Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday: Be careful what you wish for...

As many of you already know, I do the vast majority of my research in Ireland. Having an Irish father, mother, and brother, I always felt as though I was the 'odd woman out', so when it came to researching my family history I felt I had to go back to Ireland. I had not spent a lot of time on Canadian based research in areas such as pre-Famine and Famine period Irish emigration; however, once I began to look into the history of emigration to the Americas I uncovered some aspects of this history which are very unsettling.

In researching Famine emigration into Canada, I found that a significant number of Irish had landed at Toronto, and some of them did not survive for very long. I decided that I would go to the cemeteries in which these Famine victims were buried, photograph the space and stones, if there were any from the period that signified Irish interred, and record the names and any other information about the interred.

Be careful what you wish for...

The first cemetery on my photo wish list was St. Paul's Cemetery. On one very bright and sunny morning I set out to go to St. Paul's. Having travelled this street many times before, I found myself wondering why it was that I had never noticed the cemetery on any previous trips. I decided it must be a very small cemetery behind the church and that was why I had never noticed it.

Established in 1822, St. Paul's was the very first Catholic cemetery in Toronto, and was opened on the land adjacent to St. Paul's Basilica, which is at the corner of Power Street and Queen Street east in downtown Toronto. The beautiful church which now stands on the site is a rebuild and expansion of the original church.

From my research I knew that St. Paul's Cemetery had been closed around 1855 and replaced by St. Michael's Cemetery (more on that in another post). Due to the Great Famine of 1845-51/52, there was a marked influx of Irish Emigrants; during the single navigation season of 1847 alone, the population of the city literally doubled in size. With a typhoid epidemic in full bloom, it was inevitable that St. Paul's Cemetery would soon be filled to capacity. Nonetheless, when I arrived at the site I was surprised by what I discovered. The cemetery no longer exists; the site is now under a school playground.

According to the archivist at the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, when the cemetery was closed some stones were transferred to St. Michael's Cemetery. Also, some persons were disinterred and reinterred in St. Michael's Cemetery; however, it is impossible to know exactly how many persons were interred at St. Paul's during those desperate times. According to the archivist, there are no extant records for St. Paul's prior to 1849, but the Ontario Genealogical Society has produced what he described as the "definitive" book on the subject, so I will need to add that to my bookshelf.

There are the requisite plaques and monuments honouring the memory of those Irish interred on these grounds, but in truth I cannot help but feel unsettled by the loss of this sacred space. In my conversation with the archivist he indicated that people are often upset when a lost cemetery is uncovered during the process of construction, and perhaps ancient bones are found; however, this was neither an ancient cemetery, nor a lost one. The 'burying' of this cemetery was a choice. I do not know who made the decision or how they justified it, but they did. The school was erected on the site in 1959. The Great Famine ended around 1852. Apparently 100 years is enough time to forget.

As I stood on the site, a father and his young son played basketball, and I wondered if they had any idea of the place and its history. The world moves on, but I am stuck with the history of the past.

St. Paul's Basilica

Monument to the Irish Emigrants who were interred at St. Paul's Cemetery

Plaque embedded in the wall of St. Paul's Catholic School.   It faces the school yard which was once the cemetery site.

The school yard
*Click on photos to view larger version.
All Photographs ©Copyright J. Geraghty-Gorman 2011.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Gratitude to you

It's been a tough week for me, and thus a quieter week around this blog. I won't bore you with the ugly details, but I just wanted to let you know that gratitude is alive and well here. On that note, I want to say Thank you to dee-burris of Shakin' The Family Tree, Margel of 2338 W. Washington Blvd, and Shelley of A Sense of Family for sending the Lovely Blog Award my way. Also Thank You to Yvonne of the Mashburn Collection for recognizing 'Over Thy Dead Body'. It is such a lovely thing to be recognized in this way and I appreciate it so very much. If you're not already reading these wonderful blogs, stop by and enjoy a visit with them.

Happy Researching Everyone!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


In whatever you do, or wherever you travel today, may you have a wonderful and happy day!

