Tag Archives: Critical Analysis

Coffin ships

Food riot in Dungarvan. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Irish potato famine is notorious even today because it killed one million people and prompted two million people to emigrate from Ireland. Signs of the famine can still be found in Ireland today, whether in the form of various ruins whose occupants had all perished or in the form of graves marked solely by rocks. Moreover, Irish emigration fluctuated so much that many voyages took place on coffin ships – small ships aptly named for the increased mortality rate onboard. Many immigrants were so desperate to leave their homeland that they booked inexpensive passage on ships that were small, overcrowded, and ravaged by disease and other unfavorable conditions. Based on these facts, arguably, many Americans with Irish ancestry can connect theirs to this event. Continue reading Coffin ships

A short history of beer

Courtesy of the Boston Public Library

When I first started working at a brewery and learning about beer, I heard someone telling a story about Ninkasi, the goddess of beer in ancient Sumerian religious mythology.[1] As a historian I knew how important beer was in early America. Many water sources were often polluted and unsafe for drinking, so low-alcohol beers and ciders were brewed for everyday drinking. “Americans drank an average of thirty-four gallons of beer and cider, five gallons of distilled spirits, and one gallon of wine per year in 1790.”[2] I had not given much thought to the beginnings of beer, or to brewers and the ingredients they used. This story about the goddess of brewing sparked my interest to learn more about brewing and beer history. Continue reading A short history of beer

By any other name

Throughout the 20th century it was somewhat common, when a divorced (or widowed) mother remarried, for the stepfather to adopt her child or children, often taking the new husband’s surname. (See a recent post on President Bill Clinton, as well as President Gerald Ford and First Lady Nancy Reagan; the latter two also had their first names changed.) There is also the situation where children are born (most often out of wedlock) with the surname of their mother’s previous husband, and thus were not adopted but bear a surname neither parent had at birth. The birth name of Marilyn Monroe as Norma Jean Mortensen is one of the more famous examples, as Mortensen was the surname of her mother’s estranged husband at the time of Marilyn’s birth (and listed as the father), although she later used her mother’s maiden surname of Baker. Continue reading By any other name

Three Sages

In thirty odd years of researching family history, I, like you, have seen a lot of unusual things. From the recesses of my own DNA to the penumbral prose in a dear friend’s oral history, there’s a whole lot going on out there among Ye Olde Branches. Recently though, I stumbled upon something I’d never seen before. Notwithstanding “the numbers” per se, I’m told it’s an event that only happens once every nine thousand times. It has, however, been a discovery that, although comparatively unique, has attained little in the way of genealogical ‘glory.’ Continue reading Three Sages

The fate of William Moroney Jr.

Joe Smaldone’s recent three-part Finding Irish relatives provided some great information about using Irish Catholic church registers and civil vital records. That got me to thinking about one of my husband’s Irish family lines. I realized I could use the civil vital records transcribed on RootsIreland.ie to learn more about that family.

The family in question, William Moroney and Honora O’Grady, were married in 1871 in the Catholic parish of Glenroe and Ballyorgan in County Limerick. Continue reading The fate of William Moroney Jr.

Forever in our hearts

One of my brick walls for many years has been trying to determine when my maternal great-grandmother Tessie Freundlich died and where she was buried. She is the mother of my maternal grandfather, Alfred Schild. I never met my grandfather, as he died a few years before I was born. His lineage was always a bit of a mystery as we were not in touch with relatives over the years. I have made some great progress on identifying their immigrant lines back to Eastern Europe. The family emigrated to America during the 1880s, when many of the pogroms were occurring. Continue reading Forever in our hearts

Lessons in genealogical research: Part Three

My wife Susan and Danny Cotten at the Hotchkiss-Crawford Historical Museum.

My third lesson follows on from the events of the second – explorations into family history can result in rich and rewarding personal relationships.

So who was this man in Hotchkiss? His name was Danny Cotten and for all but a few years in California, he had spent his whole life in the area known as the North Fork Valley of Colorado, which encompasses the towns of Hotchkiss, Crawford, and Paonia, and lies just north of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Continue reading Lessons in genealogical research: Part Three

Pesky middle initials

My recent post on “Retroactive surnames” prompted a few comments on the topic of “retroactive middle names,” something that has happened in my own matrilineal ancestry and that of my father’s, as well as with a great-great-grandmother being given a second middle name after her death. Most often these are guesses that balloon on online trees that copy from one another. Continue reading Pesky middle initials

Divided loyalties

Destruction of the American Fleet at Penobscot Bay, 1779. Courtesy of the National Maritime Museum, London

As the branches on my paternal grandmother’s family tree grew, they filled in with names like Hierlihy, Urquhart, and Milliken, and I was quite intrigued to discover that I had a Loyalist ancestor, a gentleman named Benjamin Milliken. He was born in Boston in 1728 to Justice Edward Milliken and Abigail Norman; settled in Hancock County, Maine (then still Massachusetts) during the Revolutionary War; and then went to St. Andrews in Charlotte County, New Brunswick. He married three times and fathered eighteen children over thirty-five years. Continue reading Divided loyalties

Lessons in genealogical research: Part Two

When Mom’s father died, a trove of photographs was discovered in his basement. They had been put there, out of sight, many years before. They were mostly in the form of glass plate negatives – pictures taken by my grandfather when he was a young man, between 1905 and 1919. Many were of his first wife, her family, and areas where they lived. This, of course, was the reason to have put them away. Some of them were in the original boxes in which these dry glass plates were purchased. And there is some history even on those boxes. One is labeled “M.A. Seed Dry Plate Co.” and another is “Eastman Kodak Co., Rochester, N.Y. successor to M.A. Seed Dry Plate Co.”[1] Continue reading Lessons in genealogical research: Part Two