17 October 2014

Irish Land Records Not Just About Land!

Registered Papers (left), Prison and Criminal Records (back wall)

This is part of a series of posts about a research trip to Dublin.

1. "Back to the Old Home--Genealogical Research in Dublin"
2. "Digging for the Truth at the National Archives of Ireland"
3. "How Many Repositories Can I Visit in One Day?"
4. "Irish Land Records Not Just About Land!"

You may have noticed by now that we spend an awful lot of time examining records having to do with land. From Evicted Tenants records to Valuation to Deeds, much can be gleaned from land transactions.

After a somewhat leisurely awakening and breakfast I meandered over to the National Archives on  Thursday. I had a little more time to go through the remaining boxes of indexes to Evicted Tenants and found further reference to the entry I had found earlier which pretty much confirms it is my guy, or makes it very likely. The landlord was said to be Rae (yay!) and the year of eviction is 1884. the only sad thing is that his application was refused. With great hope in my heart to finally getting to the bottom of Patrick's family's eviction, I submitted the form and made myself wait one more day to find out.

No time for lunch. Donna and I stopped by the GRO again while on our way to the Registry of Deeds. I was the only person on the tour to opt for the Registry of Deeds. And I only did because of my husband's ancestors, not my own. My poor Irish Catholic farmers would not appear in these records. But landowners, and those entering in a marriage interested in protecting their assets would make special arrangements, so I had lots of good luck there. A person could spend many happy days there! Life would be a lot easier if they allowed us to use cameras to record the memorials, though. I transcribed like a fiend all afternoon. I am going to guest blog on Donna Moughty's Blog about it, so you can read more about it there.

I walked all over creation on Thursday and was really tired (a running theme!) by the end of the day. It was raining all the way home so I arrived like a drowned rat. We decided to dine in the hotel and had another two-hour relaxing meal.

Finally on Friday (today) I was to get the information I had been seeking. I came to the archives full of hope but before I could even set down my computer the man at the desk told me I had no file.* "It's not there." He was still convinced the number was too low, so I had to retrieve the index and show him the entry. He then made a phone call over to the remote site. They couldn't find it but did locate another John FitzGerald file. I ordered that and it will be mailed to me, but I'm afraid I'll never get the real story of what happened to the FitzGerald farm.

Dejected, I turned, finally, to the Registered Papers. Another fail! I had a box full of mostly mundane paperwork, generated by lots of different agencies, from all counties. The numbered case files I had ordered did not fall between the numbers contained in the box, so it was useful, if interesting.

Finally, one last trip to the GRO for some more John Fitzgerald death certificates. I keep thinking that to straighten it out I'm going to have to do a one-name study but unless I can involve my kids in it, I fear that's a project without end because I'd never finish it in my lifetime!

* I thought he said "You have no foil!" and that I had violated yet another rule. Took me a minute. Hey, it was morning!

How Many Repositories Can I Visit in One Day?

This is part of a series of posts about a research trip to Dublin in search of information about my FitzGerald ancestors

1. "Back to the Old Home--Genealogical Research in Dublin"
2. "Digging for the Truth at the National Archives of Ireland"
3. "How Many Repositories Can I Visit in One Day?"
4. "Irish Land Records Not Just About Land!"

On Wednesday I was schizo! I had to fling back to the National Archives to see if the index for Evicted Tenants had come in so I could order the next round of files. It had! Great jubilation there because of the doubt created when the employees argued about how much info was required on the request form. I was happy to see it, indeed. I was also glad to learn a little more about the actual record group, especially that it was created by the Irish Land Commission. I only had time to go through one box because Donna had us booked for the Valuation Office in the afternoon, but I found a reference I thought looked promising.  

I took this information to the desk to request the file and another discussion ensued! It wasn't enough information. Or the number is too low. Yet no one could tell me what other info I should add, so I called on the archivist and they agreed they'd try and find it with that information. Since it was off-site, I'd have to wait until Thursday to get it. But I didn't have time to go through the rest of the boxes before hurrying off to our next appointment. I decided to come back Thursday and go through those, then order it.

Also, the wills I ordered came in, and they were lovely, especially my husband's great-greatmother's will: "To my daughter Mrs. Elizabeth Mary Stephens Churton ... the small silver cream ewer presented to me by my children on the twenty-fifth anniversary of my wedding..." an artifact which is probably still in the family. I love that!

Then we rushed off to the GRO to get some more certificates. I think. At this point, it's all a blur!

Finally, a long-awaited visit to the Valuation Office where we were able to consult the revision books. I won't go into detail on them because it's a bit complicated, but essentially you can follow the ownership of a piece of land through time, with changes indicated in different colored inks (if you're lucky), and a little key telling which year is associated with which color. I, of course, am not lucky. So revisions were made in brown or blue ink, and several in each, so it's impossible to be precise. In any case I did find my John FitzGerald where I had hoped to, in Farnes/Farna, but only for a short while. That is very good because he wasn't there in Griffiths, but he was there for the birth of his children from 1867-1875. He or another John also appears in another townland, too, Ballygamboon, and he is next to or with Garrett FitzGerald. I know my John had an uncle Garrett, so it will require some serious analysis. I took photos like mad and will study them when I get home. I don't like researching this way because sure enough I'll get home and wish I could see the books again for some reason or another, but when time and money are at a premium you just do the best you can and make sure that camera is charged!

By the end of Wednesday my eyes were tired, my brain hurt and I was pretty tired. We discovered a wondrous Italian restaurant that served the most tender and tasty salmon I've ever had. We loved our meals. The Nigerian chef came out to chat with us and it was a nice relaxing end to a frantic day.

Digging for the Truth at the National Archives of Ireland

This is the second in a series of posts about a research trip to Dublin.
1. "Back to the Old Home--Genealogical Research in Dublin"
2. "Digging for the Truth at the National Archives of Ireland"
3. "How Many Repositories Can I Visit in One Day?"
4. "Irish Land Records Not Just About Land!"

