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  • May20

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    I have been going back over some of my research lines lately and working on a few dead ends to see if I could revive them. One of my mysterious ancestors is my 2nd great-grandmother Margaret Tierney, whom I first learned about when I found her living with my great-grandfather and family in Manhattan in the 1900 US census.

    It took a fair bunch of research and microfilm spinning to find her death certificate as filed a few years after the 1900 census, and since then I have been trying to find her crossing from Ireland to New York.

    The 1900 census info for my Tierneys is particularly wonky, so is not of great help in providing a date I trust for her emigration. So I have been casting a wide net, logging all of the even-marginally possible records, and hoping I can trim them down to find the most likely one for her.

    Margaret Tierney, Grass WidowFrom a few clues, I find it likely that Margaret arrived before Ellis Island was operating, so have been looking through Castle Garden records. During that process, I found an interesting Occupation listed for one Margaret Tierney: Grass Widow.

    Well, that was a new one to me, so I began digging a bit more.

    Over on The Google Books I found an 1873 book entitled Long Ago, A Journal of Popular Antiquities, (Edited By Alexander Andrews, Volume 1, Issue 1 – Volume 2, Issue 17) with a few references to the phrase.

    In fact, I find the book as a whole very interesting, as it contains queries by researchers that are answered by other fellows in subsequent volumes. Kind of like an early Twitter Lazy Tweet asking for help from the masses.

    Grass Widow Inquiry, Pages 120-121 Beginning on page 120 of the book there is a request to others for more information about it by a Mister J.L.C.

    As you can see, he found burial entries, such as “1615-6, March 15. Anne Houghton, an oulde grass widow

    Good old JLC notes that in America, it is a slang term for a “widow of light character”, which is a description I love.

    He also references a work (by John Taylor, whom I am unfamiliar with) implying that a grass widow might be a woman left by a husband because she is unable to have children.

    Grass Widow - Responses
    Happily, in the next volume (Page 150 in this same compilation), a few learned gentleman provide responses.

    I leave you with the full responses at right, including the idea that a grass widow is a wife temporarily parted from her husband, some saying for innocent reasons, others not so much.

    Also, another description of the meaning that might apply to my great-grandmother – she is here in Manhattan, but I do not know what has become of her husband John. Did he remain in Ireland? Is he alive? Is she “a widow, whose husband is abroad and said, but not certainly known to be dead?”

    Perhaps one day I will find out. For now, I’ll just put the phrase “grass widow” in my pocket.

    For extra credit, a pre-published, postscript:

    After I had finished writing most of this post, I happened upon a short entry in the Irish Genealogicial Society International blog that also mentions the phrase.

  • Apr15

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    NY Times Article, The Census Taker
    While looking for articles on census enumeration in the 1890 time frame, I found what I thought might be an interesting article on the social aspect of answering enumeration questions.

    However, I quickly realized that it degenerated into a long, verbose advertisement for the health benefits of drinking Duffy’s Pure Malt Whiskey.

    Sláinte!

    Works Cited
    “THE CENSUS TAKER.” New York Times (1857-1922): 3. Jun 02 1890. ProQuest. Web. 15 Apr. 2014 .

  • Mar5

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    I’ve been searching about to see if I could find some additional background for my great-grandfather Michael Tierney’s service in the New York City Police’s 25th Precinct.

    In an older post, Michael Tierney – Policeman, Part 2, I mention my truly serendipitous find of a photo of a group of policemen standing in front of the newly opened 25th Precinct, with great-grandfather Michael included.

    Article: The Finest Station HouseBeing your average man on the job, there isn’t too much specifically attributable to him in the newspapers. There are a few possible articles mentioning either an “Officer Tierney” or even “Michael Tierney”, but still hard to tie to him.

    So, with plans to write something with a bit of background in hand, I’ve also been looking for information on his precinct, the police force in general, and the city at the time between 1885 to 1913.

    Today I found this short, but sweet, description of the new 25th Precinct from the November 30, 1887 edition of the New York Times. In addition to a nice description of the facilities, it also offers information on an expansion of the precinct territory at the time. Read More | Comments

  • Feb1

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    Affected Through Excessive JoyYes, I know I have not posted anything particularly genealogical lately, and I apologize. I hope to remedy that situation soon.

    For now, here’s another random news article with a last line that tickled my fancy:

    “Since she saw him, Mrs. Woodruff’s heart has been affected through excessive joy and she is ill.”

    I do hope she recovered. and still had the $1,000 to repay the insurance company.

    Special to The New,York Times. (1910, Jun 22). ” Dead” brother reappears. New York Times (1857-1922).

  • Jan8

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    Today I spent some time perusing the wonderful newspaper resources of the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America newspaper archive looking for possible articles relating to my great-grandfather in New York.

    I did find one article referencing a Policeman Tierney that may be about him – the article mentions a chase to the rooftops and we have a single photo of him that has him in uniform and posing on a rooftop. (See my previous blog post Michael Tierney – Policeman, Part 2 for more on him.)

    While that was exciting, I stumbled on an unrelated article from the March 9, 1913 edition of The Sun that was even more so! I tweeted a link to it before I even read much of the article, since it seemed interesting.

    As I read onward, I learned that the Modern Historic Records Association

    “…sent two envelopes of imperishable paper to each of its members. In these envelopes each family was requested to place a message to its descendants 100 years from the present date, to be opened in the year 2013. this message might consist of photographs of the family, a genealogical history going as far back as practicable, or anything else deemed worthy of transmission.”

    That is quite interesting on its own, but I then found there was a further wrinkle to the plan:

    “Duplicate copies were to be placed in the envelopes. The two sets of envelopes so collected were to be placed in an indestructible box. One of these boxes was to be deposited in the New York Public Library, the other in a chamber in one of the pyramids of Egypt. Both were to be opened just 100 years from the present date and the envelopes turned over to the descendants to whom they were addressed.”

    NYPL TweetAs that plan sunk in, I began to get more excited. What could these men have written of? Where are their descendants now? Do others know of this plan still?

    My tweet was then replied to by the @NYPL account (“whoa!”) and cc:d to their other historical collections tweeter accounts. Looks like I’m not the only excited one here.

    I do hope something is found in relation to this project – and am left wondering what pyramid was supposed to be involved and if the plan was carried out fully.
    Updated on January 8, 2013 at 22:23:

    I have done a bit more more digging on the Modern Historic Records Association, and was able to find a listing in the book that may reference the items given to the New York Public Library for this project:

    Bulletin of the New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations , Volume 17 (1913), Page 118