Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Another Grand Visit with My Cousin

Who is this woman?
I have been on the road for the last three weekends and since school has now started, I can no longer indulge in endless hours searching through census records, sending to counties for copies of vital records, or writing this blog.  Please notice that I did not include time spent organizing my records - despite my best intentions at the beginning of the summer, I accomplished precious little.  Somehow, I always heard the siren's call of research. The lure  of finding that elusive marriage certificate or unraveling a family mystery could always pull me away from the tedium of organization.  As Scarlett O'Hara would say, maybe another day. . . . .

My day now begins at 5:15 a.m. with the whoosh and bubble of a watery stream coaxing me into consciousness.  I have one of those nature sounds alarm clocks that gently wakes you up.  After trying the sounds of loons, birds tweeting, fog horns and other assorted sounds, I settled on the gentle stream flowing over rocks. I could never go back to the jarring sound of a standard alarm.

If you recall in my last blog post, I had invited myself for another visit with my double cousin. Of course we  had such a good time, I couldn't wait very long and so only two weeks later, I again followed my GPS  to her home.  Since my last visit, she had purchased and installed a wireless printer/scanner.  I am totally in love with this printer and have already added it to my lengthy Christmas list.

We organized her boxes of photos and piled hundred and thirty year old county history books next to our seats on the sofa.  I connected to her wireless network with a bit of trouble that we finally diagnosed as operator error, and we filled our glasses with drinks and fresh ice.  We briefly discussed eating, but both agreed that we wanted to start going through our information.  Ahhhhhh. . . . . .like minds.

   We first looked at and discussed the emails, she had received from a distant cousin in California.  This cousin first found me through Ancestry despite the fact that I have a private tree. (Why I have a private tree will be the subject of a future post).  The McDonnell brothers, Michael, Owen, John, and Bartholomew immigrated from County Cork Ireland to the Clinton county Iowa area in the mid 1800's.  Our ancestor is Owen and our California cousin's is Michael.  As the emails and attached photos came up, my brain screamed. . . . . HEY, wait a minute!!  I don't have all those photos.  So, as we sat inches apart on the loveseat, my double cousin, Mary, forwarded the email from our California cousin, Karen, to me.  Feeling very smug with our techno savvy, I reminded her to save the photo attachments to her genealogy folder on her computer.  Since she had not done this before, I offered to show her - no problem.  A half hour later, we were still working on it.  Her email  program was different from mine, and search as I might I could not find the "save attachment:" choice. We finally found a way, but it had about ten steps when it should have been one.  I went back to my email to show her how I did it.when . . . .What happened, the emails were gone?  We tried it again, and again they disappeared when I went back.  It was only later, when I returned home that I figured out what happened.  As I suspected, it was operator error again - meaning me!   Pride goeth before a fall.

  We sat glued to our seats, sifting through files, and boxes and going online to search as questions
popped into our minds.  We answered some questions, but also created more.  Four hours later, we mentioned food again.  I boldly said that I would go out and get something for us.  We agreed on Subway, and Mary gave me directions to the closest one.  Unfortunately, I didn't listen.  I think I have spent too many days in the company of thirteen year olds.  Their habits have rubbed off on me.  In my mind, I knew that my handy dandy infallible GPS would find the closest subway and direct me turn by turn to the location.  I left her house and returned an hour later in frustration and humility.  First, I turned the wrong direction, RECALCULATING, RECALCULATING, then there was no Subway where it said there was.  I went by twice to be sure.  I reprogrammed the GPS for the next closest Subway.  Like a lemming I followed it as it led me into the heart of the town.  Yes, there was a Subway, but nowhere to park.  Forget this, I headed for a Burger King that I knew how to get to without a GPS.  Frustrated and angry, I pulled into the Burger King and decided to check my purse for cash. . . . . . . I had left it at Mary's house.  With my tail between my legs, I returned to her house, and had to admit that I hadn't really listened when she gave me the directions.  Would she mind telling me again.  Fifteen minutes later I returned with lunch.

Back side of the photo
  Now it was back to the fun, and so we continued until 11:30 AGAIN.  One of my wishes has been to find a photo of my g-g-grandmother, Elanor Gilshannon Allen.  I have several photos of her husband, James Bush Allen, but none of her.  Mary knew of my yearning to find her image.  As she handed me a photo, she said, "I think you're going to like this one"    I had a photo with an unidentified older lady for some time.  I knew she had been cut apart from a larger photo because you could see the hand of a man in the side of her picture.  Now, I had the rest of the photo and the back was labeled with the names of my g-g-grandparents and two of their daughters. Now that I look closely, she has that Irish upturned nose I see every time I look in the mirror.