I'm in Dublin, researching my FitzGerald grandfather's family and the loss of their 75-acre farm in 1883. An article in the Boston Daily Globe about Irishmen in Boston wanting to reclaim lost land after the Land Laws changed in 1903 gives some nice detail. The second page continues here.
"Back to the Old Home," Boston Daily Globe, 17 December 1903, p. 26, col 2; GenealogyBank (http://www.genealogybank.com: 15 December 2008).
I had already searched in the State Commissioner's Offices "Applications from Evicted Tenants, 1907," database on FindMyPast.com, to no avail. From what Patrick says above, it seems as though he had already started the wheels in motion by the end of 1903, so I needed to check the Evicted Tenants cases at the National Archives of Ireland (NAI) as well. But also, the last paragraph mentions that Patrick had made an appeal to the MP of West Kerry, Mr. Thomas O'Donnell, so I thought perhaps there might be some record of that still in existence. If it were, it would appear in the Registered Papers collection at the NAI.

Tuesday we came over to the National Archives. We had an orientation and got IDs, put our coats and items not allowed in the reading room in lockers and got started. I consulted with the archivist, Gregory O'Connor, who advised me on the use of their Registered Papers series. They come in the form of very large volumes in sets by year with an index and register for every year. The index is both subject and name-based, with different subjects then subdivided alphabetically. At Gregory's suggestion I began by looking under C for Constabulary, in 1883 and 1884, in case there had been any trouble with the eviction. I also looked under E for Eviction, F for FitzGerald and Farnes, K for Kerry and Kilgarrylander, and Rae/Ray, the landlord's name. I found nothing.

Registered Papers, Index to 1884, index tabs in brown ink, ripped and faded.
Next I moved on to 1903-1904 when the land laws changed and my grandfather appealed to O'Donnell. This time Gregory told me to look under the subject heading of Parliamentary Questions as well as the landlord. I looked also under E for Eviction, F for FitzGerald and Farnes, K for Kerry and Kilgarrylander, L for Land, and Rae/Ray, the landlord's name, and I added O'Donnell, against Gregory's advice, but I'm not going to take a chance at missing it! I found just a few references that seemed remotely possible so I had to request those files from the desk. They are filed offsite at the Four Courts so they would not be in until Wednesday.

(Gregory also advised me to check Hansard, an online database of parliamentary records (reporters, upon which the US system is based) but I'll save that for another time.

Knowing my grandfather was actively pursuing reinstatement of his land, I then explored the Evicted Tenants records. Using them is a three step process. You have to 1) order the index and registers (from Four Courts, so next day delivery); 2) consult those; then 3) order any appropriate files! So I ordered the Evicted Tenants Index and Registers. A great discussion ensued between NAI employees as to whether my request had enough information, but I was powerless and clueless so left it up to them to bash it out! I just hoped the index would appear.

I thought I'd do something straightforward, so I ordered the wills of my husband's great-grandparents since they were late enough not to have been burned in the Four Courts fire.

I still had nothing in hand for all of that research, but my notes were filled with references of things ordered, so when I left the NAI there was a feeling of great potential, but nothing more! I'm always struck by the contrast between instantaneous access on the web and archaically slow in real life. I have to say that I've been surprised by the number of times people have come back and told me a file or book or microfilm can't be found. I think perhaps they are lacking in resources and I fear that history is getting lost because of it.

From the National Archives I went with my friend Patti to the General Register Office. On the outside it looks like a hideout from a street war, with barbed wire and camouflage material. On the inside they are highly efficient, so I requested and received the maximum 8 birth, marriage and death certificates, at only 4 euros each. They were delivered promptly in less than 15 minutes! I now have the death certificates of three of my four Irish great-grandparents, and a whole bunch of John Fitzgerald deaths that aren't my grandfather's father! 

We dined out that evening with Donna, our trip host, and again went back to crash, I mean prepare for the next day's research!

16 October 2014

Back to the Old Home --Genealogical Research in Dublin

"Back to the Old Home," Boston Daily Globe, 27 December 1903, p. 25, col. 2; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 15 December 2008).
This is the first in a series of posts about a research trip to Dublin.
1. "Back to the Old Home--Genealogical Research in Dublin"
2. "Digging for the Truth at the National Archives of Ireland"
3. "How Many Repositories Can I Visit in One Day?"
4. "Irish Land Records Not Just About Land!"

Research Problem: My most obscure lines start with my father's parents, Patrick FitzGerald and Annie O'Sullivan from County Kerry. They emigrated separately about 1890 from neighboring townlands, met, then married in Boston in 1896. Patrick's father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all named John. The name is so common that is it really hard to conclusively identify one John FitzGerald from the next. The snippet above is from a Boston Globe article quoting my grandfather telling how the family was evicted in 1883 from a 75-acre farm in the townland of Farnes, Kilgarrylander. Family lore says that Patrick's father died when he was very young, but he was alive when evicted, so Patrick was at least 16. Patrick's mother Mary (Hurly) FitzGerald is in the 1901 and 1911 census, and her burial in 1919 can be found on the Keel Parish burial records online. The names FitzGerald and Sullivan are extremely common in County Kerry, making my job that much more difficult. In addition, John does not appear in the townland in the article above in Griffith's Valuation.

I've neglected my own Irish research for far too long so I signed up for a research tour with my esteemed colleague Donna Moughty, who hosts a tour every year and brings a group of wanna-be Irish genealogy researchers to Dublin and/or Belfast and enables them to hit the ground running. My reason for signing up: the worst part of visiting a new repository isn't necessarily what records they have, but rather figuring out what hours, identification, gear to bring, quirks of the staff, etc. By having Donna set up appointments, tours and introductions we were able to cram in a lot of research.

Before we left Donna asked us what we were working on, then sent back a detailed research plan. I already had my own research plan, of course, but really appreciated Donna's perspective because she knows more than I do about Irish records. There was nothing new in mine, but I liked that we were thinking along the same lines!

