Sunday, November 28, 2010

Holiday Fun for Genealogists

Well, I have always known that I would write this blog post.  It has taken all of my willpower to save it for the holiday season where it rightly belongs.

Please note that the photo below is from left to right:  Gloria Kennelly (my mother), Mary McDonnell Kennelly (her grandmother), Berenice Moldt Kennelly (my grandmother).  I am including it because it is a wonderful photo, and I don't have any good Christmas photos of my mother later in her life.  Those that I could find, I can't bring myself to post for she would surely haunt me if I did.

During the holidays it is not unusual for families to laugh, reminisce, and share stories about past family times.  It usually starts "Remember when . . ." and ends with a smile and a warm family feeling in your heart.  Occasionally, accompanied by a smile or chuckle.  At our house, we usually began the litany of memories with "Remember that d*&#  pan of mother's?"  Except for sweets, our mother did not particularly enjoy cooking. While she loved new sheets and towels and had a whole room for her sewing equipment and crap craft supplies,  her pots and pans were gathered together from who knows where and never replaced.  We had knives that were dull, mismatched plates, rubber spatulas with handles that fell out, and cake pans that must have been passed down from gr-grandma.  Then there was THE PAN.  It was cast aluminum with an exterior darkened from centuries years of burnt oil, but the standout feature was the handle.  It had a wood handle with a long screw through the center.  The screw was fastened securely to the pan, but the wood handle had long ago worn larger in the middle.  This meant that the pan would swing and spin as you held the handle.  We begged our mother to throw it out every time we had to use it, and the contents would spill as the pan would sway and swing when we lifted it.  Mother was particularly fond of boiling macaroni  in this pan.  Pouring off the water was an exercise in frustration accompanied by loud swearing.  I told her that if she didn't throw it out, I would put it in the casket with her. . . . . and I tried to.  Little did I know that my brother retrieved it, sandblasted the oil off and wrapped it in Christmas paper for the following holiday.  Years have passed, and I don't remember what was in the pan that first Christmas. Since then it has been a planter, a clock, etc. Each year we pass it back and forth and talk about that D*&# pan and about our mother.

Last year it was my turn.  I never had any really inventive ideas.  Dahl, my brother, was the more creative one.  But last year was different.  He will have a hard time topping this. As I have said in an earlier post, my brother is the original genealogist in the family, but since I have joined him in this wonderful adventure, I have dragged him with me to various cemeteries in Chicago and Iowa.  I teased him about needing a "gravedigger" tee shirt since our adventure at Calvary cemetery pictured at right.  Privately, I had a brainstorm for THE PAN.  I filled it with dirt, covered the top with moss from Hobby Lobby, and painted small wood shapes to resemble tombstones.  A package of dollhouse scale flowerpots completed the look.  I decided to make him a "portable cemetery"!   It would be a representation of our past adventures searching for our ancestors.

And now to share it with you.

Click to enlarge and see detail

I included a tombstone for our g-g grandfather James Bush Allen because I was sure we would find it when we went to the cemetery - we didn't.  So I guess this is the only one he will ever have.  There is also a tombstone for g-g-g grandmother Anna Lyman, mother of James B. Allen who is buried in Canada, g-g-grandparents, Owen &; Bridget McDonnell, and our gr. grandparents Edward P. and Mary Kennelly.  Lastly, I put a headstone for Margel Kennelly and partially covered it with moss since we had dug up the original.  It was beautiful!!

My brother loved it ,and it has decorated the shelf above his computer for the past year.  It will be sad to see it go.  But, I wonder what he has in store for me??

