Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New Pages: Films and Latin Translations

As Autumn approaches, and the new school year gets underway, I will be adding a series of extra pages to this blog which will hopefully provide you with additional help with respect to your Irish family history research. Since there is no time like the present, to begin with today, I am adding a couple of pages which have been in abeyance for a while.

Inspired by Dick Eastman's mention of the film 'Death or Canada', I have decided now is the time to add the films page to this blog. On the page I have included links to films which detail various aspects of Irish history, as well as others which are simply to enjoy.

Also, I have added a page of translations for some of the Latin terms you might come across while doing your family history research.

I hope you enjoy the pages and find them useful.


Friday, August 24, 2012

'Our House': Saying goodbye to my childhood home

The key in the upper lock of the door stuck slightly, as it always did, before it made the clicking sound to indicate it was locked. Yesterday, I locked the door of my childhood home for the very last time. My brother and I have gathered possessions, some of the items most cherished by our parents, old photographs and the like, to remind us of what it meant to live there, to live a life as a family with our mother and our father. Childhood games were long ago set aside as each one of us moved into adulthood and away from our parents, as all children do, in order to strike out on our own, to build our own lives. When I moved away as a young adult, somehow I imagined the door with the sticky lock would always have a place in my life. The house in which I grew up would always be there waiting for me to return to it.

I know every inch of that house. I remember as a child excitedly running across the bare hardwood floors to strip the 'SOLD' sign out of the living room window, so that I could save it for all time. At first that large window was spanned by heavy brocade drapes, and the room was dressed with dark wood furniture and accented with honeyed gold paint. With changing times and tastes, the colours softened, and those drapes were replaced with an elegant symmetry of cream colour draped across that window.

With each drop of paint, every change in decor, almost every piece of furniture and light fixture, there are memories. In the dining room, each spring Mom would climb a small ladder to take down every droplet of the crystal chandelier hanging over the table, so that each piece could be cleaned. The chandelier beautifully sparkled in the early evening light after she had finished. I did not always help her to clean it, but when I did, the task was usually lightened by laughter. Sometimes we'd pretend the crystal pieces were earrings, and we'd dance around with them held up to our ears. It was a simple and very silly time, but unforgettable.

On the last day in my childhood home there were so many memories rushing through my mind, there was a crush as I tried to single them out. Standing in the kitchen, I could almost hear the sizzle and breathe in the flavour of bacon and eggs, sausages and blood pudding, as I remembered my father at the stove cooking breakfast on a Sunday morning. Sunday morning breakfast was the only meal he would occasionally cook, and when he did, it was always so delicious. Standing in the living room I remembered celebration, images and sounds of times when we welcomed family from Ireland. I can still hear the peals of laughter, the singing, the distinctive thump of the bone hitting the bodhrán drum, and Uncle Séamus wildly playing his accordion.

Packing away my mother's large mixing spoons evoked a memory of the gorgeous fragrance of her Irish Christmas puddings, with sultana raisins, currants, candied peel, walnuts and almonds. Mom never had to measure out a single ingredient, or consult a recipe; the talent for making it was in her bones. Mom would let each one of us take a turn when it was time to mix in the porter beer, stirring the massive mixture around a large metal bowl. 'Three times around', she would say, 'Make sure it's a full three turns, and be certain to make your wish'. Oh, when I think of some of the wishes made over those puddings. If only I could make a wish now.

Standing in my childhood bedroom for the very last time, I gazed out the window over the yard, and remembered. In the mists of memory I see my father and our neighbours building the fences, and laying the sod. On the light breeze of this last afternoon the sweet scent of Mom's rose bushes wafts its way in through the open window. Peonies, Lavender, and Black-eyed Susans run slightly wild along the sides of the yard next to overgrown privet hedge. At the far end of the garden stand the hostas, still dressed in the light tears of a morning rain. Mom planted them in that first spring after Dad died. I stand there at the window wondering if the garden knows she is gone. Do the flowers miss the deft touch of her hand, trimming everything, keeping it all well ordered?

