28 January 2015

Emily (Churton) Churton (1847-1918): Week 4 of "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks"

Emily Churton was the granddaughter of William Churton, daughter of William Churton, wife of William Churton, sister of William Churton, and mother of William Churton.

She was born 21 November 1847 in Whitchurch, Shropshire, England, the daughter of William Parker Churton and Jane Weaver. (1) She was my husband Myles's great-grandmother: his mother's father's mother. So he will not have inherited any Y-DNA (male), or mitochondrial DNA (straight female line)--just autosomal, and not too much of it at that distance. This is his only English line, the other three grandparents being of Irish descent.

Little is known about Emily. On 25 August 1868, she married her first cousin William Henry Churton in Whitchurch.  Their fathers were brothers, sons of William Churton and Anne Parker. (2)

"Births, Marriages, and Deaths," Churton-Churton, 25 August 1868, Whitchurch, Shropshire, England
Solicitors' Journal and Reporter, 5 September 1868, 915; Google Books (http://www.books.google.com).
This was really not a great idea, especially since the family lore depicts Emily as already being high-strung. At least that's the story my mother-in-law used to tell. (3) And it will mess up the DNA measurements, giving undue weight to Churton ancestor relationships.

When our youngest son was christened he was presented with Emily's Bible. It does not contain any genealogical information, just two inscriptions on the inside cover as shown below. William Henry, aka Harry, originally gave this Bible to Emily on 21 November 1869.

Apparently they had consulted the Table of Kindred and Affinity and found nothing to discourage them from marrying, though I will say that number 6 comes pretty close: "Wherein whosoever are related are forbidden in scripture and our laws to marry together: Father's Brother's Wife." Just one more step and it would have been forbidden. I really can't believe there are no cousins on there.

Margaret's work tells this story: "According to a diary kept by Emily, the wedding was at 11 o'clock in the morning (Rev. W. H. Egerton and Rev. John Gorman officiating) and after the wedding breakfast they left for London. The next day they crossed the channel from Folkestone to Boulogne and spent their honeymoon touring on the continent -- for four weeks." (4)

Emily and William Henry Churton went on to have four children, all born in Chester, Cheshire:
  • Ida Helen, 18 September 1869–23 May 1937
  • Jessie Lillian, 3 March 1873–28 August 1946
  • William Arthur Vere, 16 December 1876–26 July 1949
  • Harry Leslie, 4 August 1879–17 February 1964 (5)
Because I've known Margaret Churton is researching Churtons I haven't delved into them. But when reading through Margaret's great summary of the family documents she inherited I realize hers is not a traditional genealogical study--many record groups were omitted. With 2015's ease of internet searching it will be a much simpler chore than it would have been in 1983 when her work was created. And it gives me a goal for next trips to the UK.

I have only dabbled, but Emily appears in the UK censuses consistent with where family stories and documents say she should be. Most of these Churtons are listed in the Birth, Marriage, and Death indices on Ancestry. I have plenty of work ahead documenting the facts, that's for sure.

Emily died on 21 August 1918, after "deterioration of her mental health necessitated a move into a 'home' of some sort... at Gan-y-Don, Colwyn Bay. She is buried in Chester. (6) This cries out for investigation!

A quick visit to the website of The National Archives (http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk) brings up reference to "Deeds and papers relating to the estates of the Churton family, auctioneers and solicitors, in Cheshire, Shropshire, Wales etc", deposited in the Cheshire Archives (not NA) by none other than Margaret!

Reference: DBC 3233
Date: [1635]-1947
Held by: Cheshire Archives and Local Studies, not available at The National Archives
Language: English
Extent: 44 docs., 18 bdls.
Custodial history: Acc. 3233
Immediate Source Of Acquisition:  Summary list of records deposited by Mr H T V Churton in Apr. 1983.

I can't wait to really dig in to those Churtons. They have a noble and interesting history.