A week may seem like a long time to non-researchers, but with thousands of Irish ancestors to consider (between my husband's 3 grandparents and my 2, we start with 5 lines), and some darn stubborn problems on my Irish Catholic ones, it's hardly any time at all. Or "atahll," as the dear Irish would say.

Patti and Maureen in the Buswell Hotel
We gathered on Sunday evening in our hotel, Buswell's. I had spent the weekend with an ailing aunt in England and was feeling very sad about that so it took me a while to put that aside and screw on my thinking cap. We had a nice dinner right in our hotel, Buswell's which is directly across from the National Library. Two of my good friends are also on the trip, so it was fun to see them and meet the other people. Brian Donovan and Fiona Fitzsimons from Eneclann came as guests and told us a little bit about the latest project of digitizing the Valuation Revision books. In color!

Bright and early Monday we headed across the street to the National Library of Ireland. First we got an orientation and tour, then IDs, so finally a little before noon we were released for research, chomping at the bit! 

I first tried looking in some Kerry newspapers for an announcement of my grandmother Mary's death in 1919, but of the three newspapers I ordered, one microfilm couldn't be found; another listed incorrect dates in the catalog, so it wasn't available; and the third provided no article about Mary. 

Next I consulted a book called Lambert of Wexford by Hubart Andrew Lambert, Esq. It starts with the Norman Conquest and explores some very early branches, none of which can I yet connect to in my husband's family. However, I took a photo of the title page and each page of the article because you JUST never know! 

Finally, I hurried over to the baptismal records for my grandfather's parish, Keel and Kiltallagh (now called Castlemaine) in Co. Kerry. I had viewed the actual registers with my mother and sister in 1989, and carefully transcribed births and marriages for all direct line FitzGeralds and siblings, but since I was a baby genie back then I wanted to verify and get some images as well, especially since there is a conflict with my grandfather's father's name. His birth here shows him as son of John FitzGerald and Catherine Neil, but in his marriage to Mary Hurly it states that his father is Patrick. Gah! I also want to expand upon the larger family, but I ran out of time so will need to return.

All in all a rather frustrating day because I didn't get much done, and didn't get to the General Register Office as I had hoped. After a fine meal at Peploe, we came back to prepare for Tuesday's research.

See post about Tuesday and Wednesday.

03 June 2014

Apology to the Seven-Year Veteran I Insulted on Boston Common Today

Today at a parade I unintentionally did something hurtful. It took me a few minutes to realize it but now I feel awful about it and first want to examine how it happened, then apologize to the universe for my unthinking response.

Why I Should Know Better
I perform two kinds of genealogy research: traditional and forensic. Forensic cases usually have some kind of legal implication and include sub-categories like probate heir search, dual citizenship, oil and gas mineral rights, and military repatriation. I focus on military repatriation and dual citizenship. When I mention that I've done repatriation cases for the US Army people congratulate me and tell me what a great thing I do. But I'm not in the military. I don't deserve any praise. Their thanks is misplaced, but that's okay--I know what they mean. Like I am, they are glad that we are returning the remains to the families and paying tribute to the service of their loved ones. I feel honored to work on these cases, and they leave me with a feeling of satisfaction that other genealogy work sometimes does not.

Why I Shouldn't Have Done It
I think a lot about the trauma servicemen and women have suffered: the PTSD, difficulties re-integrate into society and trying to quiet their minds. War is godawful and nightmarish, and none of us can really understand what they go through. I get that. I thought I was sensitive to it. So imagine my horror today when I pretty much laughed off someone suffering from PTSD. 

I went into Boston to attend June Day, the parade and election ceremony of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, the oldest chartered military organization in the US. They hold Drumhead--a ceremony where they tally their election results on the head of a drum, as it was done in 1638. This year's honored guests were the Honourable Artillery Company of London. There were servicemen everywhere, proudly marching in uniform, wielding flags, beating drums, looking impressive. And there were historical re-enactors about as well. Tourists, schoolchildren, and crusty Bostonian curmudgeons alike stopped and watched as they all filed from Faneuil Hall to the Boston Common.

As the parade passed, several of the units paused to shoot volleys into the air and they were LOUD. And SUDDEN. And there was lots of SMOKE in the air. My first thought was of the victims of last year's Boston Marathon bombings. Wouldn't this make them nervous? What must it be like for people who have suffered to suddenly be in a situation just like one that hurt them? It's not like today is Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. Who's ever heard of the Ancient and Honorable Military Company anyway? As the kids would say, it was so "random." So I did think about it, but apparently not for long enough.

As we hurried along to get to the spot on the Common where they would celebrate the Drumhead I overhead two men talking. One of them said, very animatedly, "They should tell people! I came out of Walmart and almost hit the deck!" He was sort of smiling and I thought he was just being funny. I found this highly amusing. How could they tell everyone? We had just been discussing how poorly advertised this event was, and what a shame that was no one knew what it was for.

At that precise moment it did not occur to me that this, right in front of me, was PTSD in action. Despite his demeanor, he was shaken. I guess in my imagination I thought he would be shaking or crying or freaking in some way, but he was just excitedly telling his friend. His body language did not indicate distress. So I told a few of the ladies about it, saying "Oh, how could they tell everyone? Isn't that cute? They couldn't even publicize it for people who were dying to know about it" sort of thing. The guy, still not annoyed or looking at all traumatized, then came up to me and said, "You have to understand, this affects me because I did seven years over there." WHAM. Oh. These guys are tough. They don't necessarily collapse in a heap when they are upset about something. His way of dealing with it was to tell his friend, and I guess even that is a stretch for some people. I just didn't recognize it for what it was. Once he actually told me I was appalled, of course. Here I thought I was so sensitive to the issue, and still didn't see if for what it was.

I can only hope that my moment of stupidity has served to bridge that gap and that I will never unthinkingly assume everyone around me comes from the same place of safety and peace that I do. Mr. Seven-Year Vet, I'm so sorry. I hope for you that the beauty and pride of this ceremony, and the acknowledgement of gratitude to servicemen like you that was expressed over and over today will help mend your pain.

