Monday, April 21, 2014

"On Basketball Courts"

In my recent searches of the Brooklyn Eagle at the new Brooklyn Newsstand site, I came across an interesting reference to my Mulcahy family.

Nevada Five, Red Hook, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Michael Mulcahy, Brooklyn, basketball,
"On Basketball Courts." Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 22 Jan 1912

The item, which ran in the "On Basketball Courts" section of the 22 Jan 1912 edition of the Eagle, is advertising for competitors to play against a basketball team called the Nevada Five. (I cannot for the life of me figure out why this team from Brooklyn was known as the "Nevada Five.") These ads were common at the time, though I've seen more of them in the Brooklyn Daily Standard Union than in the Eagle. The team's contact, Mike "Mulcay," is one of my Mulcahys, who lived at 85 Luquer Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I'm guessing that the number "(120)" refers to the weight of the players, as most other similar advertisements refer to teams as "95 pound" teams, or as teams with "135 pound players," etc.

This all leaves one big question: Who was "Mike Mulcay"? The Mulcahy family had two Michaels living at 85 Luquer St., a father and son, and I can't tell from this ad or the other ones I've seen whether these teams were more likely to feature adults, adolescents, or both. Michael Mulcahy, Sr. was approximately 49 in 1912; his son, Michael Jr., was 13 or so. 120 lbs seems somewhat low for a grown man, although I've never seen a picture of Michael Sr.; he could have had a very slight build. Current CDC data, though, says that a 13-year-old boy who weighs 120 lbs is close to the 90th or 95th percentile for weight, and I don't think the Mulcahys tend to run quite that comparatively large.

Michael Jr.'s WWI draft registration card, from 1919, gives his build as "medium."

I have one picture of Michael Jr. as an adult, at his brother Gerard's wedding in 1937. Michael is the man in the gray suit, sitting erect at the center of the table, left side, across from the groom. He is not such a large man as to give the impression that he would have been at the 95th percentile for weight as an adolescent, but none of the brothers at the table are so slight as to give the impression that their father was likely to have weighed only 120 lbs.

Hotel St. George, Mulcahy, Danaher, 1937
Wedding of Gerard Mulcahy and Ann Danaher. Michael Mulcahy at center, left.

As an alternative, it's possible that the Mike "Mulcay" referred to in the paper was not actually a player on the team, but a manager who might have been smaller than the players themselves, or a father who was the coach or contact for a team that included one of his older, larger sons as a player. (That a team of 15- or 18-year-old basketball players would use one of their parents as a contact seems so hopelessly, helicopterously, 21st century though, doesn't it?) Or, of course, I could have completely misinterpreted the number "120" in the ad, as I had no idea what it referred to before looking at other similar items, and the others were all much clearer when stating their weights. I cannot, unfortunately, find much if any information about early 20th century amateur basketball in Brooklyn to inform my interpretations.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Online Resource: the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1841-1955

In an incredible boon to New York City genealogists and historical researchers, the Brooklyn Public Library recently announced that it has digitized the entire run of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, from 1841-1955. The earlier years, 1841-1902, were digitized some years ago through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the later years have just now come online through a partnership with They are all available for free, at the new website,

It's true that the entire run of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle has long been available online through the Fulton History website, but I think that the two sites serve complementary purposes. I think the quality of the images on the Brooklyn Newsstand site is better, meaning that search results are more likely to be accurate. However, the library site's "Advanced Search" option includes only the ability to add a date or date range, which is not exactly particularly advanced. If you can navigate Fulton History's search function, you'll find a lot more flexibility there. Nonetheless, I do think that the Brooklyn Newsstand search function represents an improvement over the search function at the old Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online site through the BPL, as my searches have turned up results from the early years that I was never able to find at the previous site. (Although the original site is still up, it will be retired in May 2014.)

While is a paid site, access to the Eagle is free if you access it through the BPL. There are a few functions that are only available if you register for an account with, but that should be free, as well. You can read more about these features here. It looks like there's even an option to save the articles you find to! ( is owned by I don't have a current Ancestry subscription, so I haven't tried it out, but it seems like a helpful function.