1. A. M. G. ["Margaret"] Churton,  "A Churton Story from Heirlooms and Archives," (hereinafter called "A Churton Story"), typescript, "mostly written in 1983, with some later revisions," photocopy sent to author in 2011, pedigree chart. Margaret is the keeper of the Churton family papers and has inherited much original documentation, along with very old pedigree charts, photographs, and business papers. She is thorough but does not use many of the more common genealogical records groups like census and vital records, nor does she cite her sources. Also, “England and Wales, Free BMD Birth Marriage and Death Indexes, 1837-1915, and 1916-2005” (hereinafter called Free BMD) digital image of index register pages, birth of Emily Churton, 21 November 1847, Wem Registration District; Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : ), 18:179. Wem was originally called Wem and Whitchurch, and after 1935 known only as Whitchurch.

2. Free BMD, marriage of Emily Churton and William Henry Churton, 25 August 1868, Wem; 6a:1192. Also Margaret Churton, "A Churton Story," pedigree chart.

3. Ida R. (Churton) Kimmitt, conversation relating family history to author, 10 September 1988. Also Margaret Churton, "A Churton Story," 14.

4. Margaret Churton, "A Churton Story," 14.

5. Margaret Churton, "A Churton Story," pedigree chart, and throughout.

6. Margaret Churton, "A Churton Story," 14 and pedigree chart. Also, Free BMD, deaths, 1918, 11b:542.

19 January 2015

Week 3 of #52 Ancestors: Philip Joseph Sullivan (1911-1969)

First, let me just effuse about what a good exercise this is! By writing about an ancestor I take a critical look at what I've gathered so far. Things I may have neglected for years look completely fresh and I am inspired to search in the many databases that have been created since I last investigated. I find this preferable to starting over completely.

I get a lot of clients looking for Sullivans. And Sullivans, in Boston or anywhere, are tough to research. There are billions of them and they all used the same eight names. Jeremiah Sullivan is a popular one--nickname Jerry. The client I was working on today had a Jeremiah Jerome Sullivan, aka Jerry Jerry Sullivan!

Today's subject, Philip Joseph O'Sullivan, was my father's first cousin. He was the son of my grandmother Annie Josephine [O']Sullivan's brother, Jeremiah Sullivan, and his wife Roseanne Dunn. While he may not be in my direct line, I love him for two reasons.

First, he was born in New Zealand. Long ago I found in the 1920 and 1940 censuses that his place of birth was NZ. At first I thought it must be an enumerator error, but it wasn't, because his death certificate confirmed it [Mass. VRS, deaths, 1969, Arlington, 2:208]. Then a few months ago I stumbled upon an index to NZ births online, and couldn't resist, so I sent away for his birth certificate. So now, if I go on vacation to New Zealand, I have as a destination: Khyber Pass Road, Newmarket. I like that it provides his parents' ages, AND gives Rose's county of birth as Roscommon as well. I have read that many people from the Milltown area in County Kerry emigrated to New Zealand.

New Zealand, Registrar of Births, Deaths & Marriages, birth certificate, Philip Joseph O’Sullivan, reg. n. 1911006915, 
26 May 1911, Khyber Pass Road, Newmarket, son of Jerry O’Sullivan, 31, b. Co. Kerry and Rose Dunn, 30, 
b. Roscommon; issued 3 November 2014.

I have not seen any evidence that he ever married, and he was single in 1940 when living with his father Jeremiah and siblings in Somerville, working as general job man. I just noticed that for his brother Thomas the enumerator wrote that he had filed his first papers ("Pa"), yet he was born in Massachusetts.

1940 US census, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Somerville, Ward 7, ED 106, sheet 61A,
1256 Broadway, household n. 61, Jeremiah Sullivan; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 January 2015).
The second reason I love him is that he was naturalized. My grandparents came in the late nineteenth century and never bothered, probably hoping to return to Ireland some day. I wonder if World War II had anything to do with him filing his Declaration of Intention.

There are a few interesting tidbits in this file.

  • He arrived in Boston on 12 June 1913 from Queenstown on the SS Cymric, so his parents must have returned to Ireland before coming here.
  • He officially changed his surname from O'Sullivan to Sullivan. 
  • He claimed to be a chemist!
  • Some time after coming to Boston he lived in Milltown, his mother's Irish home townland. 
  • He was still not married and had no children in 1942.
  • He had blue eyes, black hair, and was 5'7.
  • He gained ten pounds between 1939 (140 lbs.) and 1942 (150 lbs.).
  • Witnesses were Edward F. Woods and John E. O'Brien.