Maybe you have a special object from a loved one who is no longer here.  I challenge you to think about the possibility of starting a similar tradition of your own. What wonderful fun to pass it around the family and laugh about times past and the family who came before us.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursday's Leftovers

Most nights at my house we have leftovers from the evening meal. These leftovers are occasionally packed  for my lunch at school the next day.  It's very handy that my classroom has a refrigerator, six stoves, a dishwasher and at least enough dishes, glasses and mugs for 60 people. When my granddaughter lived with us we never knew how many of her friends would just hang around and stay for dinner.  Her father was working nights and so he would also come home from work and search the refrigerator looking for the dinner leftovers to reheat.  Occasionally, we planned a extra amount with the intent to have it for two nights - like chili.  I can't even imagine trying to make just exactly the right amount. And every now and then, if the stars were in alignment as I was trying to decide what to make for dinner, I would open the refrigerator and notice that we still had leftovers from the previous few nights.  All together this amounted to a considerable pile of food. Hmmmm. . . Well, if I warmed it all up, I would have an easy dinner, I would exercise my frugality gene, and clean the refrigerator all at the same time.

So today's blog post is like my leftovers. A few little bits that I forgot to mention in a previous post, or a thought that  floated through my brain but didn't relate to what I was writing at the time.  I refer you here to my previously admitted disorganized tendencies.  I have started several posts and left them in the title and first sentence stage thinking that I would get back to them, but they are still sitting in my que waiting for my return.  I haven't lost the idea, just the enthusiasm to write about them for the moment.  So today is about tidbits put together to make a proper post.

First, I have to admit that I check my stats.  Silly isn't it?  Did I have two page views or five? Where in the world did they originate?  Really - Latvia and Slovenia??  It blows my mind that anyone finds me. After all, I rather enjoy my anonymity. It's seems easier to write that way, and it certainly means there is no pressure to post on any type of regular schedule.  This brings me to my dilemma.  I like the feeling of my blog the way it is.   It's comfortable and reasonably private.  But . . . I loved when a Guilfoil cousin found me and told me about a whole other connection that was previously unknown.  I would love to hear from someone in my mother's graduating class, but I know that probably won't happen if I stay in my secluded little corner of the internet.  Many of the blogs I've read push increasing your followers, joining social networks, and spreading a wide net to make a lot of connections. I find this uncomfortable.  Facebook gives me the creeps. Yet . . . I get a thrill when someone comments on one of my posts.  I get a kick out of reading my mini-stats.  How can I stay the same yet make some connections?  Where is that blissful middle?  I don't want to ruin what I find so fulfilling.

The Dunbrody Famine Ship I visited in Ireland
 My last blog post was about my search for my, Owen William McDonnell's roots in Ireland.  As I read the post again, I realized that I made it sound like this was just one visit to the Irish History Foundation's website.  Not true, that post was a distillation of a multitude of visits and searches for information in Ireland. The Cork Ireland GenWeb site gives the traditional naming patterns for Irish families and so the possibility of Julia Cunningham as the mother of Owen McDonnell  is one that needs much more research.  I wish I really understood Excel since I think a grid of information my help me sort out the dates, names and parishes.  I was reading the blog On a flesh and bone foundation  and she echoed my thoughts on the Irish History Foundation -  expensive and difficult to narrow down the results. While she gave multiple other ideas for Irish internet research, the links are most helpful for ancestors who are more recent immigrants.  My family all came over during the mid 19th century or earlier with many of them from the Counties Cork and Kerry.  There aren't as many options for this information.  I am listening if you have suggestions, because I keep telling myself that I need to go back to Ireland.

Do you like my new colorful blog?  I love it.  The quilt was made by my gr. grandmother Anna Mae Allen Moldt Shelko.  It was a bit of a wrestle trying to get it on the scanner and trying to scan a place that showed the most pattern.  Then I took it into my photo software and softened the edges.  I could mess with stuff like this forever.  It takes forever because I don't know what I am doing.

Well these aren't many leftovers, but I need to finish this and go to work.  I am a slow blogger, and I "wordsmith" posts to death.  Strange that I still find so many mistakes after I post them.  Originally, this was titled Monday's leftovers, then Tues. and . . . well you get the idea.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

On the Trail of Owen McDonnell . . . a.k.a. Anatomy of a Search

My g-g-grandfather's name was Owen McDonnell, Owen  William McDonnell to be exact.  And that is important because in our family there are plenty of Owen McDonnell's.  He was the father of Mary McDonnell Kennelly ,my gr.grandmother, who lived at 2338 W. Washington Blvd. The photo at left is titled "The Three Owens".  It is Owen William, his son, Owen Jerome, and his grandson, Owen James.