I feel strongly that the US does not currently take good care of our veterans. Basically, the VA system is irreparably broken and it costs too much to hand out insurance to every vet. No one wants to pay for it because, hello, that payment would come in the form of taxes, and many Americans seem to think no cause is worthwhile if it can only be paid for with taxes. The servicemen I research are deceased, but these returning vets are alive. We can show them our gratitude by taking care of their wounded bodies and souls and helping them heal. 

25 May 2014

Just a Few Civil War Dead From Shrewsbury, Massachusetts

My previous post lists the 29 men on the Civil War Monument on the Shrewsbury, Massachusetts town common. Most of their deaths are recorded all together in the vital records of the Town Clerk of Shrewsbury, and can be found here on Ancestry.com. The clerk took the time to mention some details of their enlistment and death circumstances. Here are just a few.

John F. Howe
17 March 1864, John F. Howe, 18 years, 2 months and 24 days old, died in Shrewsbury [Camp Nelson?], male, single, laborer, born in Shrewsbury, son of William H. Howe born Shrewsbury and his wife Eliza Shaw from Palmer or Brimfield. He died of cerebro-spinal meningitis, and is interred in Shrewsbury. Undertaker or informant was A. F. Maynard, recorded Jan. 7, 1865. "Mr. Howe enlisted from Shrewsbury Jan. 4 1864 in 21 Regt. M. V. M. Co. G. as private and died as above recorded."

Nathan B. Garfield
10 May 1864 (sic), Nathan B. Garfield, 28 years, 3 months and 27 days old, died in Petersburg, Va., male, single, apothecary, born in Shrewsbury, son of Jonas and Rhoda Garfield, died of "gunshot wound in abdomen. Mr. Garfield enlisted from Shrewsbury… in 25 Regt. Co. I as private and was wounded in abdomen during the battle in front of Petersburg, Va. May 9, and died the next day."

Jonas M. Wheelock
18 August 1864, Jonas M. Wheelock, 17 years, 6 months, 27 days, died in Andersonville, Ga., male, single, laborer, born Shrewsbury, son of Abraham Wheelock, born Northboro, and wife Mary C. Maynard [illegible], interred at Andersonville, Ga., informant A. F. Maynard, registered 7 Jan. 1865. "Mr. Wheelock enlisted from Shrewsbury March 7, 1862 in 11 Regt. U. S. I A. F. as private. Taken prisoner at Chancellorsville, Va. Carried to Andersonville, Va."

Several died of bullet wounds: Franklin J. Perry was "shot through the head and died instantly at battle of Coal Harbor, Va." on And Charles F. Rice died at Spottsylvania, Va. of gunshot wounds on May 8th of 1864. And Master Sergeant William H. Williams, 20, bootmaker, died in the Battle of the Wilderness, Va., "at the head of his men, by being shot in forehead, neck and breast."

Several others died of of chronic diarrhea: on 22 July 1864, 30 year-old married shoemaker Charles F. Gleason died at Broad and Cherry Street Hospital, Philadelphia; and 24-year old shoemaker Albert W. Carey died in the hospital at Point of Rocks, Virginia on 19 September 1864.

24 May 2014

Civil War Memorial, Town Common, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts

East-Facing Side

Nathan B. Garfield
Chas. F. Gleason
Frank L. Hapgood
Hollis Holden
Amasa S. Hyde
John F. Howe
Michael O’Laughlin


South-Facing Side

Alonzo B. Louks
Calvin C. Pratt
Franklin J. Perry
Alfred F. Porter
Chas. F. Rice
Edward P. Richardson
Geo. W. B. Sawyer


West-Facing Side

Elijah Smith
Geo. E. Sprague
Henry A. Sawtell
Jonas M. Wheelock
Wm. H. Willson
Chas. G. Ward. Adjt.
J. J. Witherbee, M. D.


North-Facing Side

Edward A. Andrews
Albert W. Carey
Horatio A. Cutting
Jas. H. Cutting
Silas N. Cater
Hiram W. Doane
Thos. B. Eaton
Leander Fay


Visit Waymarking.com for some detail.

08 March 2014

Capt. Ezra Vinal, Died at Sea

My seaside hometown of Scituate, Massachusetts has a Maritime and Mossing Museum that features not only fascinating displays about the 19th-20th century Irish mossers, but exhibits on Scituate seafarers from earlier times as well.

A fabulous oil painting of a sea captain was identified to me on one visit only as Capt. Vinal. I was hoping it might be a sea captain ancestor of mine (we have the same rosy cheeks), but later discovered he was Capt. Ezra Vinal, who had died at sea. I have no Ezra Vinals in my direct line but wanted to find out if we are related. I was named after a Polly Vinal after all! (I'm so glad they didn't name me Polly Vinal FitzGerald ––"Just call me Pollyvinyl: tough but resilient.")

I consulted FindAGrave, where a C. Krueger had written a short biography with basic citations, and uploaded three images: two pages from the printed vital records of Scituate, and a death announcement from the 14 September 1821 issue of the Haverhill [Mass.] Gazette, which states: "On his passage from St Jago to Boston, Capt. Ezra Vinal, of Scituate, aged 47."[1]  Krueger's biography gives Ezra's birth as 20 January 1774, in Scituate, child of Joseph and Thankfull. He gives Ezra's death date as 16 August, 1821 and says his body is buried at sea. Seems fairly solid, and no reason to doubt it so far.

