Friday, December 31, 2010

A Visit to the NYPL

Tuesday, I took a somewhat impromptu trip to the New York Public Library's Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History, and Genealogy. This had been one of my goals for the upcoming year, but I wasn't quite as well-prepared as I should have been. I had been heading into Manhattan for a job interview, but, having both forgotten my cell phone and left very early in anticipation of blizzard-induced mass transit delays, I did not know that the interview was cancelled (thanks, blizzard!) until after I was most of the way there. (I had to stop and use a pay phone to call home and have my sister check my messages. Come to think of it, there must be a way to check my voicemail remotely. But I don't know what it is.) I was already most of the way to the city, so I decided to keep going and stop at the library. (I entertained the idea of going all the way to Brooklyn for research, instead, but luckily decided against it. I later learned that that borough hadn't been plowed yet.)

An early start on my New Year's goals! Go me! However, I was armed only with a copy of my resume, and a list of references - none of my genealogy notes, nor my notebooks for taking genealogy notes. I worked primarily from memory, and wasted some time on extra research, like using City Directories to look up addresses I already knew.

I primarily looked at the 1875 New York State Census, but I wasn't able to locate the family I had most wanted to find. One of my goals for the coming year is to find out where Matthew Madigan came from, so I had hoped to find the Madigan family. Finding them living at 85 Luqueer St. would also have provided a clue as to when the house was built. I didn't find them, though, so I suspect they may not have yet moved from Manhattan (where they lived in 1870) to Brooklyn (where they lived in 1880). Unfortunately, the Manhattan returns were destroyed before they could be filmed, and the information no longer exists. (Matthew Madigan did not show up in the 1875 NYC Directory for either Manhattan or Brooklyn.) However, I found a couple of Mulvaney families and the Toners. I was glad to find the Toners, as I haven't been able to find them in either 1880 or 1892.

Spending all day poring over microfilm made me feel like a real live genealogist.

Pay phones and microfilm, all in one day. How very retro of me!

Monday, December 27, 2010

2011 Family History Goals

I'm not nearly as organized in my research as I should be. For 2010, I'm trying to come up with a few specific research questions to answer, and I intend to devote much of my research time to those questions. I know I'm supposed to focus on one line at a time, but frankly, for me, that's a recipe for getting bored and giving up, so I'm trying to come up with one primary question for each of a few different lines.

1. Who were Matthew Madigan's parents?
2. Who built the house at 85 Luqueer Street?
3. When did Richard Toner die?
4. What killed Patricia Mary Gillan Chase Marra and her daughters, Patricia and Michele Elizabeth Chase, on New Year's Eve, 1947?
5. What happened to Mary Mulvany?
6. Where was Mary D'Ingeo Gatto born?
7. Who were Hugh Quinn's parents?

To answer these questions, I would like to:

Finally visit my local Family History Center
Visit the Brooklyn Historical Society
Visit the NYPL's Milstein Division
Visit the various research rooms in the downtown Brooklyn county government complex
Devote some time to browsing the Brazil Catholic Church Records and the Brazil, Sao Paolo Burial Records at
Familiarize myself with Florida genealogy

Family History Related Personal Goals:

Get a job, so I can once again afford to order the records I need
Create vital records for my descendants to find! (namely, a marriage license and marriage record, this coming April!)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The genealogy of Christ: he is conceived and born of a virgin

In honor of today's feast, I reproduce here the beginning of the first chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew.

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac. And Isaac begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Judas and his brethren. And Judas begot Phares and Zara of Thamar. And Phares begot Esron. And Esron begot Aram. And Aram begot Aminadab. And Aminadab begot Naasson. And Naasson begot Salmon. And Salmon begot Booz of Rahab. And Booz begot Obed of Ruth. And Obed begot Jesse.
And Jesse begot David the king. And David the king begot Solomon, of her that had been the wife of Urias. And Solomon begot Roboam. And Roboam begot Abia. And Abia begot Asa. And Asa begot Josaphat. And Josaphat begot Joram. And Joram begot Ozias. And Ozias begot Joatham. And Joatham begot Achaz. And Achaz begot Ezechias. And Ezechias begot Manasses. And Manasses begot Amon. And Amon begot Josias.
And Josias begot Jechonias and his brethren in the transmigration of Babylon. And after the transmigration of Babylon, Jechonias begot Salathiel. And Salathiel begot Zorobabel. And Zorobabel begot Abiud. And Abiud begot Eliacim. And Eliacim begot Azor. And Azor begot Sadoc. And Sadoc begot Achim. And Achim begot Eliud. And Eliud begot Eleazar. And Eleazar begot Mathan. And Mathan begot Jacob.
And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. So all the generations, from Abraham to David, are fourteen generations. And from David to the transmigration of Babylon, are fourteen generations: and from the transmigration of Babylon to Christ are fourteen generations.
Matthew 1:1-17

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Dear Genea-Santa, I've got some ideas for you

Dear Genea-Santa,

Everyone else wrote to you last week, but I've got a letter of a different sort. No requests, just a suggestion. Maybe you could get some institutions to work on it with you for next year.

Wouldn't it be fabulous if records repositories offered gift certificates?! I'm sure I'm not the only family historian to have the experience I've had this season. You're asked, "What do you want for Christmas?" And you simply can't think of anything you need. "But isn't there anything you'd like?" Well, there's great-great-grandma Mary King's death certificate, available at the NYC Department of Health . . . or Aunt Agnes's death certificate, which has to be ordered from Albany . . . or any of a dozen other records you know the location of, but haven't gotten your hands on yet. It's not quite the same as asking for a pair of boots from Nordstrom, or a jacket that has to be ordered from L.L.Bean. And you kind of get funny looks when you ask for them. (I know, because I tried it this year!)

But if there were a way to make hundred-year-old birth certificates available as gifts that lay people (you know, non-genealogists) could understand, maybe they'd take advantage of it, to our advantage! Genea-Santa, you're a genealogist. You understand the kind of excitement that would greet, say, a gift certificate good for 2 birth certificates and a death certificate from your local archives. What genealogist wouldn't love to pull out of his stocking a gift certificate for $50 towards marriage records from an ancestral village?

So work on that, Genea-Santa, because I know what I'd love to find under the tree next year!

Merry Christmas!



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Help me do a good deed this holiday season

This is not about family history. But it is about family - about finding a beautiful little boy a family for the future.

I've recently become aware of a wonderful charity called Reece's Rainbow. A 501(c)3 non-profit, Reece's Rainbow raises grant money for the international adoption of children with Down Syndrome. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, babies with any physical or mental disability are often abandoned to orphanages soon after birth. Facing almost no possibility of being adopted in their own countries, they are sent to mental institutions at age 4, 5, or 6. Conditions in these institutions are terrible (here is a Human Rights Watch report on Russian institutions; conditions are similar throughout Eastern Europe), and many children do not survive. Many of these children with special needs have only one chance for a long, healthy, and productive life - or any life at all - and that one chance is international adoption.