May 16, 1921 - Clinton Advertiser

 According to his obituary he was born in Grenagh, Ireland in 1837 and immigrated when he was 18 years of age.  The problem is that his headstone has 1833 chiseled into it.  Which to believe??  Family lore says that he was born a "stone's throw" from Blarney Castle. Hmmmmmm. . . . . . Grenagh is close but not that close to Blarney Castle.  Census records give a mixture of years for his immigration as census records often do.

When did he immigrate to the U.S.?  The Federal census images below show an immigration year of 1852 in 1910 & 1920, but 1849 in the earlier 1900 census.

1900 Federal Census
1910 Federal Census
1920 Federal Census

My dream is to find a record of Owen William's family in Ireland.  I want to know when he came to the United States and on what ship.  I want to know if he came alone or with his three brothers who also lived in Iowa - John, Michael, and Bartholomew. I want, I want, I want. . . . . . . .I know, I know, family historians are never satisfied.

Recently this digital chase has become an obsession.  Some of my answers and more of my questions have come from my research at the Irish Family History Foundation. They only have an index so the information you can access is minimal and to see the full record costs 5 euros (that is $6.97 including a .23 foreign transaction fee for those readers in the U.S.). This means I REALLY need to narrow down the many pages of result to find MY family. The search options at the Irish Family History Foundation are: county, surname, first name, year (with a range), and if you are looking for births there is a place for mother's name and parish.  All of this sounds wonderful, however most of this is information is what I am hoping to find in the record!!  But, move over Sherlock, I'll give it a go.

The 1860 Federal Census for Elk River, Iowa shows Michael, age 34 (b.1826), his wife Ellen, along with John, age 30 (b. 1826) and Bartholomew, age 26 (b. 1834) residing together.  If I presume (I know that isn't a good thing to do, but I have to start somewhere!) that the birth date for my Owen is 1837, then he would be 23 in 1860.  I have not yet found a census record that I am certain is him.  I will use this birth order as a guide in my record checking.
1860 Federal Census for Elk River, Iowa
At the Irish Family History Foundation website, the first thing I do is login and go to the search box.  I select the Birth and Baptism record, check the box for county Cork and enter the date range typing Owen"s first and last name.  Hmmm. . . four hits - not too bad but still expensive.  Then I try Bartholomew since I am hoping that this is a less common name than Michael or John (Warning! Don't use the Irish Sean as it won't work).  I still put in a date range because it seems that exact dates weren't of great importance to my ancestors.  I used 3 years.  Two hits, but the date is 1831.  I put in the father's name of  John as the family claims it is.  One hit.  This is great.  Now, let's see if we can identify the parish.  Grenagh is listed in Owen's obituary so let's start there. I choose the Advanced option but  no luck.  There are 90+ parishes and so I begin to try and locate the parish that the one Bartholomew is registered in.  An eternity later - it shows up as Mourne Abbey rather than Grenagh.  I wonder how far apart these are?  Is this a "stone's throw" from Blarney Castle?

View Larger Map

When I check on Google Maps it shows the distance from Mourne Abbey (B) and Grenagh (A) as 8 km. which is very doable.  If I search for Owen in Mourne Abbey will I find him also?  I need to confirm that it is my family.  Did you hear me scream??  There is an Owen born in Mourne Abbey with a father named John between  1829-1839.  But I need to confirm the birth date so I keep changing the birth date with no range and discover that this Owen (I am not yet ready to claim him as mine) was born in 1830.  I feel deflated.  This is so far outside my presumed range that it cannot be correct.  I decide to take a chance that the birth record for Bartholomew will help, so I buy this one record.  