The Brooklyn Newsstand's "About" promises to digitize other Brooklyn papers "in the near future," so there may be even more to come. (The lag between phase I and phase II of the Eagle digitization was quite long, so I'm not sure what sort of time scale is being referred to when they say "near future.")

Monday, April 7, 2014

Money Saving Tip: share your family history for free!

Genealogy is not a cheap hobby; I'm sure that's not news to anyone here. Even the most basic records can cost $15-$20 apiece, visits to repositories usually require both travel and time off work, and an subscription could very easily break the bank on a tight budget.

And of course, doing the research is only half the battle. Many family historians want to share what they've found, an endeavor that adds another level of expenses. There are charts to buy, books to have printed, photographs to make copies of.

So today I'd like to share a tip that I've used frequently, to preserve and share various aspects of my family history at little to no cost:

Sign up for e-mails from photo printing sites.

The "Promotions" tab in my Gmail inbox is full of things I never read, and deals that just aren't that good. The GAP might sometimes offer 20% off, but you still have to pay the other 80%. They just never give out free, no-strings-attached shirts. (I would be totally on board if they did!)

However, I read at least the title of every single e-mail I get from Shutterfly and CVS Photo, because they offer freebies all the time.

I've gotten two offers for a free 8x8 photo book from Shutterfly in the past 6 months or so, and every once in a while, CVS Photo sends me an e-mail saying "We miss you!" and offering a free 8x10 photo print or collage to entice me to use their service again. Last fall, they sent an e-mail titled "We never do this!" that offered a free photo book, and while it's true that I've never seen them do that before, now that I know it's a possibility, I'm keeping an extra sharp eye out!

The beautiful thing about CVS Photo is that when they say free, they really mean FREE. Not "free, but you still have to pay taxes on the regular price." Not "free, except for shipping and handling." Just FREE, as long as you choose to pick it up at your local CVS. (If you want it mailed to you, shipping charges will still apply.)

I haven't always used this for strictly genealogical purposes, but I have used it to preserve and share photos of important events in our lives, memorialize deceased loved ones, and gather pictures of our recent (very genealogically oriented) trip to Ireland. And really, isn't that all genealogy, anyway?

Check out my photo book of our Ireland trip, below!

Shutterfly photo books offer a wide range of artful designs and embellishments to choose from.

This photo book, while quite nice in its own way, is not exactly a perfect specimen. These "free book" codes tend to last for 3 days or so, and I started putting this book together approximately 2.5 days after receiving the code in an e-mail. There are a couple of ways, though, to really use these codes to your advantage despite the short time frame.

1. If you have no particular time frame, go start working on your book right now. Open an account (you'll start getting e-mails; make sure you opt in if there's a choice), and upload your images. You can make a pure photo album, like mine; or make it more text-heavy, to tell a story; or upload images of documents to include more of the nitty-gritty of your research. Take your time, experiment with backgrounds, arrangements, and effects. Make yourself a really nice book. (On Shutterfly, limit it to 20 pages if you want it for free.) And then stop. Wait. Do not submit an order. You're in no rush. It could take a few months, but you should eventually get a promo code for a free book. That's when you submit your order, and pay nothing but shipping and handling, for a lovely, high-quality book, that showcases an aspect of your family or family history.

2. If you've gotten a "free book" promo code, and want to make use of it while it's still valid, but have no project planned, think ahead. What family-history or gift-giving events are coming up? Maybe there will be a family reunion this summer, or maybe you'd like to share a story you've discovered with your family at the holidays. Put together that book now. So what if it's April? Cross one Christmas present off of your list early! Whether you're putting your research into a brief illustrated narrative to catch the attention of relatives, or you're compiling all of your family's holiday traditions into a nicely bound volume to preserve them for the future, do it now - while it's free! When you've received your free photo book, set it aside to be given at a gift at the appropriate time in the future, and get excited that you've managed to come up with a present that simultaneously shares your family history, saves you money, and gives you one fewer thing to do in the throes of the holiday shopping season!

While I've only ever used this strategy with Shutterfly and CVS Photo, I'm about to see if the principle is more universal, by signing up for accounts with Vistaprint and Snapfish, too!

