Picnic for Twelve — A Family Memoir

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I am happy to report that one of my clients has published Picnic for Twelve, a book about his parents and their growing family as they navigated The Great Depression and other events over the last century. If you are interested in the life of Irish-Americans during the 1900s, have Boston-area ancestors, or are just looking to read a cleverly written yarn, I highly recommend that you download the book for your Kindle or purchase a print copy.

I provided genealogical research support on the Driscoll and Sheehan families. This was a fun and challenging project to work on, as various members of the family moved around a lot, originating in or living in locations including New York City, Southern California, here in Maryland, and of course, Massachusetts and Ireland. Along the way, vital records unlocked most of the clues needed to solve a few family mysteries. As part of the project, I read an early version of the manuscript. The author is a former editor of the Boston Globe and a great storyteller — I highly recommend this book!

RootsTech, Day 2.2 – Digitization of Irish Records

Brian Donovan of Eneclann presented a session on efforts to digitize Irish records. He began with a brief history of the records in the country, covering the 1922 destruction of the public records office, which resulted in the destruction of pre-1851 censuses, more than half of the available parish registers and pre-1700 records.

The destruction didn’t stop there. Bureaucratic decisions destroyed later census records. Irish apathy also led to the disappearance of value genealogical resources.

Then Donovan turned to more hopeful news about current efforts to digitize those records that are still available.

The Irish Genealogical Project at www.Irish-roots.ie provides and index only, no images, of many parish registers, civil and census records, tithe books, primary valuation and more.

Irishgenealogy.ie, an initiative of the Department of Tourism, also is working on parish registers, but not all counties are represented.

The National Library, at www.irishorigins.com, has the Griffiths valuation for 1846 & 1852 available.

There are several new initiatives coming along. FamilySearch may have tithe records from 1823-1837. A tithe was a religious tax collected by then established church of the time. Household list akin to census enumerations are provided in theses records.

The National Library has a RFP out to digitize microfilm records. The ETA on this is unknown.

Eneclann has several projects in the works. Sign up for their e-newsletter to find out how to access the below databases as they come online. Their web site is www.Eneclann.ie.

In May, records from the landed estates court, which sold land from bankrupt estate owners, will go online. These records include mortgage and “portions” from the mid-19th century (1848-1852). The list of renters numbers 600,000.

Prison registers, which give details about relatives and victims, will go online on this summer. Ireland had the most prisons per population in Europe and millions of prisoners.

Petty Sessions, which are just like it sounds (think the Judge Judy of 19th-early 20th century Ireland), included criminal and civil cases. There are 15 million cases to 1910. These I’ll be available in about a year.

Dog license books! More pertinent than they sound. Every farmer had a dog and had to have a license. These records include their name, address and more. I missed the ETA on this project.

The Irish Revolutionary period was 1912-23. Of course, it was a very emotional period for Irish. The police records from the period are fascinating (they tracked everyone). They include mug shots, Volunteer records (private army raised against revolutionaries), and Army records (including search and raid records, court martials, intel files). Also missed the ETA on this one.

Eneclann is launching a new site on 3/17. Stay tuned!

One important reminder that Donovan mentioned: Many Irish changed religious affiliation for economic, legal reasons and many Protestants reverted back to Catholicism after impediments to owning land, etc., were lifted. Don’t let assumptions about your ancestors limit your searches!

FGS Day 3

Just finished putting the ingredients for my grandma’s taco meat into the Crock Pot for a shindig my sister and I are throwing tomorrow night with my genea-friends and her pals from the area. Should be a good time.

But I really am here to post the happenings from today. I attended some excellent and informative sessions.  The first, “Colonial Migrations In and Out of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley,” was the perfect lead-in for the next session I attended, “Migration Routes Into and Out of Tennessee.”

Now, I have to admit I was dubious about the second session as I walked into the room and saw a transparency projected onto the screen. More alarm bells went off when I noticed the speaker adjusting said transparency was in period costume. But I was in for a treat because the speaker was the legendary George Schweitzer and he was a hoot. In addition to being a funny, engaging speaker, he also really knew his stuff.

