) copy As you can see, the new arrival’s full name of Sunstorm Shankley was registered as the progeny of his named father and mother, termed as Sire & Dam. Only a few obscure places in the human birth registration world bother to record an infant’s grand-parentage – but by reference to his birth document, our Shankley can name all eight of his great grandparents, and quite remarkably all sixteen of his great great grandparents. Each ancestor is given a brief physical description, and former champion show cats are highlighted in red text. It is clear that Shankley is descended from cat royalty on the paternal side of his concise Family Tree.

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                                        All grown up, at age 4?

Happy birthday to Shankley and the USA

When maps were maps (before Google Street View)

Regular followers will know that I collect old maps, particularly of Ireland or its provinces. Perhaps, more infuriatingly, I am always trying to get others to admire the beauty of the ancient craft of cartography. It is said that the island of Ireland was mapped more than any other place on the planet up until the early 1900’s. There are historical reasons for this. Some Irish maps were drawn in order to plan invasions, and others were created in order to “sell” vast portions of the countryside to foreign investors.

Check out Trinity College’s admirable Down Survey of Ireland webpage if you want to learn more about the regular mapping of Ireland, and the reasons behind this historical phenomenon.

Ireland may not possess its fair share of preserved vital records or census returns, but it can boast extant copies of maps dating from many decades of the most recent centuries.

Here is an image of one of my favourite vintage maps of Ireland, reproduced for no particular reason other than it deserves to be looked at – like a renowned work of art.

Vintage Ireland mapI wish I could afford the original, or an original antique copy.