There are many, many families out there who would love to adopt one of these little children, but the high price tag of adoption - it can cost $20K or more - makes it impossible. This holiday season, I have signed up to raise money for one specific little boy on Reece's Rainbow - Colby. You can see his picture in the icon on the right sidebar. He is a beautiful blond-haired, four-year-old boy with Down Syndrome who, because of his age, is at significant risk of being transferred to an institution soon. Having a grant fund of any size significantly increases the chances that Colby will be adopted, and will not spend the rest of his life languishing in a mental institution.

I don't do things like this often, but this is important. Colby's life depends on it. This holiday season, can you find it in your heart to make a donation to his grant fund?

If you click on the icon in the sidebar, it will take you to the Reece's Rainbow site, where you can follow the "click here" link and scroll down to find Colby's name and picture. Click "add," and a donation to Colby's grant fund will be added to your cart, seen on the upper right side of the page. (The default donation is $35, but you should be able to increase or decrease this amount on the next page.) All donations are tax deductible.

"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do."
~Helen Keller

Update: Because I have neither the experience nor the ability to convey the desperate need these children face, I'm linking to a post by a woman who recently adopted a son from an Eastern European institution. The heart-wrenching conditions she describes are what face these orphans if they are transferred out of the baby houses. May I suggest you read The Sad Reality by Julia at Micah Six Eight

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wedding Photos

This post goes out primarily to my cousins - distant and not-so-distant - who may read this blog. Ben and I have decided that we'd like to include our* family history obsession in our wedding celebration, and so we're collecting the wedding pictures of our direct antecedents to incorporate into our decor. We have most pictures of our parents, grandparents, and some great-grandparents, but we'd like to collect as many as possible.

Some pictures we're looking for, if they exist - (some of these predate the widespread availability of photography, but it can't hurt to ask) :

Marilyn Mulcahy & William O'Hara
Veronica Mulvaney & Joseph Mulcahy
Mary Madigan & Michael Mulcahy
Margaret Sullivan & Matthew Madigan
Johanna Roche & Matthew Madigan (Johanna's not a direct antecedent, but I'll take what I can get)
Margaret Ryan & James Mulcahy
Julia Toner & Patrick Mulvaney
Bridget Rothwell & James Mulvaney
Mary Cullen & Richard Toner
Mary Quinn & John O'Hara
Mary King & John O'Hara
Bridget Hopkins & Michael King
Margaret C---- & Nicholas King
Bridget Kearney & Patrick O'Hara
Mary Gillen & Hugh Quinn
Mary Nora Grimes & Martin Gillen 

If you happen to have photos - preferably wedding photos, but other photos of the couples named would be appreciated, too - please contact me at kathleen.scarlett.ohara AT gmail DOT com.

*we're getting married. I can start saying "we" are obsessed with genealogy now, right?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Christmas Stockings

My family had a variety of different stockings growing up. My dad's was the one he had as a boy; my mom's was a traditional looking red stocking; mine was white with a print, and Laura's, similarly, was red with a print; Anna's was a traditional red and white, like mom's.

Everyone's has their names on it. I had never loved the way the name on mine looked, so, at maybe 12 or so, I tried to rewrite it on the opposite side. That side came out worse. While I like my stocking, of course, it never 100% lived up to my ideals of what a stocking could be.

This is supposed to be the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories, but I've got the ghost of Christmas future hanging around me these days, what with the wedding and the rest of my life coming up.

Ben and I recently discussed what to do about Christmas stockings next year, for our first married Christmas. Do we take our stockings from our parents' houses? Buy new ones? Neither one seemed right. Just buying new stockings seemed so . . . callous. How could you just replace your Christmas stocking? But taking our childhood stockings from our parents' houses seemed a little bit like, I don't know, tearing our childhood families apart. It made me sad to imagine just four stockings hanging on my parents' mantle. The stocking family would look like it had lost a child.

We came up with another option. Replacing our childhood stockings at Target seemed soulless, but I thought we could invest new stockings with lots of soul if they were homemade. I'm going to spend some portion of the next year crocheting us stockings! I may pick up some Christmas colored yarn at some after Christmas sales, or I may just use the red and white yarn I happen to have at home. At the moment, I'm leaning towards using this pattern from Crochet Today magazine. The beauty part of it is that if I vary the orders of the colors, the stockings can match without being identical, plus I can always make additional matching-but-not-identical stockings in the future, should our stocking family ever need to expand!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Brooklyn House History

I've long had it in the back of my mind that I really should research the history of 85 Luquer Street in Brooklyn, the house where my great-grandfather, Joseph Mulcahy, was born. I've been told that it, along with 89 Luquer Street next door, was built by his grandfather, Matthew Madigan, but I cannot yet prove it. The family was living there as early as 1880; census records don't indicate whether they owned or rented until the 1920 census indicates that Mary Madigan Mulcahy, Matthew's daughter and Joesph's mother, owned it.
85 Luquer Street, at the far left

Now that my interest regarding the property has been peaked yet again (by our friendly family ghost, perhaps?), I'm getting interested in seeing what I can learn about it.

I've used the NYC Department of Buildings and Department of Finance websites to determine the BBL, or Borough, Block, and Lot number, necessary for finding any information about a NYC building. (It's 3/373/52.) Each of these websites allows you to search for different documents relating to a property; however, the documents available online date to well after my family's occupancy of the house. Deeds and mortgages prior to 1966 should be available at the Brooklyn City Register's Office, so that's one step in my journey towards the history of 85 Luquer St.

Another step is going to be to go to the Brooklyn Historical Society to look at their Brooklyn Land Conveyance Collection.

Now, to get to Brooklyn one of these days!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Search Terms - "85 luquer"

I was just glancing over the search terms that led people to this blog over the past month, and a curious string of them caught my eye:

tragic "85 luquer" street brooklyn ny
death "85 luquer" street brooklyn ny
ghost "85 luquer" street
obituary "85 luquer" street brooklyn ny

Clearly all entered by the same searcher, but Google doesn't tell me any more than that. I know of several 85 Luquer Street deaths - either deaths that happened there, or residents thereof who died elsewhere - but I don't know of any particular tragedies. 85 Luquer Street was the ancestral home of my Madigan and Mulcahy lines, rumored to have been built by my great-great-great-grandfather Matthew Madigan.

A list of death:
-Margaret (Sullivan) Madigan, 1880-1888  - died while a resident, location unknown
-Matthew Madigan, 1892 - died while a resident, location unknown
-Matthew Madigan, Jr., 1892-3 - died while a resident, location unknown
-Josephine Madigan, 1892-3 - died while a resident, location unknown
-unknown Madigan - possibly died a resident, location unknown
(That's probably the most tragic string of deaths I know of at 85 Luquer. Margaret died between 1880 and 1888, and Matthew remarried and had 3-4 more children. In the 1892 NYS Census (enumerated 16 Feb. 1892), he's listed with the children from his first marriage, his second wife, and 3 young children from his second marriage. In September, he died. By the time his estate was administered in April 1893, 2 of those young children, Matthew Jr. and Josephine, weren't listed among his heirs. 1892 was certainly a tragic year for Matthew's wife, Johanna Roche Madigan. But I never suspected anything more tragic than low life expectancy and high infant mortality.)
-Stillborn Baby Mulcahy, c.  - I've been told that one of the Mulcahy children had a twin who was stillborn and/or died at birth
-Michael Mulcahy, 1917 - died at French Hospital while a resident of 85 Luquer St.
-Mary Madigan Mulcahy, 1927 - died at Holy Family Hospital while a resident of 85 Luquer St.