Even better, his paperwork had a photograph!

United States District Court, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, Declaration of Intention, Philip Joseph Sullivan, n. 282025 (red stamp), n. 146348 (printed in black), certificate, n. 5554477, issued 3 August 1942; NARA, Waltham, Massachusetts, received 30 August 2012.
Sadly, my first cousin once removed died without us meeting. He was only 58 when he died on 1 June 1969. Somewhere in a pile in my office is the transcription I made of his death, listing the cause. I imagine he had a hard, lonely life, ping-ponging between continents, working variously as a longshoreman or shipper (or chemist?) I just hope he managed to find a little joy and love along the way.

14 January 2015

How My Quiet Afternoon Devolved into Chaos, Yet Still Had a Happy Ending

When I started my blog I announced it was going to be about juggling genealogy and everyday life. So today I'll tell you a story about weight loss, aging, mental decline and frustration.

I had a bunch of errands to do today: dropping things off at three friends' houses and picking things up at another, picking up all 3 sons' framed high school photos from the framer, grocery shopping, but most important, getting a new purse and a belt. I need a purse with better compartments because I keep losing things. And one of the things I keep losing is weight, which is making me lose my pants, hence the belt.

As I rushed out the door I flung on some dangly earrings with no stops in them. "That's okay, I won't be doing anything strenuous," I thought. "They'll stay put." Well. I also donned a nice neck warmer scarf-y thing because it's 18º out. Said lovely neck warmer tends to come unfastened and slip to the ground but I thought I had it pretty well secured.

I haven't worn a belt in many a year but due to recent 45-pound weight loss (yay! lifetime struggle) and the new style of pants that seem to have no waist, my pants keep falling down. It's really annoying. It's a horrible feeling to be whipping around and feel your steps get smaller and smaller because your pants are slowly sliding towards the earth. It's like wearing panty hose that are a size too small--forces you to walk like a penguin. And slows down the errand-running.

Every time I made a stop I had to get out, hike up my drawers, and proceed with the errand. Every time I hoisted the jeans the scarf would come undone. When I refastened it, it would knock an earring out of my ear. So by stop number six I was a little frazzled. And minus one earring.

Stop number six was Wegman's. The place is chaos to me: amongst other aggravations, organic red peppers sold individually clear across the room from regular red peppers sold by the pound. They don't make it easy to shop wisely there. At the checkout counter I had a rollicking discussion with the cashier about arthritis and how it hurts and it sucks to get old, etc. She thanked me for letting her vent.

I loaded up my car and walked, hiking and hoisting, to TJ Maxx to look for belt and purse. On the way I realized my phone was neither in my coat pocket nor my purse! "Stupid coat pocket, I knew it was going to fall out!" But I thought I'd just get the damn belt before I lost the pants completely because that would embarrass my children and besides, did I mention it's only 18º out?

So I drove the 30 yards to TJ Maxx (if I had walked it would have taken 3 weeks with the ever-tinier mincing steps) and parked there. I browsed through the purses--nothing. But I couldn't concentrate knowing I didn't have my phone. I waddled over to Dress Barn where I hoped to a) find a purse; b) find a belt; and c) chastise them for selling me pants that fall down.

I found a decent purse but they don't sell belts even though the pants they sell you fall off. So I drove the 30 yards back to Wegman's to look for the phone. I searched where I had parked previously, on the ground and all around. Stupid coat pocket! The thing just flaps open. It was bound to fall out when I was hoisting! But nothing. Maybe someone took it already. I even looked in the cart I had returned to the little cart hut. Not there.

I figured I must have left it with the cashier during the exciting old age discussion. She was very happy to see me again, but then told me she hadn't found anything. So I inquired at Customer Service. Nothing! Crap!! Wait a minute. I reached around and slapped myself on the right back pocket. There it was!  I forgot I had put it there so it wouldn't fall out of my coat pocket! Yay, a happy ending, even if I am a forgetful goob.

