• Ireland
  • Aug28

    2 Comments

    Recently I have been trying to get back to my research to both tie up loose ends and tighten up the documentation. My hope is that another go-through will help me notice some clues I may have missed in prior passes. In particular, I’d like to get my Irish half of the tree back a generation or 4.

    Egan Family, Creggan, Kings, IrelandEven though I’m only 2 or 3 generations removed from Ireland and even with some excellent cousin contacts in Ireland to help answer questions and discuss things with, those parts of my trees could use some real leafing up.

    Peeking at my family in the 1901 Irish census, I again noticed my 2x-great-grandmother living with them. She is 88 years old at the time and (unsurprisingly) is not there in the 1911 census. I realized I had never looked for her death certificate! I had been unsuccessful in finding her marriage earlier in time, so thought perhaps I’d get lucky and find her maiden name included.

    With a name like Mary Egan, finding the right record can easily be a daunting task. But, with some calculated searching of the Civil Registration Indexes in the correct parish I came up with a likely death record for her in 1902. I faxed in a request for a photocopy to GRO Ireland (only 4) using the free online Hellofax service, and Voila! I received the certificate via email within a week or so.

    It is definitely the correct death certificate, as it mentions the Townland and my great-grandfather as the informant. Sadly, no maiden name was included. (I didn’t really expect it as it would be atypical I think.)

    Mary Egan, Cause of Death Detail, 1902, Creggam, Ferbane, IrelandBut, her cause of death is startling: “Severe burns, 6 weeks, no medical attendant.”, and her death was registered about 5 weeks later than the event.

    Jeepers. I suppose open hearths and aged people are not a good mix. I wonder if anyone else has any interesting stories of having been surprised by how people have died?

    Is gaire cabhair Dé ná an doras.

    UPDATE: As usual, after I received this certificate I forwarded a copy to one of my cousins in Ireland who is a 1st cousin from my Dad’s generation. He recalled that when younger, his mother told him that the family’s thatched house burned down. So, once again – it pays to keep in touch with family AND talk to them about your findings!


    Death Certificate, Mary Egan, 1902, Creggan, Kings, Ireland

  • May20

    3 Comments

    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.

  • Sep25

    4 Comments

    I have been helping a friend lately by looking to see what I could put together for her family tree. Luckily for her, almost immediately a torrent of records began to pour from the online coffers, so the tree began to fill up quite nicely.

    As is often the case, there are a few records that may be for parallel persons of similar name, so definitely some work to do on locking those down as properly vetted and assessed.

    XBut, in the short run I found an interesting thing: both her great grandfather, and his father both seemed to have served in the Fighting 69th volunteer infantry – although the elder was before the Civil War, and the younger in World War I.

    While looking at information for what appears to be the younger Francis Kearney’s stay in a a “National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers”, I found something slightly puzzling.

    His history at the home lists him as being “Admitted” on May 4, 1925, and then on Oct 31, 1926 his Cause of Discharge is “Dropped.”

    Francis Kearney Military Home Record DetailThe images for these records come in pairs of pages, and I quickly noticed that the next fellow’s record has many entries for “Discharged” and “Transferred”.

    Anyone out there in the genealogosphere have any knowledge on the term “Dropped” in this context? Hmm.

    Record Citation:

    “United States National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-21051-37678-11?cc=1916230&wc=MMRT-VYX:n30335972 : accessed 25 Sep 2013), Togus, Maine > Register no. 18000-19499 > image 262 of 771.

  • Sep12

    1 Comment

    For those researching family in Ireland, the book Illustrations, Historical and Genealogical of King James’s Irish Army List, 1689 might be useful in your trek back in time. (In an 1861 updated second edition, by John D’Alton.)

    The AskAboutIreland site says of the work:

    The work contains a vast wealth of family history, including information outlining the lineage, honours and achievements of families connected with Ireland, either through birth, rank, title or alliance. As many of the sources used in compiling the two volumes are now lost they stand as a highly valuable tool for Irish family research.

    Visit their site for a bit more description of the content and links to PDF versions of the two volumes.

    You can also find variously formatted versions of the books on Archive.org. Click here for one version although the header pages differ from the Ask About Ireland versions, so I’m unsure if they are earlier versions or some other form.

    But, the Archive.org version does have searchable text formats, so you can look for the surnames you hope to find more easily…

  • Aug5

    No Comments

    This weekend I made my first visit to a Familysearch Family History center to view some records in the record set “Ireland, Landed Estate Court Files, 1850-1885.” While the index to the set is available anywhere, the images are viewable only at a center and I believed that there were some mentions in it  for two of my 2nd great-grandfathers.

    While following up later, I was looking into the name of the Kings County Barony mentioned to verify I had the right location, and happened upon an interesting reference in “Accounts and Papers of the House of Commons” (1871) – a “General Alphabetical Index to the Towns and Townlands of Ireland.”

    Enjoy.