• Ruminations
  • Jun1


    Today is the 93rd anniversary of my grandparents’ marriage. Our family has never been particularly aware of the date, or even the event. But as I began reinvigorating my genealogy research a few years ago my first steps were to begin scanning all of our family documents and photos.

    May Egan, Uncle James Farrell & FriendAs I did so, my limited perspective on people began to change – rather than abstract folk fixed in time these images provided context and glimpses of them at various points in time. Last year I visited the church where my grandparents were married and found myself surprisingly touched just by standing in the spot where my grandmother must have waited at the rear of the aisle.

    We walk through life thinking we know the story. Any story. All stories. But we tend to focus mainly on the big ones. Those may be important, but often the seemingly mundane details can offer a finer and even more satisfying understanding.

    How Sound LogoThis morning I listened to the latest How Sound podcast entitled Mighty Tiny. At the start of the episode host Rob Rosenthal reads an opening quote that originally comes from the historian Will Durant. I was not familiar with Mr. Durant, but was struck by the perfect parallel of the passage to the perspective I have developed during my family research.

    I began to look into his writing and found that the Will Durant Foundation site contains a larger section of the passage. I think anyone active in researching their family will find that the ideas in these paragraphs are an affirmation of the task and that life on the banks is our inheritance.

           “It is a mistake to think that the past is dead. Nothing that has ever happened is quite without influence at this moment. The present is merely the past rolled up and concentrated in this second of time. You, too, are your past; often your face is your autobiography; you are what you are because of what you have been; because of your heredity stretching back into forgotten generations; because of every element of environment that has affected you, every man or woman that has met you, every book that you have read, every experience that you have had; all these are accumulated in your memory, your body, your character, your soul. So with a city, a country, and a race; it is its past, and cannot be understood without it.

    Perhaps the cause of our contemporary pessimism is our tendency to view history as a turbulent stream of conflicts – between individuals in economic life, between groups in politics, between creeds in religion, between states in war. This is the more dramatic side of history; it captures the eye of the historian and the interest of the reader. But if we turn from that Mississippi of strife, hot with hate and dark with blood, to look upon the banks of the stream, we find quieter but more inspiring scenes: women rearing children, men building homes, peasants drawing food from the soil, artisans making the conveniences of life, statesmen sometimes organizing peace instead of war, teachers forming savages into citizens, musicians taming our hearts with harmony and rhythm, scientists patiently accumulating knowledge, philosophers groping for truth, saints suggesting the wisdom of love. History has been too often a picture of the bloody stream. The history of civilization is a record of what happened on the banks.”

    – As quoted in “The Gentle Philosopher” (2006) by John Little at the Will Durant Foundation

  • Jun1


    Last year I was lucky to get reconnected to several first cousins that we hardly knew about, much less met.

    Tierney siblings, Jamaica, NY circa 1929

    Tierney Siblings: Michael, Sabina and John, Jamaica Queens, 1929

    The short short version of the story is that my grandfather John Tierney (sounds familiar) married Sabina Gilroy and had four children. Sadly, he lost his wife and 3 year old Winifred in the 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic in New York.

    The next year he married my grandmother May and several years later they had my father. By all accounts their marriage was stormy and not good for the kids. After my grandfather died in 1935 the family drifted apart and my father apparently had very little contact with his brother and two sisters. (All half siblings to him.)

    More than a dozen years ago I started to get interested in genealogy, but worked at it sporadically. However, I kept adding to my findings and kept them on an Ancestry tree that was discovered last year by my father’s brother’s grandson’s wife. (Got that?) Read More | Comments

  • May13


    This is not genealogy in any way, but is a bedtime conversation I had with our 4 year old daughter tonight as she fell asleep.

    I don’t want to forget it, so posting it here for posterity – my apologies to the 4.5 readers of my blog for going off track for a minute.
    Lily: Daddy, are you rich?
    Me: Not with money, honey, but I am rich with Love.
    Lily: Oh, I get it! You have lots of Love! Everybody is rich with Love!
    Me: Well, I don’t know if everyone is, but I know I am because of you, Miles, & Mommy.
    *Extended Quiet*
    Lily: Well, I’ll tell you who’s not rich with Love. The ancient Indians – they’re dead.

  • Apr7

    No Comments

    Hey, go read this good post on Serial Entrepreneurship and Genealogy over at the digicopia blog. That post was in response to this Geneabloggers post.

    I agree with his assessment of the field – and since my comment kind of turned into almost its own blog post, I thought I’d post it here for posterity as well.

    I agree wholeheartedly that the serial entrepreneurship as of late is a very good thing for the genealogy community.

    These entrepreneurs are almost by definition smaller, fast moving or working outside of “comfort zones” – while they may not be adding the great numbers of records the Big Gorillas do, these innovators are the ones that could most likely come up with most useful next generation tools that provide better ways to find and visualize connections.

    The exceptional thing about the effectiveness of entrepreneurship in this realm is that genealogists are more than willing to use multiple resources, tools and methods to ferret out information. The result is that new sites can really get their tires kicked by a vocal and experienced community.

    If the downside of entrepreneurship is genealogists having to deal with splintered resources, weighing the value of multiple subscription charges and, as you stated, the potential for sloppy research, the upside of the combination of the fast growing Big Gorilla datasets and innovative tools is almost certainly big fat plus for genealogists who are going to need all the help they can get as more data goes online.

    Finally, as with any field, it is only a matter of time before the at least some of the chaos of entrepreneurship is incorporated into the Big Gorilla’s arsenal – either through assimilation or emulation.

    It is a terrific time to research online!

  • Aug10


    When I recently began getting more serious about my genealogical research after several years of dabbling, I began to think about possible blog names to document my journey. As an information technology professional with expertise in information security, Hacking Your Ancestors first occurred to me as a potential blog name.

    Then it also occurred to me that that name was slightly more homicidal than I’d intended.
    Plus, my good axe is just now at the cleaners.

    I may still use that blog name if I decide to write more on techniques and tools and how some tactics of an infosec professional mesh nicely with those of the genealogist.

    But, in this blog I hope to focus more on the journey of discovery that almost inevitably occurs when researching one’s own family and how they fit into history. It likely helps when you have only limited clues to much of your family history, making the search that much more surprising and interesting.

    Group Photo: Egans of Creggan, Ferbane, Ireland on Flickr As I find more documentation of the lives of my forebears I feel a strangely stronger sense of the parallel linearity of theirs and mine. While I cannot claim that records and documents give a clear insight into our ancestors’ personalities, there is a glimpse of dreams or, at least, hope that this new country held promise beyond their original ken.

    Such a trip requires a vehicle, whether it is ridden or written. The sadly late poet John O’Donohue’s poem Beannacht, or Blessing offers some solace from the pulling weight of the land, the dimming vision of time and leads our boat, or Currach, on a protected path home with a healing cloak of wind.

    Listen to his words below.

    Beannacht recited by John O’Donohue on NPR’s Speaking of Faith

    Read More | Comments