Elated, I returned to the car. As I inched along, I rummaged through the dreaded purse for the keys. This purse has a rip in the lining, so things exit the purse proper and disappear into the netherworld between lining and leather. OMG. So I couldn't find my damn keys. I stood at the car cursing myself, the purse, low-waisted pants, scarves that don't work right, Wegman's, TJ Maxx, 18º weather, Dress Barn, but most of all, my scatter-brain. My stupid, aging, distracted, doing-too-many-things-at-once-ADD brain.

A lady came out to her car and looked at me for a second too long. I swear she had a glint in her eye, as though she were amused. But she didn't say anything. I took this as a good sign and returned to Customer Service, feeling a little like a mental patient. And wonder of wonders she got a huge grin when she saw me. Phew!!!!! I had left them there (along with my pride). I left before they could call the men in white coats.

So all's well that ends well except I'm annoyed that the lady didn't tell me they had my keys inside. It's okay she was probably afraid of me.

13 January 2015

Robert Robertson Kimmitt, 1871-1951, Man of Many Titles

Robert Robertson Kimmitt, O.B.E (Mil.), T.D., D.L

This is my second post in the "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" blogger challenge. So far, so good!

This week I'm switching to the Kimmitt side. I get many inquiries from Kimmitt cousins around the world and I'm afraid I've been telling them all the same thing since 1993: when I retire I hope to tie together all those loose cousin threads and produce a family history. In the meantime I'm gathering evidence here and there, and always happy to hear from members of all branches, from New Zealand to Canada. Part of the reason I don't like to write is because it feels endless. There is so much to say about some people, and Robert Robertson Kimmitt is one of them. So I will present some of the odds and ends I have assembled on him to date.

Robert Robertson (RR) Kimmitt was my husband's great-grandfather. He was the second youngest of the ten known children of the Reverend Edward Kimmitt and his wife Margaret Unwin, born 4 December 1871 in the little village of Benturb, County Tyrone, Ireland, near Moy (1). Guide books say that Moy is one of the most beautiful towns in Ireland, especially in summer when it is "filled with flowers from top to bottom" Yet I could NOT convince his descendants to visit his place of birth when we were on vacation in Northern Ireland this past summer! I can't imagine why, but they were afraid I'd get sidetracked.

The Rev. Edward Kimmitt was minister of the Prebysterian Church in nearby Loughgall, "Cloveneden," when son Robert was born, and he baptized him there on 3 March 1872 (2). Edward Kimmitt appears in Griffith's Valuation in 1864 in Ballygassey. (3) I haven't researched the Kimmitts on the ground in Ireland yet but I believe a research trip to Belfast is in order!

Robert married Elizabeth Marie Rowand Loudon in Belfast on 2 August 1899. Robert's occupation was "agent" (4). Though I can't put my finger on the source, I know that he was an agent for the Belfast Rope and Twine company. They moved to London by 1900 when son Gordon (my husband's grandfather) was born, and in 1901 the family is in Ealing, a borough of London, at 38 Egerton Gardens. (5) 

Photo courtesy of  The Man and Other Families website.
In 1911 Robert and Elizabeth and their two oldest children, Gordon, 11, and Vivian Robertson, 7 (male) were living at 33 Loveday Road, West Ealing when the census taker came to call. He noted their birthplaces: Robert was born in Moy, Elizabeth in Cork, Gordon in Shepard's Bush, London; and Vivian in Ealing, London. At that time Robert was still an agent for [Belfast] Rope and Twine Makers (6). According to a display in the Titanic Museum in Belfast we visited last summer, in 1900 it was the largest rope works in the world.

Detail of Rope Bridge at Carrick-a-Rede, Co. Antrim, No. Ireland, taken July 2014 by author.
Robert and Elizabeth went on to have their third child, Rowand Everil R. Kimmitt (female), in the third quarter of 1912. (7) RR (and his father before him) moved around frequently, so a timeline is definitely in order here. That will help me define the jurisdiction of various records I need to pull to fill in the gaps.