  I am so happy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday

This is Anna McDonnell, known to every family member as "Auntie"  She never married and lived with her sister, my gr. grandmother, Mary McDonnell Kennelly, her entire adult life.  She worked as a stenographer for DJ Heagany Mfg. according to the 1923 city directory and 1930 census.  She helped raise her sister's children and  then her niece who said she never really appreciated Auntie untill she was a mother herself.  Auntie was a legend in the family.  I remember my mother cleaning for a week when Auntie came for a visit.  Auntie was not shy about giving her opinion.

 She is buried at Queen of Heaven cemetery in Chicago, but, sadly, she has no one from the family buried near her.  It wasn't supposed to be that way, but it happened. 

Born 17 Feb 1879
Died 12 June 1961

Monday, August 16, 2010

Follow the GPS

Leaving the Chicago area, I set the GPS for my next destination - the home of my double second cousin once removed!  She is also the first relative that my brother and I met through  our genealogy research and then visited. I refer you to my post about my first family research trip.  While the first trip was short and definitely all about our shared family history, this trip felt more like a family visit in which we happened to discuss our common family lineage.  She generously invited me to spend the night, and I stopped at a Whole Foods on the way to pick up a salad for our lunch.  We certainly didn't want to spend our precious time with the mundane chores of life like making and cleaning up meals.

Now, to explain how we are double cousins once removed. My grandmother's aunt married my grandfather's uncle so I am related to both her grandparents.  Because we do not have an equal number of descended generations and are off one, we are once removed!  However, I claim that the double connection must make us "closer" relatives!

Left page in the Clinton County Marriage Record -Edward Moldt
Right page in the Clinton County Marriage Record - Mae Allen
We quickly ate lunch, said goodbye to her company and plopped ourselves next to each other on her sofa with our laptops open on our laps.  I showed her the Clinton County Marriage Register files that I had downloaded from a  Family History film I ordered earlier in the summer. While most of the records had all of the information filled, we lamented the blank lines in the records for our ancestors.  Why would they both have so many blanks?  Then Mary noticed a pattern. All of the marriages performed by Father Murray at St. Patrick's had the bare minimum of information. That was the explanation . . .It was the priest's fault!  I am hoping that the church will have the records/information that they did not give to the county.  Mae Allen, above record, is my gr. grandmother.  Bernette Allen, in the record below, is my gr. grandmother's sister.
Left page in the Clinton County Marriage Record - Owen J. McDonnell
Right page in the Clinton County Marriage Record - Bernette Allen

Possible young Owen William
Owen William McDonnell
Then as we were going through my computer files, we stopped at a scan of notes made by another relative.  It was a list of names and relationships for Bridget O'Callahan McDonnell's sisters and brothers. Now, Bridget was my g-gr.grandmother and Mary's gr.grandmother.  She immigrated from Cobh, Ireland about 1854 when she was 18 years old as a bond servant.  Mary let out a gasp and said that she had never seen this information before and quickly pulled out a very old photo album. Now our detective work really began. . . .  The photos were identified on the album pages, but the photos had all been removed from their slots.  We carefully listed all of the names, and hoped that we would be able to match them up. Included were four tintypes, and, at first, I thought those were from an earlier time period, but when I did a little research on the internet after returning home, I learned that they existed during the same time period as the parlor cards.  HELP! I need Maureen Taylor, the Photo Detective, to sort this out.  There were a few photos with some information, name, or relationship.  Not a one had a complete name.  We had a photo listing the person as Bridget's sister - which one?  We had two girls named Regan, no first name.  We have Leon McCarthy's father - but how is he related to us?  The one tintype of the very handsome fellow on the right above, we determined had to be Owen William McDonnell, Bridget's husband. Do you think he is a younger version of the known photo of Owen on the left above?  Our excitement began to give way to frustration, but we wouldn't give up. We sorted, resorted, speculated, and compared the photos the rest of the day. I loved that Mary was as enthusiastic as I was.  We are kindred spirits.

An interesting  possible connection that, do to my current political beliefs,  I hesitate to mention is the Regan girls.  It seems that quite a few years ago, Ronald Reagan's mother came to the Clinton area to try and find a Reagan connection that she had followed there. She even had a yellowed copy of  a newspaper article covering the story.  According to Mary, Mrs. Reagan thought the connection was with  Owen William McDonnell's family.  BUT, using the scanned notes of Bridget's sisters and brothers with the two photos labeled Reagan, the connection might be through Bridget O'Callahan's sister, Mary who married a Michael Reagan.  Do you think these girls look like our former president?  The back of the photos identify the photography studio as Kelly's in Cinncinnati for the young lady on the right and Brownell's (formerly Kelly's) for the one on the left.