Turning away from the window I recall the day my teenaged self announced to my mother that I had decided to paint over the soft pink walls of my little girl room. The colour I had chosen was purple. Mom wasn't at all happy about my choice, but she helped me choose the right shade of purple, and helped me paint the room. As soon as I moved out, Mom re-painted the room pink.

Walking from empty room to empty room to ensure everything is clean and well polished for the next owners, the house seems much smaller now. It was the lives within our home that made it big, but now those lives are gone.

I knew joy in that house, and laughter, but also anger, and incredible sadness too. It was the site of many beginnings and far too many endings. I loved that house, and at times I hated it too. I knew freedom, learning, and happiness there, but also stringent limits and boundaries that I sometimes reeled against. It meant all things to me, but more than anything it was my family home, the home in which I believed I would always find my parents, a place of roots, of our foundation and our connection.

With the last click of that lock the connection is now severed; for us the place is gone.

It is only a house now, no longer a home.


Friday, August 17, 2012

I'm off to Ireland soon. Can I get you anything?

In September I will be going overseas; can I get anything for you? My main base of operations will be Dublin, Ireland, although I will also be working on my history research at the National Archives in Kew, London. In past years I have made this offer and had an overwhelming number of people take me up on it. So, this time, in order to limit the numbers, I've decided to add a few rules.

1. You must be a registered follower of this blog for at least the two weeks prior to today's offer.

2. Your request must be as detailed as possible, and include name, relevant dates, townland, county, and so on. No extra detail is too much.

Copy of death registration entry for Nicholas Fitzpatrick
3. If you would like a copy of a civil registration entry for a birth, death, or marriage, such as the one pictured above, then I must have the full name of the individual(s), the type of event, and the date of the event. Also, any other details such as parents' names, address, etc. will make it more likely that I will find exactly the document you need.

I will absorb the 20€ (Euro) fee for using the research room, but I will need to be reimbursed the 4€ ($5 USD) fee which the GRO will charge me for each photocopy I retrieve and mail to you. If there are any changes to their policy in this regard, I will let you know.

For civil registrations, on this trip I will only be visiting the General Register Office in Dublin, so any documents will have to be for events which took place in the Republic of Ireland from 1864 (non-Roman Catholic marriages from 1845), and for Northern Ireland from 1864 to 31 December 1921. See the GRO site for further information about what is available.

If your ancestor's civil registration details are on Ancestry or the LDS site Familysearch.org, then sending me the volume number and page number of the entry for your ancestor will ensure you end up with the document you request.

You will notice the details below, which are from the LDS site, correspond to the Death Registration document pictured above:

4. If you would like a photograph of the grave of an ancestor interred in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, then I will need the full name of the interred and the location of the grave including the cemetery section and, most importantly, the grave number. Assuming I am able to find it, I will send you an email with a digital photograph of the grave. Some of your family members may be interred in graves without headstones, so there may be no stone to photograph, only green space.

5. If you are seeking a record which might be found in the Roman Catholic Parish Registers on microfilm at the National Library of Ireland, then take a look at the listings here on the NLI website in order to identify the film number on which your ancestor's record might be found. I will need the film numbers, and again, I will need all relevant information such as names, dates, and locations to make it more likely that I will find the record you want.

6. Any requests must be submitted no later than 31 August 2012.

7. You must understand that this offer is not a guarantee that I will find the information for which you are searching, but I will certainly do my best to get it for you. I reserve the right to refuse any request.