Of course, 85 Luquer St. had several other apartments, as well, and there could have been tragedies happening around the Madigan and Mulcahy families that I am not yet aware of. I'd love to know what led the searcher to know or suspect that there were tragedies or ghosts at 85 Luquer!

I don't believe in ghosts, but I admit I did get very excited by the possibility that one of my ancestors is still hanging around the old Brooklyn homestead!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Off-Topic: Wedding Dress for Sale

Know anyone getting married? Before I bought my wedding dress, I bought another dress that I've decided not to wear. I'm finally getting around to trying to resell it. It's a new, perfect condition, size 8, ivory, strapless, beaded wedding gown by Emerald Bridal. You can bid on it on eBay here! Tell your friends!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Marriage of Nora Agnes Quinn and Bill Maines

Some time ago, I was contacted by a fellow researcher who thought we might be related via the Gillan/Gillen family. 

There were certainly a lot of coincidences. Both of our Gillan lines were from the same area in County Mayo, Ireland. Other relatives were able to give me a noncommittal "I think that family were cousins." It appeared that my great-great-grandfather, Hugh Quinn (who was married to Mary Gillan) witnessed the naturalization of Patrick Gillan, patriarch of the other Gillan line. It also appears that Mary's brother, Martin, witnessed the marriage of one of Patrick's children. 

My Gillans and his kept popping up in each others' records. But then we encountered a very unexpected connection. My correspondent mentioned that one of Patrick Gillan's children had married a Maines, and I mentioned - off-hand, not thinking this was important information - that one of Hugh and Mary's children had also married a Maines. 

The information we already possessed made it pretty clear that Mary Gillan Quinn's daughter Nora Agnes had married Ellen Gillen Maines's son William Augustus. The real question is whether or not they were related before they were married. 

I went ahead and ordered their marriage license and certificate. 

William Augustus Maines of Saugerties, NY, a postal clerk, married Nora Quinn of 924 E. 32nd St., Brooklyn, NY, on 3 July 1932. They were married, in Brooklyn, by Fr. John Fox, whose given address (3624 Glenwood Rd.) indicates that he was a priest at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church, which is probably where they were married.

Their marriage was witnessed by Terrence Quinn, Nora's brother, and Mary P. Gillen, who is clearly related to one or both of them!

I contacted the Brooklyn Diocese to find out whether they would have needed a dispensation to marry if they were related by blood. They would, as long as they were third cousins or closer! Of course, I have no idea of the degree to which they may have been related, so I'll have to request a search for the dispensation to find out if it exists. First, though, I need proof of death. I have an obituary for Bill Maines, d. 1962, which will suffice for proof that he is deceased. Next, I have to order a death certificate for Nora, who doesn't appear to have been mentioned in the newspaper when she died. I have a general idea of when she died (early-mid 1940s), but no idea where. (She was living in Saugerties, and was buried there, but a search for a death certificate in the town came back "no record found." Next, I have to look elsewhere in NYS.) Then I'll be able to request a search for a dispensation. 

(But I'm not going to do it yet. From now through Christmas, I'll be foregoing genealogical records so as to be able to donate what they would cost to Colby's Angel Tree fund. Could you sacrifice a record or a luxury this month to give a child a chance at a new life?)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Genealogy at a Family Reunion

I have the good fortune to have a cousin and a second cousin who recently decided we needed to get together. All of us. So my Lanzillotto relatives will be having an impromptu family reunion in a couple of weeks. And I've offered to bring the genealogy! (plus a side dish and a case of beer) Here are a few of my ideas:

1) Make copies of particularly interesting family records for people to peruse.
2) Make copies of family photos to display.
3) Encourage others to bring photographs - and documents, if they have them. (I may keep my printer in the car in case anything shows up that demands being copied and/or scanned.)
4) Put together a family tree to display, with advance help from relatives. I'm definitely going to include the generations from my grandparents to their grandparents, but I don't know whether or not the younger generations will be able to fit on something I make by hand. Off the top of my head, my mother's generation is at least 20-25 cousins; my generation is 42 that I can think of, but probably more; the generation after mine is 8 that I know of, but that's because we're only just getting started!

What other ideas are there for involving genealogy in family reunion?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Personalizing History

If genealogy is good at one thing, it's personalizing history. It gives people today a sense of ownership of yesterday.

This morning, I was browsing TIME magazine, and (being entirely uninterested in the political races which took up most of the issue) read a short article titled "Brief History: Cholera Outbreaks." I got to the line that read "An 1866 New York City epidemic led to the creation of the city's board of health, the first in the U.S.," and my reaction was "That's our cholera epidemic! The one that killed Julia and James Thomas!"

Ownership is probably not the right word, and maybe I shouldn't be using a possessive pronoun. But I felt an immediate sense of recognition, and connection to the epidemic of 1866, as well as a very real awareness that, while an article about historic and current cholera epidemics might seem academic, we're actually talking about real diseases that killed - and continue to kill - real people. Julia was 15 and James Thomas only 2 1/2 when they died.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

2 Years

There I was, browsing Twitter idly while trying to convince myself that I really should get up and exercise, or do something productive before too much of this day got away from me, when I was surprised to notice that I was reading the name of my own blog without even taking it in. I did a double take. Sure enough, geneabloggers was wishing me a happy blogiversary! I've been paying so little attention to my blog lately that I hadn't even noticed that the 2-year anniversary of my first post was coming up.

A lot has changed since then. This blog was initially public, then was soon made private, because I thought genealogical information was too identifiable to be shared. Then it was made public again, partially as (often successful) "cousin bait," partially because I wanted to be able to be a part of the genealogy blogging community, partially because I was afraid the password protection was scaring off family who might otherwise enjoy it on a casual basis, and partially because I realized I had to trust that my relatives are all too smart to use their mothers' maiden names as passwords. (Right? You're all too smart for that, right?) I've expanded the family lines I research, having started with my father's maternal ancestors and progressed to the point that I'm now researching all of my ancestral lines - or trying to. (Some are easier than others, as always!) I've met cousins online, collaborated, shared what I know and learned from what they've shared. I've finished grad school, moved to NY, started looking for jobs (anyone know anyone who's hiring at a museum/library/archive in NYC?), gotten engaged, and started planning a wedding. And yes, I've gotten so busy I don't devote as much of my time to genealogy research or genealogy blogging as I'd like to. I hope this is a short-lived condition, and that I'll soon be back to posting more than a couple of times per month.

