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→
On my first day working at New England Historic Genealogical Society, I noticed a collection of framed ambrotype photographs of founding members of NEHGS, taken in the 1850s. While the vast majority of the men in the photographs were in their older years, one man was visibly younger than the rest—he seemed to be in his early 20s, with dark hair and a tilted bow tie. Under his image was the name George E. Henshaw. When I got home that night, still curious, I looked to see what information I could glean about this young founder. To my surprise, I found a detailed biography of George E. Henshaw’s life in Volume 5 of the Memorial Biographies of New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1853-1855. Continue reading The Brief Life of NEHGS’ Youngest Founding Member→
Sometimes it starts with that picture in the attic. It falls out of its black corners and yellow cellophane as if to say, look at me, I’m here for a reason—challenging you to rediscover its past, to make the voice of its subject heard.
I think it must have happened this way for my sister, as she explored the small attic of our mother’s house a few months ago. Here among the musty bric-a-brac and old pictures, a single photograph shook itself free. Mrs. Grace Dixon: a woman none of us in the family had laid eyes on before, waiting buried deep within our archives for one of us to uncover her story.
Sis called me right away, and indeed, I was impressed with her find. I’d first heard of Mrs. Grace Dixon1 years ago, not through any family member, but rather via a brief biographical sketch in Phillip Judd and his descendants.2 At that time, I’d attempted to explore some of the facets of Grace’s life, and I admit that I’d given into genealogy’s worst enemy: assumption. Seeing her there in that old photo with her children, I winced at some of my previous speculations. My sister’s discovery became my opportunity to revisit Grace, and reevaluate what I thought I knew. Continue reading Saving Grace→
Over fifty years ago on an autumn Sunday, I met formally with Chief BlackHawk of Tiverton, Rhode Island. My visit had been arranged through the chief’s sons, Algoma “Goma” Clarke (1926–1980) and Watacee “Tecee” Clarke (1934–1975), master carpenters who built my father’s office in 1964 and remained family friends. Tall and spare, with graying hair combed straight back and hazel eyes, Chief BlackHawk looked like he could have stepped out of an Edward Curtis photograph. He presented me with these booties, which I kept atop my bedroom dresser ever since, until they made their way into a display case with other cherished mementoes. Continue reading Booties from Chief BlackHawk→
Every time when I look in the mirror/All these lines on my face getting clearer. ~ Aerosmith, 1973
Like a thief in the night, old age has claimed me. I’m not sure when that ignoble laird decided to vandalize me, but it’s certain I wasn’t paying very close attention. I expect it happened in the usual way, though I never expected to be harpooned by fishy-sounding Beta-blockers or riddled with Star Wars-like statins. And while I can’t see “the sunset” just yet, I can tell you that some of those evening stars have indeed arrived. Continue reading All these lines→
My earlier post, featuring my parents and both sets of grandparents, sought photographs of these relatives from early adult life – I am fortunate to have a number of such images for all six from which to choose!
It was, for me, not exactly love at first sight. There were those who said I was wasting my time with her; that she didn’t come from good lines and that her family was nothing but a bunch of hot heads or, worse, nouveaux riches. Still, I persisted. I mean it wasn’t like she’d been omitted from any of the more recent lists of Who’s Who in the appropriate Blue Books,right? After all, what more could they want from her? Her family had indeed built skyscrapers; in later years some of her adopted kin even became synonymous with our efforts during the last World War. Perhaps in spite of all these things, or because of them, she rather captivated me, and I must confess that I quickly fell in love with her. Continue reading Road lines→
One of the frustrations of genealogical research can be the absence of images of our forebears and relatives; the dry account offered by (precious) vital and other records may render an ancestor doubly unknowable. Often the images that do survive fall towards the end of a lifetime, when financial resources will stretch to a trip to the photographer — or a portrait by an accomplished painter. I often feel that those artistically valuable images overlay the youthful portrait — the one we all carry inside of us — with a misleading patina: one of age, no doubt, but also one that buries features that may be seen in present-day descendants. Continue reading What they looked like→
My father, Frank Dwyer, spent three happy years as a fellow in cardiology at the Rhode Island Hospital in Providence. It was a special treat when my mother brought me there for a visit. I remember being fascinated by the ashtray behind Dad—press a button and the cigarette butts disappeared! Continue reading Inside the cap→
If your ancestor lived in Chester County, Pennsylvania in the months leading up to the Battle of Brandywine on 11 September 1777, you have the unique opportunity to explore the 1777 Chester County Property Atlas, an on-going historical research project made possible by the Chester County Archives. Continue reading 1777 Chester County Property Atlas→