If you have any questions about the details, and/or you wish to take me up on this offer then, email me at

irisheyesjennifer at gmail dot com

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday: Dance cards and a special photograph

For me this photograph is truly a treasure, a simple black and white image as valuable to me as a nugget of gold. When I learned that the trove of photographs my mother saved over the course of her life would come into my custody, this photograph was among those I knew I would be most happy to have; however, when I looked through my Mom's collection, this picture was nowhere to be seen. It was not among all of the photographs my mother kept in various albums and boxes.  I felt very sad when I could not find it, wondered what had happened to it, and mourned its loss. Then, last weekend when we were at my parents' home, continuing to clear it out, my brother came across a manilla envelope inside one of the drawers in our father's highboy dresser. Lo and behold, within that envelope was this photograph. I was absolutely thrilled to see it.

I remember looking at this photograph when I was a child, looking at it and loving it. It was one of several shots taken at 'dress dances', as they were called. A dress dance meant black tie and a ball gown, a late-night supper, and dancing to an orchestra. My parents, Mary Ball and Michael Geraghty, usually attended with a large group of friends, as well as some family members. Everyone always looks so happy in the pictures.

As a child I used to love the elegant look of it all, and day-dreamed about one day wearing a beautiful evening gown and dancing in the same ballrooms where my parents once danced. Of course, dress dances and ballroom dancing went out of vogue long ago, so my dream did not come true, but still I love to gaze at the photographs and imagine what it was like on those evenings, in the years before my mother and my father were married.

I can identify several of the people in the photograph, but for most their names are lost to me now. My father is second from the left in the row of men standing behind the ladies. Next to him, and third from the left is his uncle, my grand-uncle William Halpin. My mother is seated second from the left in between my father's aunt, my grand-aunt Mollie Magee Halpin and May Halpin Daly Barnwell. It's funny to see Mollie Magee Halpin happily seated next to my mom Mary, since Mollie strongly encouraged her nephew Michael Geraghty to court Mary Ball's sister instead of Mary. Thankfully, my dad only had eyes for my mom.

In addition to this photograph and others like it, among my mother's effects I found four dance cards which I do not recall ever before seeing. Each one gives the details of the dance, the menu for the supper, and the programme of music to be played. The largest of these small 'programmes' is three inches wide and five inches long; the smallest is only two by three inches. On a couple of them, in a youthful version of my mother's handwriting, is a listing of some the people with whom she attended.

Reading these little cards, and gazing at the photographs, I can imagine many happy evenings with my parents, Mary and Mike, dancing together, lingering over a late supper, and dreaming about their future.

Inside the card for the dance at the Gresham Hotel Ballroom, January 1950.

Click on images to view larger version.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday's Tips: 'Granny was in the IRA': Turning a story into a history.

With the recent relaunch of the Bureau of Military History website, I thought it was time to once again post this Tuesday's Tips, with some new edits.

If you have family members who fought in the Irish War of Independence and/or the Irish Civil War, then you will want to visit the Bureau's new website. Online access through the Bureau now includes the opportunity to read and download the over seventeen hundred witness statements made by some of those Irish citizens who fought in the Irish War of Independence and/or the Irish Civil War. The site also includes a search feature so that you may just plug in the name of the individual for whom you are searching and the witness statements in which his/her name is mentioned will be displayed.

As we march toward 2016, and the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, more documents of this nature will be scheduled for release. It will mean unprecedented access to documentary evidence of the history of family members and friends who participated in these landmark events in the history of Ireland. For many it will finally mean having evidence to support a long held family story.

The Irish Oral Tradition is one with a long and important history. As is the case with people from many backgrounds, it is the oral tradition which kept stories alive under the oppressive rule of a brutal colonizer who could destroy records, but could not control the stories alive on the tongues, and in the hearts and minds, of those they dominated. For many of us who have Irish ancestors, it is the oral tradition which has kept our family stories alive, and has inspired us to journey down the road of family history.

Now, as we seek to preserve those stories, we may discover that when the Irish Oral Tradition meets Irish History parts of those stories may not be strictly accurate. Some family historians prefer to accept all the details as fact, and don't view the stories with a skeptical eye, even when things don’t quite add up. To them I must pose the question, “Are we interested in learning the history of our ancestors’ lives, or in simply sharing myths created about them long after they turned to dust?”