The published Scituate Vital Records mention only one Ezra Vinal in the deaths: "VINAL, Ezra, Capt., _____, 1821, a. 47, at sea." So far, so good! Of course we'll want to check with the original records, but as a guideline we're okay for now. There are quite a few Ezras in the births, but only one born anywhere near 1774, and that is the son of Joseph and Thankful, as Krueger has mentioned.   Joseph Vinal and Thankfull Vinal (sic) were married on 8 November 1763. The Scituate VRs also provide the marriage of "VINAL, Ezry [int. Ezra] and Polly Hammon [int. Hammond] on 27 October 1800, citing the records of the First Church of Scituate. [2] 

So let's add a bit o' conflicting information to stir things up a bit. Strap on your cerebral seat belts. Deane's History of Scituate mentions only one Ezra Vinal, a captain, in a family sketch. Deane's syntax is often confusing and ambiguous and sometimes downright incorrect. In this case he writes, "[Vinal] Joseph, married Martha Jenkins 1745. Children, Joseph 1749, Asa 1753, Martha 1756, Capt. Nathaniel (whose son is Dexter) and Capt. Ezra, who died at Matanzas, leaving children in Scituate." [3]   

What? Different parents, different birth date, different time frame! So what is going on here? Is this a different Capt. Ezra, with each Capt. Ezra Vinal only mentioned once in each source? Or are there just serious errors in our sources?

Ezra #1 was born 20 January 1774, son of Joseph Vinal and Thankfull Vinal who were married 8 November 1763. Both events are listed in the Scituate VRs. His death in 1821 at 47 reported in the newspaper is consistent with this date of birth.

But that conflicts with

Ezra #2, Deane's Ezra, the son of Joseph Vinall and Martha Jenkins who were married in 1745. This Ezra is not listed in either the published vital records or the Scituate town records online at Ancestry.com. [4]  He would have born about 30 years after their marriage if he were 25-ish when he married Polly. Yet Deane says these are his parents. But I propose that he just morphed the children of two Joseph Vinals together and attributed the parents of Ezra #1 incorrectly, thereby creating massive confusion in online trees and forcing people like me to untangle it all. This is not the first time Deane has inconvenienced me in this manner!

Krueger mentions an article in the Columbian Centinel but provides neither any detail from it nor a citation. I located the article he referenced: "Died...On his passage from St. Jago to Boston, Aug. 16, Capt. Ezra Vinal, of Scituate, aged 47, master of sch. Indus." [5]   So this is where we get the exact date of death, Ezra's age, and his ship, as well. [6]   

Another article reveals a bit more: "Deaths...On the 16th ult. on his passage from St. Jago to Boston, Capt. Ezra Vinal, of Scituate, master of schooner Indus. He has left a wife and family to lament his untimely exit, and irreparable loss. Capt. V. was an industrious and enterprising member of the community, and an experienced and correct navigator. Although death has arrested him in his mortal career, far from his family and friends, and consigned his remains to a watery grave, they still have the consoling asurance, that he was a firm believer in the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and a convert to the truth of that divine precept, which declares that "every one and in every nation that feareth God and worth righteousness, is accepted of him."[7]   

In June of the year he died the New York National Advocate printed a notice: "At Quarantine, schr. Indus, Vinal, from St. Thomas." [7]  And in another revealing article, from September, we read, "Arrived at Quarantine, sch. Indus, Wilkinson, (late Vinal, who died 5 days out) 29 days from St. Jago de Cuba, cargo sugars, to P. and T. Curtis.––Schr. Hope, Briggs, for Boston, sailed 9 days before. Capt. Mayhew, of Schr. Native, died day before the Indus sailed. It was very sickly at St. Jago." [8] 

So where is Matanzas? Let's keep digging. If you go look at family trees on Ancestry.com not only will you find the same confusion about Ezra's parents, but also about his place of death. Quite a few of those trees supply a place of death as "Matanzas, Sea, Sulawesi Tengah, Indonesia."  Well, like St. Jago [Santiago], it turns out that there was more than one place by that name.

Carribean Map courtesy of
There is a Matanzas in Indonesia, but there is also one in Cuba, a much more likely destination for Capt. Ezra in general, and consistent with the St. Jago mention in the articles, just at the opposite end of the island. We researchers need to be so careful about information found in public trees! They are created by people who vary greatly in the attention they pay to detail. Add to that the fact that sometimes software will auto-complete a locality for you and you end up with Indonesia instead of Cuba! Don't think that just because you see this information in more than one tree it must be true. Incorrect information proliferates as quickly as correct!

So, summing up, C. Krueger's information was correct, but we could not know that without investigating his incomplete sources and resolving the conflicting information from Deane. We now know that Ezra Vinal, son of Joseph Vinal and Thankfull Vinal, born 20 January 1774, was captain of the schooner Indus when he passed away, enroute to Boston from St. Jago (Santiago), Cuba. He left behind a wife and family. I'd want even more corroboration, through land and probate, church and other records, but the above is enough to prove that Deane was mistaken.

His death was likely caused by illness, not accident, as evidenced by the repeated quarantining of ships during that summer. Diseases of the time for which a ship would be quarantined might be cholera, yellow fever or even plague! A ship would be detained in total for 60-65 days. [9] 

His grandparents were my 6th great grandparents: Jacob Vinall, stonecutter, born 1700, and Elizabeth Simmons. [10]  Our calculated relationship is 2nd cousin 5x removed. I guess those rosy cheeks are mere coincidence!
1. C. Krueger, "Capt Ezra Vinal (1774-1821) – Find A Grave Memorial," no cemetery given, but the note "Body buried at sea," memorial #88781603, added 19 Apr 2012; Find A Grave, Inc. (http"//www.findagrave.com : 13 May 2013). Krueger cites both the Scituate published vital records and the two newspaper articles in his sources, though he does not state where he viewed the articles.

2. Vital Records of Scituate, Massachusetts to the year 1850 (Boston: 1909; reprint, Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1976), 1:386 (birth of Ezra); 2:459 (death of Ezra); 2:312 (marriage of Joseph and Thankfull); and 2:310 (marriage of Ezra and Polly).

3. Samuel Deane, History of Scituate, Massachusetts, from its first settlement to 1831 (Boston: 1831; reprint, Scituate: Scituate Historical Society, 1975), 365. Deane is known to have inaccuracies in his history, and his family descriptions can get very grammatically complicated and confusing. 

4. "Scituate Town Records, with Births, Marriages, and Deaths," database with digital images, Scituate Town Clerk, 19th century transcription, from Holbrooke microfiches; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 14 May 2013.

