Monday, January 31, 2011

Matrilineal Monday - Julia Murphy Horgan

I had a hard time deciding who to write about in this blog post. Looking at the women in my tree, I realized that I had a ton of information on some of them (pretty thoroughly researched), no information on some of them (currently very well-built brick walls), but very few who I had only a little information on, but enough clues to work with and try to find out more. A lot of my women have very interesting stories, a lot I am desperately still trying to find their stories and have no idea where to begin, and many of them I've written about in other posts. I finally decided on my third great grandmother, Julia Murphy Horgan, because I can share some of what I've already found out but also share some of the avenues I'm continuing to pursue to find out more.

Much of the information I have on Julia is thanks to the records I have on her daughter Mary Horgan Gorry, my great-great grandmother. Thanks to my pack-rat father and grandfather, we have a ton of original documentation for Mary. According to her death certificate, her parents were John Horgan and Unknown Murphy. Mary's certificate of marriage to James Gorry from her church, Immaculate Conception, does not list her parents' names, but a government-issued marriage certificate usually will - I don't have one for Mary. I do have a record of her baptism, though, also from Immaculate Conception - the record is from 1932, stating Mary was baptized in 1873 and that her parents were John Horgan and Julia Murphy.

Now, I also have an obituary for John Horgan from 1908 in which he is listed as the "beloved husband of the late Julia Murphy."

I have found, with the matrilineal lines, that you often don't have records for the woman herself. But as you can see, you can use documents from other people to prove a person's information. So, all three of those records help verify that her name was in fact Julia Murphy and John Horgan's obituary also proves that by 1908, Julia had already died. In fact, I also have John Horgan listed in the 1905 New York State census as a widower, so Julia had to have died before 1905.

Now, I have no census records for John and Julia, which is very frustrating and a tad annoying. But what I was able to find was a passenger list manifest with their names on it - contemporary to my John and Julia Horgan was another couple named John and Julia Horgan also living in New York City. It has been confusing in my research. Luckily, my John and Julia were different ages then the other John and Julia, and that has helped. Because of that, I am 95 percent certain the John and Julia Horgan on the passenger list manifest are mine (I used John's death certificate and the 1905 New York state census to ascertain John's birth year, which seems to be pretty reliably somewhere around 1841, 1842).

Okay, so the passenger list manifest is for the ship "City of Paris," which sailed out of Liverpool and Queenstown, England and arrived in New York harbor on June 2, 1872. On the first page is a farmer by the name of John Horgan, age 30, and his wife, Julia, age 20, both from Ireland. This arrival date of 1872 jives with Mary Horgan's birth in New York City the following year and John Horgan's age of 30 jives with a birth year of about 1841, 1842. So based on this evidence, I've learned two more facts about Julia Murphy - that she was born about 1852, probably in Ireland, and that she and John were already married before they arrived in New York, so she was probably married in Ireland.

As of right now, that is all I know of her. It's actually quite a lot, I suppose, but I have a lot more questions that are proving to be more difficult to answer than I would have thought. First and foremost is Julia's death - because I can't find her in any census, I have a window of 32 years in which she might have died, from the time her daughter Mary was born in 1873 until the 1905 New York State census, where John Horgan is listed without her. As far as I can tell, Mary Horgan was an only child, so I can't even use any sibling lines to try to find out more about Julia. I could make a trip to the New York City municipal archives to look for a death certificate for Julia, but it would be a tedious and painstaking process without some means of narrowing that window. A death certificate is potentially a goldmine of information - it could list her parents names, and thus get me one step further back on her line; it could list her address at her time of death, which could help me in finding her and John in a census; it could list a place of birth, etc. etc.

Another avenue I could pursue is to try to find a marriage certificate in Ireland for John and Julia - that window is potentially much smaller but I don't have much experience looking for records outside of the United States. I also wouldn't know exactly where to look. I know John was from the city of Cork, but that doesn't mean that's where he was living when he and Julia got married.

In any case, John and Mary have been extremely helpful in getting to know Julia, but Julia's origins, for now anyway, remain a mystery.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A quick comments note and "thank you"

Wha? Rereading this post title, there's got to be a better way to phrase that...oh welI. At least it flows nicely, even if it makes me sound like an illiterate.

I just want to take a second to thank all of you who not only take the time to read my blog but who also take the time to comment on my posts - I really appreciate it and I love reading all the thoughts and insights you share with me through them. I don't respond to every single comment, but I do try to respond to a lot of them, especially if I feel we're getting a conversation started, so please check back when you leave a comment to see if I've responded and feel free to continue to add to the conversation!