What would you do with a free photo book?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Why do I blog?

One of my New Year's resolutions for 2014 was to blog at a rate of at least one post/week. This is hard, particularly if I'm aiming for meaty, content-rich posts about my research findings. I have not, in fact, published many posts that would fit that description so far this year (the ongoing series of posts about my great-grandfathers' WWI service records being a possible exception, but those are not really the most meaty, research-y posts I've ever written). There were a few good posts about my research in the last half of 2013, when I was also aiming to keep up that posting schedule. (Examples include Finding Louisa and I think I just hit my first brick wall.)

However, in the past few months, I've also posted several of my most visited and most commented-upon posts of all time. These were a varied group, but most-visited included both Top 10 Halloween Costumes for Genealogists and Tutorial: Searching Fulton History, while most commented upon included John Joseph O'Hara's WWI Service Record and a Plea for Help and Mother Malone: Family History through Song. (That last one surprised me; I didn't expect it to strike such a chord.*)

There's not a lot of overlap there, between the posts that are about my research and the posts people most enjoy reading. The posts that attract the most readers are the most universal; they're not all about me, my ancestors, or my research. They are, at times, utterly absurd. (Top 10 Pick-up Lines for Genealogists? I did not exactly advance the scholarly conversation with that one!)

I've always conceived of blogging primarily as a way to organize and share my research, but that doesn't seem to be the type of blogging that is actually most successful with readers. When I first started looking at this pattern, I worried that I was writing more for other people than for myself. And yet, some of those more popular, less-research-based posts are the ones that I enjoy the most. Because, in fact, Top 10 Pick-up Lines for Genealogists was really fun to write!

Which means I'm left trying to figure out what exactly motivates me to write. Am I writing to improve and organize my research? Am I writing for fun? Am I writing for me? Am I writing for an audience? Am I just pointlessly rambling? I may have limited blogging time over the next couple of months, and trying to figure out what to do about it has me analyzing what I write, and what I should be writing. Do I stop updating, or do I make an effort now to schedule posts for the future? I've been aiming for the latter, but it involved producing content in a much more concentrated way than I ever have before, causing at least some of my soul-searching about what to write and why.

Why do you blog? How do you focus your content? Or do you just let the spirit move you?

*See what I did there?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Carmine "Charlie" Lanzillotto's WWI Service Record

I've recently reviewed the WWI Service Records of three of my four great-grandfathers, John Joseph O'Hara, Joseph Eugene Mulcahy, and Domenico Gatto. All three served during the war, but none of them was sent overseas. Only one of my great-grandfathers, Carmine "Charlie" Lanzillotto, actually served in Europe.

Lanzillotta, Lanzilotto, World War I
WWI Service Record of Carmine Lanzillotta, NYS Archives
He was born 16 July 1894, in what's recorded here as "Bitelo," Italy. (It was actually Bitetto, outside of Bari, in Italy). When he was inducted, he was living at 281 E. 155th St. in northern Manhattan. This was the same address where he had been living when he registered for the draft in 1917, as well as where he was living when he naturalized on 20 October 1919, which means that he came back to the same building after the war.

Carmine Lanzillotto fought in the Battle of the Argonne Forest, officially known as the Meuse-Argonne Offensive; it's both the only engagement listed here, and the only battle my grandmother had ever heard him speak of. He was inducted on 25 June 1918 and was overseas by 3 August 1918. The battle lasted from 26 September 1918 until 11 November 1918, the date of the Armistice that ended the war. Charlie, though, remained overseas until the following September, and was discharged on 6 October 1919.

I'm not sure of all of the abbreviations used in the section "Organizations served in," but "MP" shows up a lot, which accords with the image below, showing Charlie Lanzillotto in his uniform and wearing an "MP" band on his arm. 

Lanzillotta, Lanzilotto, world war I, military police
Carmine Lanzillotto

Monday, March 17, 2014

Irish Genealogical and Historical Resources

Happy St. Patrick's Day! 

In honor of the holiday, I'll be baking soda bread, eating corned beef, and reviewing some of my favorite resources for Irish genealogy!