Often, I receive emails from people whose ancestors shared the same Irish military history as mine, as well as from people whose stories sound a little sketchy. The sketchy stories usually feature ancestral heroics during the Easter Rising or the Irish War of Independence, with some details which sound implausible, and others which are downright impossible.

The thing is, if your ancestor served in any of the forces which worked to free Ireland from British rule, there may be records available to support the facts of their service. You just have to know where to find them. Even if you discover that your ancestor was not the hero of the hour, that doesn’t mean the history of the day didn’t impact your family in a significant way.

What a 'well read' Cumann na mBan gun-runner girl might have carried.
Finding your ancestor in early 20th century Irish military history

Do you have a direct ancestor who served in the Irish Volunteers during the Easter Rising or the Irish War of Independence, or was a member of the Free State Army during the Irish Civil War, and he/she applied for a pension?

If so, then in addition to accessing the materials on the Bureau of Military History website, you may wish to request a copy of the record of service for your family member. Extant records, which are currently free of charge, are available through the Veteran's Allowance Section of the Irish Department of Defence. This office also accesses information from The Medals Files, and will provide to you the details of any medals awarded to your kin for service from 1916 to 1922.

A few things about this:

1} The Irish War of Independence is also referred to as the 'Anglo-Irish War', 'The Black & Tan War', and even 'The Tan War'. One war, several names. If you’ve heard that Granny was a gun-runner in the Anglo-Irish War, then it means she served during the Irish War of Independence, 1919-1921.

2} If your ancestor was killed in action while serving, a pension record may still exist, as long as his/her next of kin applied for a survivor's pension.

3} You must be able to prove to the Veteran’s Allowance Section that you are next of kin to the person about whom you are requesting information.  You must provide a copy of your birth certificate, and the birth certificates of other persons (father, grandfather, etc.) in the particular family line in order to prove your lineage. (**see note below)

4} Assuming a record exists, it may take up to a year for you to receive it. (Speaking from personal experience.)

5} In your letter of application provide as much information as possible about your ancestor, including such details as their full name, address during the time in question. If you know the details of their battalion, company and rank, be sure to include those as well.

6} Currently, you cannot submit an online request, but must write an actual letter to the office, being sure to include proof of kin documents. Provide all possible means of contact for you, including email, snail mail, and telephone number.

Their full mailing address is:

Veterans Allowance Section
Department of Defence (DOD)
Renmore, Galway

You will also want to visit the website of the National Archives UK. Although many records were destroyed when the British turned over Dublin Castle to the Irish Free State, NA UK holds materials from 1916. It is interesting to note that while the Easter Rising appears in the subject listing, the Irish War of Independence does not appear; however, materials about the the war can be found with a little looking around. Some Dublin Castle records, for example, are in the records of the Colonial Office and the records of the War Office (in the catalogue such records begin with CO and WO, respectively). There is also information about conflict in Ireland in the Cabinet Papers. While many documents can only be viewed in person at the archives, some of these materials can be accessed online, and copies of some materials may also be purchased.

Pension records for many of those who participated in the 1916 Easter Rising are now freely available through the Bureau of Military History Archives website: Military Service Pensions Collections 

Those pension records which are currently available only to next of kin are scheduled for release. The plan is for all pension records to be to public access by 2016, although not everyone who has a say in the matter is onboard with this plan, so whether or not it comes to pass remains to be see. 

Click on images to view larger version.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mike & Mary Ever After: Marking Mom and Dad's Wedding Anniversary

On this day, which would have been the fifty-eighth anniversary of their wedding, I am posting a photograph from my Mom and Dad's wedding day, along with a photo I took of them dancing at my brother's wedding. Today I imagine them waltzing together on a heavenly dance floor, with my sweet Sarah nipping at their heels. They are both very much missed and very dearly loved.

Happy 58th Wedding Anniversary Mom & Dad!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...