5. "Died," Columbian Centinel, 12 September 1821, p. 2, col. 4, digital image, "Newspaper Archives"; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 13 May 2013).

6. "Deaths," Boston Commercial Gazette, 13 September 1821, p. 2, col. 4, digital image, "Newspaper Archives"; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 13 May 2013).

7. "Shipping," New York Advocate, 14 June 1821,  p. 2, col. 4, digital image, "Newspaper Archives"; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 13 May 2013).

8. "Shipping News," Boston Commercial Gazette, 10 September 1821, p. 3, col. 4, digital image, "Newspaper Archives"; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 13 May 2013).

9. "Quarantine," webpage; Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarantine : 13 May 2013).

10. Vital Records of Scituate, 1:388.

22 October 2013

Woman's Relief Corps

"We hope that in the years of the future, some historian may glean from these pages many evidences that the Woman's Relief Corps of Massachusetts honored the brave men of the Grand Army of the Republic." [1]

Soldiers' Home, Chelsea, Massachusetts, where "Men, crippled, paralyzed and
penniless, as a result of their war service, are tenderly cared for under the roof
of this home which shelters 330 veterans of the Union Army." [2]

The only officially recognized auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic was the Woman's Relief Corps, the first Department of which was organized in Massachusetts on 12 February 1872. [3] This was a group of patriotic women, mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and friends of Civil War veterans who found a way to contribute to the welfare of those men in a very significant way. They raised money for soldiers homes, for gravesite maintenance, but they also used their domestic skills to create beautiful quilts and items for the soldiers to use on a daily basis. They tirelessly held bazaars and solicited donations from the public in order to supply bibles, flags, food, and clothing to those in need.

Many towns in Massachusetts had their own corps, and Scituate was no exception. Even today there is still evidence that the ladies cared for graves. Back in June I went on an exploration of the Merritt Cemetery in Scituate with my second Cousin, Charlie Hollis. I posted about that here. While we were mucking around we found a flag holder apparently left by the Women's Relief Corps! The gravestone was missing or covered with growth (see photo at end of post), so we couldn't even tell which grave was decorated. The marker says: Mass. Dep'm't. Womans Relief Corps, Corps 121 W. R. C.

Here is a little blurb about the GEORGE W. PERRY CORPS No. 121, Scituate, Massachusetts.

On April 5, 1889, through the earnest efforts of Mrs. Marion L. Bailey, Corps 121 was instituted by Mrs. Elizabeth V. Lang, Department Inspector, with nineteen charter members. The officers were publicly installed in the evening in the presence of the members of the Post and other interested friends.

A Relief Fund was started which has received additions from time to time, and although there are not many calls for relief in the quiet little town of Scituate, assistance is always cheerfully rendered whenever necessary.

The Corps takes great pride in appropriating funds to make the Grand Army Hall attractive and comfortable. The Post is assisted by the Corps each Memorial Day in preparing garlands for the fallen comrades, and both organizations unite in a memorial service for those who sleep in unknown graves.

Membership, fifty.

Mandana C. Morris........1889, 1890 
Mary F. Prouty...............1891,1892 
Martha W. Pierce............1893 
Annie M. Soule..............1894 [4]
These were the officers of the Scituate Corps 121 in 1902:
Clara A. Osborne, President
Martha W. Pierce, Senior Vice-President
Annie Patterson, Junior Vice-President
Past President, Mary F. Prouty
Delegate, Lizzie L. Dalby
Alternate, Rachel N. Burrows

Polly Kimmitt, digital photograph of unidentified graveside flag holder,
Kilburn Merritt Cemetery, Scituate, Massachusetts, taken 18 June 2013.

1. Women's Relief Corps, Department of Massachusetts, History of the Department of Massachusetts Woman's Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic, from date of organization, February 12, 1872, to January 1, 1895 (Boston: E. B. Stillings & Co., Printers, 1895); Archive.org (http://www.archive.org : 22 Oct 2013), Preface.

2. Ibid., 60.

3. Ibid., viii.

4. Ibid., 255.

5. Women's Relief Corps, Department of Massachusetts, Journal of the Twenty-Third Annual Convention of the Department of Massachusetts, Woman's Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic, Boston, Mass., February 11 and 12, 1902, (Boston: E.B. Stillings & Co., 1902), 33.

02 September 2013

The Ar Foon Family of Chelsea and Scituate, Massachusetts

Why I am Researching a Chinese Family
Gravestone of Henry S. and Grace Ar Foon,
Mount Hope Cemetery, North Scituate,
Massachusetts; taken by Polly Kimmitt,
15 Sep 2008.
Scituate, Massachusetts, a suburb on the South Shore of Boston, "the most Irish town in America," is 97.9% white, according to the 2010 census. It has a sprinkling of other races, with Asians now accounting for 2.1% of the population. [1] In the first half of the 20th century the demographics were much the same, but there was one man who stood out for being different, and that was Henry Smith Ar Foon.

Henry's gravestone is near my own ancestors in the Mount Hope Cemetery in Scituate's West End. It turns out he was a neighbor and friend of my family, and I remember hearing his name when I was little. I have one photograph of my grandmother's large yard with a seated figure in the distance, labelled as Henry Arfoon. I'd love to show it to you, but of course, I can't find it right now... Anyway, being the curious sort, I've done a little research to see how Henry came to plant himself in Scituate. I didn't really figure it out, but I learned an awful lot about him.

If you're not from the Boston area, you won't be pronouncing Henry's name as I heard it when I was little. What I heard was Henry AH Foon, almost as if the speaker had stopped to sigh in the middle of saying his name. When I figured out how the non-rhotic Boston accent was interfering with my understanding, I assumed it was written as Henry R. Foon. The pronunciation is important because it impacts how you search on his name. Eventually I determined the actual spelling (sometimes Ar Foon, sometimes Arfoon, sometimes Smith--read on...), and am told that may be significant in learning where his family was from in China. [2]

Basic Framework
Henry turns up regularly in the censuses, and between those, newspapers on GenealogyBank.com, and the marvelous Massachusetts vital records system, we have a nice window into his life. You can set aside any preconceived notions about him now. No, he didn't run a laundry, whereas my own father did, which sort of turns stereotypical notions on their head now, doesn't it!