Online Resources
-The 1901 and 1911 Irish Census
Earlier Irish Census records were almost entirely destroyed, so 1901 and 1911 are both the earliest extant censuses and the only ones that are currently available to the public. (1926 will be the next to be released.) Both the 1901 and the 1911 Census are available and searchable online at the website of the National Archives of Ireland.

-Griffith's Valuation
Griffith's Valuation, the property valuation overseen by Richard Griffith, serves as an excellent census substitute for mid-19th century Ireland. It was undertaken between 1853 and 1865, so it predates the earliest available census records, and lists the head of each household in Ireland, as well as the name of the landlord from whom the property was rented (source). Griffith's Valuation is available online from

-The Irish Family History Foundation
The Irish Family History Foundation ( offers online access to Birth/Christening, Marriage, and Death/Gravestone records through the individual county genealogy centres. Now, this is not a website without its problems. Credits are expensive, there's no subscription option, you need to pay even to view search results, and the records you're paying to view are just transcriptions; there aren't actual images available. A search can yield many results, and you then have to pay to view each of them individually, at a cost of 2.75-5.00 Euros per record, depending on whether you've purchased credits in bulk. Nonetheless, the sheer volume of records available makes this a valuable resource, and when you search intelligently, the cost can be reasonable. Using the technique outlined in this tutorial has made all the difference for me!

-Irish Church Records
While most Irish church records are most easily accessed, for a fee, through the Irish Family History Foundation, lucky researchers with ancestors from the counties of Kerry, Dublin, and Carlow, and the Diocese of Cork & Ross have a FREE option! Parish records from these areas can be accessed through the Irish governmental site (Availability varies by year and denomination; for more information, see the list of available parishes on the site.) While my ancestors don't hail from any of those areas, my husband's family was from Kerry, so I've occasionally had opportunities to use the site, and it definitely made me wish this resource were available for my areas of interest.

A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland
This is one of the most useful, practical books for Irish research that I've come across. It has maps of each Irish county, divided into civil parishes, Catholic parishes, baronies, dioceses, and poor law unions. It's invaluable for helping figure out which jurisdictions you should be checking for records, and I definitely couldn't be as productive without it.

Brian Mitchell, Irish genealogy, maps of Ireland

Annals of the Famine in Ireland
This book, by 19th century reformer Asenath Nicholson, was assigned in an Irish history course I took in college, and I found it fascinating. It's not a book of records or a research aid, but it's a fascinating contemporary look at conditions in Ireland - particularly the west of Ireland - during the famine, valuable for anyone with famine-era Irish ancestors. Nicholson also wrote Ireland's Welcome to the Stranger before the famine struck, which is a book I haven't read yet but have on my list.

Asenath Nicholson, Irish history, Irish genealogy, Potato famine

The Course of Irish History
This is another excellent book that was assigned in one of my college Irish history courses. It consists of expert essays on various topics in Irish history, arranged chronologically. They provide brief, usually quite accessible looks at these various topics, ranging from "Prehistoric Ireland" to "Ireland, 1982-94" and all major aspects of Irish history in between. As a result the book provides an excellent overview for any researchers who need to add some historical context to the search for their Irish ancestors.

T.W. Moody, Irish history, Irish genealogy

Enjoy the day, and take the opportunity to use some of these resources to delve a little deeper into your Irish ancestry!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you choose to make a purchase from Amazon after clicking one of these links, I will receive a small portion of your purchase price as a commission - and the price you pay doesn't change! I personally make a point of starting my Amazon shopping through the affiliate links of bloggers and friends whenever possible, so that large corporations are not the only beneficiaries of my purchases, and encourage others to do the same, regardless of whether they use my affiliate links or another blogger's.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Domenico Gatto's WWI Service Records

I recently received the state-level World War I service records for each of my four great-grandfathers, including Domenico Gatto.