We had a fast food dinner with the paper wrappers for a plate and easy clean up.  The ice in our glasses of pop melted before we finished it as we  went through albums, scanned photos and documents, and continually tried to compare the unknown photos with ones that were labeled.  We discussed, analyzed, sorted and stacked.  It was soooooo much fun!  As I noticed that my derriere was feeling numb, and I was beginning to yawn, I asked what time it was.  The answer: 11:30!  Oh my gosh, that was 12:30 my time.  We couldn't believe it.  We needed to go to bed . . . . but let's look at just one more box.

The next day, we took up where we left off.  It was so much fun listening to the stories from our family.  A great aunt stopped by for a visit, and I had the chance to ask a few questions of my own.  She reminisced about playing with my mother when they were both young.  It is so nice to get a different perspective on a person, but her memory of  my mother was that she always wanted her own way, and in that respect, she didn't change much as she grew up.

What a delightful time we had.  There was still so much to talk about, that I boldly invited myself to come back in a few weeks.  Guess what?  She agreed.  Now I need to do a little research in the meantime to see if we can solve a mystery or two.

Note to Mary:  You'll notice that I didn't mention the whole scanner fiasco.
Note to everyone else:  You don't want to know!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Photos and Stories and Family. . . Oh, My!

I have not posted for over a week, but that is because I have been gone on a double family history trip and have been feeling "trip-lagged" for the two days since my return.  It didn't start out to be a double trip, it just ended up that way.
First, I am not the computer whiz that other bloggers are.  I read about their adventures posted in a timely way as they drive from one place to another or cheerily written at the end of the day.  Me?  My eyes go back and forth between the traffic and the GPS in my front windshield and, at the end of the day my feet go up, my pajamas go on and, if I have an ounce of energy left, I check my email.

You may remember my previous blog post about my "personal challenge" which was the result of the  52 Weeks to Better Genealogy - Challenge 23 - Create Your Own Challenge 
Well, true to my word, I contacted my cousin after my return from Ireland. At first, we thought about meeting at a restaurant for lunch, but the thought of parking in Chicago gives me hives. How about a nice casual place, that won't hurry us, I suggested.  She instantly offered her home and, of course, I should stay for the weekend.  She would contact her sister and see if she could come also.  Did I mention that I have two first cousins close to my age that I have no memory of ( I realize that is grammatically incorrect)?  It sounded lovely, and so I accepted even while my stomach churned and the little voice in my head said, "Are you really sure about this?"  In the days following, we talked about our family and ourselves through emails.  One day, we must have exchanged 50 emails, sometimes crossing paths as we responded to each other, and she shared family information.  My anticipation was growing, but, still, as the weekend got closer, I worried.  What if we don't get along?  What if it's awkward? What if they're perfect when I'm not?  What if. .  . .what if. . . . . what if?  What if I'm miserable? So I planned excuses that I could use if necessary.

As I left my house on Sat. Aug 7, I downloaded the map directions that she sent, programmed the GPS I received last Christmas with her address and packed a suitcase just in case I stayed.  My daughter, getting mixed signals from me, asked me when I was coming home.  I explained that I wasn't sure. She thought I was being foolish, but, as I know all too well, you can't always control your emotions whether they are foolish or not.

The drive was easy, and I was only slightly off schedule due to a couple of last minute errands I had to do on my way out of town.  I sailed down the toll road, up and over the Skyway, and then hit gridlock!  My GPS decided that I needed to take the next exit.  This was in conflict with the written directions, but since I was going no where, I took the advice of the nice gentleman in my GPS.  While the roads were busy, I was continually moving. I drove through Chinatown, down Halstead through a very artsy area with lots of galleries, and past the university.  It really was very interesting, and soon I was directed to drive back onto the I-94 that I had left earlier, but beyond the gridlock.  At this point I was very late, but as I was going through town, my cousin called to see if everything was okay and to tell me that her sister was going to be able to make it after all.  Now my decision was made, I was definitely staying.  After all, she was making a four hour trip to be there.  I realized what a wonderful opportunity this was for me.

