• Jun25

    What do you do when your family history research has hit a brick wall and you’re out of ideas? How about filling in some historical background on the locations and times of your ancestors? One very good resource for those with New York City connections is Kings Views of New York City, 1903.

    It contains almost 100 pages of photos and when paired with The Google Maps Street View can make a fun way of touring Manhattan past and present.

    This particular book is both viewable, clippable, embeddable and possibly some other -ables Online, as well as downloadable (see! I knew there was another -able!) in PDF format for your Offline enjoyment.

    One nice example – a north-looking view up 5th Avenue at 44th Street from the time – a very different look now on Street View – although you can still *just* see the spire of the church several block north…


    View Larger Map

  • Jun13

    A short Foto Friday post – Happy Father’s Day to all!

    My Dad is the fellow on the left below. He was stationed in Washington, DC at the end of WWII and later in the Machine Records Division out of 90 Church Street in Manhattan. (Right next to the World Trade Center site now.)

    Mike Tierney, Washington, DC, 1944

  • Jun12

    Busy, busy, busy lately, so here’s a lazy post on my part, because 23andme did all the work already… Interesting.

    So far my son has inherited my ability to wiggle his ears, although it took some practice and many hilarious facial expressions before he got it.)

    23andMe Genetics: Paternal Connections

    by 23andMe.
    Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.
  • 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.

  • May10

    Yesterday while in Manhattan with my family, we took a minute to take a fun photo.

    First, an abbreviated back story: A few years ago when I started researching my great-grandfather Michael Tierney and family in earnest, I obtained his work records from the New York City Police Department. While working on that information and finding them in the various censuses under any number of poorly enumerated spellings and transcriptions, I also began scanning all of our family photos. In my brother’s album I found a single photo of Michael, standing on a rooftop in uniform circa 1904.

    A few days later, I experienced an amazing instance of serendipity – browsing in my local library I flipped open a copy of The New York Irish and saw an 1887 photo of a group of policemen standing in front of the spanking new precinct on 67th Street.

    One of them looked familiar.

    To find out more, see my first two posts on great-grandfather in Michael Tierney – NY Policeman, Part 1 and the creatively titled, Michael Tierney – Policeman, Part 2.

    Below is the result of our photo expedition. A surreal experience to stand in exactly the same place as your ancestor 127 years later.

    For those of the historical architecture mindset, I suggest this interesting post about the precinct house at the Daytonian in Manhattan blog: The 1887 19th Precinct Station House — 153 East 67th Street.
    For more detail, you can read the 1999 NYC Landmark Preservation Commission Report here – it is actually much more interesting than you might think! (It is for the 19th precinct, but was originally the 25th.)

    Police Station.1887 Opening.67th Street.FADE