Thanks for a great two years, friends!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I got feedback on the post Honoring (the wishes of) the Dead, not all of it in the comments, and it seems that everyone thinks I should share. (Of course, everyone who responded is also related to me and the lines I'm researching in some way, and is thus rather invested in outcome.) I have decided that I think I will share  . . . but I will only share something I know. In other words, you'll have to wait until I find a primary source document. (The reference I have is from about 15 years after the fact.) No speculation. It'll take some research, some time, and maybe some money to find the necessary primary source document, but I'll get there eventually. (Maybe not soon. I've got a wedding to plan. Not much of my free time goes to genealogy these days.) I'm also not telling - yet - what branch of my research this relates to. But I promise you, it's not some big scandalous secret. It's fairly mundane, actually. You'll be bored when you find out, trust me. But I'll share.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Vincenzo Cianciotta, Caduto in Guerra

Wednesday morning, I went to my grandmother's house, and she shared with me some information about her side of the family. She mentioned that her mother's older brother, Vincenzo Cianciotta, had died "in the war." (The generation made me assume WWI; I was right.) She also mentioned that the town had named a street after him. I'd jotted down all the names she gave me (I hadn't previously known the names of any of my great-grandmother's siblings), and when I got home, I googled the one who had apparently had a street named after him.

The town of Bitetto, Bari, in Puglia, Italy, lists on their website all of the streets in town that they named after fallen soldiers in any war, listed alphabetically. You can find a brief biography of Vincenzo Cianciotta - in Italian - at the bottom of the page for Cianciotta. 

Roughly translated, it says:
Born at Bitetto, 16 January 1884, ID number 11587, deceased 8 October 1916 at Vizintini, dying at 11 am at 32 years of age. Son of Saverio and of Arcangela Scigliuto, married to Antonia Occhiogrosso and father of one daughter, residing at via Barberio 19. Died following a bullet wound to the head. Buried at Vizintini. Soldier of the 9th Infantry Regiment. 

(I hope that's more or less accurate. My Italian was once fairly good, but I haven't used it in 2-3 years now. I should probably brush up if I'm going to start looking more closely at my Italian ancestors.)

From what I can figure out, Vizintini (or Visintini) is a hamlet in the town of Doberdo del Lago in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, which was involved in the Battles of the Isonzo. Vincenzo's date of death falls a couple of days before the Eighth Battle of the Isonzo (10-12 October 1916), so it seems that he was either injured during the Seventh Battle of the Isonzo (14-17 September 1916) and did not die for nearly a month, or he was injured and killed between battles. 

I'm going to see what I can learn about requesting Italian military records.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Honoring (the wishes of) the Dead

I was at the Records Room of the Kings County Surrogate's Court one morning last week. I found a piece of information I'd been wondering about for almost as long as I've been researching my family history. I can't be 100% sure that the fact is accurate, as it's not a primary source - but it's closer to it than anything else I'd come across, so I have a decent amount of confidence in its accuracy.

Now, the reason that this one fact has eluded me is because the person it concerned didn't wish it to be known, but rather, took great pains to avoid revealing it while alive. And this has always left me a bit conflicted. If I were to discover this fact, and know it with any degree of certainty, would I share it? (I'm not sure I've reached that degree of certainty yet, so I don't think I'd be spreading this information yet, anyway.) I've never gone looking for a primary source for this fact, precisely because I wasn't sure what I'd do next. On the one hand, it seems inappropriate to keep it from curious relatives, especially those who have shared lots of information with me over the years. But would that be the right thing to do? I know that the dead have no expectation of privacy, but I wonder if disrespecting our ancestors' wishes amounts to disrespecting our ancestors. If I had no respect for my forefathers, I would not be occupied in the genealogical pursuit, now, would I?

Do I share?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Well, Sweet Heart

I want to highlight a blog that I've been enjoying lately. Charlotte at Well, Sweet Heart is transcribing and blogging the love letters of her great-grandparents, and they make a terrifically sweet and poignant read. I can't think of anyone who would appreciate this project more than geneabloggers and geneablog readers, so do go check it out!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: Mulvaney Family Gravesite

Last year, I took a trip to Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn to see a variety of family graves.

This is the stone on the grave of my great grandparents, Veronica Mulvaney (d. 1982) and Joseph Mulcahy (d. 1970), as well as my great-great-grandparents, Julia Toner (d. 1938) and Patrick Mulvaney (d. 1919). Also listed on the stone are several of Julia and Patrick's sons, William and Harold (d. 1933, both of them).

My information on the grave had come courtesy of my uncle, John Griffin, who had requested information on the plot a number of years ago. 

There's additional information in this letter. The plot was purchased by Patrick Mulvaney and his brother John, and I believe that the Gertrude Mulvaney, who died in 1890 at 1 year old, was John's daughter. (John later had another daughter named Gertrude, this one living to adulthood.) Mary Hughes is a mystery; no one has any idea who she was. Raymond Mulvaney was Julia and Patrick's young son, who died as a toddler. (He shows up on the 1905 NYS Census.) I believe Patrick's entire body is buried here, not just his leg. The date of burial corresponds with his date of death, and it's been suggested that he went into the hospital to have his gangrenous foot amputated, but the surgery ended up killing him. Arrangements would have been made to have his leg buried, but, sadly, his entire body needed to be buried instead.

Recently, though, one of my new Mulvaney cousins called Holy Cross, and got information that indicated that neither the gravestone nor the letter pictured above is complete. Holy Cross told her that there are four additional bodies interred in the plot, as well. These, it seems, were initially interred elsewhere, and were moved to this plot after John and Patrick bought it c. 1890. Thus, the information on most of them is spottier, but they were listed as:

Bridget Mulvaney, 53
James Mulvaney, 60
Thomas Mulvaney, 27 (3-1-1889)
James Mulvaney, 8

We've yet to find death certificates for anyone besides Bridget, although I'm looking.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

You Might be a Genealogist if. . .

. . . you've ever gotten a message from a significant other that reads "Happy early anniversary- I renewed our subscription for another year!"

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bridget Mulvaney Death Certificate - 8 February 1883

Even though I've been far too busy for genealogy lately (there's not much time for genealogy when you're finishing grad school, planning a wedding, and hunting for a job!) I had the good fortune to be contacted, separately, by a couple different Mulvaney family researchers. I benefitted greatly from their research, and gave them everything I knew, even though I haven't had time to put much new effort in lately. Then I put them in touch with each other.

As a result, I have some new material to post - for which I can't claim any credit - from the Mulvaney side of the family. Sometimes, genealogy finds you!

This is, we believe, the death certificate of Bridget Rothwell Mulvaney. She died on 8 February 1883, in her 50s; the age given reads either 53, 55, or 58. The age she most often gave in census years corresponds with a birthdate of around 1832, which would put her at 51 in 1883. She's female, white, and married, which means that her husband James must have died after 1883. I've been unable to find him in the 1892 NYS Census or the 1900 Federal Census, so I should probably be looking for his death between 1883 and 1892. She's Irish-born and has been in the US for what appears to read "30" years. (That corresponds with immigration around 1853, which is feasible, as their oldest son, Thomas, was US-born around 1855. (However, I just reminded myself, there was possibly an older child, a girl named Mary Ann, who was baptized in NY in 1852, and seems to have died before 1860.)) She has lived in NYC those entire 30 years. Both of her parents were Irish-born, unsurprisingly. Her place of death was 135 King St., Ward 12, Brooklyn. The only address we ever had for the Mulvaneys was 194 King Street, which is mere blocks away. Had they moved? Or was one of her children living nearby, and she died at his house? If the latter, she'd probably been there for some time. We see from the remainder of the certificate that she'd been ill - with paralysis and asthemia - for 4 months before she died, since October 7, 1882.

