Saturday, May 17, 2014

Check that tunnel vision - looking beyond what is right in front of you

This is, I think, good advice in general, in life, and also in genealogy, whether it's looking to the side - siblings, cousins - to try to work our way backward, or whether it's switching from an ancestor we've been scrutinizing unsuccessfully to another person or branch, or just thinking outside the box when it comes to what records or resources we use.

But I have a very specific reason for talking about this today.

This morning was my grandmother's funeral. If you read my blog, you know that my 99 year old grandmother, my genealogy inspiration, died May 15. Born in Brooklyn, we returned her there today to be buried with my grandfather, both her parents, Timothy Cronin and Ellen Casey Cronin, her grandmother, Nora Donahue Cronin, and three aunts and uncles who never married - Denis Cronin, Daniel Cronin, and Mary Cronin.

Just as a side note, I love cemeteries. Morbid? Maybe. But I feel very peaceful and at home whenever I go to one, even when I'm not there to visit anyone specific, but moreso when I am. I love seeing names on headstones that I've researched so well that I feel like I actually know them, so today it was nice to "visit" my great-grandparents, my great great grandmother, and some of my great great aunts and uncles.

Anyway, back to the whole reason for this post. My grandmother's family plot is in Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn. In the course of my research, I've tried to visit all my family plots that I know of, and more than once if I am able, so I'd been to the plot in Holy Cross before. After the graveside ceremony, my family hung around for awhile, and somebody happened to walk behind the headstone and say, "Hey, there's another Cronin buried here. Maybe they're related!" So of course I was intrigued, and yes, right behind the big family headstone is a smaller plot with a smaller headstone, and while everybody was sitting there going, "I wonder if they're related. Could they be related?," I was sitting there thinking, "Oh, hi Aunt Julia, hi Aunt Kate." I never even knew that headstone was there but I knew the names immediately. I finally got to "meet" Julia Cronin, a fourth unmarried sibling of my great-grandfather Timothy Cronin's - I had seen her death notice in an old newspaper but never knew where she was buried. And she was in the same plot as her sister Katherine, or Kate I guess, Flannery, who died fairly young, somewhere in her 30s or 40s, as well as Kate's two children, who died heartbreakingly young - John, at less than a year old, and Julia, as a young teenager. Considering how sad the circumstances were of us being there, it was a fairly exciting discovery for me, and I wonder how much my grandmother had to do with nudging us toward that headstone.

Which brings me to the point of this post - don't be so focused and wrapped up in the one person or family you're researching or looking for; step back and look around. Specific to cemetery research, if you're visiting one grave, take a look at the surrounding ones - family was often buried near family, and even if the names are different, they still might be related. But in general, just step back and look around - you never know what you might find.

Thanks, Grandma. I'm looking forward to your genealogy help from the other side.


  1. What a wise and warm post, Mary. I am so sorry for your loss. But I bet your grandma is going to send you all sorts of guidance from above. I hope if she runs in to Jacob up there, she gives him a swift kick in the butt for us. ;)

  2. I have a photo of the day we were at Holy Cross. Do you want them to post on your blog?