Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Catholic Order Of Foresters Indexing Project

In January 2014, I wrote about The Irish Ancestral Research Association and highlighted the databases on their site. One database contains information about the records for the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters. This was a fraternal life insurance organization founded in Boston in 1879 by a group of Irish immigrants. Over the ensuing decades, the organization spread throughout the state and by the end of the 19th century there were ninety-five branches throughout Massachusetts.[1]

An archivist from the Joseph P. Healey Library, University of Massachusetts-Boston got in touch to let me know about the efforts that have led to the creation of an online index for this set of records on the library website. This index facility includes more search parameters and also contains the most recent versions of the indexing efforts, a project that is still ongoing. Records for the Foresters, which are housed at the library, are available through 1942, with the index currently covering the years up to 1935.

Read more about the Catholic Order of Foresters, access the indexing project database, and learn where to write to for copies of the records by clicking here.

[1] TIARA. Tiara Foresters Project. 2011. accessed 16 December 2013.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Prince Edward Island Data Pages

Rootsweb houses many fascinating pages researched and developed by volunteer genealogists. A useful one for those with Irish ancestors on Prince Edward Island (PEI) is the Prince Edward Island Data Pages. This database is a compilation of some records of Irish immigrants to PEI from before 1846.

In all, there are about 1,000 entries. The compiler, Marge Reid, advises that when using the database, “the documentation on the four data pages of the PEI IRISH PROJECT is shoddy. (There are OTHER words that could be used to describe the sourcing, but I wouldn't want to offend anyone!) Use the data as a "finding aid" or a "kick-start", but remember - it's only worth what you've paid for it...”[1] It’s useful advice as we should always try and get from an online database or transcription to a copy of the original record. Some local knowledge will definitely be useful when using this database as the compiler uses abbreviations for sources and local place names.

A considerable amount of the database entries give an Irish county of origin. For example, an obituary (from an unknown, undated newspapers) for Bridget Regan gives the information that she was from Sligo and emigrated in 1844. Her husband was John Butler and she (presumably) lived in Ch’town (Charlottetown). The dates 1825-1900 are also provided, possibly her year of birth and death.[2]

[1] Marge Reid. Prince Edward Island Data Pages. 25 January 1999. accessed 11 May 2015.
[2] “IRISH-BORN in PEI before 1846”, database,
( accessed 11 May 2015), entry for Bridget Regan, date unknown; QUINN through WYNN, p. 4.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Chronicling America Newspaper Database

Chronicling America is a website providing access to information about historic newspapers and select digitized newspaper pages, and is produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). NDNP is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress .[1]

In total, almost 9.5 million pages of digitized newspapers are currently available view. One of the most useful features on the website is the US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present. This database contains information for over 153,000 newspapers that were published in the U.S. since the 17th century. You can use many different filter options to search the database, one of which is ethnicity. Using the ‘Irish’ option gives a return of 127 titles. The majority of the titles are from the state of New York, however, in total, newspapers from 16 states are listed. They are:

Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia

The span of years and cities they cover range from the brief to the broad. Some interesting examples include:

The Irish Pennsylvanian (Pittsburg, PA), 1890-1921
The Northwestern Standard (Minneapolis, MN), 1885-1886
The A.O.H. Journal (Richmond, VA), 1878-1881

Just one of these 127 newspapers is digitized and available to view on the website. It is the Kentucky Irish American and you can search editions from 1898-1921.

You can read other blog posts about newspapers relevant to Irish genealogy research by selecting the ‘newspaper’ label at the end of this post.

[1] About Chronicling America. Year Unknown. accessed 5 May 2015.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tracing The Irish In Minnesota

The May/June edition of the free genealogy magazine Irish Lives Remembered is available to read. In this edition, I wrote about Tracing the Irish in Minnesota (pp. 36-37).

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

County Clare Records From The U.S.

Over the last number of years there has been an awaking in Ireland in relation to researching the lives of the millions of people who emigrated over the last number of centuries. Some of the best research in this area is being carried by historians such as Damian Shiels and Dr. Ciaran Reilly. The Ireland Reaching Out (XO) organizations was also set up to focus on the idea of 'reverse genealogy' - harvesting the local knowledge in Ireland about those who emigrated so as to connect with their descendants all over the world.

At a local level, the Clare County Library is leading the way with their efforts to provide transcriptions of genealogy records that concern emigrants from Clare. Some of the collections they have made available included:

Those who immigrated to the U.S. through Ellis Island, divided by parish of origin (55+ parishes).