Henry Smith Ar Foon and Gracie E. (Lloyd) Moffatt, both of Holbrook (an inland town south of Boston), were married on Saturday, 14 Dec 1918, in Boston. Henry was 46, a clerk, born in Boston about 1872, the son of Robert S. Ar Foon and Lottie, both Chinese. Gracie, 34, was born in Worcester to Philip Lloyd and Martha O. Chapman. This was her second marriage. They were married by minister Jason F. Chase of West Roxbury. Henry was Chinese, Grace was white. [3] I wonder how they pulled that off and what life was like for them.

Boston Herald, 15 Dec 1918
The same year they married Henry bought property in North Scituate. See the article here. [4] I don't know if he kept the chickens, though. In the 1920 and 1930 censuses there are no children in the Ar Foon household, so I'm assuming they never had any. Lottie moved to Scituate with them and appears in the 1920 [5], but not the 1930 census [6]. Grace died in 1935, according to her gravestone, and Henry in 1955. I wish I knew was how they chose Scituate. How did Henry meet Grace, who was from Holbrook? So far I haven't discovered that.

For that matter, how did Robert Smith and Lottie Ar Foon came to America? I went back through the censuses and found Henry living with his parents in Chelsea, a small, coastal city adjacent to Boston. His birth was difficult to find, and hard to read, but eventually I found it: Henry R. Fon, born 28 Mar 1872 in Chelsea to parents Robert, a cook, and Lottie, both Chinese. They lived at 88 Cedar Street. [7] I had no luck finding Robert and Lottie's marriage.

In 1880, "Smith Ar Foon" is 50, and runs a cigar and fruit store. Lottie is 38, son Henry is 8, and they live at 92 Winnisimmet, right near the water. They have two boarders––Ming C. Tong, 18, and Ten Moon Chung 25, both b. China and attending school. Could these be relatives? [8]

Each census presents us with new clues, so I looked at 1900. They had moved to 129 Division Street in Chelsea. They were listed under the surname Smith, so it took a little hunting to dig them out, but I was rewarded with the news that Robert was naturalized and had immigrated in 1860, Lottie in 1859. [9] But to and from where?? My searches online have revealed nothing so far, but I haven't dug in too deeply.

Boston Herald, 24 Dec 1900
Robert Smith Ar Foon died of paralysis in 1900. His parents are not listed on his death certificate, unfortunately. His occupation is laborer. [10] He is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett, but I do not find any entries on FindAGrave for him or Lottie. I haven't yet searched out Lottie's death information. From a short article on his funeral we learn that he was a well-loved member of the Mt. Vernon Congregational Church. The writer goes out of his way to point out that his those who attended his funeral were "all American neighbors and friends of the family," aka not Chinese. [11] Did Robert make it a point, as some immigrants do, to separate himself from his native community in order to completely assimilate? I'm thinking that he made a conscious effort to do so, and his son Henry followed by marrying a Yankee. Just a theory, of course, but sometimes you just have to stop thinking and listen to the evidence in a more intuitive way.

The Interesting Bits
More fun than actually tracking vital records and census is putting some meat into the story of someone's life, and I found out a few things about the Ar Foons by reading the newspaper. Of course I also got more clues to chase down, but for now I'll just report on a few interesting tidbits.

The Life of a "Chinaman" in Boston in 1876
Library of Congress, American Memory
Digital ID codhawp 10021654
In reaction to "ill treatment which the poor Mongolians receive in San Francisco," an attempt was made in Boston to "teach the Chinese with religious influences to show them that Christian civilization is not all a mere thing of adjectives." Invitations were quietly sent out to "some seventy Chinamen in Boston and vicinity"to attend a private affair at the YMCA. There was an exhibition of Chinese stereopticon pictures with a talk by missionaries, an elaborate tea was served, and the guests were entertained by a large choir performing "some grand old chorals, such as "Jerusalem, my Happy Home, the Hallelujah," and more. They offered English as a second language courses and introduced the guests to ladies who held an evening language school for Chinese scholars. Most of the Chinese had arrived within the past two years: "Sixty of them are engaged in laundry establishments, of which there are about thirteen in all, and their average income is about ten dollars a week, as near as can be estimated, and as they are frugal in their habits and live on a small sum, they are doubtless enabled to save a great part of their earnings. Most of them are young men, very pleasant looking, quiet and polite." Wow. Some forty Chinese attended the event, "attired in their neat and inexpensive home costume," including Mr. Ar-Foon, who "keeps a store on Winnisimmet street in Chelsea." [12]

The article describing the event gives us one clue as to Robert and Lottie's origins: "...explanations were repeated in Chinese by Mr. Ar-Showe, in a clear and distinct voice. The dialects of different parts of China are so different that few present would have understood Dr. Treat's Peking language, since nearly all were from the south of China, and a few from the centre."

The Bombs Bursting in Air
Henry was one of four people severely injured by a wayward firework bomb at a 1888 Republican rally. The 16-year old sustained a deep gash to his left thigh, and was taken to his home to recover. "It was a fortunate circumstance that more persons were not injured." [13] In 1891, at 19 years old, he sued Benjamin Wedger for his injuries, and the court was "asked to decide if the maker of fireworks is responsible for a premature explosion of the fireworks in the hands of a third person." [14] Well now. I haven't followed this up, but I can't wait to do so!

According to His Mother
A stroke of luck brings us the words of Harry's mother, quoted during a Women's Festival celebrating various nations: "Mrs. Ar Foon, in Chinese costume, who has lived here since her childhood, told what the public schools had done for her, and what they are doing for her young son, who is to be one of this year's graduates from the Chelsea high school."[15] Again I say, wow!