More later on where Bridget went next!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Baby Pictures

My cousin John just sent me this picture of my great-grandfather, Joseph Mulcahy, and his younger brother Michael.
Joseph is on the left, slightly older and with the adorable curls (so that is where my sister Anna gets her curly hair!) - and is that a riding crop he's holding?! Joseph was born 3 September 1896, and Michael was born 11 March 1899, so I'm guessing this picture was taken in late 1899, maybe right around when Joseph turned 3.

Joseph and Michael were the 4th and 5th in a family that, at the time, included 5 children. I'm not sure where their older siblings are in this photo - in 1899, Margaret would have been about 9, James 7, and Matthew 6. The picture includes only the babies of the family.

What's most interesting to me is that Papa's face really seems never to have changed. Even at the age of 3, you can see the very strong resemblance to his pictures as an adult. (Examples here and here.)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Genealogical Intuition - Can You Trust Your Gut?

The blessing and the bane of the family historian's toolkit. Intuition. That feeling. Just knowing. It's happened to me twice in the past couple weeks, and while it was kind of exciting ("That's what I thought! I knew I was right!"), it was also a little disconcerting. I knew I was right? No. Now I know I was right. Before, I just thought I was right.

Genealogists spend a lot of time talking about standards of evidence. And yet, it's so hard to ignore that feeling that keeps pulling you towards that one particular record when you have no indication that the individual in that record is any more likely to be the ancestor you're searching for than any of the other people who have (or don't have) his name.

1) I explained recently how I'd been drawn to a particular John O'Hara in's Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1989. And it seems I was right! Now, I wouldn't have used an extracted index to add information to a database or family tree. But some of us grad students without full time jobs live in genealogical poverty and don't have the freedom to send away for - and pay for - records we aren't sure pertain to our research. Given that every incorrect record I order is one correct record I can't afford, would I have been justified in paying for that record just because I thought it was the right one? (Remember, nothing in the record gave me any reason to think it was the right one. I just had a feeling.)

2) I was recently looking for my fiance's relatives in the 1901 Irish Census online. We knew that his great-grandmother's name was Bridget Theresa Healy, and that she was variously recorded as Bridget, Theresa, and Tess. Between census records, vital records, and a family diary, information indicated that she was "of Waterville, County Kerry, Ireland," her parents were James Healey and Bridget Sullivan, she was born around 1884 and immigrated around 1904. So she should have been in Ireland in 1901. But we couldn't find her! (Because she developed tuberculosis and spent time in a sanatarium before dying young, she's identifiable on few US Censuses, and her daughter, Ben's grandmother, knew little about her.) Ben was unconvinced by the widowed Bridget Healy, a woman old enough to have been Bridget Sullivan Healy, who was living with several of her kids - no Bridget Theresa - near but not in Waterville, but I had a feeling. He preferred a couple of other Bridget Healys, of Bridget Theresa's age, who didn't match certain other details. I had no particular reason to think I was right - there were several Healy families in the Waterville area, some of whom had daughters of the proper age but parents with the wrong names, or vice versa - and literally the only thing we knew about the Healys was that Bridget Sullivan Healy had to be old enough to have borne a child in the mid-1880s. It's pretty easy to fall into the right age range when that range is 40 years wide. We didn't have a lot to go by.

Should I, or should I not, have insisted on taking the Waterville family most seriously? I certainly wanted to. I was so sure, but without any evidence.

Eventually, we discovered the Church Records Project at the Irish Genealogy website. We were able to find extracted baptismal records for Bridget Theresa Healy and several other children of James Healy and Bridget Sullivan. From there, I could match up the names and ages of the other children born to the couple to the children still living at home with Bridget in 1901. Ben doesn't like it when I point out that I'm right, but in this case, well, I wasn't wrong.

Can genealogical intuition be a useful tool? Or is it glorified guessing that can lead you down dangerously wrong paths with false confidence?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

This American Life: Conventions

Today at work, I was listening to an episode of This American Life. While it's not at all related to genealogy, I thought the episode, Conventions, might be interesting to those of you geneabloggers and others who will be at the SCGS Jamboree this weekend! You can download it on iTunes for $0.99 or stream it online for free at It might make for some fun listening as you travel to the Jamboree this weekend, and it sure made me wish I'd be joining you!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Genetic Genealogy

I love finding genealogy in unexpected places. On one of the non-genealogy blogs I often read, I found this story last week. From Conversion Diary:

A few years ago my family was asked to participate in a study ofHNPCC, a genetic mutation that causes colon cancer. My dad's family is known to carry it, so some researchers who combine genetics with genealogy wanted to get info from us to find out more about how this mutation has spread. Thorough the study we found out that my dad has it (hence his colon cancer 25 years ago); I had a 50/50 chance of inheriting it, but I didn't get it (whew!).
What I found most interesting was the fact that they've traced all cases of HNPCC back to one man who came to America from Hesse, Germany in the early 1700's. All of us who have or have parents who have the HNPCC mutation are related to one another. I've seen the researcher's chart (names omitted) that shows all these thousands of people spread out all over the country, all going back to this one guy. I found that fascinating.

I hesitate to call it a "cool" story - because of the unfortunate genetic propensity to colon cancer in her family - but I think it's amazing that the researchers were able to determine exactly where that mutation first occurred, and in whom it first occurred, not to mention the relationships of all the people he passed it on to! As a family historian, though, I just think it's a shame that the descendancy chart she saw had names omitted!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Does that say what I think it says?!

There was a while when I was searching for the passenger manifest showing my great-grandfather, John O'Hara, returning to the US as a child after his family had spent a few years in Ireland. There were a couple of possible John O'Haras in the right time period, but I wasn't ever sure just which one was him. The most likely one showed up on the passenger manifest all by his lonesome, 4 years old, without any parents or younger brothers listed nearby, though it was noted that he was "going with father + mother." I thought I'd looked through all the pages of that manifest to find his father (and the rest of his family?) but either I meant to but didn't, or I missed them when I did. When it finally occurred to me that I should be searching on his brother Eugene's name instead, I got a hit, for Eugene, on the same ship, which sailed in 1902. The family of 5 is listed on 3 different pages.

Eugene and Patrick are on the first page of the manifest, almost obscured by damage:

As I said, Grandpa JJ is all on his own page:

And their parents, John and Mary, are on yet another page:

Now, it was months ago that I found these records, but it wasn't until last night - I wanted to look at their "place of last residence" to see if I could find them in the 1901 Irish Census - that I looked particularly closely at just what this manifest said. Next to John Sr.'s name, it says in big letters that he's a US Citizen. Written directly underneath that, though (and I mean underneath it, like the handwriting overlaps, not underneath it like on the next line), it says when he became a citizen!

I can't necessarily read the whole thing, but it says something like "Cit. paper of #29 something something Kings Co., NY, Oct 14/98."