Hope everyone enjoys the rest of their weekend, and for all of you in the path of the next huge snowstorm scheduled to hit this week, stay safe, stay warm, and any snow days we might get are great days to catch up on our research! :)

From - LI genealogy sleuths trace personal black histories

I don't normally pick up an actual newspaper - I usually read it online. But today I picked it up and on the cover of the Life section was a story about a couple from my own village of Freeport who are genealogists and who help others by offering classes at our local library. I think my grandmother, who is my family's original genealogist, is friendly with Julius. Anyway, it was really interesting and it's always heartwarming to see people who know how to do this research correctly sharing their skills to help others - we're all in this together!! Enjoy!...

By Sylvia E. King-Cohen

Julius Pearse has traced his ancestors back to his great-great-great-grandmother, Celia, who was listed among the property in the will of the landowner, William Davis, filed in 1862. That landowner was Julius' great-great-great-grandfather.

His wife, Joysetta Pearse, has learned about both sides of her ancestry - the side she grew up with and the Irish side that cut off the son who married a black entertainer.

The Freeport couple made the discoveries by using Census, immigration, birth and death records, and they've been helping others find evidence of their ancestry.

The Pearses are the founders of the African-Atlantic Genealogical Society, which they launched in 1990 after learning about the process in the search for their ancestry. They offer free genealogical assistance at the Freeport Memorial Library each Wednesday (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and at the African American Museum of Nassau County in Hempstead each Saturday (1 to 5 p.m.).

During the sessions, the two advise how to get started, what tools will make the job easier and how best to organize and store information. Then, the interesting part begins as secrets are revealed: What did my ancestors do for a living? Did my family own slaves? Were our ancestors slaves? Sharecroppers? Are we part American Indian? What was Cousin Ted doing when he disappeared for all those years?

Lorenzo Rochester, 72, a retired Freeport police officer, sought their help because he knew little of his father's family.

"With Julius' help, we've been able to trace my family back to Maryland in 1801," Rochester said, his voice filling with emotion. "When you see that Census report, it's like you're in the room with them. History comes alive."

Rochester compiled a book about his ancestors and shares it with relatives. "I found out my father's real name was Franklin, not Frank like I thought because that's what they called him," Rochester says, and he learned that a female relative was one of the first African-American women to own a business in Freeport.

Joysetta said it's not unusual for people to become emotional when they learn about the people of their past. "They cry, laugh, scream when they see the Census report, military records or other information on the computer screen," she said.

Julius, 77, and Joysetta, 72, weren't always interested in tracing their histories. He was a retired Nassau County police officer, and she was a staff director in the New York City office of NYNEX, now Verizon. In 1986, as they were planning a trip to his family's hometown in North Carolina, they decided to learn more about their pasts.

"Julius knew a lot about his past because he had spent time with his grandmother, who used to tell him stories," Joysetta says. By contrast, she knew little about her own, in part because her grandmother and grandfather's families were estranged because of the couple's interracial marriage.

Joysetta attended a lecture by historian James A. Rose at Hofstra University in 1986. Rose is known in genealogical circles as "Dr. Roots" because of the many genealogy books he has written and for the help he provided author Alex Haley on the "Kinte Library Project," the forerunner of Haley's novel "Roots: The Saga of an American Family" that was published in 1976 and became a prizewinning television miniseries.

She left so excited that she launched a search for documentation about where Julius' family members had lived, their livelihoods and who was still alive.

It didn't go well. "I didn't find anything," she said.

The couple was searching for information on a long-dead relative by the name of Harm. When they couldn't find anything, they called Julius' mom again. "She told us 'His name's not Harm, it's Hiram!' There's that North Carolina accent for you."

Their efforts paid off when they sought Rose's help: Joysetta was able to find out about the background of her comedian father as well as her jazz singer mother. The effort led to the discovery of two recordings by her grandmother, an early photo of her on the cover of the Black Swan Records catalog and information about her singing career in Europe. They also were able to trace Joysetta's grandmother's ancestry to the 1840 Census and a woman who had escaped from slavery in Virginia and settled in New York.

The couple, who owned a private investigation business, got more involved with genealogy when Rose moved away and turned over his caseload of paid searches.

Joysetta has since become a certified genealogist through the Board of Certification of Genealogists in Washington, D.C. In addition to volunteering their time to help others trace their roots, they have a business that charges a fee, typically $50 per hour, for searches related to legal issues such as wills and contested family trees.

