Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Radio Show Interview

**UPDATE Wed, Nov 26th: Tomorrow's episode of the Genealogy Radio Show has been postponed. I will post the date/time of the rescheduled broadcast when it is announced.**

On Thursday, I will be interviewed by Irish genealogist Lorna Maloney on The Genealogy Radio Show. The show is broadcast live and my interview will take place at 4pm Irish time/11am Eastern.

The show has only been broadcast for a few months and has already had a stellar line-up of Irish genealogy experts, such as Brian Donovan, Fiona Fitzsimons, and Dr. Paul MacCotter.

Thursday, of course, is Thanksgiving in the United States, So if you are looking for an excuse to get out of the kitchen for half an hour, why not tune in! You can listen, via the "Listen Live" button, on the right hand side of station's webpage.

The Genealogy Radio Show is broadcast every Thursday on the county Clare based community radio station, Radió Corca Baiscinn. Podcasts of previous episodes are available to listen to.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Biographical History Of The American Irish In Chicago

Biographical History of the American Irish in Chicago[1] is an 1897 publication that falls into the category of books that highlight the origins, life, and achievements of notable Irish-born immigrants and first generation Irish Americans in the United States. In total, the book contains information for about 300 such people who lived in the Chicago area in the 19th century.

For almost every entry, the place of origin in Ireland is given for those who were immigrants. The place of origin of their parents is noted for many of those who were first generation Irish American. Other useful genealogical information is included for many entries such as year of immigration, early movements in the US for immigrants, employment history, who they married, how many children they had, and date and place of death and burial. Pictures and signatures are also included for some of those written about.

This example gives a flavor of what is contained in the publication:[2]

As with almost all of these 19th century biographical publications, there are no citations from primary sources. Use the information as a guide in your research and, as much as is possible, verify any information with primary documents.

You can read the book in full on the always excellent Hathi Trust website.

[1] Ffrench, Charles. Biographical History of the American Irish in Chicago. Chicago, IL: American Biographical Publishing Co. 1897.
[2] Ibid. pp. 10-11.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

National Genealogical Society Conference 2015

The National Genealogical Society (NGS) 2015 conference will be held in St. Louis, Missouri on 13-16 May. NGS was founded in 1903 and aims to serve and grow the genealogical community by providing education and training, fostering increased quality and standards, and promoting access to and preservation of genealogical records.[1] The yearly NGS conference is probably the one to attend for industry professionals and keen genealogy enthusiasts.

Among many other events and exhibitions, the conference features a large number of lecture 'tracks', with each track having talks that focus on different aspects of the same thematic area. Last week, NGS released the topics and speakers for 2015. There will be five lectures/workshops specifically related to Irish genealogy:

Immigration, Thursday, 4pm
A Methodology for Irish Emigration to North America, David Rencher, AG, CG, FIGRS, FUGA. Lacking a location in Ireland to begin research may necessitate learning to use the sources and methodologies for solving the problem with Irish resources. **Live streaming, see link at the end of article for more details**

Immigration & Migration, Friday, 8am
Navigating the Best Online Sources for Irish Research, Donna Moughty. Think you can’t do Irish research because all of the records burned? Although the 1922 fire was devastating, many surviving records are now available online.

Immigration & Migration, Friday, 9:30am
Unpuzzling Ireland’s Church Records, Donna Moughty. No records or burned records? Navigate through the various religious sources to guide you to the origins of your Irish ancestor.

Immigration & Migration, Friday, 11am
Scots-Irish Research, Robert McLaren. Learn who the Scots-Irish are and are not, how to get started, and good sources for research, both online and elsewhere.

Workshop, Saturday, 8-11am
Workshop on Irish Law Libraries, David Rencher, AG, CG, FIGRS, FUGA S409. This workshop will outline the records available in a law library for conducting Irish research; cover the proper source citation methodologies for citing Irish legal records; outline the available web resources and discuss the major libraries in the US and Ireland, including the Smurfit Collection at St. Louis University Library in St. Louis. Two-hour workshop with additional fee of $25.00.

Some of the lectures will be live streamed, see the conference websites for more details. For a full list of lectures, click here to read the conference brochure.