Domenick Gatto, World War I, NYS
NYS Service Record for Domenico Gatto, WWI

He was inducted on 30 April 1918. I have to plead ignorance again; I do not know what "inducted" means in this context. I assume that it simply refers to the date he joined the Army. At the time, he was 29 years and 2 months old, but the record doesn't give his birth date. The given age is a bit inconsistent with the Italian Civil Registration record of his birth, which is recorded as having occurred on 21 September 1891, making him about 26 1/2, instead. Domenico's home address is given as 315 Melrose St., Brooklyn, which is not an address I had previously encountered for him. His birthplace is given only as "Italy"; I know he was born in Bitetto, Bari, Puglia, Italy.

Domenico was first assigned to the "152 Dep Brig," which appears to be the 152nd Depot Brigade. According to Wikipedia, the Depot Brigades were organized to receive recruits and prepare them to fight overseas. However, from there he was assigned to Company I, 303rd Infantry, and never served overseas before his discharge on 2 Dec 1918. Of my four great-grandfathers who served in WWI, only one served overseas; Domenico was one of the three who did not.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Top Ten Genealogical Pick-Up Lines - Let's you and me get together and read Evidence Explained some time.
10. Is that a wand scanner in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

9. Let's you and me get together and read Evidence Explained some time.

8. So, will I see you at Jamboree?

7. Did it hurt when you fell out of that family tree?

6. I bet we have lots in common, including some ancestors.

5. I'd like to add you to my family tree.

4. I'd like to marry you and label all of our wedding pictures well for the benefit of future generations!

3. I see the perfect spot for me next to you on your pedigree chart.

2. Let's go get our DNA tested to make sure we're not related in a genealogically significant time frame.

1. What's a nice girl like you doing at a genealogy conference like this?

Use the comments section to add to the list!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Location, Location, Location

I have the great fortune of living in New York City as I research my ancestors in New York City. Not everyone can live where they research, but I highly recommend it.

It's nice to have the kind regular, incidental interactions with the lives of my ancestors that occurs when you live in close geographical proximity. I attend church at the parish where my 2x great-aunt was a member. I've been known to point out to friends, on our way home from an evening out, "That's where my grandparents were married." And just last week, when reminding myself of the neighborhood where my grandmother grew up for a note in this post, I remembered that my grandmother, Marilyn Mulcahy, had been baptized at St. Anselm's Church in Bay Ridge.

Baptism of Marilyn Mulcahy, 11 March 1931

This sounded a little familiar, and it didn't take me long to realize that I was there, last summer, when my friends' son was baptized. At the time, I had no idea that the church should hold any particular significance for my family, so it's a bit of a missed opportunity, but also one of those small moments of serendipity that connect me to my ancestors through time - whether I realize it or not.

It also, luckily, means I'm just an e-mail away from having a photograph of the church where my grandmother was christened. 

The happy parents with baby Jamie at St. Anselm's
Godmother April, parents Jeff and Michelle, and me holding Jamie
Photos courtesy of Michelle's dad.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Submit your Stories!

Some of the greatest experiences I've had in my genealogical research involve serendipity, those almost mystical moments when an ancestor makes it clear he wants to be found, or when generations collide with a kind of synergy.

There were two moments when this serendipity has been most obvious in my own research:

When my cousin visited the Brooklyn Historical Society and discovered that the person who had signed the sign-in sheet earlier that evening had given her home address as exactly the house we were researching. This netted us a fantastic trip to and tour of the old family homestead.

When I learned my great-grandmother's full given name and discovered that my dad had managed to name a daughter after his grandmother, like he wanted to, without realizing it until she was 21 years old. 

I know I'm not alone in having these magical, sometimes chilling experiences.  And so I'd like to invite you, my readers, to submit your favorite stories of genealogical serendipity, to be shared (with permission and attribution) in the series I plan to run this Spring. You can submit stories in the comments or via e-mail (kathleen.scarlett.ohara AT Please include a link to your blog, if you have one. (If you're interested in writing a full-fledged guest post about your serendipitous experience, let me know and we can talk about it.)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Photography, Past, Present, and Future

Were the past 50 years a photographic blip?

I have 1 photograph of my great-grandfather as a child. I've seen maybe a dozen pictures of my grandmother as a child. There are several photo albums full of hundreds of pictures of my dad as a child. There are probably thousands of photographs of me as a child.

