Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Prince Edward Island Repeal List 1843

The Act of Union came into effect on 1 January 1801 and created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Various efforts at repealing the act occurred both within and outside Ireland. Those who were of this mindset became known as repealers and many Repeal Associations were established in the United States and Canada. One such example was in Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada in the 1840s.

In the 1980s, Terrence M. Punch (more about him in a recent blog post) wrote  in The Island Magazine about finding newspaper articles from 1843 that listed the names of Irish repelaers in PEI. Importantly, an Irish place of birth was also provided for many of the men. The newspaper in questions was the Halifax-based Register and the lists of names were published in various editions from October and November of that year.

Punch's first publication[1] provides the names of 149 men and over 100 Irish places of birth. His second[2] lists 253 men with the majority of names also having an Irish birthplace provided. You can access both publications on the website of the University of Prince Edward Island, as they have digitized old editions of The Island Magazine, or click the links below.

[1] Punch, Terrence M. A Prince Edward Island Repeal List for 1843. The Island Magazine. 1986, no. 20 Fall Winter. pp. 29-31. Available online at accessed 31 January 2016.
[2] Punch, Terrence M. A Prince Edward Island Repeal List for 1843. The Island Magazine. 1987, no. 21 Spring Summer. pp. 33-36. Available online at accessed 31 January 2016.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

History Of The Fire And Police Departments Of Minneapolis

History of the Fire and Police Departments of Minneapolis was published by The Relief Association Publishing in 1890. It provides an historical overview of the city's fire department from about 1850 and the police department from 1855. Traditionally, many Irish immigrants and their descendants joined both departments throughout the United States, making this publication very useful if you had such as ancestor in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The detailed history of both departments provides a vivid idea of what it was like to work as a fireman or policeman in the city. The majority of the publication is given over to the fire department and there are many illustrations of the tools they used, as well pictures of those who occupied the higher ranks of both institutions.

Of particular interest to genealogists will be chapter 16, Date of Organization of Companies (p. 163), and chapter 17, Company Quarters and Fire Apparatus (p. 172). Both chapters list the members of each engine company in the city as they existed at the time of publication. Name, rank, age, country of birth, and previous occupation are provided.

The example, below, shows the strong Irish influence in Engine Company no.1, with nearly all members born in Ireland, or U.S./Canadian born with traditionally Irish surnames.[1]

 The publication of this book was timely as it can serve as a census substitute for the destroyed 1890 U.S. Federal Census. It is a  niche resource, but incredibly useful for those with ancestors in that niche. 

[1] History of the Fire and Police Departments of Minneapolis. Minneapolis, MN: The Relief Association Publishing. 1890. Available online at accessed 16 January 2016.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Opinion: Funding Available For U.S./Canadian Irish Genealogy Groups

The application process for the 2016-2017 round of the Emigrant Support Program (ESP) was recently opened. The main focus of the ESP is the welfare of Irish emigrants abroad and the majority of funding goes to a broad coalition of emigrant support organizations. However, a sizable portion is also allocated to organizations that focus on Irish culture and heritage. This is because of some of the key objectives of the ESP[1]  

  • celebrate, maintain and strengthen the links between Ireland and the Global Irish
  • foster a more vibrant sense of community and of Irish identity

The ESP is particularly interested in supporting projects that  focus on "heritage and community activities that promote Ireland’s identity and maintain vibrant Irish communities abroad."[2]

The many societies across the United States and Canada that partly or exclusively focus on Irish genealogy clearly fall under this remit (see my GSI map to find them all). No doubt, many of them would like to offer more services, transcribe or digitize local genealogy documents, or expand the ability of their members to trace their Irish ancestors. One of the main stumbling blocks to doing this is probably funding. Therefore, I strongly encourage such organizations to consider the ESP as a way to access such funding.

The total amount available has increased year-on-year since 2013. The money allocated to organizations in the United States jumped sharply in 2014, the year for which the most recent figures are available (table 1).