[1] National Genealogical Society. About NGS. Year Unknown. accessed 13 November 2014.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Moughty's Research Trips to Ireland

Florida based genealogist Donna Moughty has organized research trips to Ireland for the last number of years. On the trips, she leads and mentors groups of people who want to do research in the main repositories on the island. These trips usually occur in October and she provides an excellent blog commentary about her research exploits. Her posts showcase the fast paced nature of these trips, mixed with the will it takes to fit in as much research as possible in two weeks; one week is in Belfast and the other in Dublin.

The 2014 trip visited all the major repositories: Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Registry of Deeds, National Library of Ireland, National Archives of Ireland, Valuation Office, Registry of Deeds, and the Back To Our Past genealogy conference. She has just recently returned and you can read all the posts, starting here.

You can also read about the 2013 and 2012 trips. Are you thinking of taking a research trip to Ireland? You could do worse than inquire about here 2015 trip!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Library Of Congress - Virtual Primer

The Library of Congress (LoC) in Washington, D.C. is the de facto national library of the United States and, depending on the metric used, vies with the British Library for the title of the largest library in the world. As a result, you can find a pretty decent Irish genealogy book collection.

The LoC website has a useful introduction to this collection of books. By their own admission, it is not comprehensive and it does seem to be a little dated (Grenham's 1st edition of Tracing Your Irish Ancestors is listed) and general (books from the 1930s-1960s about broad migration patterns are also included). However, if you live in the DC metro area, it is probably a good place to visit if you are looking to do broad research on the topic of Irish genealogy and local history.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Archdiocese of New York Parish Mergers

Over the last number of months the Archdiocese of New York[1] has deliberated about which of its parishes will be closed or merged. Their decisions were made public on 2 November. Two different lists were published. One list shows parishes that will merge, with one parish church being the designate. Masses and sacraments will still be celebrated in the second church.[2] The second list also shows parishes that will merge, but where one parish will be the designate and the church in the other parish will only be used for some special occasions. Masses and sacraments will no longer be celebrated in the second parish.[3]

So what does all this mean for genealogists who want to apply for copies of the information that was recorded in the registers when the sacraments were performed (e.g. baptisms and marriages)? From what I can gather, there has been no guidelines put forward for this set of mergers but we do have precedent to work with.

The Archdiocese previously carried out a round of parish mergers and closures in 2007. In most cases, the registers from parishes that were merged and no longer used were given to the neighboring parish that they merged with.

You can access a useful graphic showing the Archdiocese and the affected parishes in this New York Times article.

You can read the full official press release, by clicking here.

To learn more about every Catholic parish that has ever existed in all five boroughs of New York City, you can consult Chapters 7 & 8 in my book, Finding Your Irish Ancestors in New York City.

[1] Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island are in the Archdiocese of New York. Queens and Brooklyn are in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
[2] Archdiocese of New York. Parish List 1 - Masses and Sacraments celebrated at both churches. 2014. accessed 4 November 2014.
[3] Archdiocese of New York. Parish List 2 - Masses and Sacraments to be celebrated at the designated parish church; the other church may be used on special occasions accessed 4 November 2014.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Guest Post: From Roscommon to Canada II

In June, I highlighted the research being carried out in the archives of the Mahon Strokestown Park estate, Co. Roscommon by historians at NUI (National University of Ireland) Maynooth. Lead by Dr. Ciarán Reilly, they aim to learn more about the lives of the estates' tenants during the Famine and the passage to Canada of many of them, both assisted and unassisted.

Dr. Reilly has kindly provided an article to Townland of Origin to highlight this work. He would like to hear from descendants who have knowledge of these Famine-era emigrants. You can contact him on Twitter at @ciaranjreilly, or via the Centre for the Study of Historic Houses and Estates.

Dr. Reilly's new book 'Strokestown and the Great Irish Famine' will be published this month by Four Courts Press in Ireland. He also runs the Great Irish Famine blog.