They didn't have many takers when they started offering free help at the library once a month. "After awhile, Julius complained that he didn't want to go anymore, so we started taking turns," Joysetta says. "Then one day, I was listening to the radio, and this female deejay asked about whether blacks could trace genealogy before slavery, and I called up and said that you could.

"I explained that there are doctor's records where slaves were treated, bills of sale and other documents," Joysetta explained. "You just have to dig around. She then had me come on for an hour to talk about genealogy."

And interest in their work took off.

Lillian Dent, co-owner of LL Dent Restaurant in Carle Place, last year turned to the couple to fill out her family tree. "We didn't know anything about my father's family," says Dent, who declined to give her age. "My father was raised by a great-aunt, and we didn't know much about his life."

She said they found "his Social Security application that told who his parents were and even found out how old he was when he moved in with the great-aunt. We found out that his mother died in childbirth, and that's why the aunt took him to live with her . . . It is amazing what they can find out. A friend of mine found out who his [birth] father was."

While the couple can help individuals learn about their heritage, they don't want to stop there: Their goal is to set others on independent paths, to teach them how to discover their ancestry on their own.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Random realizations

I was at a wake last night and it didn't occur to me until I was on my way there that I would be related to half the people in the room, as the deceased was my late great-uncle Freddy Stutzmann's ex-wife. And as I looked around the room, I didn't recognize a single person, which made me realize that as much as I'm learning about my grandmother's ancestors, I know very little about her immediate family. Her sister Faith Laidlaw's family was there - cousins and second cousins - and Uncle Freddy's kids and grandkids of course as well, people who are names in a book to me and nothing more. It was a bit of a wake-up call to this family historian that I could tell you everything about Uncle Freddy and Aunt Faith's parents and grandparents and not a single thing about their children or grandchildren. And so maybe part of my new year's resolution should be to research sideways when going backward hits a dead end.

On another genealogical note, my dad's sister sent me an e-mail yesterday saying that someone she works with was talking about how her mom's family was one of the founding families of Freeport - that family was, of course, the Raynors. You can't swing a dead cat in this area without hitting a Raynor relation. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

John and Bridget (Collins) Enright, New York Census 1905

John and Bridget, my third great grandparents on my mother's side, have also been particularly elusive and spook-like in my genealogical forays. I've visited their grave and I have Bridget's death certificate, but other than that, their bios are very sparse, indeed.

As I had luck finding the Gorrys and John Horgan in the 1905 New York census, I decided to continue my search there for others on my tree, and turned up a John and Bridget Enwright (gotta love all these names with so many spellings - makes searches so much fun! How did anyone ever find anything before online soundex searches were an option??) John, 80, was born in Ireland and was an alien and had been living in the U.S. for 5 years. Bridget, 72, was also an Irish alien but had been living in the U.S. for 15 years. They were living at 377 Warren Street in Brooklyn, and being the cross-checker I am, a quick look at my Bridget's death certificate confirmed that she did in fact die at the address 377 Warren Street, so these two Bridgets were one and the same. It's the decrepencies in when John and Bridget arrived that interest me - if those timelines are accurate - and we can't assume they are, but if they are - that means that John might have not yet arrived when the 1900 U.S. census was taken, so that if I were looking for Bridget in it, she would not be living with a John. Previously, I had been looking for those two names together.

Time to widen that net, I guess!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

St. Charles Cemetery children's section Christmas 2010

Photo by Timothy J. Gorry December 2010, St. Charles Cemetery, Farmingdale, New York.

My dad took this photo this past Christmas at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale, Long Island, when he was visiting my mom's grave. He noticed a section of children's graves where parents had left toys and presents for their lost loved ones. I don't like this picture, because it's too sad, but I thought it was important to post it as a testimony to these particular lost children and to all the children, named and unnamed, infants, toddlers, and stillborns, who are a part of all of our trees. They will never have branches to trace, but they were here, they existed, and so deserve to be remembered. That's part of why we do this after all, right?

For all those snowbound in the American Northeast, stay warm and drive safe! Only two more months of winter! :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Funeral Card Friday - Keith Stock

So this isn't an ancestor of mine, but because of the date and the timing of Funeral Card Friday, I thought it would be an appropriate memorial to highlight my cousin, Keith, who died two years ago today. It was very sudden and was while he was on his honeymoon, which made it just all the more awful, and it's still difficult to think about today, so I try to instead think about the fun we had as kids, and how we had started reconnecting as adults shortly before he died, and just how much fun we had at his wedding days before he died. We should be sad because we miss the people we love, but we should be happy about the time we got to spend with them.

Which leads me into this - we spend so much time finding and getting to know our family from generations past, relatives long gone, ancestors we'll never meet, and that's fantastic. That is a wonderful thing. But let's not spend so much time with family who are dead that we miss the moments we have with our family who are living.