Table 1: 2013-2016 Emigrant Support Programme Funding
Total Funding
Allocation to U.S. organizations
Figures not yet published
Figures not yet published
Figures not yet published

Of that 3.058m euro that went to U.S. organizations, just under 10% went to those in the cultural/heritage area. However, funding for cultural/heritage organizations increased by almost 29% when comparing 2014 to 2013.

Table 2: U.S. Cultural/Heritage Organizations Who Received Funding in 2014[8]
Amount Received
American Irish Historical Society
New York, NY
Battery Heritage Foundation
New York, NY
Irish-American Crossroads Festival
San Francisco, CA
Glucksman Ireland House, New York University
New York, NY
Greater Danbury Irish Cultural Foundation
Danbury, CT
Hudson Valley Irish Festival                         
Peekskill, NY
Irish American Heritage Center
Chicago, IL
Irish American Heritage Museum
Albany, NY
Irish Cultural Center of New England        
Canton, MA
Irish Heritage Centre Charitable Foundation, Inc. (Irish Heritage Center of Greater Cincinnati)
Cincinnati, OH
Irish Heritage Club
Seattle, WA[9]
Irish Heritage Society of Milford
Milford, CT
Society of Commodore John Barry
Philadelphia, PA
The University of Montana
Missoula, MT

Table 3: U.S. Cultural/Heritage Organizations Who Received Funding in 2013[10]
Amount Received
American Irish Historical Society
New York, NY
Glucksman Ireland House, New York University
New York, NY
Hudson Valley Irish Festival                         
Peekskill, NY
Irish American Heritage Museum
Albany, NY
Irish Cultural Center of New England        
Canton, MA
Mission of our Lady of the Holy Rosary
Heritage Project at Watson House
New York, NY    
Society of Commodore John Barry
Philadelphia, PA
The University of Montana
Missoula, MT

Some of the heritage centers that received funding have occasional genealogy events. However, none of the funded organizations have genealogy as a core part of what they do.  Only two excellent examples stand out. The Irish American Heritage Museum has a resident genealogist who is available to assist people with their research.[11] The Mission of our Lady of the Holy Rosary Heritage Project in New York City digitized ledgers that are very useful for Irish genealogy research in 1880-1920 New York City and made them freely available online. They received funding in 2014.

There are two relevant categories under which Irish genealogy groups in the U.S. and Canada can apply:[12]

  • Capital - Projects involving the construction, refurbishment or purchase of capital assets. This includes projects related to website development/software acquisition.
  • Heritage - Project involving the promotion and maintenance of Irish heritage and identity overseas.

Full details of how to apply are available on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

[1] Irish Abroad Unit, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  Overview of the Emigrant Support Programme. 2016. accessed 23 January 2016.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Department of Foreign Affairs. Global Irish: Irish Diaspora Policy. 2015. p. 26.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Dept. of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 2014 Emigrant Grant Summary. 2015. accessed 23 January 2016.
[6] Dept. of Foreign Affairs. 2013 Emigrant Grant Summary. 2014. accessed 4 March 2015.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Dept. of Foreign Affairs. 2014 Emigrant Grant Summary. 2015. accessed 23 January 2016.
[9] No location information was provided in the Grant Summary document. The only organization with this exact name is in Seattle, WA. There is also the 'Irish Heritage Club of Bakersfield' in California.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Disclosure: this genealogist is Lisa Walsh Dougherty who has written posts for this blog.
[12] Irish Abroad Unit, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  Overview of the Emigrant Support Programme. 2016. accessed 23 January 2016.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Review: Finding Your Roots - The Irish Factor

This review contains plenty of spoilers, although the focus is more on the records used in the show than the stories.

The most recent episode (Tuesday, 12 January 2016) of Finding Your Roots was stylized as the Irish Factor, as it featured Bill O'Reilly, Bill Maher, and Soledad O'Brien. If the title isn't enough of the clue, their second names leave you in no doubt that this episode focused on researching Irish ancestors.

