Monday, May 29, 2017

Using Google Maps: Where is Spink, Co. Mayo, Ireland?

I've always been a fan of using Google maps for genealogy, but recently found another way they could help my research. My O'Hora family lived in Co. Mayo in the second half of the 1800s, and they were typically recorded as living in either Spink (children's baptismal records, Petty Session court records) or Tawnyshane (Griffith's Valuation, 1901/1911 Census). I assumed that they were two words referring to the same area, or that one was a smaller subdivision of the other.

Tawnyshane is easy to find on Google maps, very near Crumlin and the Crimlin National School that the O'Horas attended.

Spink is not.

I e-mailed the always-helpful Mayo County Library in Castlebar, and they sent me an image of an 1814 map that identified Spink as an elevated place near the modern town of Shanvalley. That's about 6 miles away from Tawnyshane, which seemed far, to be referring to the same place. Could the O'Horas have lived in one place and farmed in another? Could they have moved back and forth over the years? Or was I conflating two O'Hora families?

I decided to ask a local about Spink, and sent a message to my cousin Mary, who grew up in nearby Tawnykinaffe. She's been a huge help to my Gillan family research, but luckily my O'Horas lived in the same area, so I could draw on her expertise.

I created a Google map of the area, dropping a pin on the area labeled "Spink" on the 1814 map (blue, near the top), and another one on the area of Tawnyshane where the O'Horas had held land, according to Griffith's Valuation (yellow). She identified the yellow marker near Tawnyshane as the Spink she was familiar with, and was able to put me in touch with other locals from the Spink/Tawnyshane area for some additional context and local color.

I've used Google maps, frequenty, to look up places that Google recognizes; I've used it to create maps to plot places that my ancestors would have lived or interacted with, or to figure out where to look for records. But I had never realized how useful it could be to create personalized maps for asking questions of people who know an area better than I do, when we're in different countries and can't sit around the dining room table poring over maps together.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Maria Rizzi writes her name

I've been using Antenati to go through the 1840 marriage records for the town of Bitetto, Bari, in Puglia, Italy, where many of my ancestors were from. It's a time-consuming but valuable exercise, as these marriage records include parents' names for both parties, which has brought me back another generation on several lines.

On all of the records, almost without exception, for my peasant farming ancestors, the last page of the record includes a handwritten line indicating that none of the parties to the marriage (which included any surviving parents of the couple) could write, and so the document is signed by only officials and witnesses.

But there was one exception, and it was not who I expected it to be. My 4th great-grandmother, Maria Rizzi, signed her daughter Teresa Monti's marriage document.

Maria Rizzi signature, 1845 marriage record of Vincenzo Cianciotta & Teresa Monti

I thought that the younger you were, the more likely you'd be to be literate. I certainly thought that the male-er you were, the more likely you'd be to be literate. Instead, my family's first brush with literacy comes in the form of a widowed woman, in her 40s if not older, possibly even a grandmother by this point.

I find myself so curious about this ancestor, who had learned to write her own name when most of those around her had not, more than a decade before Italy's public education system was established. And I'm so proud of her, this ancestor whose name I didn't know this morning, for her remarkable accomplishment.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Kings of Cloonsunna, Mayo, Ireland

My great-great-grandmother was Mary Ellen King, who married John O'Hara, probably in early 1890s Brooklyn.

Her death certificate gives her parents as Patrick King and Bridget Fadden, and her birth date as 3 December 1875. (The 1900 Census records her birth as being in May 1872.)

A John King lived with the O'Hara family in the 1910 Census. He is recorded as a boarder. John's death certificate gives his parents as John King and Bridget Fadden. His death certificate and WWI Draft Registration Cards record his birthday as being 8 November 1881.

A Martin King also lived with O'Hara family in 1910, but I can't find him anywhere else after that. According to the census, he would have been born c. 1885.

When the O'Hara family returned to Ireland in the early 1900s, they lived in Castlebar. Mary's husband was from the area near Castlebar. Her son John married the daughter of other Castlebar-area natives. I had a strong suspicion that she was from the area near Castlebar, but couldn't be sure.

An index search showed up no Patrick King and Bridget Fadden couples, but did return a John King and Bridget Fadden, from Cloonsunna, Co. Mayo. A page-by-page search of the Catholic Parish records for the area (Castlebar Parish) turned up the following children with parents by those names:

Thomas King, 24 Nov 1856
residence Cloonsinn[?] 
Catherine King, 27 May 1859
residence Cloonsumma 
Michael King, 19 Sept 1861
residence Holy Hill 
Patt King, 29 Feb 1864
residence Ballyhean 
Anne King, 5 Feb 1868
residence Cloonsunna 
John King, 14 Nov 1878
residence Cloonsuma

NOT in the parish registers - and I've double checked - is the Bridget King whose birth 12 Dec 1874 birth was registered on 6 Feb 1875 to John King and Bridget Fadden of Cloonshinnagh.

Also NOT in the parish registers - because they stop at 1880 - is the Martin King whose 26 Jan 1882 birth was registered to John King and Bridget Fadden on 14 June 1882.

Civil records don't begin until 1864, can't be browsed, and mothers' maiden names are not typically indexed, which means that I can only find the children I know to look for. Searching for these particular children yields:

Pat King, 29 Feb 1864
residence Holy Hill 
Anne King, 10 Feb 1868
residence Cloonsheennagh 
Bridget King, 12 Dec 1874
residence Cloonshinnagh
Martin King, 26 Jan 1882
residence Cloonsheenagh

NOT in the civil records - at least not showing up when I search - is the John King recorded in the parish registers as being born 14 Nov 1878.

There is no Mary, but the dates for Bridget are close. The John King born 14 Nov 1878 is a good candidate for the John King I'm interested in, although the lack of a civil record makes me wonder if he survived long enough for his birth to be registered. (Though I find no corresponding civil death record, either.) Patt King born in 1864 is far too young to be Mary Ellen's father, if the parents' names on her death certificate are, in fact, correct.

For most of these births and baptisms, the Kings lived in either Clonnsunna or Cloonshinnagh. They are technically two different townlands, but are only about half a mile away as the crow flies, practically right across the road.

Google sure does send you the long way, though! N.B. There appear to be 2 different Cloonshinnaghs in Mayo, about an hour apart. Google apparently chooses at random which to send you to.

Ballyhean is 2.5 Kilometers, or about a mile and a half, from Cloonsunna. I can't find anywhere in Castlebar parish called Holy Hill, but given that the Kings lived in both Holy Hill and Ballyhean at the same time when Patt was born, I assume it was a place name that referred to the same area.

I should note that neither index searches nor paging through these records revealed any other likely candidates for Mary Ellen King, but Bridget shows that the registers are missing at least one birth in the 1870s.

And that's where we stand.

What would you suggest to confirm or deny that Bridget and Mary are the same person, or that Mary was also part of this family?