During St. Patrick’s Day week, when the NEHGS instagram account shared pictures of our Irish ancestors, I shared the picture at left of my great-great-grandfather Thomas Nelson Kelly (1853–1943) of Philadelphia. His parents, Joseph Kelly and Rebecca Nelson, both emigrated from Ireland in the 1840s and met and married in Philadelphia in 1850. Joseph and Rebecca are my only ancestors who arrived in the United States after 1776. I still do not know where in Ireland they came from (some family have said Belfast, some have said Donegal): I’m still searching!
We are not far removed from a time when parents, as a matter of course, endured the loss of one or more of their children. In fact, each of my grandparents had a sibling who died in infancy or early childhood. Some years ago, as part of a field study in a local cemetery, one of my students, obviously struck by the number of children’s graves, asked me: “Do you think parents back then just didn’t get attached to their children because they knew some of them would die?” My answer to this question has deepened over the years as I have listened to family stories and discerned poignant signs of remembrance. Continue reading Childhood mortality→
I recently attended my first concert ever, with my husband. Whenever I listen to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s music, it puts me into a holiday mood. During the concert, I learned that founder Paul O’Neill passed away two years ago. I was curious about his roots and wanted to see what I could find. I learned from his obituary that he had grandparents from Ireland. Through a variety of interviews published online, I was able to start tracing his tree. I first started looking into his maternal side.
Paul’s maternal grandparents were Andrew Joseph Moore and Julia P. Merryman. Both were born in Ireland. The couple married in South Dublin on 13 June 1924, a few short years after the Irish War of Independence. Continue reading Irish origins→
Tracing your immigrant ancestors across the ocean is a journey. You need to understand the ports they have left from as well as those to which they came. You also need to familiarize yourself with the different resources available to locate passenger lists – whether on FamilySearch, Ancestry, stevemorse.org, or even in overseas archives. When we find an ancestor’s passage to the United States, this journey doesn’t end when they step foot off the boat. Many of our ancestors travelled back overseas to visit family they left behind, bringing money that they made during their time here. Some even brought back additional family members after establishing their roots in a new land. Continue reading Family left behind→
Although my background is almost all German and English, I’ve always wanted to find a bit of Irish in me. This is because my husband was born in Cork City and after numerous visits I’ve fallen in love with Ireland. For years I searched in my family tree for an Irish ancestor and finally, about a year ago, I found one. My 5th great-grandparent, William Jack, was born in Ireland. It might only be a sliver but I’m at least 1/128th Irish!
It might only be a sliver but I’m at least 1/128th Irish!
In genealogy, mistakes are rarely fortuitous. They often send us down time-consuming rabbit holes and frustrate us to no end. But, sometimes, they work in our favor.
Recently, I had been working to extend my Garvin line in Mallow parish in County Cork. I had been able to confirm my great-great-great-grandparents, Francis Garvin and Ellen Coleman, but I had been unable to locate a marriage record for the couple. Though there were several Garvin family groups in Mallow parish and the surrounding area, I could not place Francis Garvin with a family. Continue reading Happy error→
My grandmother Anne (Cassidy) Dwyer never met her father, Patrick Cassidy, who was killed in a Fall River (Massachusetts) mill seven months before her birth, but from the Cassidy side of the family, she knew a dozen or more Irish-born first cousins. Six sisters from one family alone came to Fall River to escape the grinding poverty of rural Ireland. Agnes Horan, a favorite cousin, arrived at age 20 in 1908. Agnes’s elder sister, Annie Driscoll, paid for her passage. Agnes, in turn, brought over the next sister. In 1919, after working ten years as a domestic servant, Agnes married Joseph Bento, son of Azorean immigrants. Agnes died in 1930, leaving her husband and four small children. For the rest of her life, Nana Dwyer nonetheless maintained contact with Agnes’s children. Long after my grandmother’s death, I renewed acquaintance with the Bento family, sharing genealogical information and photographs. Continue reading Cousin confusion→
Over time and practice a family historian develops an instinct for when a recorded fact does not make sense. The following examples may serve as illustrations of genealogy as more art than science.
Thirty-seven years ago, my uncle-by-marriage, Bill Shea, made an ancestral pilgrimage to Ireland in pursuit of his County Cork great-grandparents, Dennis Shea and Eva Bard. He did not find them. Later I commented to Bill that Eva Bard was not an Irish name and seemed an unlikely match with Dennis Shea in Catholic Ireland during the last third of the nineteenth century. “How do you know her name was Eva Bard?” He replied, “That’s the name of the mother on grandfather’s death certificate.” Continue reading Genealogical instincts→
Like so many passionate genealogists, I descend from proud and feisty Irish famine immigrants. While the details of how my great-great-grandfather Thomas Healy made his way to the United States have not come down to us, his life here and in Ireland became clearer thanks to a tremendous amount of research time, more than a little bit of luck, and some rather unique research tools. Continue reading Texture and depth→
Over the holidays, my boyfriend’s father and I delved into his family’s genealogy. John has a rich treasure trove of family documents that have been scanned, including an 1885 narrative of the life of Stephen Thomas Acres, his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. I immediately fell in love with Acres’ florid writing style, and his family story traces an interesting pattern of migration from Ireland to Spain to Gibraltar to Iowa. He begins thusly, “Deeming it my duty to place on record, such incidents of my being as will enable my children to know their lineage and descent, and in accordance with their desire so expressed, I now proceed without ostentation, and in the fear of God, to discharge that duty as truthfully as my memory and my own knowledge will enable me to do so.” Continue reading ‘Our new Eden’→