Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Best Resource I'd Overlooked

I got a real surprise when I noticed last night that the Kings County Estate Files database on FamilySearch allows you to "log in to view image." How had I missed that?! I'd used the collection before, but mostly just as an index, not realizing I could see the documents themselves. Well, last night, I logged in, and what a treasure trove I found! A few of the documents I'd already seen, having visited the Kings County Surrogate Court in person, but others were new to me - and had so much information!

The first estate file I found was that of James Mulvaney, my great-great-great-grandfather, who, I learned, died 17 Nov 1885. We'd long had a general timeframe for his death - mid-1880s, and we knew he had survived his wife Bridget, who died in 1883, but this was the first actual date of death I'd found. The list of survivors was more exciting, though. James left "no widow, but three children, to wit John Mulvaney, Patrick Mulvaney, and Mary Ann Mulvaney, all of full age, also James Mulvaney, about 5 years of age, and Thomas Mulvaney, about 3 years of age, children of Thomas Mulvaney, a dec'd son of said dec't."

Everything fits perfectly with what we knew of James's descendants, except that there's much more information about Thomas than ever we'd had before. Knowing he'd died in his 20s and was buried in his birth family's plot, I'd assumed he'd died unmarried and childless, but that appears not to be the case. We had, however, been lead to believe, by Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn, that Thomas had died in 1889, which is incompatible with his already having been deceased in 1885. My initial thought is that it's possible that a handwritten "1884" was misread or mistranscribed at some point as "1889," but this is a point that's going to need further research. Maybe the Thomas in the family plot isn't even the same Thomas! The existence of these two sons, James and Thomas, is an exciting lead to follow, too. I'm a descendant of Patrick, I'm in contact with descendants of John, and we're trying to find out what happened to Mary Ann. I didn't even know Thomas's descendants were another avenue to research, but now I'm looking forward to it.

I also found a useful file on the estate of James Madigan, brother of my great-great-grandmother Mary. I'd never had any idea what happened to him, but now I know he died, leaving no wife or children, as a young man in 1894.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Online Resource: Rockland County Messenger

I don't have Rockland County ancestors - although my descendants will - but I wanted to highlight an online resource I came across for people researching in Rockland County, NY. The New City Library - which houses our library system's Local History Room, including genealogical resources - is digitizing and making available online editions of the Rockland County Messenger, which was published weekly from 1847-1898.

Not all years are included, and I don't know whether the ones that are missing will be added in the future or are simply unavailable. The system offers both a "browse" and a "search" function. At first I thought that browsing didn't work, but then I realized that you just have to wait for the links to individual issues to load - and that during the time you're waiting, nothing appears to be happening. Trying clicking on a year to browse, and then counting to 15. I know we're not used to that in the internet age, but try to remind yourself how much longer than 15 seconds it would take to drive to New City and scroll through microfilm. Search is faster, but not necessarily better. Whether it's a function of the text recognition technology being used, or is due to the quality of the images, the OCR software seems unfortunately prone to reading text as strings of gibberish. I imagine this would affect search results, so I might recommend browsing during the time periods you're looking at as a supplement to searching.

It appears that the library has plans to make additional collections available in this manner, which could really be a boon for local researchers. Although I don't have any ancestors in Rockland during this time period - my people didn't arrive until the 1950s - I'm enjoying searching on the names of old inhabitants and places I'm familiar with to see what I can find out about the area!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Toner Family, 1875

When I was at the NYPL a few weeks ago, I found the 1875 NYS Census of the Toner family. 

This is important, because it's the first time that I've actually been certain I was seeing young Julia (my great-great-grandmother) as a member of her family. Though I've seen plenty of records connecting my Julia Toner to this Toner family, I had yet to find her listed as a member of this family on a census. Given that she's 8 years old here in 1875, I also find it likely that she is, in fact, the same person as the 2-year-old Judith listed on the 1870 census. The Toner family has a strange relationship with the names Judith and Julia, each of which often pops up where it isn't expected, and disappears from places where it should be. They are sometimes used interchangeably, and sometimes flat-out incorrectly. Here, the family is listed as
Thomas Loughlin, 34, caulker
Eliza Loughlin, 18

Richard Toner, 49, painter
Julia Toner, 46
Mary A. Toner,  21
Louisa Toner, 17
John Toner, 15
Julia Toner, 8

The apparent errors here are Julia Toner, 46, and John Toner, 15. The wife/mother of this family was Mary, not Julia - but I've ceased to be surprised when one of the Toners is incorrectly called Julia. Pretending to be named Julia must have been their favorite hobby - unless this name is a clue to something bigger that I'm just looking right past? The son who would have been 15 in 1875 - indeed, the only son who had survived to 1875 - was named William.

Elizabeth Toner married Thomas Loughlin in 1874. Both here and in 1892, the Loughlins are living with Elizabeth's parent(s). In 1875, they live with both Toners and all of Elizabeth's siblings; in 1892, the Loughlins and their children living with Elizabeth's mother, Mary Tonner.

The Toners have a reliable presence in census records as well as newspapers from 1860 to about 1875, and then everything goes wacky. I can't find anyone but the Loughlins in the 1880 census. In the 1892 NYS Census, the Loughlins are back, this time with Elizabeth's mother Mary Toner living with them - but no mention of any of her other children. I can find Mary Ann Toner married to Thomas Murphy and living with their children, but that's all. Richard is presumably dead. Julia is gone until 1900, and her soon-to-be-husband is single when he's enumerated with his relatives - they didn't marry until the next year. Louisa never again appears in census records that I've seen, but doesn't die until 1918, at which point her death certificate indicated that she had been living uninterrupted in New York City for her entire life. William doesn't appear to show up in 1880 or 1892, but was also apparently a life-long resident of NYC when he died in 1899. Where did they all go?

Friday, January 14, 2011

You may have noticed that I blog in fits and starts. Something always seems to come up, preventing either genealogical research, or blogging about genealogical research, or both. One minute I'm blogging, and the next I'm too busy to blog, because I'm in school, or planning a wedding, or looking for a job, or, finally, gainfully employed! (Does it make me a real, live, grown-up if my job does not allow for blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, or otherwise wasting time on the internet when I'm supposed to be working?) I hope to be able to get back both research and blogging soon, as my schedule adjusts to having 8 hours/day eaten up with the aforementioned gainful employment!

Monday, January 3, 2011

You might be a Genealogist if. . .

. . . your mother and sisters are planning games for your bridal shower. They ask questions like "Where did Ben go to high school?" "Where did you and Ben meet?" and "Could you give me a list of the names of all the lines in our family and his?"

Might they be planning me a genealogy-inspired shower game?! I can't wait!