Bill O'Reilly was born on Long Island, New York and his ancestor, Irish-born great-grandfather John O'Reilly, was a part of the storied Irish immigration to New York City. A huge part of finding where your ancestors are from in Ireland depends on when they immigrated to the U.S. Luckily for O'Reilly, his immigrant ancestor was born after 1864. By that year, civil registration of birth records began in Ireland and almost every Roman Catholic parish maintained baptismal registers. In the show, a brief clip is shown of an Irish civil birth record, showing his great-grandfather's birth in 1868 in County Cavan.

Moving forward one generation, World War I records, in the shape of John O'Reilly's (son of John O'Reilly, immigrant from Ireland) military file and a letter written by an infantry colonel, shed light on the activities of O'Reilly's grandfather, including that he fought in the Battle of the Argonne Forest.

The show's researchers were unable to find the place of origin in Ireland of Bill Maher's paternal immigrant ancestors, who ended up in New Jersey. Presumably, every record found for them just mentioned Ireland as a place of origin. 

Instead, they focused on his maternal lines with one of my favorite record sets, that of the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank in New York City, pointing the way home to Killury, County Kerry, for his ancestor Denis Greany.

Soledad O'Brien's Irish ancestry was particularly interesting, in that her father was born in Australia to descendants of people who left Ireland for the Antipodes. The show highlighted just how good Australian records can be. An 1884 marriage record showed that her great-grandfather Patrick O'Brien was from Miltown [Malbay], County Clare and her great-grandmother Ellen Fitzgerald was from Bantry, County Cork. The names of their parents were also included.

A newspaper obituary was also used to show the death of Patrick O'Brien. What was not highlighted was that the obituary also contained the detail that he was from Miltown Malbay, County Clare. 

The debt owed to Richard Griffith by the descendants of every mid-19th century Irish person was again highlighted as O'Brien's paternal ancestor, Anthony O'Brien, was found in the Doonsallagh East townland, County Clare.

After talking about O'Brien's Irish ancestry in Australia, the presenter of the show, Henry Louis Gates, began to discuss how difficult it would be to find where her ancestors were from in Ireland. It was unfortunate that he said "the vast majority of Ireland's records were lost in the early 20th century. By and large, all that remain are Church and county records."

Obviously, a lot of very important records were destroyed during the Irish Civil War in June 1922, but it was not the vast majority. Also, there are practically no Irish genealogy records that are created at the county level.  It is also usually easier to trace back to Ireland from Australia when compared to the United States. Therefore, it might have been better to highlight this difficulty, with, for example, Bill Maher's paternal linage.

When it was found that Ellen (Fitzgerald) O'Brien was born in Bantry, County Cork to Michael Fitzgerald and Hannah Sullivan, it was stated that no more information could be found about her. This was surprising, considering she was born about 1858, which is not that early. Even though the names are common, a quick look at the Roman Catholic records for Bantry on turned up her baptism.[1]

Despite these quibbles, it was a very good show. A lot of information and records were covered in 52 minutes and it is a good episode to watch for those at the beginner to intermediate level of genealogy research.

[1] Bantry Roman Catholic Parish, Cork, Ireland, Baptisms, Ellen Fitzgerald, 20 December 1857; digital image, Irish Genealogy : accessed 16 January 2016.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

In Praise Of Dr. Terrence M. Punch, FIGRS

Dr. Terrence M. Punch, FIGRS is the expert when it comes to genealogy research in maritime Canada (the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island). Since the 1970s, he has published numerous books on Scottish, Irish and French immigration. Of particular interest to this blog is his series of books concerning Irish immigrants to Canada. 

