Monday, March 25, 2013

"He was born in Castlebar, County Mayo, Ireland"

Since I discovered a few weeks ago that the Brooklyn Daily Standard Union had been added to the Fulton History website, I've been working my way through searching for all of my Brooklyn families in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Hands down, the most crucial discovery I've made was in the 14 Jan 1914 obituary of my 2x great-grandfather, Hugh Quinn.

Brooklyn Daily Standard Union, 14 Jan 1914

The Quinn line has been the only line whose Irish origins I haven't been able to locate. A relative had found a birth record for a Hugh Quinn in Co. Antrim, but it set off all sorts of warning bells for me. The Co. Antrim Hugh Quinn is the only one of approximately the right age who shows up when you search Irish birth record indexes, and I've suspected that for that reason, an assumption was made that he was the only Hugh Quinn, and that he had to be our Hugh Quinn. But his parents' names didn't match those on my great-great-grandfather's death certificate, and a birthplace in Northern Ireland just didn't seem right. I couldn't put my finger on why, but it just didn't seem right.

This obituary states that Hugh James Quinn "was born in Castlebar, County Mayo, Ireland," and that does make sense. His wife was from outside Castlebar. She maintained extremely close ties to her family, even after immigrating. Two of his daughters would go on to marry the sons of other Castlebar-area natives. It just makes more sense that Hugh, too, would be from County Mayo, and I admit I'm glad that I wasn't crazy for secretly suspecting that he might be, too.

I've started looking for Hugh Quinn in Co. Mayo, and so far, I can't find him. Castlebar is a major city, and I can't assume that he was actually born in Castlebar proper, as opposed to in one of the many small towns outside the city. Still, I have a substantially narrower geographic area to focus on now than I did before I checked the Brooklyn Daily Standard Union.

I'd searched the Brooklyn Daily Eagle extensively, but let this be a lesson to you: checking one newspaper is never enough!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Winner of MyMemories Giveaway

Last week's MyMemories Giveaway has closed, and the winner, determined using the random number generator, is Jana Last. Thank you all for entering! Jana, expect to get an e-mail from me shortly with instructions on how to access your free copy of the software.

For those of you who didn't win, or didn't even enter, but are still interested in the MyMemories digital scrapbooking software suite, I am pleased to be able to share with you an exclusive discount code. If you decide to purchase the MyMemories software from, you can use the code STMMMS25444 to receive a $10 discount off of the price of the software, PLUS a $10 credit for use in the online store!

Happy scrapping!

[Disclosure: I received a free copy of the MyMemories Digital Scrapbooking software to review from is also providing a free copy to give away. Additionally, I am a MyMemories affiliate, and can receive a small commission if you purchase the software using the above code.]

Monday, March 11, 2013

School Days

"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."

My grandfather, William J. O'Hara, was an incredibly intelligent and well-educated man, one of the smartest people I've ever known. He was born in 1930, and graduated from high school in 1948, from college in 1952, and from grad school after he'd served in Korea.

I knew that it was unusual that my grandfather and all 3 of his brothers, coming from an urban family of average means, had graduated from college in the 1940s and 1950s. I figured it was something of a historical anomaly - his older brothers had benefited from the GI Bill, and Pop and his younger brother happened to be especially academically inclined. Put it all together and you end up with 4 college degrees.

It had never occurred to me to think that maybe this was by design, that perhaps they came from a family that really valued education. Then I read Pop's list of "Quotes from my Parents." His mother, my great-grandmother Molly Quinn O'Hara, was quoted saying "Get as much education as you can. No matter what happens in life . . . that is the one thing no one can take away from you."

It's clear that my great-grandmother explicitly valued education, and raised her sons to do the same. Molly herself had an 8th grade education, according to information she herself gave on the 1940 Census. Her husband John O'Hara had a 10th grade education.

1940 US Federal Census, O'Hara Family.
This exercise - thinking about education in the O'Hara family - brought to mind another story I'd heard my grandfather tell, back before I began jotting down the things he told us. When he was a young boy, getting ready to start school, the cut-off date to enter school was December 1. Pop's birthday was December 2.

Pop told of being dragged down to the school by his mother as a six-year-old. Molly quite simply insisted to officials that he be allowed to start school with the kids who were 1 day older than he was. She made her case, and she won. My grandfather, with his signature wit, claimed he would have been six months behind in his life, and the rest of us would all be six months younger, had his mother not prevailed - had his mother not been so invested in her sons' educations.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Newspaper Research: 249 Clermont Avenue

Over the summer, I ordered my great-grandparents' 1923 marriage license, and saw that my great-grandfather, John O'Hara gave his address as 249 Clermont Avenue, an address I was theretofore unfamiliar with.

1923, O'Hara-Quinn marriage license
Brooklyn Daily Standard Union, 15 Sept. 1924
This week I was searching the Brooklyn Daily Standard Union on Fulton History, and found an ad from the next year, offering a furnished apartment to let at 249 Clermont Ave. This was not something I had ever thought of using newspaper research for, but I realized that it gives a wonderful picture of what the building would have been like at the approximate time that John O'Hara was living there. (One thing that's not entirely clear to me at the moment is whether the entire family was living there, or whether 27-year-old John had moved out and was living on his own. For context: In 1920, 23-year-old John was living with his parents at 303 Vanderbilt Ave; in 1925, his 26-year-old brother Eugene W. O'Hara was living with their parents at 509 6th St. The pattern does seem to be living at home as a young adult, up until marriage, but I can't be sure that it holds universally.)

The 15 September 1924 ad reads "249 CLERMONT AVE., near DeKalb: large, small rooms, kitchenette; phone; electric."

Since not every building in the city would have had electricity, much less phones, in the early 1920s, this is very enlightening! I suspect that the building was in a nice area and had better amenities than some. Now I'm hoping that the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the Brooklyn Daily Standard Union contain similar references to other apartment buildings that my family lived in, which would be a great resource for establishing some information about the lifestyle and socioeconomic status of various families.