The unveiling of a memorial wall by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD[1] at the Irish National Famine Museum at Strokestown in May 2014, to mark the National Famine Commemoration, highlighted the ongoing efforts to locate Irish Famine emigrants from county Roscommon.  The research is led by Dr Ciarán Reilly of the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses & Estates, NUI Maynooth. Much of the information on emigrants is gleaned from the voluminous Strokestown archive, a collection of more than 50,000 documents, the vast majority of which pertain to the Great Irish Famine. In total, Dr Reilly estimates that almost 5,000 people emigrated from around the Mahon estate at Strokestown during the Famine, with 1,490 part of an ill-fated assisted emigration scheme in 1847.

Upon the death of Rev. Maurice Mahon, third baron Hartland, in November 1845, Major Denis Mahon inherited the 11,000 acre Strokestown estate in county Roscommon. Years of neglect and mismanagement meant that the estate was now almost £30,000 in debt. In an effort to radically overhaul the problems of gross overcrowding, subdivision of the land and mounting arrears, John Ross Mahon, the land agent, devised a scheme of assisted emigration. For the estate administration this made economic sense; to keep the people in Roscommon workhouse would cost over £11,000 annually whereas a once off emigration scheme would cost £5,800. In May 1847 1,490 tenants left from the Strokestown estate for Quebec in British North America (Canada). They were accompanied on their walk to Dublin, via the Royal Canal footway, by the bailiff, John Robinson who was instructed to stay with them all the way to Liverpool and ensure that they boarded the ships.

Leaving Liverpool on four ships the Virginius, Naomi, John Munn and the Erin’s Queen, the Mahon tenants were amongst the first to be characterised as sailing on coffin ships during the Famine. With Cholera and typhus rampant the emigrants were exposed to the ravages of  disease. The Toronto Globe newspaper was amongst the first to highlight the problems encountered by the passengers on board the Virginius and thus reported its arrival at Grosse Île:
The Virginius from Liverpool, with 496 passengers, had lost 158 by death, nearly one third of the whole, and she had 180 sick; above one half the whole will never see their home in the new world.

Those who managed to emerge from the ship were described as ‘ghastly, yellow-looking spectres, unshaven and hollow cheeked.’ Dr. George Douglas who treated and spoke with the Mahon tenants at Grosse Île noted that some had even died at the River Mersey in Liverpool.  It was also claimed that on arrival at Grosse Île, the ship’s master had to bribe his crew at the rate of a sovereign per corpse, to remove the dead from the hold. On the ship Erin's Queen, the situation was no better, 78 passengers had died and a further 104 were sick. Again, according to the Globe ‘the filth and dirt in these vessels hold creates such an effluvium as to make it difficult to breathe.’ While in harbour the ship was abandoned by the crew and captain who feared for their lives. On the ship John Munn more than 100 were sick and 59 were dead, while on the Naomi 78 were dead.

Some of the names featured on the memorial wall at Strokestown also feature in an exhibition Emigrant Faces from county Roscommon which Dr Reilly designed for the National Famine Commemoration Week. They include the Tighes and the Quinns, orphaned by the voyage. A number of other emigrants also feature including Michael Dufficy, Edwin O'Beirne, Elijah Impey, Pat Hanly and Pat Kelly. Most of the 1,490 cohort who arrived in Quebec in 1847 made their way over the ensuing months and years into American cities and towns. Relatively, few actually stayed in Canada. The search for the 1,490 assisted emigrants and other Strokestown natives who emigrated during the Famine continues.  Thankfully, it is proving fruitful and the destination and subsequent details of as many as 300 of these has been ascertained. These details will soon been collated by Dr Reilly and made available in a number of formats. Visitors to the Irish National Famine Museum at Strokestown can now see the list of 275 families who were part of the scheme, their townland of origin and the number of family members who travelled.

The following snippets might be of interest:

* In 1876 Mary Tarpey had the unique distinction of being the oldest person in Long Island, New York. Having left Strokestown in 1853, incredibly when she was then 84 years old, Tarpey attributed her longevity to a daily glass of whiskey!

* A number of women and children who remained on the Strokestown estate in the aftermath of the Famine had been abandoned. They included Catherine Connor whose mother left for England; Maria Hanly abandoned by her father Peter who went to England and Margaret Kearns whose father went to Scotland.