Maritime Canada highlighted in green[1]

At least seven of his books cover this topic and they, along with his guide books to research in the region, are an indispensible resource for anyone with Irish ancestry in that part of Canada. His publications to date include:

  • Montbeliard Immigration to Nova Scotia, 1749-1752. Revised Edition (2015)
  • North America's Maritime Funnel: The Ships that Brought the Irish, 1749-1852 (2012)
  • Some Early Scots in Maritime Canada. Volume IIII (2012)
  • Some Early Scots in Maritime Canada. Volume II (2011)
  • Some Early Scots in Maritime Canada. Volume I (2011)
  • Erin's Sons: Irish Arrivals in Atlantic Canada to 1863. Volume IV (2010)
  • Erin's Sons: Irish Arrivals in Atlantic Canada, 1751-1858. Volume III (2009)
  • Erin's Sons, Volume II (2009)
  • Erin's Sons: Irish Arrivals in Atlantic Canada, 1761-1853 (2008)
  • Genealogist's Handbook for Atlantic Canada Research (1997)
  • Religious Marriages in Halifax, 1768-1841, From Primary Sources (1991)
  • Research in Atlantic Canada (1989)
  • In Which County?: Nova Scotia Surnames From Birth Registers, 1864 to 1877 (1985)
  • Genealogical Research in Nova Scotia (1983)
  • Nova Scotia Vital Statistics From Newspapers, 1769-1812 (1981)
  • Irish Halifax: The Immigrant Generation, 1815-1859 (1981)
  • Some Sons of Erin in Nova Scotia (1980)
  • Nova Scotia Vital Statistics From Newspapers, 1813-1822 (1978)

[1] "Canada Maritime provinces map" by QuartierLatin1968 - user created. 2012. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - accessed 9 January 2016.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Irish Genealogy In North America - 2015 In Review

Compared to 2014, 2015 was a quieter year when it came to new developments and record releases in relation to Irish genealogy in North America. However, there were some very positive additions. The year kicked off in great fashion with the addition of editions of the Gaelic American newspaper on and the release of Reproductive Loan Fund Records on Findmypast.

March saw the launch of a new website,, that allows people to pay in dollars for access to digitized local newspapers from Ireland. In the same month, the Ulster Historical Foundation had a very successful annual tour of the U.S. and Canada. They managed to fit in a phenomenal 15 stops in 17 days, no doubt taking planes, trains, and automobiles to get to all their destinations. They have already earmarked their 2016 tour, so watch out to see if they will be visiting a city near you.

Season six of the U.S. Who Do You Think You Are? featured actor Sean Hayes and his Irish-American ancestry. This was quite a good episode that showcased a number of detailed record sets in Illinois and Ireland.

The New York Public Library launched an interested website in November called Emigrant City. The website is an effort at crowd-sourcing the transcription of mortgage and bond record books from the Library’s collection of Emigrant Savings Bank records. Many of those who banked with the Emigrant [Industrial] Savings Bank were Irish immigrants and their descendants.

Lastly, the Irish Government released two documents this past year that have the potential to positively impact Irish genealogical research efforts in the United States and Canada. Global Irish: Irish Diaspora Policy and Local Diaspora Toolkit encompass a wide range of ideas and it is fantastic to see genealogy begin discussed in a government policy document. Read my two opinion pieces about these documents here and here.

Friday, December 25, 2015

You Want To Learn More About Your Irish Ancestors?

Repost from 2014.

The Christmas and New Year holiday period is a time when families travel great distances across the U.S. and Canada to be together. It can often be a time for reminiscing about family occasions and those from older generations who have recently passed away. This conversation can gradually turn into a genealogical investigation without anyone realizing. Questions are asked about grandparents, great-grandparents, when ancestors first came to North America, and before you know it, you have just spend a couple of hours trying to find information about your ancestors online.

For those of you with Irish ancestors, some of the same refrains can be heard when this conversation begins: "well, your grandfather didn't talk much about where his parents came from in Ireland", "we only ever see Ireland on the records we have", and "I think they might have been from Cork, wait, or did their ship leave from Cork?"