Hope y'all have a great weekend!

Keith, my brother, and me in Mexico for Keith's wedding, 17 January 2009.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Matrilineal Monday - Musings on matrilineal genealogy

I like this category very much, I have to say. I think I'll enjoy posting on this in the future. But for today, I just wanted to comment on matrilineal genealogy, which traces the female branches of a tree.

When I first started becoming seriously interested in genealogy, I had huge sheets (you had to roll them out on the floor, they were so big) of paper tracing (rather inaccurately, too, it turns out) the Raynor family tree, which is my mother's line. As I've noted before, that tree was pretty extensive before I'd even started, researched and recorded by people years before I was even born. I would sit there for hours reading all the names and recording them into my own book. I was fascinated by it. And saddened by it.

I wasn't on it.

My mother was. But as with every other female on that tree, the Raynor line stopped with her. Now, I get that, especially when trees were recorded on paper, which does not have the infinite space that the Internet does, you have to make choices about who to continue to follow. And I get that for Raynor genealogy, for example, it can be easier to just follow anyone who keeps the Raynor name. But just because I'm a Gorry doesn't make me any less a Raynor than my Raynor cousins, the children of my mother's brothers. We're all half Raynor. We're all branches of that same tree.

At the same time, because it was a Raynor family tree, there was no history on the women who married into it. So I had no information on my great-great grandmother Annie Poole's forebears or origins. I saw Seamans and Halls and all sorts of other female lines on this tree that I knew nothing about.

So, according to these genealogists, if I married into a tree, it was my husband who would be traced. And as a female on my father's tree, my children would not be included.

So needless to say, as a female genealogist, I've been very interested in matrilineal genealogy from the very beginning.

Unfortunately, because we live in a society where women take their husband's names, the women on our trees often get lost, and consequently, so do their families. We can choose to trace the male line as far back as we can go, and that is fine - doing more than that can be time-consuming and can lead to many brick walls - but genealogy is never a straight line. It's not called a "family tree" for nothing. I may have the name Gorry but I am the product of Raynors and Bergs and Stutzmanns and Caseys and a thousand other families, too. And when I marry and have children, I don't want that to be lost - I want them to know and appreciate all the lines they come from, both male and female.

And as a quick note, even though I am at work today, I wish everyone a happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day - hope we all take a minute today to think about his message and vision and everything he stood for!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Nancy Drew and the case of the happy 3rd blogging anniversary

Three years ago I spur of the moment decided to add, to the sports blog and television blog I was already writing, a blog about a third passion of mine - genealogy. Three years ago today, on January 16, 2008, I posted my first entry, entitled "Becoming Nancy Drew," in which I talk about how our family histories are mysteries to be solved, and how as genealogists, we're kind of like Nancy Drew, one of my all-time favorite detectives, fictional or otherwise. I'm still a firm believer in that - genealogy is almost an unsolveable puzzle. We'll never have all the pieces, but we never stop trying to put the whole picture together.

Back then, no one was reading this blog. I almost didn't care. I did the research and the blogging for me, and if an occasional passerby happened upon the world I was sharing, that was enough for me. But knowing there are people who now follow me and who care enough to actually share their thoughts and opinions back to me, creating a dialogue about this topic we all find so fascinating - well, that has made this whole thing all the better, and I thank you for it.

Since that first post three years ago, I've discovered relatives from branches both known and unknown, and gotten to know them and exchange records and research as well. I've found records backing up my personal research and hunches. I've discovered new ancestors and traced lines further back then I ever thought I'd be able to go. I've hit brick walls I still haven't broken through. I've gone down wrong roads and hit dead ends. But I think through it all, I would've made Nancy Drew proud.

And I'm not done yet. I'll never be done. Good detectives never quit. :)

Becoming Nancy Drew

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Today's discovery - adventure tours offered by the Town of Hempstead's Parks and Recreation Dept.

First, I just need to say that as I was flipping through the catologue today, I kept thinking of Amy Poehler and all the wacky residents of Pawnee, Indiana - the words "Parks and Recreation" just automatically make me think of the show now - miss it and can't wait for it to come back!

Anyway, I'm posting this link even though it doesn't have to do with genealogy. It does have to do with local history though - in this case Brooklyn and Long Island's "Gold Coast" - and giving people some local flavor, and both those things are intimately tied to genealogy. Genealogy is a multidisciplinary study, so many things tied together. Wherever your family is from, whatever lines you're tracing, it can help immensely understanding the people your ancestors were as well as in giving you possible clues for other research avenues to pursue, to know the history of the places they came from.