* Michael Hayden (1842-1917) of Strokestown emigrated to America in the wake of the Famine, settling in Washington D.C. in 1854. During the American Civil War he was a member of the home guard for the defence of Washington D.C. Later he worked in Gauster's French Restaurant in the city where he claims John Wilkes Booth and his companions hatched their plan to murder President Abraham Lincoln.

* Daniel Tighe, one of the 1847 emigrants to Canada, appears on various Canadian census returns as  Tay, Tyre, Thy and Tye. It is little wonder then that the search for Irish Famine emigrants often proves difficult.

[1] Teachta Dála, much the same as member of Congress, but specifically referring to the lower house of the Irish Parliament, the Dáil.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Florida Snowbirds

This is the time of year when many elderly people from all across the United States and Canada begin to  head to the southern parts of the U.S. to escape the harsh mid-western, northern and Canadian winter. One disadvantage, for those who are genealogy enthusiasts, is that they cannot attend talks, lectures, and workshops that are held by genealogy groups and societies in their home state/country. Florida is probably the most popular place to winter for these "snowbirds." So, what opportunities are available in Florida to attend Irish specific genealogy group and society meetings over the winter months?

The Groups/Societies/Institutions (GSI) database on this website lists all of these types of organizations in the U.S. and Canada that I am currently aware of.* This includes two genealogical societies in Florida. Firstly, there is the Lee County Genealogical Society - Irish Special Interest Group. They meet in Fort Myers, which is on the Gulf Coast side of the state, about a 50 minute drive north of Naples, FL. Secondly, there is The Villages Genealogical Society, which also has an Irish genealogy special interest group. This group is located in north central Florida, about a one hour drive north-west of Orlando.

Therefore, if you are a Florida snowbird, there are opportunities to meet with other Irish genealogy enthusiasts and learn something new.

*If your GSI is not listed, please comment at the end of this post, or on the GSI database webpage, and I will add your organization to the list. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Irish Catholic Genesis Of Lowell

The Irish Catholic Genesis of Lowell[1] is the title of a short publication that provides some very interesting genealogical information about Irish immigrants and their descendants in this Massachusetts city. Published in 1920, it focuses on the 1820-1850 time period and there are short articles and lists concerning the following topics:

The arrival of the first wave of Catholic Irish in the 1820s and 1830s, including a mention of how many of them were from counties Cork and Dublin
The establishment of the first Catholic Church
A list of important dates and events for the Lowell Irish community
A profile of Hugh Cummiskey, one of the early leaders of the Irish community and stated as being from Tyrone
The first Irish school
Irishmen who paid a poll tax in the city between 1826 and 1830
Entries for those who were believed to be Irish from the Lowell city directory of 1835

All in all, this is a very useful publication for anyone with pre-Famine ancestors in Lowell, MA. A word of caution though, as with all of these types of early biographic/city history publications, there are no citations from primary sources. Use the information as a guide in your research and, as much as is possible, verify any information with primary documents.

I have also previously written about St. Patrick's Cemetery in Lowell, click here to read.

[1] O'Dwyer, George Francis. The Irish Catholic Genesis of Lowell. Lowell, MA: Sullivan Bros. 1920.

Friday, October 24, 2014

National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair

Next week sees the 2014 edition of the National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair take place over three days - Tuesday (28th), Wednesday (29th), and Thursday (30th). All the talks will be available to view for free on YouTube, beginning at 10am eastern (3pm GMT). All levels of expertise are catered for, with the first talk being Introduction to Genealogy and other talks focusing on such topics as federal land records and FBI case files.

One talk caught my eye: Great Granny Eunice came from Ireland, Grandpa Fred was in the War, Can Access Archival Databases (AAD) Help Me? This is on at 10am on Wednesday, October 29th. 

