I recently solved a long-standing family mystery after discovering a new DNA match to other descendants of my mother’s Irish great-great grandparents, Dominick and Bridget (Flynn) Counihan. One of their children, with the surname “Cronan”—who I long thought to have moved to Clearwater, Nebraska—actually lived in the Boston area for forty years. Understanding how I (literally) misplaced Dominick and Bridget’s daughter, Jane, baptized on 21 July 1839 in Abbeydorney, County Kerry, and failed to connect her to husband Daniel Cronin, requires some unfolding of previous research.
The Counihans present a fascinating study of global migration from poverty-stricken County Kerry, Ireland in the 1860s. Baptismal records of their seven known children show movement among four townlands within a radius of thirty miles. On 21 March 1863, daughters Margaret and Ellen Counihan, among 600 passengers, sailed aboard the Beejapore from Cork to Keppel Bay, Queensland, a journey that took 140 days. Their passage, undoubtedly funded by the Catholic Church, was granted with the expectation that they would marry and raise Catholic children. They did indeed marry, and between them produced twenty children! Australia’s records of birth, marriage, and death document these families in extraordinary detail. Of course, Margaret and Ellen never saw their parents and siblings again. But, as revealed below, Ellen kept track of her relatives in Massachusetts. Continue reading Finding Jane Cronan: The Missing Counihan Sister→
For a country which gained its independence from the United Kingdom just 155 years ago, Canada has gone through a significant number of changes to its internal structure and boundaries. The relatively frequent shifting of jurisdictions among the oft-renamed areas has proven to be troublesome to genealogical researchers.
Before delving into the history of Canadian political geography, it is important to be aware of a few notable terms and concepts. First, is the difference between a Territory and a Province. A Province receives its power and authority from the Constitution Act of 1867, whereas Territories have powers delegated to them by Parliament. 1 Presently, Canada is composed of ten provinces and three territories, a count which changed most recently in 1999 with the creation of the Territory of Nunavut. Additionally, parts of modern-day Canada were once considered distinct Colonies of the United Kingdom, including the colonies of British Columbia (1858-1866), Prince Edward Island (1604-1873), and Newfoundland (1610-1907). Continue reading Why Was Lower Canada Above Upper Canada?→
My grandfather, Salvador Sanchez, was born 15 February 1921 in Mexico. It was there that he met my grandmother, Rosa Fonseca, and started a family before immigrating to the United States in 1957.
Belo, as we called him, worked for the railroad in Gary, Indiana and stayed there until he retired. Before starting a family, he had traveled to the states for seasonal work. I don’t know what my grandfather did during his trips. Unfortunately, he died in 2002, when I was only nine years old. He didn’t talk to his children about his life before them, and I wasn’t old enough to ask questions when we lost him, so much of my grandfather’s life is a mystery to me.
With the recent return of the second season of White Lotus, a few friends have asked me if the actress Jennifer Coolidge is related to President Calvin Coolidge. While this was a kinship I had discovered years ago (back when she appeared in the American Pie movies during my college years), I thought it would be interesting to discuss the Coolidge family of New England and some of their well-known descendants.
In middle school I would visit NEHGS with my aunt, traveling about ninety minutes from northeastern Connecticut, going on Saturdays or other days I had off from school. One such day was on November 11, 1993. I had the day off from school for Veterans Day, and I asked my aunt if we could go to NEHGS. We didn’t call ahead (that was long distance!), and when we arrived the doors were closed because of the holiday. We looked up and saw that the lights were on from the top floor, and saw that the side door was open. We decided to go up and see if the staff might allow us to stay. There was one older gentleman up there with several books around him. My aunt said we had traveled from Connecticut and wondered if it might be possible for the two of us to stay. The man replied that he did not work for NEHGS, either, and that he had hired a librarian to work with him for the day; the librarian was getting books for him from another floor, so we would have to wait and ask him. My aunt and I started to work on our genealogy and a bit later, the librarian, who I would soon learn was Gary Boyd Roberts, returned. My aunt made the plea again if we could stay, and Gary kindly replied sure, and the two of us went back to our research. Continue reading Coolidge Connections→
As a student of family history, I’ve learned that “old white guys” like me generally know next to nothing about African American ancestry. This isn’t to say that we can’t follow a census record, collect a newspaper clipping, or attempt to extrapolate the identities behind the well-hidden faces in the 1850 Slave Schedules. But let’s face it: that’s about where it stops. White researchers often fail to grasp a true understanding of the Black American experience (or of any people of color). In terms of genealogical research, this becomes especially relevant with the addition of oral histories and the role they play in uncovering historical truth.
The importance of oral histories and the truths they contain became very clear to me recently, when I was asked to delve into a friend and co-worker’s very unknown family tree. My co-worker (we’ll call her Colette for privacy’s sake) is of mixed race, and knew little abouther ancestry on any side. She made it clear to me, however, that she wasn’t really all that curious about her white ancestry. Rather, Colette wanted me to focus on her enslaved ancestors and find any possible connections to free persons of color. Enter one Old White Guy trying to figure things out. Continue reading Truth in Oral Histories→
Regardless of the outcome of Super Bowl LVII, history will be made Sunday when two Black quarterbacks lead their teams for the first time in NFL history. This will be the first Super Bowl appearance for Jalen Hurts, but not for Patrick Mahomes, who has been to the big game twice already.
Situated in Boston’s Back Bay is a particularly unique and beautiful building known by a few different names. I know it as the Armory—to others, it’s the Castle at Park Plaza. It sits at the intersections of Columbus Ave and Arlington St, looking like a relic of the past: a medieval fortress surrounded by tall office buildings, skyscraping hotels and trendy restaurants (looking at you, Salt Bae). Today, the building is lost in the skyline. When it was built in 1897, however, it stood proud and at attention for the cadets who used it.
The Armory (or Castle) was originally constructed as the headquarters for the First Corps of Cadets of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. If you have never heard of this before, it is because it no longer exists as it once did. The corps was reorganized and ultimately became part of the U.S. military—a relic of a bygone era. Continue reading The Armory: The Story Behind a Unique Boston Landmark→