So anyway, this is something our P & R department offers, which I was thrilled to see - I'm considering going on the Gold Coast tour - and it might be worth it to see what tours (or seminars, workshops, etc.) local to you, are out there.

Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend! :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Open Thread Thursday - Family on the Wrong Side of History

With the sesquicentennial of the United States Civil War occurring this year, it reminds me of how proud I am of my ancestor, Charles Haase, who fought for the Union during the last year of that war.

It also reminds me of my ancestors on the other side of the family, the Raynors, who supported the losing side of another American war - they were pro-British during the American Revolution.

Cousin April and I just had a conversation recently in which she said she had tried to apply to the Daughters of the American Revolution but couldn't find anyone in our Raynor line who had fought for or supported the cause for American independence. There is, however, evidence that the Raynors would have been quite happy to remain someone who enjoys an afternoon tea break every now and then, as well as many British sitcoms that have come out over the years, I don't blame them! :)

I don't have a lot of evidence or research in this arena - it's been easier to find the documents detailing Charles Haase's stint in the Civil War - of course, the Revolution happened almost 100 years before that, so the records aren't as readily available. But it's been documented that the people of Hempstead, Long Island, which is where the Raynors lived, were staunchly sympathetic to the British, and that St. George's Episcopal Church in Hempstead was used as a British headquarters during the Revolutionary War. Many branches of my family tree at that time ended up fleeing to Canada.

If I put myself in my ancestors' shoes, how can I blame them for the choice they made? They had been in this country for almost 150 years before any talk of revolution - they were leading presumably comfortable, familiar, safe lives. Powerful Great Britain, with it's long, established history, would seem to be the obvious winner in this war. When we learn about American history, we learn about the brave patriots who fought for freedom against a tyrannical king, but how often in modern times do we read about revolutions in other countries where the rebels are portrayed as the villains? It's really all about perspective. And I like that my Tory-loving Raynor ancestors give me a perspective of history that most Americans never even think about.

From - DNA used to reveal MLK and Garvey's European lineage

This is the latest genealogical technology I am currently fascinated by - how amazing that our very persons at the actual units of our physical make-up can connect us to the people we came from! And how amazing that anybody, but particularly those for whom the lack of actual documentation, such as people of African descent, now have a means to at least partially unlock the door to where they came from! I love the multidisciplinary nature of genealogy and am dying to trace my own genetic tree - not just the countries my ancestors came from but the groups of people they belonged to, even though my ethnic background, at all European, is fairly homogeneous. These tests are still pretty expensive - that's what I'm collecting all my loose change for! :)

Flirting with Disaster - lessons on feeling connected and adoptees in the family tree...

Sam and I spent part of our snow day yesterday watching the 1996 movie "Flirting with Disaster," in which Ben Stiller plays a neurotic adoptee searching for his birth parents, because he wants to find out where he comes from and who he is before he gives a name to his 5-month-old son. Wacky hijinks ensue, of course, but as we were starting the movie, Sam said to me, "This movie is right up your allow, because it's about searching for family."

That made me think about two things - first, that yes, Ben Stiller's character's journey through the movie trying to find out the simple question of where he came from is a lot like our journeys as genealogists and family historians. The only difference is that while his answer is just in finding his parents, a single generation back, we're all looking much further back (or maybe not much further, but a little bit, anyway). The idea is the same, though, that, as Tea Leoni's character says, "no matter where we are in our lives...we can't help but feel that there's something ...out there that's going to make us feel complete, give us a sense of belonging, connectedness if you will." We all want to feel connected, and whether you're separated by 25 years or 225 years, you can't help but feel connected to family.

The second thing I thought about was genealogy in the lives of those who have been adopted, whether into our own families or by other families. We have all probably encountered that at some point or other in our research. Bloodlines are how we trace the people we're descended from, how we look for familiar faces in photos of people we never met who have been dead for 100 years, but does that mean that your adopted cousin isn't family? Of course not. Family isn't just nature - it's nurture. Habits and quirks aren't just genetic; they're learned. Family photos and family stories include everyone, not just blood relations. Nobody should ever be left off of a family tree simply because their genetic family history is different or unknown. If they don't know their own roots, then they just become the roots of a new tree - the circle of life - and a new story. It's up to the individual how they choose to trace an adoptee in their family - do you trace the genetic line, if it's known? Or do you trace the line of people that shaped the adoptee by caring for them and choosing to make them one of their own? Belonging is more than blood. Anybody who considers their friends to be family knows that!