Wait, for real? All this time, the exact date of John O'Hara's naturalization had been sitting right there in my files and I hadn't noticed it? I'd been looking at naturalization indexes this week, and, as per usual, the number of John O'Haras who had naturalized in NYC between the late 1880s and 1900 was staggering. (I can't even imagine how people research Smiths, when I have so much trouble with O'Haras!) There was one that seemed particularly likely, but I couldn't be sure and didn't know if I wanted to take the chance on ordering it. This morning, I searched on Ancestry for John O'Hara naturalized in 1898, and lo and behold, that John O'Hara that I'd been tempted by? That John O'Hara was naturalized 14 October 1898!

I think it's safe to say that I'll hesitate no longer!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar

This morning I happened upon another episode of This American Life that was all about genealogy! In "The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar,"a woman starts to investigate a family story she grew up with, with very interesting results. It's a really great story, complete with newspaper clippings, court files, finding relatives on the internet, and everything else genealogists enjoy! You see what happens when you're nerdy enough to search "archives" in a radio show's archives? (Wrap your mind around that!) You can download the episode for $0.99 on iTunes, or stream it for free from

(As a disclaimer, it is a story that demonstrates how genealogy can be "another reason for your family to hate you," which we know, of course, is usually not the case. But when it does happen, it's probably related to stories as cool, as involved, and thus as crucial to relatives' sense of self as this one.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

1905 NYS Census - Loughlin/Renehan

This is the 1905 NYS Census of the Loughlin-Renehan family. Julia Mulvaney's sister Elizabeth Toner Loughlin Renehan lived at 213 Conover St., with her (second) husband, Thomas Renehand and several of her children (from her first marriage), Thomas, John E., William, and Kate Loughlin. Thomas is 52, Elizabeth is 48, Thomas Loughlin is 23, John is 21, William is 19, and Kate is 11. Thomas Renehan is a day laborer, Elizabeth does housework, Thomas and John E. Loughlin are "Machinist Help," and Kate is "at school." I wonder whether Thomas and John E. are "help" for their uncle, Julia's husband Patrick, who was a machinist. (It appears that there were several machinists on their block as well; it wasn't necessarily Patrick they were working with.) There's a 9 in parentheses next to "at school" by Kate's name. When I saw numbers in parentheses on the census return for the Mulvaneys, I assumed they referred to the grade the child was in; the numbers over there matched up to what grades the kids would have been in. There, the 11-year-olds (James and his cousin Thomas) have the number 4 in parentheses. Eleven-year-olds in 4th grade is appropriate, but 11-year-old Kate certainly wasn't in the 9th grade. What do you think these numbers mean?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Census Taking, History Making

In this census year, I think we're all gaining a little insight into the ways our ancestors were enumerated in prior censuses. The Census Bureau had our 2-apartment building listed as containing 3 residences, so even though my roommates and I sent back our census form weeks ago, we just got a visit from a very nice, but slightly flustered census taker. (She started to fill in our information on the form for the house next door before I corrected her.)

The experience left me wondering what's going to happen when our descendants go looking for us in the 2010 census 72 years from now. I acted as the informant who said that the upstairs apartment was vacant, and they already had our response for our ground floor apartment, but I had to provide the information for my roommates and I all over again because something had to be filled out for the third (non-existent) residence. She included a note that the basement and the ground floor were one apartment, but now that they have our information twice over, what happens?

Are we counted twice? There must be provisions in place to avoid that, considering that getting an accurate count is the whole point of the census.

If they only "count" one return, is it the one we sent in for the ground floor apartment, or the one I just helped her fill out, for the non-existant third residence? I sure hope it's the former, because I am not the most reliable source of information for my two roommates. I couldn't remember the birthday of one of them at all. I was pretty sure it was August, but didn't supply even that information because I wasn't positive. I thought I was positive about the other's birthday, but nope, I was off by two days. Imagine the damage I may have done to some genealogist in the future!

And what if we do get counted twice, or at least if both returns are kept, as they probably will be? We're all familiar with the phenomenon of finding an ancestor twice in two different places in a given year's census, but what happens when you find an ancestor twice in the same place in one year's census? Does the universe implode?

Besides, since my name is listed as the informant for the upstairs apartment, my descendants could one day find me listed on the returns for all 3 of the 2 apartments in this building!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - My Grandmother's Wedding Dress

(Cross-posted at When Hoya Met Saxa)

When I was at home last weekend, I tried on my very first wedding dress, the dress my grandmother wore when she married my grandfather in the 1950s. It's satin with lace, and it was worn by both Grandma and, in the 1980s, my aunt Linda. (The lace isn't original, but was replaced when Linda wore it, and is so yellowed that it would have to be replaced again if I were to wear it.)

I'm going to keep shopping around, doing some of my shopping in relatives' closets and some of it in bridal boutiques. But here's dress #1.

Ben, the rest of this post is not for your eyes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"They changed it at Ellis Island": Betty White on SNL

"Blarfengar Blarfegnar" spelled L-E-E S-M-I-T-H. And I thought it was bad when my 2nd great aunt Helen Quinn was enumerated as Hellen Quinne!

Monday, May 10, 2010

1905 NYS Census - O'Hara Family

This is the 1905 New York State Census record of the O'Hara family. They're living at 586 Baltic St., only about a block and a half from where they lived at 527 Baltic St. in 1910. In the interim, however, they probably lived somewhere else entirely, as the church they attended in that neighborhood, St. Augustine's in Park Slope, has the 1905 record of their daughter Malinda's baptism, but not what should have been the c. 1908 record of their daughter Mary's baptism. Neither girl lived long enough to celebrate any of the other sacraments.

In 1905, the family is listed as John, 30; Mary, 29; John, 8; Eugene, 6; Pacey, 3; and Malina, 2 mos. Malina should be Malinda, and Pacey should be Patrick, although for all I know he may have been called Pacey. Both parents were born in Ireland, while all the kids are listed as American-born, though Patrick was actually born in Ireland in 1902. The family had moved back to Ireland and lived there between 1900 and 1902. In the column "number of years in the United States," John has answered 17 and Mary 16. I wonder if that's given as "number of years since immigration," or if it's been adjusted for the ~2 years they had spent in Ireland since they immigrated. If the former, they immigrated in 1888 and 1889, respectively. If the latter, it may have been more like 1890 and 1891. All are citizens. (I've yet to attempt to wade through the astronomical numbers of John O'Haras in Brooklyn at the turn of the century to find John O'Hara's naturalization papers.)

John is a stableman, and Mary does house work. John Jr. (my great-grandfather, AKA Grandpa JJ) and Eugene are "at school," but neither "Pacey," nor Malinda is.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

1905 NYS Census - Quinn Family

This not-very-clear image is the 1905 NYS Census that records the Quinn family living at 1371 Atlantic Ave. I could have sworn that I already knew the Quinns lived on Atlantic Ave at some point, but maybe I only knew they lived in the neighborhood from when they lived nearby on Fulton Street, as there are no Atlantic Ave. addresses in my list of family homes. The family is recorded as the Quinnes: Hugh J., 38; Mary, 38; Agnes, 10; Mary, 8; Hellen, 5; Martin, 3; the last name begins with a T and is illegible but clearly too short to say "Terrence." It may say "Terry." Uncle Terry is 1. Hugh and Mary were born in Ireland, and all their children were American-born. The column for number of years in the US appears to say "W" for both of them; I can't figure out what number is intended. Maybe "20"? I think they're all listed as Citizens, but that column is pretty difficult to make out, too. Hugh is an engineer, Mary does house work, and Agnes and Molly are "at school." Neither Helen nor the boys are in school yet.