If you have come across Townland of Origin as you try to Google information about your ancestry, then welcome, and have a look around. Start in the About section to learn what this site does and what exactly a townland is. Next, try the archive and select the country, state, or Irish county that you are interested in to read the articles about those areas. Did any of your ancestors immigrate through Ellis Island or live in New York City? Then I encourage you to learn what my book Finding Your Irish Ancestors in New York City  (cover image above) has to offer. 

If you are looking for an introduction to genealogy research in states that have large Irish-American populations then check out all the free articles that I wrote for Irish Lives Remembered genealogy magazine. Lastly, do you want to get more involved in your genealogy research in 2016? If so, I definitely recommend joining your local genealogy group/society. Check out my GSI (groups/societies/institutions) database to find one in your area.

Best of luck with your Irish genealogy research in 2016! 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Chicago and Great Lakes Lecture

The Ulster Historical Foundation (UHF) recently posted a lecture on their YouTube channel called "All Roots Lead to Chicago: Irish Railroad Workers and Canal Workers in the 19th Century." Debra Dudek of Fountaindale Public Library, Bolingbrook, Illinois and Tina Beard of Plainfield Public Library, Plainfield, Illinois travelled from the US to the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) where they presented the talk.

The lecture is divided into two sections: (i) where Irish immigrants settled in the states around the Great Lakes regions and what attracted them, and (ii) Irish immigration to the city of Chicago. Below you will find some of the main points of the talk, but I encourage you to watch the full lecture if you had Irish immigrant ancestors who settled in any of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania or New York.

  • Irish immigrants worked as canal builders in the early to mid 19th century. The canals were built towards the lakes (from states in the eastern US) and then built out from the lakes, for example south into Illinois
  • Minnesota and Indiana did not received a lot of Irish settlers
  • There was a lot of mining in Minnesota that attracted Irish immigrants – there are still pockets in Minnesota today that are communities of Irish miner descendants
  • Wisconsin had a lot of railroad work and shipping
  • Immigrants from Ireland came to these states into the 1920s and 1930s
  • A lot of Irish immigrants and their descendants were involved in the labor movement in Michigan. The Michigan State Department of Natural Resources has mining records  that contain full dossiers on such people. They are not online or indexed

  • There were 14 Irish newspapers in Illinois, most were in Chicago and there was one in the city of Moline
  • Chicago newspapers also had Information Wanted advertisements, like in the Boston Pilot newspaper
  • Chicago Irish neighborhoods included Bridgeport, Back of the Yards, Canaryville and Brighton Park
  • Many of Chicago's first Irish immigrants had worked on the Illinois & Michigan (I&M) Canal and the Erie Canal before that.
  • In Illinois, canal building efforts went from Bridgeport to Purdie where it connected with the Illinois river
  • There are Illinois records for the (I&M) Canal in Springfield, the state capital, and each of the communities along which it was built e.g. Jolie, Lockport
  • Roman Catholic parishes opened along the way of construction
  • The workers were given land instead of wages but they were not registered – those records do exist for the Lockport area, but don’t seem to exist for other communities
  • Ottawa, IL Genealogical Guild has canal records for the Irish immigrants that stayed in the area

  • Chicago neighborhoods Canaryville and Back of the Yards were near the train stock yards that arose from the 1860s onwards
  • Bridgeport was largely an Ulster neighborhood, particularly Cavan and Derry
  • After 1865 there was a lot of immigration to these neighborhoods as there were new jobs on the railroad
  • St. Gabriel’s was the RC parish in Canaryville
  • In the 1830s and 1840s Albany, New York had a large Irish population. Many went to Chicago to build buildings and canals
  • Pre-1854, Catholic baptisms in Chicago occurred in Old St Patrick’s Parish and served the Irish immigrants for the entire city. They are on

Thanks to the UHF and PRONI for posting it online and the Irish Genealogy News blog for highlighting it last month.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Tracing The Irish In Washington State

The November/December edition of Irish Lives Remembered genealogy magazine has hit the virtual newsstand and in this edition I've written about research in Washington state. Don't forget, this magazine is completely free for anyone to read.