Those who naturalized in various New England states (almost 600 records)

Those who applied for U.S. passports (39 records)

Those who arrived in the U.S. through Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, and California (150+ records)

Have family stories been passed down to you about your ancestors possibly being from Co. Clare? Are you researching ancestors with names that are often found in the county, such as Hickey, McNamara, (O') Dea, Kett, Thynne, or Hehir? If so you might find some joy in these records.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Immigrants At Grosse Île Quarantine Station, 1832-1937

The Library and Archives Canada website has a database that contains over 33,000 records for immigrants who stayed, were born, married, or were buried at the Grosse Île Quarantine Station between 1832 and 1937. The quarantine station at Grosse Île is infamous for the thousands of Irish people who died there during the Famine years. However, it has a much longer history and was first used as a quarantine station in 1832.

Grosse Île Quarantine Station was located in the St. Lawrence River and acted as a pre-immigration stopping point near Quebec. This collection of records was compiled by Parks Canada and comes from many different sources, including:

Baptisms recorded at the Grosse Île Quarantine Station
Births that occurred at sea
Burials recorded at the Grosse Île Quarantine Station
Deaths that occurred at sea
Hospital Registers
Inventory of belongings of deceased people
List of tenants of Major Denis Mahon, landlord of County Roscommon in Ireland
Marriages recorded at the Grosse Île Quarantine Station
Names recorded on the Grosse Île Quarantine Station Memorial

Some of the records in this database mention an Irish county of origin. For example, 30 year old Edward O' Reilly died on 30 May 1847 and was from County Fermanagh. He was buried two days later, on the 20th, and was married to Anne Martin.[1]

From a random search of the records, my guess is that less than half have Irish place of origin information. The best chance of getting this information is in the records that were sourced from baptisms, burials, and for tenants from the Mahon estate. Those who are from the Mahon Estate have their townland of origin in County Roscommon listed. For more information about emigrants to Canada from the Mahon Estate, see Dr. Ciaran Reilly's guest post from last November.

You can access the database and information about it by clicking here.

[1] “Immigrants at Grosse Île Quarantine Station, 1832-1937”, database, Library and Archives Canada ( : accessed 28 April 2015), entry for Edward O'Reilly, 30 May 1847; citing Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec, Registre d'état civil, Saint-Luc de Grosse-Ile, 1834-1932, item 694.

Monday, May 4, 2015

U.S. Census Series: Ward 1, Boston 1860

One of the recurring features of this website is the U.S. Census Series, where I highlight the rare instances of Irish place of birth/origin recorded on census documents (access other examples in the Census Series section of the website). This example is probably the most well known: Boston, Ward 1 in the 1860 federal census.

Boston 1865 (Ward 1/North End dark pink color) [1]

The population of Boston at the time of the 1860 census was 177,840.[2] Irish-born people accounted for a large proportion of that count at almost 26%.[3] Ward 1 was the electoral district for the famous North End. Today, this area is known as an Italian American community, but the area was dominated by the Irish from the time of the Famine to about 1880.[4] 

Approximately 3,200 Irish born people in Ward 1 had their county of birth recorded. More than one third of these people were born in Cork, with other significant populations from Galway, Derry/Londonderry, Sligo, and Dublin.

Approx. No. of Entries*
Laois (indexed as Queens)
Offaly (indexed as Kings)
Kerry (some indexed as Carey)
Westmeath (indexed as West Made)
Monaghan (some indexed as Monahan)
Fermanagh (indexed as Fermanna/Fammana)
Tyrone (indexed as Terone) - see comment
County not listed, place is
10 approx

The 1860 federal census can be accessed on websites such as Familysearch (index only), Ancestry, Findmypast, and Fold3.

*Note: numbers are very close approximates as it is difficult to count every single example.

EDIT (5/16/15): The ward boundaries in Boston changed a number of times in the 19th century. The ward boundaries in operation during the 1860 federal census were enacted in 1850. This map is from an 1865 publication and they were changed during that year. However, the map has a date of 1855 in the lower right corner (see link in footnote to view) and the boundaries on this map seem to be congruent with the description of the 1850 boundaries. For more information, read here.

[1] Colton, G.W. 1865. Colton's Map of Boston and Adjacent Cities. New York, NY:  J. H. Colton, No. 172 William St. New York. p.31. Available online;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=6&trs=221# :accessed 25 April 2015
[2] United States Census Bureau. 1860 Fast Facts, 10 Largest Urban Places. 2014. accessed 25 April 2015.
[3] The index gives a figure of 46,026 for the Irish born population.
[4] Goldfeld, Alex R.  The North End: A Brief History of Boston's Oldest Neighborhood. Charleston, SC: History Press. 2009.

Friday, May 1, 2015

National Genealogical Society 2015 Conference Reminder

Last October, I wrote about the NGS 2015 conference, which will be held later this month (13-16 May) in St. Louis, Missouri. (click here for original article and full details). This post is a reminder of the Irish genealogy lectures at the conference. 

There will be five lectures/workshops specifically related to Irish genealogy:

Immigration, Thursday (14th), 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 (15th), 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 (16th), 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.