Surprisingly, Agnes is listed as Agnes, the earliest example of her use of the name that I've come across. Besides this, she's Nora until the 1920 Census.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Family Search Indexes 1905 NYS Census!

They're not done yet, but I've already found several of the families that I'd never been able to find by browsing the unindexed images!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Thank you!

Lots of business to get around to, but I wanted to throw up a quick post - after a long time - to thank those bloggers who awarded me the Ancestor Approved Award! I don't have time to fulfill all the requirements just yet, but I want to thank

Karen at Genealogy Frame of Mind
Mary at Me and My Ancestors
Craig at Geneablogie

Please visit their blogs!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Gillen Families: Naturalizations

Some time ago, I found Mark Gillen, brother of my great-great-grandmother Mary Gillen Quinn, in the naturalization indexes online at I pondered whether I would learn anything new by trying to get my hands on the record, and decided on inaction for the time being. Sometimes, good things come to those who wait. Mark Gillen's naturalization record came to me!

It was sent to me by someone who came across my blog and thinks we may be related through the Gillen line. I'm almost certain he's correct, but we have yet to figure out exactly how our lines are connected. My line is the descendants of Martin Gillen; his line is the descendants of Patrick Gillen. They came from neighboring towns (Tawnykinaffe and Crimlin) in Co. Mayo. The aforementioned Mark Gillen was Martin's son, who lived in Brooklyn from the 1890s on. A Martin Gillon witnessed the wedding of one of Patrick's daughters in Brooklyn in 1899. One of Patrick's grandsons married one of Martin's granddaughters in Brooklyn in the 1930s. Some of the most damning (read: tantalizing) evidence, though, are these naturalization records. The above record, of Mark Gillen, is the naturalization record of Martin Gillen's son Mark, who lived with his sister, Mary Gillen Quinn, my great-great-grandmother. I know this because Mark and his witness Hugh Quinn were kind enough to write their addresses under their signatures, and both lived at 332 Bergen St. This is where Hugh and Mary Quinn were living in 1900 with their 3 daughters and Mary's brother Mark Gillen. Mark Gillen was naturalized in 1894.

Two years earlier, a Patrick Gillen had also been naturalized in the King County Court. His naturalization, too, had been witnessed by a Hugh Quinn. They were not then kind enough to their descendants to record their addresses, so I don't know whether this was the same Hugh Quinn who would marry Mary Gillen about a year later, around 1893.

We're still working on figuring out the connection between the two Gillen families. I've got a couple lines of questioning to follow up with some relatives, and I've ordered the marriage certificate between the two Gillen grandchildren, Agnes Quinn and Bill Maines. I don't know whether that will shed any light. What undoubtedly would, if it existed, would be any dispensation Agnes and Bill might have needed to be married in the Catholic Church if they were related, but according to the Diocese of Brooklyn's website, only dispensation records from before 1890 are open for research. I'm trying to gather as much information as possible on the families at this point, and hoping something will clear things up. Any research avenues you can suggest?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The House on Loon Lake

Last week at work, I was listening to an episode of This American Life from a few weeks ago. (Yes, I'm allowed to listen to podcasts at work.) This episode, "The House on Loon Lake," was a mystery story, and guess how they solved it? Using genealogy! I highly recommend it; you can listen to it streaming on the This American Life website, or download it (for $.99, I believe) from iTunes.

Monday, March 29, 2010

John J. O'Hara Death Certificate - 3 Dec 1946

This is the death certificate of my great-great-grandfather, John J. O'Hara. His son, John, who provided the information, was my grandfather's father, aka "Grandpa JJ." John Sr. died 3 December, 1946, at the age of 68 years; his birthdate is given as 1 January 1878. His wife was Mary E. King, and his job was as a realtor. In the 1930 census, Grandpa Molly and Grandpa JJ are seen living in the same apartment building as JJ's parents. But they, like most of the people in the building, rented. John Sr. owned. It's my understanding that he owned the entire building and the rest of the residents were his tenants.

He was born in Ireland, but was a US citizen. His parents names are given as Patrick O'Hara and Bridget Kearney. I would swear to you that I had once seen a document among my grandfather's papers giving John's parents names as Patrick O'Hara and Catherine Walsh, but that was before I got really interested in genealogy, and whatever document that was has been misplaced, and no one I ask has any memory of it ever existing.

John died in Kings County Hospital, where he'd spent all of October and November. The causes of death listed are "Carcinoma of sigmoid" (Colon Cancer) and "Bilateral Pubic Cold Abscesses" (I don't want to know). A contributing cause was the incision and draining of the abscesses, so it seems he may have taken a turn for the worse after they treated him, although the certificate says that the operation was on October 18, and he didn't die until a month and a half later.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mary Toner's Death Certificate - 26 Aug 1899

Mary Toner's death certificate! Woo hoo! . . . or maybe not. To be frank, while I'm inclined to believe that this is Mary Cullen Toner's death certificate, I'm not positive, and there are several pieces of information that make me wonder whether maybe Mary Cullen Toner had another relative, likely an inlaw, Mary Somethingelse Toner.

This Mary Toner died 26 Aug 1899, at 270 Van Brunt Street, which was where Mary Cullen Toner's daughter Julia lived with her husband Patrick Mulvaney and their children (3 or 4 at this point: James, Grace, and Mae, certainly, and Willie may have been born this month). In 1892, Mary Cullen Toner was living with her other daughter, Elizabeth Toner Loughlin, so it's reasonable to think that she spent time living with each of her daughters after her husband Richard died. The undertaker was "Mrs. T. Murphy," who is likely Mary Cullen Toner's other daughter, Mary Toner Murphy. This Mary Toner died of a cerebral hemorrhage and pulmonary edema.

Now here's where things get tricky. According to her death certificate, she was widowed, 63 years old, Irish-born, had been in the US 35 years, and was the daughter of parents named John and Mary. Mary Cullen Toner should be widowed and Irish-born. She should have been well older than 63, though it's difficult to say just how old. Her age was given as 40 in the 1860 census, 40 in the 1870 census, and 69 in the 1892 census. If any one of those is correct, 63 is far too young. The fact that her age was never given consistently, though, means this isn't really a strike against her. 35 years in the U.S. is clearly wrong for Mary Cullen Toner, although maybe by "only" 15 years or so. The Toners' oldest known child, Julia, was born in the US around 1851, so her mother couldn't possibly not have immigrated until 1864 - not to mention that Mary was enumerated on the 1860 census.

