Monday, April 28, 2014

FAN Club: Looking for Mary Ennis

The premise of the FAN Club method of research is a focus on the Friends, Associates, and Neighbors of your research subjects in order to trace your own ancestors and contextualize their lives.

In looking over some old posts recently, I found a reference to an excellent candidate for this type of search. In 2009, I had posted briefly about finding the death notice of a Mary Ennis, whose funeral left from the home of my 3x great-grandfather, Richard Toner. At the time, I was not keeping good records, so she had fallen off my radar in the interim. In fact, it took me quite some time to track down where I'd even found the newspaper notice in the first place. (I added a citation to the old post once I figured it out.)

Mary Ennis, Richard Toner, death notice, May 5 1866, Maynooth Kildare
Brooklyn Daily Eagle. "Died." 5 May 1866. via

Mary Ennis's death notice was published on May 5, 1866, in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. She was born in Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland, like the Toners. She died on May 5, 1866. Beyond that, there was no biographical information - no age, no address, no place of residence, no relatives. This does not make her an easy person to track down, but she obviously had a connection to the Toner family, and I'd like to figure out what it is. Did it go any deeper than being from the same hometown? How do I find out?

To begin with, I'm using the technique outlined in this excellent tutorial and the Irish Family History Foundation website to draw up an index of all the Ennises in Maynooth prior to 1866. I've already determined that there were no marriages between Ennises and Toners, Ennis births to women with the maiden name Toner, or Toner births to women with the maiden name Ennis. 

Next, I would like to order Mary Ennis's death record. In 1866, it would have been a line in a ledger, not a certificate, and would have included only minimal information. However, I might be able to learn her age and where she was buried. The former could help narrow down the Mary Ennises I've identified in Maynooth, and the latter could lead to cemetery records or a tombstone that could further locate Mary Ennis's relationships.

I also looked into the Kings County Estate Files series on FamilySearch, and found that Mary Ennis does not appear.

I am hoping to find Mary Ennis in the 1865 NYS Census, as well, but since it is not yet indexed, I haven't had a chance to search for her yet. Additionally, while I could begin the search for her in the Toners' neighborhood, she could have actually lived anywhere in Brooklyn or Manhattan, or even further afield, and without the additional information possibly provided by the death record, it will be hard to know if I've found the right Mary Ennis.

Am I missing anything? Where else can I look to find out about Mary Ennis and her connection to the Toner family?

Monday, April 21, 2014

"On Basketball Courts"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 14, 2014

Online Resource: the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1841-1955

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 7, 2014

Money Saving Tip: share your family history for free!

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

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

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

Sign up for e-mails from photo printing sites.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would you do with a free photo book?