• Ireland
  • Jul22

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    If you aren’t following the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland on Flickr, you should be.Linenhall Library, Belfast

    Aside from a seemingly never ending flow of cool historical photos, they also post interesting things like architectural plans from Crumlin Road Prison/Belfast Gaol, melds of old photos with current ones, and even the occasional weird clown. (Pretty sure we’re related.)

    But, some real gems that genealogists might find even more exciting are a collection of full color 17th century barony maps.

    I’ve selected one randomly beautiful one to display here (“Tyrconnelle, etc.”), but there are quite a few to page through.

    PRONI 17th Century Barony Maps Tyrconnelle, etc.

  • Apr8

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    I am only a couple of generations removed from my Irish immigrants to the United States, so my own direct Irish ancestors were not here during the American Revolution.
    But, while scanning Chronicling America for interesting things, I happened upon a 1919 newspaper article in The Sun entitled Irishmen In Our Revolution, which is a review of Michael J. O’Brien’s (then) new book A Hidden Phase of American History.

    Irishmen In Our Revolution
    The review itself is an interesting read from a historical perspective – both the role the Irish played in The Revolution, and the 1919 perspective of it all.

    However, perhaps more interesting than this to those researching their Irish family that may have been in America that early is that the book itself has an Appendix entitled Officers of the American Army and Navy of the Revolution of Irish Birth or Descent – with a very long list of names and assignments. And a bonus: he has marked all of those born in Ireland with an asterisk. You can find a full copy of Irishmen In Our Revolution over on The Google Books.

    Who could asterisk for anything more?

  • Mar11

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    I’ve just finished watching the documentary One Million Dubliners, which at it’s simplest is a study of Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery, the “home” to 1.5 million people of all sorts, including people like Michael Collins and Daniel O’Connell.

    One Million Dubliners PosterWhile I am sure some may find the delivery of the film to be slow, I found the the pace of the film and the multifaceted approach to telling the story were very well done, incorporating both historical and everyday figures, the creation and restoration of the cemetery itself, and perhaps most importantly the inclusion of the more mundane aspects of running a cemetery and the thoughts of those involved.

    While this latter information may fare only slightly higher on many peoples’ lists than watching paint dry, the people interviewed in these daily roles of the cemetery each show a different angle of the goings-on and in sum provide an almost surprisingly philosophical treatise on the process of death and the power surrounding one’s final resting place.

    However, the thread that holds this film together, without question, are the stories and perspectives of the cemetery’s historian Shane MacThomáis. His love of the historical subject matter and of Glasnevin itself is apparent. His wonderful interactions leading cemetery tours for both young people and adults truly draw us in with humor and pathos.

    As you are reading this review on my genealogy blog, it is highly likely at least part of many a day’s thoughts are taken up by the interaction of history, family, lost stories, loss itself, and the task of trying to find meaning in their conjunction. If so, I highly suggest your taking the time to find and watch this film.

    A word of warning: I began watching without any prior knowledge of the film beyond a recent mention online. When soon after I found it available on Hoopla Digital (streaming offered free via my local library), I thought that I had to give it a shot.

    As I got to the end of the film, I truly was more than a bit M. Night Shyamalan-ed. I do not want to say more.

    I would suggest if you know no more than I did, Do Not research the cemetery and names I mention here – just watch. You can always go online later and learn more.

  • Aug28


    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


    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.