Further, there's the matter of of the baptismal dates that were looked up for me. If you'll recall, someone looked up some names in the parish registers of St. Mary's Church in Maynooth, Co. Kildare for me, and gave me this information:

24 Sept 1818 Mary, (of) Patrick Cullen and Mary Carr godparents John Carney and Judith Scully.

3 Nov 1821 Richard (of) William Toner and Margareth Walsh godparents Charles Kearns and Mary Cushion.

15 Jan 1850 Richard Toner to Mary Cullen witnesses Edward Hackett and Mary Boland

I was already skeptical because Richard's mother's name didn't match what I knew. Her name was either Judith or Julia, but it certainly wasn't Margareth. And now Mary's father's name doesn't match, either. Does that mean that the baptismal information refers to the wrong people, that the death certificate doesn't belong to Mary Cullen Toner, or that the information on the death certificate is wrong? If the baptismal information is correct, Mary Cullen Toner should have been way older than 63 in 1899; she would have been in her early 80s.

Which piece of conflicting information should I doubt? All of them, probably. Can they be reconciled? It's possible that, say, Richard's mother and Mary's father both died soon after their children were born, and their parents remarried. Might Judith have been the step-mother who raised Richard, and John been the step-father who raised Mary? I contacted the church in Maynooth to try to verify the information I was given and to see if there were records of such later marriages, but got no response.

Not sure what my next step is going to be.

Friday, March 19, 2010

United Fruit Company/Chiquita: Lack of access to institutional records

My great-great-grandfather, Michael Mulcahy, owned bars in Brooklyn at the turn of the century. When he died in 1917, though, his death certificate listed his occupation as watchman for the United Fruit Co. The United Fruit Company, after a century and several mergers, eventually became Chiquita Brands. So I e-mailed Chiquita to see if they maintained institutional archives for their constituent companies, whether those archives would contain information about individual employees, and if so, how to access those records.

Something about the response I got seemed a little . . . off.

As a company with a history than spans more than 100 years, we receive numerous requests for the use of past materials, including photography, film and written documents. Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to employ a librarian or archivist on staff for these purposes. As a result, I regret to inform you that we do not make our archives to available to the general public.
Chiquita Brands is, for lack of a better word, ginormous, with an estimated 10,000 employees. They "lack the resources" to hire one measly archivist? You and I both know archivists aren't exactly raking in the big bucks. So they "do not make [their] archives to [sic] available to the general public"? Which means, yes they do have archives. And if they have archives, they likely maintain their archives, which means they probably have an archivist. It's just not his job to deal with the public. Maybe it's my cynical nature, or my penchant for conspiracy theories, but something about that seems suspicious, given the history of United Fruit Co. and Chiquita Brands. Both were accused of such things as payments to paramilitary groups, human rights violations, bribery, massacres, and coups. It seems possible that the archives are closed less because of resources than because of concern about what might be contained in the records.

Do I come across as a paranoid conspiracy theorist?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Grandpa Lanzillotto, soldier

My mom recently called me and said she'd found this image of Grandpa Lanzillotto in his Army uniform on her computer. Did I know where it came from? I did not, I'd never seen it before. But I wanted it, so she e-mailed me a copy. It appears to be a pencil drawing, as best I can tell, but since all we have is a digital file, this picture is really a mystery. No clue where the original is, where it came from, who the artist was, or why it was created.

Lanzillotto relatives, does anyone know anything about this picture? Let me know in the comments, or e-mail me at kathleen.scarlett.ohara AT

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Creating Our Descendants' Genealogy

Whew! Sorry for the extremely long break in posting! I was extremely busy, having numerous assignments due while also trying to study for comprehensive exams, which went off fairly well (I hope) on Friday.

I have lots of posts to write, about death certificates I've received, cousin connections I've made, cousin marriages I've discovered (first one!), Brooklyn Catholic church resources, etc.

But first, my non-genealogical big news. Or rather, news that won't really be considered genealogical for a few generations yet: I'm engaged! In the midst of all my academic craziness was my two-year anniversary with Ben, and after we went out to dinner to celebrate, he asked me to marry him. We're incredibly happy and excited, and though I can't even begin to imagine how to plan a wedding, I can completely imagine spending the rest of my life with him.

And guess what?! (My fellow genealogy nerds will appreciate this like no one else.) My engagement ring is a family heirloom! It was originally his great-grandmother's ring, the ring William G. Harber II proposed to his wife Esther Murphy with, and it's also the ring that their son, William G. Harber III used to propose to his wife, Theresa Gleasure. Ben's mother has worn it, too, though not as an engagement ring. I have asked and asked whether he's sure his mother and his sister and his nieces and his cousins are actually all okay with me - outside the bloodline - wearing this ring. (He assures me they are.)

All of my friends and cousins had the same reaction when I told them about the ring: "Oh, that's perfect for you!" "Oh, you must love that!"

I'm thinking about starting a wedding blog. I'll let you know.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Carnival of Irish History and Culture: Medieval Irish Hagiography

For the St. Patrick's Day Parade of Irish Heritage and Culture, I'm sharing a paper I wrote in Fall 2006 examining the native and Christian motifs in medieval Irish hagiography, based on readings of The Life of Senan, Son of Gerrgenn and The Life of Ciaran of Clonmacnois. It was 11 pages double spaced, so it's quite a bit longer than the average blog post, but I hope there's some interest!

Native and Christian Motifs in Medieval Irish-Language Hagiography

Friday, February 26, 2010

Michael Mulcahy's Bar

The 1906 Brooklyn City Directory (Upington's General Directory) may be on Ancestry, but I've never seen it; I don't think Ancestry has Upington's. I found it on Internet Archive. When I found Michael Mulcahy listed, there was a bit of a surprise. His home address is 85 Luquer, and his business address ("liquors") is 227 Hamilton - but also 291 Van Brunt! Michael Mulcahy owned 2 bars? I never knew!

The building at 291 Van Brunt is now a convenience store/deli.

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Then I went to Google Books and the Report of the State Commissioner of Excise. In the volume for 1910, 291 Van Brunt is listed under Michael Mulcahey. (Earlier volumes don't appear to list certificate holders.)

But in the volume for 1912, 291 Van Brunt was listed with James Mulcahy as the certificate holder.
Now, Michael had both a brother and a son named James. I don't know anything about his brother, but I know that his son James A. was born around 1892, which means that by 1912, he was about 20. Had he taken over his father's bar by that age?

I've heard a couple of stories about how the family stopped running the bar. A cousin I met doing genealogy says she was told that the bar on Hamilton Ave. was torn down to make way for the Midtown Tunnel. I don't know about that, but I know that 227 Hamilton is positioned to have very easily been in the way of either the Gowanus Expressway or the BQE. I'll have to look into the history of those roads, but I wonder if maybe the family moved the bar to 291 Van Brunt when the building at 227 Hamilton was destroyed.

A brief, unsourced family history I was given included the assertion that the family lost the bar after they changed the beer. And, in news that's perhaps related to James taking over the bar, I was once told that the family lost the bar when the kids took over, because they, unlike their father, didn't have the personality necessary for tending bar.

By 1913, a Frank Mulvihill held the certificate for the bar at 291 Van Brunt.