I was on the phone with my father, talking about connections to relatives we had discovered through our Ancestry DNA testing. My father is from Yauco, Puerto Rico. He came to live in New York during his early teen years, but he always talks about his relatives and his memories of Puerto Rico.
I grew up knowing about Cayetano Canchani, my father’s maternal great-grandfather, a jeweler who came from Naples, Italy, and settled in Puerto Rico. I also knew about my father’s maternal grandmother, Maria Canchani y Ramirez, Cayetano’s daughter. Maria “cooked for rich people” in Yauco and every day would bring her family leftover food to eat.
A recent series of posts on lodgers who are possibly relatives hit close to home in my search for information about my wife’s great-grandfather. In three consecutive Scotland census reports he is listed first as boarder, then as son, and finally lodger. It took some digging to sort this out.
John Faulds (1870-1951) emigrated from Scotland to the United States in 1893. The passenger list for his arrival in New York from Glasgow shows that he was a baker. No doubt he entered that profession when he settled in the Chicago area. However, his interests soon turned to the equipment side of the baking industry, and he went to work for the Middleby Marshall company, which was founded in 1888 in Chicago to make commercial bake ovens and equipment.1 Credited along with John Marshall, a licensed engineer, John Faulds received U.S. patents for improvement in bake oven designs in 1900 and 1909. The first patent was filed in 1899, only six years after John arrived in the United States. In 1932, he used his expertise in equipment and mechanical design to launch his own company, the Faulds Oven and Equipment Co. His continued oven improvements resulted in five more patents, in his name only, for bake oven designs. The company stopped making ovens in the 1970s, but as of 2016, there were at least eleven Faulds ovens still in use in Chicago, and several in Washington State.2 Many of these in are in pizzerias due to the fact that they can hold thirty pizzas at a time, using a stack of revolving oven trays similar to a Lazy Susan. Continue reading Identifying Another “Boarder”→
Last year, the Boston Globe interviewed my colleague Sarah Dery on the ancestry of recently confirmed Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, and myself on the “Boston Brahmin” ancestry of her husband, Dr. Patrick Graves Jackson. While I’ve also discussed here the numerous Harvard graduates in the Jackson family, one other interesting item is the origin of his name Patrick, which was a rather uncommon name for Yankee families in Massachusetts before the American Revolution.
Similar to my own name of Christopher, Patrick tended to be a name amongst Catholics, with Pilgrims and Puritans rarely using the name in the 17th and 18th centuries. Within our database of New England Marriages to 1700, there are only thirteen married men named Patrick in all of New England in the seventeenth century.
Simply put, Irish research is difficult. Beyond missing and incomplete records, there are many obstacles that can frustrate even the most seasoned genealogist. In my opinion, an obstacle that is often overlooked is the variation of Irish surnames.
Recently, I was researching a Crowley family that I theorized had roots in Castletownbere, in County Cork. Despite available parish records, I could not locate this family among the registers. I did locate a very promising Cohane family—however, Crowley and Cohane are very different names, so, I disregarded the connection at first. Continue reading Surname Variants in Ireland→
Death certificates can add depth to a family tree, but when the parent names for the deceased are documented incorrectly, it can lead research down the wrong path—especially when contending with a common Irish surname.
The only source with direct evidence naming my great-grandmother Margaret’s parents was a death record from Brooklyn, New York, in 1936, listing her father’s name as Patrick Morrissey and her mother’s name as Margaret Powers. The informant for this death record was Margaret’s daughter Marion (Mary Ann) Lilley. Marion would have been an unreliable source to supply the names of Margaret’s parents, since they had died long before Marion was born.2 No birth record for Margaret A. Morrissey, born around 1870 in Pennsylvania, was found to exist. Official Pennsylvania vital records (birth, death, and marriage) registrations were not enacted in Pennsylvania until 1906, and 1896 at the county level.3Continue reading Finding Clues in Unexpected Places→
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→