I've seen dozens of photographs of my great-grandfather as an adult. Hundreds of photographs of my grandmother as an adult. Hundreds of photographs of my dad as an adult. A handful of photographs of me as an adult.

When I say "photographs," I'm talking about physical, hard copy photographs. The kind of thing that will last through the fast-moving, planned obsolescence of modern technology. My great-grandfather's life saw the gradual transition from occasional, complicated, special-event, professional photography to inexpensive, omnipresent, personal photography, and the attendant increase in pictures. My life saw the transition from inexpensive, omnipresent, personal film photography to inexpensive, more-than-omnipresent personal digital photography, and the attendant decrease in physical photographs.

It's not like there aren't any photographs of Joseph Mulcahy as a child. There's this one. And it's not like there aren't any pictures of me as an adult.  There are 7 framed photographs of me in my apartment. 6 are from my wedding day. (The 7th is from a friend's wedding.) Plus, we have a few photo albums. At the end of 2011, I made a point of having prints made of good, representative pictures from the year, which might have been a dozen pictures or so. I haven't yet done the same for 2012 or 2013. I did have prints made of our honeymoon to St. Lucia, and made up a photo book of pictures from our recent trip to Ireland.

In other words, if you look past my unusual conscientiousness in 2011, the physical photographs of me and my husband as adults represent almost exclusively special occasions. Kind of like the extant photographs from c. 1900, right?

I firmly believe that in 100 years, the digital photographs that currently overload our hard drives and are posted to the internet ad nauseum will not have survived. Many photographs on paper won't have, either, but they've got a better chance. Our descendants will find themselves looking at a handful of special-occasion photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries; an unmanageable glut of unlabeled photographs from the mid and late 20th century; and a handful of special-occasion photographs from the 21st century and beyond.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Book Review: Someone by Alice McDermott

I recently joined a local book club through, and the first book I was able to join them for was Someone by Alice McDermott. I didn't read the book because it was historical fiction about Brooklyn; I read it because I've been trying to "officially" join this book club for months now, and this was the book they chose during the month I could make it to a meeting. I was excited to discover, though, that it was the story of a girl growing up in Brooklyn during the interwar period.

That much I got from the description on the back of the book. As I started reading, though, I began to realize that the main character, Marie, was growing up in Carroll Gardens, or South Brooklyn, as it might have been known at the time. She even attended St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church, which was where my Madigan and Mulcahy families would have gone to church when they were living at 85 Luqueer Street! I enjoyed this aspect of the book, even though my direct ancestors were no longer living in the neighborhood at the time the story is set. (Marie would have been more or less a contemporary of my grandparents, but my grandfather grew up in Park Slope and my grandmother, whose parents were from South Brooklyn, grew up in Bay Ridge and Flatbush.)

Given the amount of time I spend researching in Brooklyn, I always appreciate a book that gives me a flavor of the borough in general, or the culture of neighborhoods like Carroll Gardens in particular, and Someone did this in excellent fashion. I think anyone who is interested in this era of Brooklyn history would find this an interesting glimpse at the time and the culture, though it's obviously not a history book or a scholarly tome.

The book was, luckily, equally enjoyable as a work of literature. The narrative of the book switches from Marie's childhood to various stages of her adulthood, and while this is not what my linear brain would have preferred, it worked well and wasn't difficult to follow. My book club had some great discussions about the relationship between Marie and her brother Gabe and the dichotomy they represented, but I was also glad that as they grew, the author added some nuance to the depiction of them as polar opposites when they were young. If I had to describe it in a sentence, I'd say that the book is primarily about familial relationships and the way a person - and a family - can grow and change over a lifetime. It's a really good read, and while some of the book club members thought it was hard to get into, I found it impossible to put down from the very beginning. I recommend it highly!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you choose to make a purchase from Amazon after clicking one of these links, I will receive a small portion of your purchase price as a commission. I personally make a point of starting my Amazon shopping through the affiliate links of bloggers and friends whenever possible, so that large corporations are not the only beneficiaries of my purchases, and encourage others to do the same, regardless of whether they use my affiliate links or another blogger's.