Before this session, I got to chatting with one of my neighbors and learned she lives not to far from me in Virginia. When I found out she was a scrapbooker and Creative Memories fan, I told her about an upcoming 11-hour crop near her neck of the woods in October (see my write-up from last year’s event). She was excited to hear about it and I hope she’ll join me there!

Next, I attended “‘I’ll Fly Away': Using Southern Church Records in Genealogical Research.” I came away with a lot of resources to check out regarding the Methodist preachers on my father’s side of the family and also for finding records of interest from many other denominations.

Unbeknownst to me, I had registered (or otherwise obtained a ticket) for the luncheon of the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors. I’m glad I happened to have the ticket because I really enjoyed the luncheon and made some good connections. One of my table-mates works in Illinois and gave me some good tips for researching my Corley roots there.

After lunch, I ran into Amy Coffin, who informed me that I’d won a door prize at the APG table. I had just enough time to pick up my prize before my next session. I received a copy of Courthouse Research for Family Historians. I was thrilled because I’ve had this book on my wishlist for a while.

Funnily enough, the next session I was to attend was “The Courthouse Burned: Alternate Approaches and Treasures.” This was a thorough session on what to try if you’re researching ancestors from a county (primarily in the South) whose courthouse burned either during the Civil War or in another conflagration or had other calamities that resulted in record destruction.

The final session I attended was “Irish Emigration to North America: Before, During and After the Famine.” This was a very informative session that helped me to figure out what was going on when my great-grandfather came over from Ireland (not necessarily the famine, as I thought initially). Speaker Paul Milner gave clues as to where Irish immigrants came from in Ireland at various points throughout history. I feel a bit more confident in researching this line now that I’m armed with this information.

But the day wasn’t over yet! Prize drawings were coming up at the exhibit hall and I wanted to take another look around because I felt like there were a few more nooks to explore after my survey of the exhibits yesterday. I perused a few more book stores and bought some supplies at the Fun Stuff for Genealogists booth before I sat down near the snack bar to wait with a tableful of my genea-peeps until the door prizes were announced.

Tina Lyons and I had by this time both won door prizes earlier in the day and sadly no one else at the table won, but we had a great time joking with each other and making fun of the odd way they were announcing the prizes.

By that time, I had scored yet another free day of parking (woohoo!) and needed to head to the grocery store to buy the provisions for the aforesaid taco meat. It has been a full week, but I’m kinda sad that the conference ends tomorrow.

SNGF: A Brickwall Ancestor

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

Well, I’ve posted about him before, but here I go again. William Boyd HILL (one of my paternal great-grandfathers) and his parents constitute a brickwall I would love to bust down and so they are the topic of this week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post.

I’ve featured the Hills before in a Surname Saturday post and even got as far as identifying Hill’s wife’s name (it was SIMPSON), which helped lead me to their family burial plot.

William Hill lived with his wife and children in Philadelphia in the mid- to late-1800s. According to census records, he was an Irish immigrant working as a grocer. I have yet to figure out when he came to the U.S. and via which port (if he even came straight to the U.S.; many Irish landed in Canada first).

I would absolutely love to learn more about William and his parents because they are my closest Irish ancestors. Finding out where in Ireland that line hailed from would be a treat.

My plan for tracking down more on William is to start by looking for information about his death. I need to see if a death certificate exists for him, or barring that, an obit or other evidence of his death (this hopefully will be easier now that I know the year of his death thanks to his tombstone). Thanks, Randy Seaver, for the prompt to re-investigate this line!

Wordy Wednesday: Me, My Dad and an Irish Almost Pub Fight

When I was nearly four years old, my parents and I visited England and Ireland (my dad had a medical conference in one of the two countries). It was very eventful and I have many memories: watching the rabbits on the front lawn of our hotel, riding through the Gap of Dunloe in a horse-drawn carriage, etc.

One incident that I *don’t* remember is still one of my favorite tales to tell from that trip. It’s the time I saved my dad from an Irish almost pub fight.

As those who may have traveled to Europe know, many roads were not paved with large or even small vehicles (or even bicycles) in mind. They are beyond narrow. It was down such a road in a town in the Ring of Kerry that my father was navigating our rental car when he accidentally sideswiped another vehicle. That other vehicle was parked outside of a pub.