The AAD contains a number of different databases, of which the stand out for those with Irish ancestry is Records for Passengers Who Arrived at the Port of New York During the Irish Famine, created, 1977 - 1989, documenting the period 1/12/1846 - 12/31/1851. It will be interesting to see if this is what the Irish aspect is or if there is more to be obtained from the AAD if you have Irish ancestors.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Guest Post: Using A Proof Argument To Break Through Brick Walls II

Townland of Origin is delighted to welcome back professional genealogist Lisa Walsh Dougherty. Her previous posts, How a Professional Genealogist Found Her Townland Of Origin (Part 1 & Part 2), were widely read, with the part one post having the highest number of views since the blog was launched.

Lisa has been an avid family history researcher for nearly 20 years.  Since 2009, she has shared her knowledge and experience with many through her volunteer hours, workshop trainings, and commissioned research.  A member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and a graduate of the ProGen Study Group, she specializes in helping people with Irish roots discover their “Townland of Origin”.  Lisa is based in Upstate New York near Albany, and provides a free consultation toward assisting you in finding your own unique family story! You can find out more about Lisa's work on her website, Upstate NY Genealogy and her Association of Professional Genealogists profile.

This is the second post about using a Proof Argument in your genealogical research (scroll down if on the homepage or click here to read Lisa's first post). The commonality of names, lack of documentation stating the place of origin in Ireland, and socio-economic status of Irish immigrants are all common problems that those doing Irish genealogical research in the U.S. and Canada face. Using a Proof Argument in your research can help you develop a body of acceptable evidence that helps you break through these brick walls.

In her paper, linked to below, Lisa examined the evidence she collected about her great-great-grandfather, Patrick Penders, in an attempt to determine if he was a native of County Clare. She outlines how she approached this specific genealogical problem, presenting evidence, findings and sources to support her theory.

A copy of this research was donated to the excellent Clare County Library Genealogy and Family History Division. You can read it on their website, click here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Guest Post: Using A Proof Argument To Break Through Brick Walls I

Townland of Origin is delighted to welcome back professional genealogist Lisa Walsh Dougherty. Her previous posts, How a Professional Genealogist Found Her Townland Of Origin (Part 1 & Part 2), were widely read, with the part one post having the highest number of views since the blog was launched. In this post, Lisa writes about using a Proof Argument in your research. On Tuesday (21st), you will have a chance to read an example where she used a Proof Argument in her family history research.

Lisa has been an avid family history researcher for nearly 20 years.  Since 2009, she has shared her knowledge and experience with many through her volunteer hours, workshop trainings, and commissioned research.  A member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and a graduate of the ProGen Study Group, she specializes in helping people with Irish roots discover their “Townland of Origin”.  Lisa is based in Upstate New York near Albany, and provides a free consultation toward assisting you in finding your own unique family story! You can find out more about Lisa's work on her website, Upstate NY Genealogy and her Association of Professional Genealogists profile.

To say the road our ancestors took to get from Ireland to the United States (or the UK, or Australia, etc) was a long and winding one would be an understatement.  They endured many hardships and obstacles along the way, but still they persevered.  The road back from the 21st century to the Ireland our ancestors knew can be just as long and in many ways, more complicated.  The return journey is not for the faint of heart, only the most persistent and determined will reach their ultimate goal of a townland of origin.

Sometimes the luck of the Irish will be on our side, and we will find that long-anticipated place name in the first document we examine.  Others may unearth record after record over many years before even the smallest clue is yielded.  Either way the Irish family historian is all too often left with questions about the place they have found.  What does it all mean?  Is it a townland or parish?  County or Poor Law Union?

The real work in Irish genealogy begins once that mysterious location is found.  Then the researcher must make the effort to find out what they can about that place.  What type of place is it?  Does it still exist?  Where can it found on a map?  What kinds of records exist for that place?  What is the corresponding parish for that place and when do those records begin?

There is rarely a single document that gives all the answers about an ancestor.  Most often there is a combination of documents and sources, a variety of items that together form the circumstantial evidence those of us researching our Irish origins get used to seeing.  Melding these divergent pieces into a comprehensive whole that tells the story of our Irish ancestors takes real skill.  In genealogy, this gathering, analysis and summarizing is called a proof argument. 