So his mother's name was Jula . . . back to the Advanced Search, and I put in Jula for the record for Owen.  Yes!! This is the same family, but is is my family. Both Michael and my Owen William named daughters Julia so this could be confirmation of a family member named Julia - perhaps a mother?   I wish I could see the original records to tell if the dates could be wrong. Now I check to see if this John and Julia had a Michael and John.  Nope!

This is where it gets messy.  What about John and Michael, the two eldest sons? I cannot find records for any parish with a John McDonnell father and a Julia mother for a John and Michael McDonnell. I can find all kinds of variations of this information by mixing and matching, but nothing really lines up.  Did they move?  Family information claims that the father, Sean (John) McDonnell came from County Tipperary.  One interesting bit of information is that in researching the name Julia Cunningham, I found a Julia Cunningham born to a Bartholomew Cunningham . . . . . ahhhhhh!, so plausible, but . . . the search continues.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Belated Follow Friday

I realize it is Saturday not Friday, but when you find a post that puts words and thoughts together in such a way that your breathing speeds up, you shout out loud at the printed words and then you read it two more times just for the emotional rush, you know it must be shared . . . . even though it is just with my seven acknowledged followers and two lurking followers (Dahl, you are in this category).  As genealogists, we try to explain to the Famuggles* (My apologies to Harry Potter. . .  see below for a detailed definition)  just what it is about genealogy that holds us so tightly, but trying to convey the emotional connection has always been elusive. This post  from Clue Wagon's blog titled Consumption is a must read.  She definitely has a way with words.  Enjoy!

*Famuggle: Non family historian/genealogist who can be identified by the rolling eyes and loud sighs as family relationships are attemped to be explained by the more enlightened.  Famuggles often co-exist in family units alongside family genealogists.  Note: My experience with attempts to convert Famuggles has met with limited success.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

1942 High School Memories

Gloria Kennelly
It is the end of the first grading period, and so, as a middle school teacher,  I have been consumed with getting everything graded and entered into the grade reporting program at our school. I've graded tests, folders, and  worked with students after school to complete projects that were unfinished due to absence or . . .uhmm. . .poor use of class time.  As a student, I never fit in with the social butterflies or the bookworms (pre nerd term),but remember great conversations with my teachers. I loved my classes and always asked too many questions. Personally, I have a few great memories but many miserable memories of my time in high school. Most of us fall on one side of the fence or the other.  Few of us are neutral about our high school experience.  I have never attended a reunion and have no desire to in the future.  I am content leaving it in the past.

My mother was a more outgoing personality. Her father managed theaters and in the 40's, Hollywood was everything.

So, at this time, it seems appropriate that I share with you a few photos from my mother's time in school.  Gloria Kennelly attended Resurrection Grade School and  Providence High School for girls in Chicago.  She graduated in 1942. At 5'7" she was one of the tallest girls in her class.  Her best friend was the tallest.  She told of the time they skipped school and went shopping downtown - after all who would find out in a city so large.  Coming home that day they boarded the same bus as her next door neighbor.  There was no place to hide . . she had seen them.  My mother was a wonderful student, as you can tell from her report card, who loved Shakespeare and had big dreams of becoming a journalist.  I think my mother loved her high school experience, but it was 1942 and the world was at war just when she was about to leave the nest.  The future must have seemed so uncertain to her.

I would love to hear from any of the other students who graduated from Providence High School in 1942.  Do you remember my mother?  Do you have any stories to share?  Is there a yearbook with other photos.  Please contact me.

Providence High School - Chicago

Many report cards will be arriving in homes this week or last.  I hope this is a pleasant experience for you and your child.  Remember that it is just a waypoint on their way to becoming an adult. Contrary to what is in the news so much these days, your child's teacher works hard at his/her job.  I arrive at work at 7:30 and rarely leave before 5:00. Those who leave earlier, often take work home with them to squeeze around their own families in the evenings.  It is easy to remember the one teacher who you felt treated your child unfairly and forget the 30 who went above and beyond for your child.
Just know that we really do care about your child's success.