Last week I invited you to celebrate along with me today, and in honour of this day I have posted three of my own posts in celebration of Ireland, and on my blog 'Over thy dead body' there's a St. Patrick monument to have a look at, so I hope you'll have a peek. I'm raising my morning tea in a toast to the following bloggers who are joining in the celebration:

Aillin of Australian Genealogy Journeys. Aillin's ancestry is more than 60% Irish and she has posted a lovely tribute to her Irish Ancestors, including a word cloud showing where in Ireland they lived, and an awesome YouTube Video featuring a huge flash mob of Irish Dancers at Sydney's Central Station. I Love It! I hope you'll stop by and wish Aillin a Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Happy Birthday Wishes and Happy St. Patrick's Day to Colleen at Leaves & Branches. Colleen loves St. Patrick's Day, and her Irish heritage, and "has the freckles to prove it". Please stop by and wish Colleen a Happy Day in all ways for her birthday and St. Paddy's Day.

Mary at Mary's Musings is out of town all week, and said she probably won't have computer access, but wanted to join in the fun. Now that's dedication. I hope you'll stop by her blog and wish her a Happy St. Patrick's day.

Carol at Reflections from The Fence sends out Happy St. Patrick's Day wishes. I hope you'll stop by her blog and give her good wishes in return.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day Karen at Genealogy Frame of Mind is sharing "a bit on my early "Irish" ancestors - the Regan's of Surry County, Virginia". Stop by Karen's blog and wish her and the Regans a Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Heather Rojo of Nutfield Genealogy stopped by to say: "In Londonderry/Derry, Northern Ireland there will be a parade at 2:30 with the theme "World Myths". Here in their sister city of little Londonderry, NH, our high school marching band will be honored in the New York City St. Patrick's parade (not such a little band- over 400 members fresh back from the 2011 Pasadena Rose Bowl and the 2010 Chinese Olympics!)." New York City is celebrating the 250th anniversary of St. Patrick's Day parades; what a great time for them to participate. Pop by and wish Heather a Happy St. Patrick's Day.

If you want to find out more about the New York parade, and watch live streaming video, visit their website New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade .

Happy St. Patrick's Day one and all!

I'll conclude this post with an old Irish Blessing:

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!
Thanks to the Graphics Fairy for the beautiful image.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

This is how some in Ireland will be celebrating St. Patrick's Day

ST. PATRICK'S WEEK EVENTS around Ireland  

Nearly every town, village, and city in Ireland will stage a parade this week, but there is more than that happening. Here is a selection of some of the music, festivals, and entertainment going on around the country.


Dog Show

Trinity Hall, in Letterkenny will host a dog show on St Patrick’s Day, beginning at 11am. Visitors are asked to dress up pets in green, and there will be a prize for the best dressed. Entry costs €5 per class, with all funds going to Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. Spectators free.


Shamrocks for schools

Throughout St Patrick’s Day, volunteers will take to the capital’s streets painting shamrocks on the faces of visitors in return for donations. All funds raised will go towards projects in Ireland and overseas.


Patrick – The story

The premiere of a new multi-media retelling of the classic Patrick tale will take place at the CIT School of Music on Friday and Saturday. The production combines the talents of Oscar-nominated animator Nicky Phelan with renowned soprano Cara O’Sullivan, students’ collective The Artists Factory and a 90-strong orchestra.


The country's largest parade

With more than 4,500 participants, Limerick plans to host the country’s largest St Patrick’s Day parade, from 12pm to 2pm. Making the most of Limerick’s year as European City of Sport this year, legends such as John Hayes (above) and Eoin Hand leading the proceedings. See limerick.ie/stpatricksfestival

Band Competition

There’s an international band competition featuring nearly 1,000 musicians on Sunday on O’Connell Street. The event starts at noonand entry is free. Afterwards, a free concert takes place in Arthur’s Quay Park, and there’s a family fun day in the Milk Market from 11am to 4pm. See limerick.ie


Sessions on the Shannon

A free festival of traditional music runs from Thursday to Sunday at 12 different bars and hotels around Carrick-on-Shannon. The programme includes afternoon and evening sessions featuring some 40 musicians from all over the country. The Landmark Hotel is offering special overnight rates as part of the event.


St Patrick Tour

Running from Wednesday to Saturday, well-known tour guide Pat Liddy takes in many of Dublin’s ancient religious sites, from Christ Church to St Patrick’s Cathedral. Along the way he will tell the life story of St Patrick.