The Board for Certification of Genealogists defines a proof argument as "a detailed, written explanation of the evidence and reasoning used to reach a genealogical conclusion."[1] If ever there was a genre of genealogy made for the proof argument, it would be Irish genealogy.  The majority of the records pertaining to our ancestor in their adopted country usually say nothing more specific than “Ireland”, records kept in Ireland itself vary greatly in quality and scope, and the names of our ancestors are so common it can be nearly impossible to tell one “John Ryan” from another.  Assembling and analyzing large amounts of data is an essential procedure toward discovering our ancestor’s home, and to skip these vital steps would do our research a great disservice. 

In the computer, tablet and smart phone era that we live in, we get used to instant gratification.  The proof argument simply is not something that can be achieved by plugging a surname into Google.  Its origins involve gathering, sorting, categorizing, contemplating, analyzing, savoring, and finally, recording information that sometimes takes years to accumulate.  While sources for Irish genealogy and other ethnicities are exploding online and are far more readily available than they were even a few years ago, an effective proof argument, and therefore an accurate family story, can only be achieved with patience and diligence.  Our ancestors would have been familiar with these qualities; they mastered them and started a new life that we are all benefitting from. 

[1] Laura A. DeGrazia, CG. Skillbuilding: Proof Arguments. Onboard. No. 15. January 2009. pp. 1-3. Available online at accessed 17 September 2014.
Onboard is the newsletter of the Board for Certification of Genealogists

Monday, October 13, 2014

Speaking At The Genealogy Event, Saturday

This coming Saturday, October 18th, I'll be speaking about finding your Irish ancestors in New York City at the Genealogy Event . This is on at the National Archives and Records Administration, Bowling Green, Manhattan. It's a three day event, beginning on Friday. My talk is one of the advanced sessions and is on in Meeting Room 1, from 11:00am to 12:30pm

Finding Your Irish Ancestors in New York City

The millions of Irish who came to New York in the 19th century did not make it easy for their descendants to find where they came from in Ireland. If you have already combed through federal and state census records, searched the birth, marriage and death certificates, written away for Church records, and scrutinized the city directories, then this talk is for you.  The talk will firstly cover a number of strategies for tracing Irish ancestors in and around the city. The importance of having a knowledge of social and economic conditions in Ireland before an emigrant left will be discussed. Underutilized record sets that could yield a relevant name, location in Ireland, or pertinent genealogical information will also be outlined. The last section of the talk will be given over to something crucial to all those with Irish ancestors: the numerous record sets and publications that definitively give an Irish place of origin. 

Saturday, 18 OctoberFinding Your Irish Ancestors in New York City. The Genealogy Event. Venue: NARA, Alexander Hamilton US Custom House, 1 Bowling Green, New York, NY 10004, USA. Meeting Room 1, 11:00am - 12:30pm. Ticket Purchase required.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Newberry Library, Chicago

The Newberry Library is an independent research facility founded in Chicago in 1887. Since that time there has been a focus on collecting genealogy and local history publications. Today, there is a dedicated part of the library for these topics. Chicago area Townland of Origin readers will be pleased to see that the library has general Irish collections and specific Irish genealogy collections.

Some items of note include:
19th century newspapers and journals from Ireland
Irish newspapers from Boston and New York
Pettigrew and Oulton’s Dublin Almanac (1834-1848)
Griffith's Valuation
A large range of local history publication from Ireland
Irish genealogy reference and 'how to' books
Publications about Irish immigrants communities in the U.S.

All in all, it seems like a very good place to conduct Irish genealogical research in Chicago.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


This image is of an area of Butte, Montana in 1890. Butte attracted a disproportionately large number of Irish immigrants in the 19th century-in particular from the Beara Peninsula (Cork/Kerry) in Ireland-due to the copper mining industry.

Irish immigrants from particular parishes and counties often settled in the same parts of many U.S. cities as their countymen and women. The names that these areas were given can be a clue to where they are from in Ireland. However, coupled with this, it can also just be an indication of a general Irish area in a city.

The caption in the image reads: "Corktown, North Wyoming St., Butte, Mont, 1890 Smithers Collections." You can read more about this area of Buttle on a community Facebook page. The modern day Wyoming Ave. is on the north side of Butte, however I am not sure if they are one and the same.