Carroll Walker -1907 football uniform 
My cousin had lunch ready for my late arrival, and we started chatting immediately.  Soon cousin #2, Trudi, arrived.  Both had memories of my family, but I had none.  I heard about the wonderful doll clothes my mother made for their dolls when they were little.  My mother loved to sew, but sadly all of my doll clothes stayed in Kansas when my parents divorced.  I asked many, many questions, and my family started to take shape. It was the generation of their mother and my father that was a blank for me. What could they tell me about my grandparents, Carroll and Gertrude Walker?  I had some early family information that was new to them so they read the lengthy obituaries of our staunch abolitionist ancestors.  The time passed so quickly and the table was spread with piles of papers - my papers because I have a very loose grasp of organization.  Sarah, on the other hand, had made packets of her information clipped together with our names on sticky notes.  Why didn't I get the organization gene?

Now, I have to tell you that my cousin is amazing.  She makes entertaining look effortless, when I know it is not.  We had fresh flowers in our rooms and on the table (see above).  We had the best marinated steak I've ever had, fresh corn and salad on the patio with a candle lit table.  And I was treated to a favorite family recipe - Aunt Martha's cake.  Yumm!  Beyond all of this, my cousins are warm, outgoing, friendly, honest, and welcoming.  When Sarah learned that I was traveling only two hours away a day later, she insisted that I stay a second night.  So, although I originally wasn't sure I would spend even one night, I ended up spending two.   I felt like family, not to be confused with just being related.

The next day, she pulled up boxes from the basement full of family mementos packed in cardboard boxes when her mother passed away.  My aunt Annette was the rock of the family.  Her brothers went to college and some to law school, but despite the fact that she was beautiful and smart, she was just a girl and so did not.  As her brothers became alcoholics, she tried to keep in touch with them, but not always successfully, as the returned letters and cards in the boxes attested, but she kept trying.  She was listed as the contact for my father in his social security record.  The brothers knew they could count on her.  I will always be so grateful for the fact that she went to the effort to find and contact me when my father died. I wish I had known her better.

One gem we found was a photo of David Barrett Walker, civil war soldier and our gr. grandfather. Otherwise, while Trudi and Sarah found art projects and school assignments that had been saved by their mother from their childhood, she had nothing from her own early family life.  Sadly for me, there were no photos of my father with his family.  Together we tried to sort out the timetable of where the family lived after they left Kansas.  While their mother attended school in St. Louis, we determined that my father must have graduated from high school in Washington D.C., but where he went to college is completely up for grabs.  I know he passed the bar exam in St. Louis.  Another lead to follow on another day.

I left early the next morning.  While, I was full of apprehension about this trip, I am so glad that I went. We may not be able to control our emotions, but we don't have to give in to them.  I know that this won't be the last time we see each other. Now that I have them hooked on finding out more about our family's history, and I have their email addresses and phone numbers.  We are even planning for a future trip to Kansas and hope our cousin Steve will join us.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Total Stranger Tombstone Tuesday

Lemuel Roseberry
Well, since I have an abundance of tombstone photos, I thought they would be perfect for a Tombstone Tuesday.  No, I am not related to these people at all!

Isaiah Roseberry - born Columbia Co Penn Aug 5 1809
Confession time: I take photos of headstones.  Doesn't every genealogist you respond?  I take photos of my ancestors of course, but strangely I also photograph the headstones of complete strangers.  I don't always know what draws me to a particular headstone.  It might be the amount of information listed on it like this one in the South Bend City Cemetery.  It was located near the grave of my husband's gr. grandparents and as we walked back to our car, we discussed some of the headstones we passed, but at this one I stopped and walked all the way around - four or more times.  It was full of information on all four sides.  I was going on and on about all of the information, to which my daughter replied, "So. . . . let's go.  As a genealogist, I was jealous that I had never stumbled on one like this for anyone in my family.  I just had to take photos  because I was sure that someone was searching for this information.  When I arrived home, I posted a message Ancestry.com and waited.  Nothing.  Finally 6 months later (and I was lucky that it wasn't years), I had request, so now I feel vindicated and they are reunited with a family member, but I have saved them just in case anyone else might need them.

Other times, I am fascinated by a story they tell like the Celtic cross of a Blasket Island fisherman, or drowned at Kinsale, or in a particular battle on a foreign shore.

Maybe, it is an unusual marker, the historic location, or the age that fascinates me.  It has made me think about what I want for myself.  As of now, I think I want a bench with a bronze ball of yarn, knitting needles, and a basket of quilt pieces on one end. Maybe one of my descendants will come and sit with me and bring their own hobby.   I just want to be remembered, and that is what I am doing as I wander around cemeteries reading and taking photos.