Monday, October 28, 2013

A Visit to Kells, Co. Meath

My husband and I just returned from a trip to Ireland. We aimed to visit all of our ancestral hometowns, though we fell a bit short. There were too many things to see, too little time, and no street signs in Dublin. (The hours we spent driving in circles or many miles in the wrong direction knocked at least one destination off of our itinerary.)

We met some cousins, and tried to take lots of pictures of the places we did visit, so I'm going to devote a post to each hometown we visited. This one is for Kells, Co. Meath.

My Mulvan(e)y and Rothwell families are from Kells. James Mulvany married Bridget Rothwell and John Mulvany married Ann Rothwell in Kells, Co. Meath in 1850 and 1851, respectively. I still have not nailed down who any of their parents were, or whether/how the two Mulvanys and two Rothwells were related to each other. I wasn't there to do research - I mostly just wanted to see the town, get a feel for it. I thought I might ask around to see if there were anywhere that a historically-minded visitor might like to see, or try to find the graveyard and take pictures of any Mulvany or Rothwell stones - even though I didn't know what first names I was looking for.

It was a Sunday afternoon when we arrived, so the entire town was dead. There was almost nothing open, and people were scarce. However, we took these pictures:

We missed the "Welcome to Kells" street sign, but got a picture of this in the window of the local bookstore.

Town of Kells
Town of Kells
We did visit the ancient monastic enclosure and the Kells Round Tower, and looked around the cemetery on the off-chance that we'd run across some Mulvany or Rothwell headstones. Their dates ranged from the 1700s to the much more recent. We didn't notice until we left graveyard that the church - and thus probably the cemetery - was Church of Ireland. My people were Catholics. 

On the way to the round tower and St. Columba's Church.
Kells Round Tower

Ben neglected to tell me that it had stopped raining.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Top 10 Halloween Costumes for Genealogists

It's that time of year, when the air is crisp, the leaves are turning colors, and genealogists and family historians all over America are trying to figure out what to be for Halloween. To aid in your search, I've prepared a list of the Top 10 Halloween Costumes for Genealogists.

10. A Sexy Librarian

9. One of the other librarians
Photograph by Bill Branson, National Cancer Institute. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

8. Couples Costume Idea: Your 300x great-grandparents, Adam and Eve (according to that tree you found on Ancestry, at least).

7. The Grim Reaper . . . being interrogated as to when, exactly, it was that he came for Great-Uncle Morty.
Photo by InSapphoWeTrust

6. Professional (or amateur) Genealogist - Just be yourself, while carrying a copy of Evidence Explained, a folder of family group sheets, and a portable scanner, wearing sneakers and jeans to facilitate hiking through cemeteries. 

5. A tombstone that records date and place of death and birth, relationships between the people therein interred, and an epitaph giving great insight into the life and personality of the deceased.

(I'm not entirely sure you'll be able to buy a ready-made costume with the inscription described above.)

4. Your family tree
(Just add more branches!)

3. Coat of Arms - This homemade costume is created by cutting the sleeves of of several old long-sleeved shirts and sewing them to the jacket you're wearing. Attach inflated rubber gloves to the cuffs of the sleeves, and you have a coat of arms!

2. Your favorite ancestor
One of mine

1. The black sheep of the family.

You may have to dye it black yourself; the only black sheep costumes I could find images of made the Sexy Librarian look like Mother Theresa.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links (including many of the photographs). 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 I encourage others to do the same, regardless of whether they use my affiliate links or another blogger's.

Monday, October 14, 2013

History Hijinx

As it happens, I have always had an interest in history, cool old stuff, historic mysteries, and house history. It just hasn't always manifested itself quite as productively as it does now.

When I was about 9 or 10, my parents renovated the kitchen in our house. This led to us spending some time with a kitchen that led my cousin Matt, then 3 years old, to walk into the room at a party and announce, "Hey Aunt Laurie! You got no walls!"

I'm not sure exactly what my inspiration was, but at some point I decided that it would be funny to take advantage of this situation to play a trick on the contractor who was doing the work on our kitchen. I wrote a note, crumpled it up, and spent a few days soaking it in tea or coffee and aging it in the sun. Then I folded it up and hid it in the wall before the contractor was going to close the walls. The note was dated to 1931, the year the house was built, and, using my best formal and old-fashioned 9-year-old vocabulary, said something along the lines of

To whom it may concern:

Be it known that this is an important and historic house and should always be preserved undisturbed. Ensure that no one damages or changes this important building. By the time you have reached this note, you have already done irreparable damage to this valuable building.

[Man who built the house]*

(Note to 9-year-old me: buildings are not generally referred to as "historic" the same year they're built.)

I sat back and waited for the contractor to find the note and be horrified that we had made changes to this important historic building! It never happened. I'm sure they just put up the sheet rock without digging around too much behind the studs. (This is about what you'd expect, given my track record of successful pranks as a kid (or an adult, for that matter.)) My note is still behind the wall, if it hasn't disintegrated already, probably attracting bugs with its remnants of coffee and tea. Should some other homeowner ever try to renovate the kitchen in that house, I am confident that they will not fall for my little joke . . . but I'm not exactly sure what they'll make of it, either!

*I can't think of his name at the moment, but I knew it at the time and may be able to look it up next time I'm home.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Online Spotlight: Young & Savvy Genealogists

I don't do this often, but I'm taking a moment to stop and highlight a new blog - and online community - that I expect will do great things. Young & Savvy Genealogists focuses on connecting and highlighting the stories of those in the research community who are under the age of 30.

This is great! I've often thought that we needed a place online to do this exactly. Young genealogists are not exactly such rare birds as is sometimes supposed, but the stereotype persists. As is so often the case, the stereotype is damaging to everyone concerned. Genealogists in general are perceived as old, stodgy, and behind-the-times. (Untrue of most genealogists I know, regardless of age!) Young genealogists are sometimes thought of by other family historians as neophytes and inexperienced researchers who don't contribute to the larger community. (Also largely untrue!) Their non-genealogy peers just think they're nuts. (Potentially true.)

In reality, of course, genealogists of all ages - particularly those in the online community - are frequently tech-savvy early adopters. (I'm not, but I'm not representative of either my hobby or my generation.) Genealogists of all ages are - or should be - excellent researchers. The ones who aren't aren't limited by their age. Personally, I found that entering the world of family history research and writing directly from the world of academic research and writing in college meant that my research skills were at their peak.

In other words, young genealogists are really no different from the field at large. And yet, they - we - have some particular advantages and unique challenges that are addressed infrequently in the larger community. The best way to encourage the participation and leadership of the younger generation is to have a space where they can meet people like themselves, address the unique issues of their youth, and share their own stories. Young & Savvy Genealogists is a new endeavor, but I hope that between the blog and the Google+ Community, it can become a place where young researchers can come together - from newbies to regular guys (like me) to experts and leaders in the field - and discuss the issues that bring them together and the traits that they share.

If you're under 30, definitely check it out!