Source: Montana Memory Project. The original owner of this image is Louis Fontana and it forms part of the Smither Collection.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Information Wanted Ads II - Philadelphia

This post is about 'information wanted' ads in a Philadelphia newspaper, the Catholic Herald. Scroll down if on the homepage or click here to learn what 'information wanted' ads are and to read about the most famous example of them: those in the Boston Pilot newspaper.

The Catholic Herald newspaper was published weekly in Philadelphia, PA from 1833 to 1856.[1] Before 1833, this paper existed in various incarnations, first hitting the Philadelphia newsstands in 1822, titled The Catholic Herald and Advocate.[2] After 1856, it merged with various other newspapers (click here for a full explanation of Catholic newspaper mergers in 19th century Philadelphia).

From the early years of its publication it attracted a considerable Irish immigrant audience. This therefore made it the perfect paper in which to put information wanted ads. While many of those seeing information were based in Philadelphia, others lived across Pennsylvania and in different states. The following two examples vividly illustrate the rich genealogical information that can be contained in the ads:

James Delany[3]

Slone (?) and Kelly[4]

You can access the Catholic Herald via digital and microfilm editions -

Villanova University Digital Library: 1835-1848, various years and editions.

Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center microfilms, the center has the following copies: January 3, 1833 through January 4, 1862; January 10, 1863 through December 24, 1864; Sept. 7 and 28, 1867.

There is a also a book of transcribed records from the newspaper that may be useful:
Schive Mowrer, Rita. The Catholic Herald (varied dates, 1833-1846) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, excerpts of genealogical interest. Philadelphia, PA: Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 1970.

[1] Chronicling America. About The Catholic herald. (Philadelphia [Pa.) 1833-1856.  Year Unknown. Available online at accessed 5 September 2014.
[2] Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center. Catholic Newspapers in Philadelphia. Year Unknown. Available online at accessed 26 September 2014
[3] The Catholic Herald. Vol. III No. 43. Thursday, October 22 1835. Whole Number: 147. Delany p.172. Available online at accessed 5 September 2014
[4] The Catholic Herald. Vol. XVI No. 5. Thursday, February 3, 1848. Whole Number: 787. Kelly and Slone p.40. Available online at accessed 5 September 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

Information Wanted Ads I - Boston

One of the most well known Irish genealogical sources in the U.S. is the Boston Pilot series of information wanted ads. Despite its widely known status, it is always worth clearly explaining a record set in detail and highlighting the fact that there were other newspapers that also carried such ads.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Irish people in the U.S. and Ireland who were looking for information about immigrant family members placed information wanted adverts in newspapers. These adverts requested information about the immigrant who had not been heard from for a period of time, usually a few years. "During this time, formal communication was by the written word, but an international postal system was just emerging, making it difficult for those who had immigrated to keep in touch with those they had left behind. The result was that many of those in Ireland had no idea where their relatives and friends might be. Many new Irish Americans simply became “lost” to those who cared for them."[1]

The first ad appeared in the Boston Pilot in October 1831. The wife of Patrick McDermott placed the ad looking for him as she and their children would be returned to Ireland if he was not located. The ad outlined that he was from County Kildare and provided more information such as where he was born and details about his first year in the U.S. (see image below).

The first Information Wanted ad in the Boston Pilot, October 1831

From 1831 to 1920, over 45,000 ads were placed in the paper and they provided an abundance of information about those who were sought after. Standard information included name, place of origin in Ireland (often including civil parish and townland), name and details of person seeking information, and the relationship between them and the missing person. Other information that was regularly included told of the ship the immigrant traveled on, year of arrival, locations in the U.S. after arrival, occupations, and work history. As more Irish immigrants came to the U.S., they inhabited more and more states. As a result the ads sought information about people in states up and down the east coast, the mid-west, and Canada. Therefore, it is easy to see how these ads have become probably the most well known Irish genealogy source in the U.S.