He seems to have been a natural leader. He is pictured below in 1915, the commanding officer of this group of Non-Commissioned Officers of the 3/18 London Regiment (the London Irish Rifles) --he is fourth from the left in the second row from the bottom. (8)

Here is a detail showing remarkable similarity to my father-in-law:

Robert Robertson Kimmitt served as Mayor of Ealing from 1924-25, and details of his election to the position, and the high regard in which he was held by the community appear in a newspaper article kindly sent to me by the Ealing Historical Society. (9) They look so... Downton Abbey-ish.

In 1947, was appointed High Sheriff of Middlesex. A glowing article about him says: "His first commission was with the 5th Royal Munster Fusilliers in 1899. He served in the First World War with the 18th Battalion London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) of which he was promoted Lieutenant Colonel in 1916; he was Hon. Colonel of the 44th (Home Counties) Division Signals 1928-1933, a military member of the County of Londonderry T.A. and Air Force Association from 1917-1936, and of the Middlesex Association from 1925 until the beginning of this year. In 1937 he became County Controller V.A.D. Middlesex, was appointed an Officer of the Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem in 1928 and Commander in 1939; he was awarded the O.B.E. (Military Division) in 1919, and the Territorial Decoration 1932, and has served as Army Welfare Officer for the County Middlesex since 1941. (10) I wonder what ever became of those medals, ribbons and pins?

He went on to head up or serve on many local committees such as the Ealing Public Health Committee from 1923-38 and many others, taking a special interest in the local hospital, King Edward Memorial. He was also a mason, according to his grandson, Brian Robert Rowland Kimmitt.

He "collapsed while attending the hospital he served,"  and "died with almost startling suddenness” there in Ealing Broadway, London on 24 January 1951 at 79 years old. Wife Elizabeth had died in 1944. His funeral was held at St. Andrews Church, Mount Park Road and he is buried in the family grave at Westminster Cemetery, Hanwell. (11)

1. Brian Knox, "The Kimmitts of Armagh" September 2001, 4;  typescript report, in author's files. Brian's report is carefully researched, well written, and though not strictly documented he does make reference to where is obtaining information. He hired local researchers to pull parish and civil records. Also, "Ireland Births and Baptisms, 1620-1881," transcription from unknown source; FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FG4Z-XD4 : accessed 12 January 2015), Kimmett, 04 Dec 1871; citing Tyrone, Ireland, reference v 16-2 p 546; FHL microfilm 255,832.

2. Knox, "The Kimmitts of Armagh and Tyrone," 4.

3. Richard Griffith, General Valuation of Rateable Property in Ireland, Loughgall Parish, townland of Ballygassey, Co. Armagh, p. 25, taken in 1864, Rev. Edward Kimmitt; FindMyPast.com (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 13 January 2015).

4. Marriage of Robert Robertson Kimmitt and Elizabeth Marie Loudon, 2 August 1899, Macrory Memorial Presbyterian Church, Belfast, Antrim, Ireland; online subscription database, transcription Irish Family History Foundation (http"//ifhf.brsgenealogy.com: accessed 14 Apr 2010, now http://www.rootsireland.ie).

5.  1901 England, Wales and Scotland census, Ealing, Middlesex, England, Castlebar Municipal Ward, St. Stephen's Parish, Brentford Reg. Dist., folio 164, p. 43, 38 Egerton Gardens, sched. n. 265, household of Robert R. Kimmitt; digital image, FindMyPast.com (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 12 January 2015).

6. 1911 England, Wales and Scotland Census, Ealing, Middlesex, England, ED 28, Brentford Reg. Dist., Reg. Dist. n. 128, sched. 297, 33 Loveday Road, household of Robert Robertson Kimmitt; FindMyPast.com (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 13 January 2015).

7. "England and Wales Births 1837-2006," index, birth of Rowand E R Kimmitt, 3rd quarter, 1912, Brentford Dist., Middlesex, England, 3A:264; FindMyPast.com (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 13 January 2015).

8. NCOs of the 3/18 London Regiment (London Irish Rifles), photograph, Illustrated War News, 6 October 1915; Northwest Family History Society  (http://northwestfamilyhistorysociety.blogspot.com : accessed 18 August 2013). This link no longer works and I cannot find the site today.