Being the upstanding citizen that my dad was, he went inside the pub to try and find the car’s owner. Either the proprietor of the establishment or another pub patron told him, “Well, that car belongs to Johnny and he’s in the loo [do the Irish say "loo?"]. We’ll send him out to talk with you when he comes back.”

So my dad returned to our car and waited. I probably didn’t really understand what was happening, but I could feel the tension crackling in the air as my parents waited for the car’s owner to emerge. Influenced by said tension and my small stature, one can hardly blame me for my reaction when the door to the pub opened.

Now, you must understand, my dad was 6’1″ tall. Not a small man. But the man who emerged from the pub was taller, with flaming red beard and hair.

So I did what any other self-respecting almost-four-year-old would do.

I started bawling. And screaming, “A giant! A giant’s going to kill my daddy!”

And then I started crawling over my mom to try and get as far away from the giant as possible.

Well, Johnny the Giant, obviously wasn’t expecting me. He immediately apologized to my dad for scaring me and waved away the damage to the car. “Go on and enjoy the rest of your vacation,” he said.

And so we did. And I eventually forgot about Johnny the Giant until about 10 years later when my mom told me the story. She said Johnny probably wasn’t even the owner of the car that my dad hit — the bar patrons probably wanted to play a joke on the American tourists by sending out the biggest, scariest man in the bar. Well, what’s the biggest, baddest Irishman against four-year-old me? A big ol’ softie, that’s what.

SNGF: Surname Distribution

Here’s our mission from Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings:

1) Find out the geographical distribution of your surname – in the world, in your state or province, in your county or parish. I suggest that you use the Public Profiler site at http://www.publicprofiler.org/worldnames/, which seems to work quickly and easily. However, you cannot capture the image as a photo file – you have to capture the screen shot, save it and edit it.

2) Tell us about your surname distribution in a blog post of your own (with a screen shot if possible), in comments to this post, or in comments on a social networking site like Facebook and Twitter.

What a great site/blog idea! Everyone’s going to want to see their how their surname is distributed, genealogist or not. Here’s the screen cap for mine (click on it for a larger version).

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CORLEY Distribution

No surprise that Ireland has such a high distribution (78.86 FPM — frequency per million). You can zoom in on particular areas of the map to see what the distribution looks like in individual countries and states. In the United States, the highest distribution for Corleys is in South Carolina (541.86 FPM). According to my research, I have to delve waaaaayyy back in my line before I see links to those Corleys. In Ireland, Corleys are concentrated in the western counties of Clare, Galway and Mayo. The FPM for Corley in West Ireland is 424.84.

Thanks, Randy! That was fun!

Surname Saturday: HILL (Pennsylvania, Ireland)

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

Brown. Smith. Johnson. Somewhere along the way, almost all of us have an ancestor(s) with a name so common, the task of finding just the right people seems next to impossible. In my case, it’s my HILL line.

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My Grandmother, Ida

My father’s mother, Ida, was the daughter of Irish-American grocer William B. Hill (~1841-?) and his wife, Martha (aka Mattie; ~1847-?), who raised their family in Philadelphia. According to census records, William was born in Ireland, and Martha’s parents were born there as well. I have not found Martha’s maiden name yet.

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Anna S. Hill

William and Martha had seven children total, five of whom were still living by 1910, when Martha was listed in the U.S. census of that year as 62 and widowed (still in Philly). Her daughters Anna (1872-?) and Elizabeth (1874-?), both public school teachers, were still living with her, as was her son, Joseph (an inspector at a glass factory). These three siblings were in their 30s at that time. Interesting side note: on the back of Anna’s photo, her name is written along with a street address that now appears to be part of the campus of Temple University — I will need to investigate if she was a student there or if perhaps the university has acquired the property since.

I have not been able to trace William B. Hill back any further from his time in Philadelphia with his wife and children. I don’t know when or where he arrived from Ireland. I have not found his exact death date yet. I haven’t figured out who the fifth surviving Hill sibling was or when the other two siblings passed away and why. It’s not that I’ve tried and failed to find this information. Since Hill is such a common name though, I’ve been putting off delving into this line. It just seems so daunting to me. Writing today’s post, however, caused me to jump on in and I hope to report back that I’ve found some good leads in the coming weeks.