This is my last article for the magazine and I would like to sincerely thank editor Eileen Munnelly for bringing me on board almost two years ago.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

United States National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938

The National Home (called Asylum up to 1873) for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers was founded in 1865 to look after volunteer soldiers who had been injured or disabled during the American Civil War. Twelve homes were opened across the United States, beginning with the first home in Togus, Maine in 1866.[1]

Date Established
Eastern Branch
Togus, Maine
Central Branch
Dayton, Ohio
Northwestern Branch
Wood, Wisconsin
Southern Branch
Hampton, Virginia
Western Branch
Leavenworth, Kansas
Pacific Branch
Sawtelle, California
Marion Branch
Marion, Indiana
Roseburg Branch
Roseburg, Oregon
Danville Branch
Danville, Illinois
Mountain Branch
Johnson City, Tennessee
Battle Mountain Sanitarium
Hot Springs, South Dakota
Tuskegee Home
Tuskegee, Alabama
Bath Branch
Bath, New York
St. Petersburg Home
St. Petersburg, Florida
Table 1: Chronological year of opening of National Homes for Disables Volunteer Soldiers

Both and have the database United States National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938. It contains almost 400,000 records and the page for each veteran in the registers is divided into four parts: military history, domestic history, home history, and general remarks.  Just over 28,100 of the entries are for men who were born in Ireland. Of those, the Irish county or place of birth is recorded for almost 500 men.

No. of records
Cork (inc. 2 Queenstown)
Tipperary (incl. 1 Templemore)
Donegal (incl. Donnegal)
Mayo (incl. May & 1 Charlestown)
Roscommon (incl. Rosecommon)
Kerry (incl. 1 Killarney)
Cavan (incl. Caven)
Offaly (incl. Kings)
Monaghan (incl. Monoghan)
Laois (incl. Queens)
Meath (incl. 1 Navan)
Castle Borough, Ireland
Clashmore, Ireland
Rockville, Ireland
Drummond, Ireland
Barr, Ireland
Kilduff, Ireland
Kenmore, Ireland
Bangor, Ireland
County Carney, Ireland
Grey Abbey, Ireland
Ardmore, Ireland
Clifton, Ireland
Table 2: No. of records that give Irish county/place of birth

The questions asked on the pro-forma registers changed slightly over the years but a core of questions were asked throughout:[2] (i) military history - time and place of each enlistment, rank, company and regiment, time and place of discharge, cause of discharge, kind and degree of disability, when and where contracted; (ii) domestic history - where born (state or country and town or county), age, height, complexion, color of eyes, color of hair, read and write, religion, occupation, residence subsequent to discharge, marital status/social condition, name and address of nearest relative; (iii) home history - rate of pension, date of admission re-admission and transfer, condition of re-admission, date and discharge of transfer, cause of discharge, date of death, cause of death (iv) general remarks - papers, effects, location of grave and remarks.

Not every question is answered for each resident, especially in the records of those who were admitted to the first few national homes.  However, most questions were usually answered and this is a tremendous amount of detail about one individual, especially in the 19th century. It is also unusual to see a government document ask about the religion of a person.

Entry for Austin Connelly, born about 1810 Dublin, Ireland
To share one example, Austin Connelly entered the Central Branch home in Dayton, Ohio on 13 July 1875. He was born in Dublin, Ireland about 1810. In the United States, he worked as a shoemaker in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He first enlisted in the 109th Pennsylvania volunteers on 22 February 1862 at Philadelphia. He was discharged in 1863 before re-enlisting in the 116th Pennsylvania volunteers in February 1864. A relative was named as John Finnell of Camden, New Jersey. Austin Connelly died on 4 May 1891.[3]

Access this database at and

[1] National Parks Service. History of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. Date Unknown. accessed 28 November 2015.
[2] Questions with strikethrough were asked in later years
[3] "United States National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 28 November 2015), Austin Connelly, 1875; citing p. 5403, Dayton, Ohio, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1749 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 32; FHL microfilm 1,547,614.