9. "Mayor and Mayoress Designate for 1924-5," Middlesex County Times, Ealing, London, England, 26 July 1924, no p. n.; photocopy sent to author by Borough of Ealing Local History Centre, London, England.

10. "High Sheriff of Middlesex: Alderman R. R. Kimmitt appointed", Middlesex County Times, Ealing, London, England, 15 Mar 1947, no p. n.; photocopy sent to author by Borough of Ealing Local History Centre, London, England.

11. "Alderman Colonel Kimmitt Dies," West Middlesex County Times, Ealing, London, England, 27 January 1951, p. 1photocopy sent to author by Borough of Ealing Local History Centre, London, England.

07 January 2015

Benjamin Barnes of Hingham, Massachusetts (1747-1833): Farmer, Patriot, Landowner, Ancestor

All right. I'm going to try--TRY, mind you--to participate in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge for Geneabloggers! Well. I'll participate, but whether I'll manage to post 52 times cannot yet be known. To begin, I closed my eyes and selected someone from the index in my genealogy program, and voila, one of my favorite ancestors! So I'm commencing with my 4th great-grandfather, Benjamin Barnes of Hingham, Massachusetts. I posted about him in 2009, but wanted to update that post, so I'm not sure if this will count as 2015, but oh well!

So far, I've only discovered the term non compos mentis applied to one ancestor, and that happens to be him, poor guy. But he led a full life before that diagnosis and that is what I'd like to focus on. Benjamin was born in 1747 in Hingham (1), a pretty town south of Boston, right on Massachusetts Bay. He owned land near Hingham Harbor, where I go boating with my best friends from college every summer. The general area in which he owned land can be seen in the background of this photo. This is one of those moments when you wonder why that land hasn't passed down directly to you!

What has been passed down, however, is a precious 1777 framed deed. Until yesterday I was unable to scan it because of the glare from the glass. The back was sealed and I didn't want to mess with it. However, it fell off the wall and cracked open the frame, so yesterday I took it to a restorer to clean, deacidify and preserve it. It had been glued down to some acidic cardboard. I mention this because I was finally able to scan it.

I won't transcribe the entire deed, but on 15 March 1777, Benjamin Jr., yeoman bought two acres of salt meadow and upland (on the east side of Weir River, near the mouth, perhaps now part of Hull) from his father, Benjamin Sr., yeoman, my 5th great-grandfather, for 16 pounds, 13 shillings, 4 pence. Hannah (Beal) Barnes, my 5th great-grandmother, relinquishes her dower, with a signature next to the X. Oh yeah, female signature!

George Lincoln, in his History of Hingham, says that Benjamin was a farmer. I wonder if he grazed his sheep in the salt meadow as they still do in France around Mont St. Michel, where the lamb is said to be extraordinarily tasty because of it? I'm making a mental note to go kayaking there some day when the weather is fair. In the Weir Estuary, not Mont St. Michel, though that's not a bad idea...

Benjamin is listed in the Hingham census of 1790, near his father, and brother Canterbury Barnes. Two more brothers, John and Ensign, appear on the same page.

Benjamin was the patriot I used in my application to the DAR. He has a pretty detailed Revolutionary War pension application file, submitted in 1832 on his behalf by Ned Cushing, his legal guardian, when Benjamin was 85. It mentions that Benjamin was "himself incapable of recollecting the past events of his life with correctness" so they get his war buddies to give affidavits telling about his service: in 1775, like half of the state, he was called to Lexington to "march on the alarm of April 19, 1775. After that he "guarded the sea" in Hingham (they don't mention that he could probably do that from his father's front yard); in 1776 he did the same in nearby Nantasket. But in 1777 he was present at the surrender of Gen. Burgoyne. And there is more. Length of service for him was anywhere from three days (Lexington) to eight months. He remained a private for the entire war. (2)

Service accounts vary slightly among those giving affidavits. Of course they do! How can 75-85 year old men remember back 58 years to which three-month stint they served with whom? I think it's sweet that so many years after the fact, these very old men put their heads together on behalf of poor Benjamin so that he could get some relief from the government he fought to create.