Boston Herald, 25 Feb 1897
Next thing you know, Capt. "Harry" Ar Foon and Manager J. B. Hewes are leading the Winnisimmet Cycle Club's baseball team to victory in the ACC tournament, with eyes firmly fixed on winning a pennant! [16] Young Harry was taking Chelsea by storm, and in an upset victory was elected president of the same Winnisimmet Cycle Club in 1897. [17] He was only 25 years old at the time. His parents must have been so proud of him.

Finally (because really, I must stop), a 1911 article mentions Harry as a member of the Chelsea Yacht Club" and the only Chinaman yacht owner in this city" with a boat that was 32 feet long with a 16-24 horsepower motor--and this wasn't his first boat! "The new boat will be used about Boston this summer and her owner plans a cruise to Florida for next winter."[18] So by the time he met Grace, he was an extremely eligible bachelor and probably ready to settle down. I still want to know what got him down to Holbrook, though.

Unanswered Questions Plus More Questions!
I haven't even come close to finding how Henry's parents got here and where they were from. If Lottie was 12 when she came over in 1859, did she come over with her parents? But now I also want to know how Henry acquired so much wealth. Was it his industrious father, living a disciplined life and slowly accumulating enough money to pass on to his son? Did Harry win the fireworks case and get a handsome settlement? In the various censuses his occupation is listed as stenographer, "private secretary to a rich man" (!), or clerk, so perhaps he just made his own fortune? Does there exist a photo of Henry or anyone else in his family?

There are plenty of records left to explore, but I just thought it was fun to delve in a little and see what the lives of this family were like in Boston 100-150 years ago. Though I don't think Henry's life was typical, it was fun to uncover. It is very strange to research someone who left no descendants. Does anyone care but me? Henry was an only child. Maybe Grace had siblings who left descendants that remember Uncle Henry. I hope so, because from what I can tell, he was quite a guy.

Addendum: Since I originally published this post I have heard from some family members with what they remember about Henry. In particular, my Aunt Abbie, who was very firm that I should not use the term "hanging around" to describe Henry's relationship with my grandmother. I meant nothing untoward, just that he was friends with and associating with our family!

Abbie's memories validate my research: "Henry was a secretary to a big shot in Boston. They were very intelligent, and perhaps visited Scituate in the summer time. They had a lovely home on the salt creek right near the Cohasset line. I think Grace was in mother's bridge club. Then she and Henry used to play bridge with my parents. They both seemed to like our family of five kids. I think they had no children.

Once a year our Dad, Henry and two other men used to go to a lodge in N.H. for a week of fishing.

When we were about 10 or 12 [ie, ca 1934-36] our father got Aaron Bates (I think) of Cohasset to build a flat-bottomed boat for us kids to use in the creek. Well, the ArFoons let us moor the boat behind their house on the creek.

What took them from Chelsea to Scituate, I do not know. Most anything  I would think."

And my sister, Ann Vernetta, remembers that Henry had a friend named Eddie A. Tick! Oh no!!! Here I go again!!

1. United States Census Bureau, US Department of Commerce, American FactFinder, "Scituate town, Massachusetts," drawing on data obtained in 2010 US Federal census; (http://factfinder2.census.gov : 2 Sep 2013).

2.   I'm hoping my friend Alice Kane will read this and give me some tips on the meaning of the name, Robert and Lottie's origins and how to track their arrival in the US. Alice is a genealogist at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston, specializing in Chinese genealogy. Alice has already told me that Ar is an honorific title, intended to indicate respect.

3. "Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988," Ar Foon-Lloyd, 14 Dec 1918, Holbrook,  p. 85, image 654; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 15 Aug 2013).

4. "Hall Active in Real Estate," Boston Herald, 15 Dec 1918, 20; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 2 Sep 2013).

5. 1920 US census, Plymouth Co., Mass., Scituate, ED 144, sheet 12A, image 781, Blossom Street (no number), dw. 302, fam. 209, household of Henry Ar Foon; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 15 Aug 2013).

6. 1930 US census, Plymouth Co., Mass, Scituate, ED 98, sheet 14B, dw. 402, fam. 412, household of Henry Arfoon; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 2 Sep 2013).

7. "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910," Births, 1872, 243:32,  Henry R. Fon, 18 Mar 1872, Chelsea; AmericanAncestors.org (http://americanancestors.org : 15 Aug 2013).

8. 1880 US census, Suffolk Co., Mass., Chelsea, ED 787, sheet , 92 Winnisimet, dw. 239, fam. 341, household of Smith Ar Foon; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 15 Aug 2013).

9. 1900 US census, Suffolk Co., Mass., Chelsea, Ward 1, ED 1551, 129 Division St.,  dw. 65, fam. 93, household of Robert Smith; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 16 Aug 2013).

10. "Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1915," Robert S. Ar Foon, 21 Dec 1900, Chelsea, mf 004289814, image 667; FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org : 15 Aug 2013).

11. "Chelsea Chinaman Buried," Boston Herald, 24 Dec 1900, 4;  GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 15 Aug 2013).

12. "Chinamen in Boston," Boston Traveler, 2 May 1876,  2;  GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 15 Aug 2013).

13. "An Unfortunate Accident: the Bursting of a Bomb Causes the Injury of Four Persons in Chelsea," Boston Journal, 27 Sep 1888, vol. 15, iss. 18171, 2; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 15 Aug 2013).

14. "Law and Equity: Interesting Cases That Are to Come Before the Full Bench of the Supreme Court," Boston Traveler, 3 Nov 1891; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 15 Aug 2013). 

15. "Loyal Women's Festival: Unique Entertainment Being Held in Faneuil Hall," Boston Herald, 20 May 1890, 4; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 16 Aug 2013). 

16. "Winnisimmet Cycle Club," Boston Herald, 19 Jul 1896, 24; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 15 Aug 2013).

17. "Beaten By a Chinaman," Boston Herald, 25 Feb 1897, 3; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 15 Aug 2013).

18. "Inter-Club Wants Trophy," Chinese Owner of Yacht, Boston Herald, 18 Jun 1911, 4S; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 15 Aug 2013).