This year, Wexford hosts the National Lottery Skyfest on Saturday. The display of fireworks begins at 7.30pm, including a pyrotechnic waterfall that will create a 300-metre wide curtain of cascading silver fire. The theme for this year’s event is “Making Magic Happen” and firework specialists Pains Fireworks will be using 1.6 tonnes of fireworks. See stpatricksfestival.ie


Salsa festival

The 2nd International St Patrick’s Salsa Festival runs from Friday to Sunday at the Radisson Blu Hotel. It features a variety of events from full-day workshops to late-night dancing. Admission varies, three-day passes are available. See stpatricksalsafestival.com



On Wednesday night at the Dunamaise Arts Centre in Portlaoise, members of the Triogue Ceilí Band and caller Maureen Culleton will host a night of Irish music and dancing beginning at 8pm.


Spring has sprung

An event “The coming of Spring” will bring together performers and video artists on the old city walls by Galway Museum. The event features life size projections and live music – entry is free and the performance runs every 15 minutes between 8pm and 9pm. See stpatricksgalway.com


Harbour Walk

On St Patrick’s Day, a 16km walk in aid of Aware takes place between Howth and Dún Laoghaire Harbour. Beginning at 10.30am, refreshments are available and entry costs €10. For more details see aware.ie

Pub Tour

Taking in some of the city’s best-known pubs, starting at the Porterhouse Central at 8pm on St Patrick’s Day. Cost €12, participants must be over 18 years of age. A good chance for visitors to get to know the city’s nightlife. See thedublincitypubcrawl.com


Free Music

Free music concerts will take place on the main stage on Patrick’s Street, from 1.30pm on Saturday. Music sensation Jamie Lawson will be joined by Cork five-piece Fred, as well as DJ Donal Dineen, Rónán Ó Snodaigh from Kila, Niwel Tsumbu, and many more. There will also be a food market and circus acts on hand to entertain children. See corkstpatrickfestival.ie


World record attempt

Organisers of the Kilrush St Patrick’s Day event are hoping to break the record for the largest gathering of St Patricks in one place on St Patrick’s Day. The record attempt will be followed by a 5km fun race and live music, vintage parades and entertainment throughout the day. The event begins at noon. Entry to the race is €20, which includes a free St Patrick costume.


Terminal Convention

Running from St Patrick’s Day until March 27, this ambitious art event at the old decommissioned airport terminal at Cork Airport features artists, art fairs, seminars and live music. Tickets from €7. See terminalconvention.com.


Street Theatre

On St Patrick’s Day, Red Kettle Theatre Company has a number of street performances of a pirate-themed show, based on the arrival of the Tall Ships in May. The event takes place at the Millennium Plaza before and after the main parade, entry is free.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Madness Monday: Misinformation Makes Me Crazy!!! Part Two

Misinformation makes me absolutely, positively, stark-raving, barking mad! Did I use enough adjectives there? Please bear with me. I am not often given over to rages and rants, and I titled this post Part Two because you've seen the first sentences of it on a previous occasion, the last time I let my anger get the better of me back in July.

Recently I have come across sites presenting completely inaccurate information about Irish history as it pertains to family history research. With respect to Irish history, I have two specific instances in mind, the Irish Civil War and the history of the quarantine station at the Port of Québec Canada, known as Grosse-Île. As genealogists/family history researchers we pride ourselves on documenting events such as births, deaths, marriages, military duty, emigration, and the list goes on ad infinitum. Many have written about the need to use reliable sources; however, it seems that in some cases when it comes to reporting the history of a given time or place which played an integral role in the history of our families, then accuracy goes right out the window.

In my opinion if we have any respect for the memory of our ancestors then, if we choose to write about the history of the times in which they lived, we will endeavour to accurately report that history. Such reporting will require additional research using reliable sources. You may even have to, dare I say it, READ A BOOK, or two. If you are using online resources to document a history, you will have to cross check the veracity of the claims made on a given site. You will have to look at more than one resource.

Just because Irish history is very important to me does not mean that Irish history is important to everyone, and I do not expect that others will invest years of their lives doing history research; however, family history and the history of a nation are intimately connected. You cannot accurately report the one without at least attempting to accurately report the other.

Tomorrow on Tuesday's Tips I will briefly outline the history of Grosse-Île and suggest sites for research.

Okay, now I feel a little bit better. Thank You for reading/listening.

Copyright© J.Geraghty-Gorman 2011.
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