Currently, there are four main places where they can be accessed:
  • The Boston College Information Wanted site has transcriptions of the ads for the years 1831-1878, 1880-1882, 1887, 1889, 1890, 1893, 1901, and 1913. It is free to access and has 41,249 records.
  • has "Searching for Missing Friends: Irish Immigrant Advertisements Placed in "The Boston Pilot 1831-1920". The database contains indexed images.
  • Searching for Missing Friends: Irish Immigrant Advertisements [database online]. Boston, MA: 2010.
  • Harris, Ruth-Ann M., Donald M. Jacobs, and B. Emer O’Keeffe, editors. Searching for Missing Friends: Irish Immigrant Advertisements Placed in “The Boston Pilot 1831–1920”. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society. 1989. 8 vols. Note: information in the and databases comes from this publication.                                                              
One has to wonder how many of the missing people were reunited with their friends and family members. Some of the ads outlined how a person was not heard from for ten years or more. It would be remarkable to think they ever made contact again. Something to remember as we use these ads for our research.

Check out the next blog post in a few days which will highlighted information wanted ads from another east coast city.

[1] Harris, Ruth-Ann and Kathleen Williams. Information Wanted - History. 2014. accessed 9 September 2014.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Back To Our Past

The biggest Irish genealogy fair of the year, Back To Our Past (BTOP), is on in Dublin next month over three days - Friday, October 17th to Sunday, October 19th. BTOP has been running for a number of years and is always a very well attended event.

A central part of BTOP is the talks that expert speakers give. This year there are four that wil be interest to those with emigrant Irish ancestors. 

Friday, October 17th
Irish records on - home and abroad by Rhona Murray ( Presentation Area 1, 3:30pm

Saturday, October 18th
Famine emigration from south Wicklow - two sides of the same coin by Jim Rees** (author). Presentation Area 2, 2:30pm.

Emigration through the centuries by Patrick Fitzgerald, Mellon Center for Migration Studies. Presentation Area 2, 1:30pm

Sunday, October 19th
Aspects of emigration from county Cavan by Mary Sullivan (Cavan Genealogy). Presentation Area 2, 3:30pm

** I have previous written a post about Jim Rees' work in relation to assisted emigration from Wicklow. Click here to read.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Catholic Records At Maryland State Archives

The state of Maryland has had a long association with Catholicism. In receiving a grant of charter for a Maryland colony, Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore in the 17th century, aimed to create a new colony that was to be a haven in America for Catholics.[1] The first diocese in America was created as the Diocese of Baltimore in 1789. It is interesting to consider that this Catholic heritage is a possible factor for the unusual circumstance, when compared to other state archives, that the Maryland State Archives has a considerable collection of Catholic Church records and parish registers. 

The reality though, is probably more to do with good foresight, as the introduction to the Maryland Religious Records special collections reads: since systematic recording of vital records was not established until 1875 for Baltimore City and 1898 for Maryland counties, religious records are often the only source for birth and death information.[2]

The best place to start is the Guide to Catholic Church Records webpage on the State Archives' website. This guide helpfully divides all their Catholic Church records by county. Most counties in the state are represented in this guide. Basic, but useful notes are provided for the majority of entries. For example: St. Patrick's, Cumberland [Allegany County]:  Established in 1790, it originally served the entire county. Many of the early parishioners were Irish immigrants, who came to America to work on canal projects.[3]

Extensive detail is given about the parishes in the city of Baltimore. The guide divides this information into four time periods between 1750 and 1950. This is due to the changing boundaries of the city and different parish boundaries before 1884. Where known, parish ethnicity is noted as immigrants worshiped at a parish of ethnicity (e.g. Irish, Polish, Italian) as opposed to their nearest parish church.

For some parishes, you can consult parish register transcriptions in pdf format at the State Archives building. You can visit the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis, the state capital.

[1] McSherry, James. History of Maryland from Its First Settlement in 1634 to the Year 1848. Baltimore: John Murphy. 1849. pp. 22-25.
[2] Maryland State Archives. Guide to Special Collections. 2014. Available online at accessed 27 August 2014.
[3]Maryland State Archives. Guide to Catholic Church Records. 2008. Available online at accessed 27 August 2014.