I love pension files because you find attestations by town clerks to vital records: an affidavit of his birth on the Hingham town records.

Benjamin Barnes, son of Benjamin & Hannah
born June 7, 1747 ––
A true copy from the Records of births in Hingham
James S. Lewis
Town Clerk

Then, Justice of the Peace Ebenezer Gay attests that he "verily believes it to be a record of the birth of Benjamin Barnes of said Hingham now under the Guardianship of Ned Cushing who applies in behalf of said Benjamin for a pension under the law of the United States passed in June last –– and I hereby certify that the said Lewis is personally known to me and that his reputation for truth is unquestionable." 
Then, it makes me laugh because on the next page, they get the Register of Probate to attest that Ebenezer Gay is honest and forthright as well. Then on the next page, George Washington attests that Ebenezer Gay is trustworthy and true, also! Just kidding about that last one. But really, when does it end?

I use the Revised Fourth Edition of Black's Law Dictionary, published in 1968, because it is pretty good for older legal terms. On page 1200 you can find a definition of Non Compos Mentis:
"Lat. Not sound of mind; insane. This is a very general term, embracing all varieties of mental derangement. See Insanity. [Then, the best part follows...] Coke has enumerated four different classes of persons who are deemed in law to be non compotes mentis

  • First an idiot, or fool natural; 
  • Second, he who was of good and sound mind and memory, but by the act of God has lost it; 
  • Third, a lunatic, lunaticus qui gaudet lucidis intervallis, who sometimes is of good sound mind and memory, and sometimes non compos mentis
  • Fourth, one who is non compos mentis by his own act, as a drunkard, Co. Litt. 247a; 4 Coke, 124."
I think that poor Benjamin, after his honorable service to the cause of freedom, was an example of Coke's definition number two: "of good and sound mind and memory, but by the act of God has lost it." I'm just thankful that everyone else was there to help him pick up the memories. Benjamin died on 30 December 1833 and was buried in January of 1834 (3). I sure hope someone took care of Ned Cushing when he need it, too.

1. George Lincoln, The History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts, 3 vols, Vols 2-3, The Genealogies (Somersworth, New Hampshire: New England History Press, 1982), 2:26. Also, "Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Application Files," online subscription database linked to original images, Benjamin Barnes, private, file n. S. 30,262, Massachusetts;  fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 7 January 2015); citing NARA microfilm series M804, RG 15;
2. Revolutionary War pension application file, Benjamin Barnes.
3. "Index to Selected Final Payment Vouchers, 1818-1864," online subscription database linked to images of cards, Benjamin Barnes, Massachusetts, date of death 30 December 1833; fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 7 January 2015); citing NARA, RG 217. Also, The Hearse Account, Hingham, April 1, 1830, account book, Benjamin Barnes was buried in January 1834; microfilm 76.13, Hingham, Massachusetts Public Library.

09 November 2014

Lucy Keyes, the Lost Child of Wachusett Mountain

A 2005 movie called The Legend of Lucy Keyes tells the story of a couple who move from the city to a new home in the country that is haunted by previous inhabitants. It references the tale of the four year old Lucy Keyes, who wandered off into the wilderness from her Princeton, Massachusetts home in April of 1755, never to be found again.

I'll just tell you the legend, then refer you to a very nice analysis of the story by the author of the History of Princeton, Francis Everett Blake. Though he wrote his pamphlet in 1893 it is such a well reasoned analysis (though devoid of citations he does tell us what he consulted) that you will probably be as satisfied as I am that he is correct. You can read more about his life here.

Lucy's parents Robert Keyes and Martha Bowker moved from Shrewsbury to Princeton in about 1751 with their first five or so children. Princeton was hardly settled so they moved into a virtual wilderness. In order to find their way through the thick forests they would mark the trees so they could get back home again. Below is a view from the top of Mt. Wachusett, a small mountain on whose Eastern slopes the family lived.
View from Mt. Wachusett in Autumn, 2004, by Polly Kimmitt

One day Lucy's sisters were sent to the nearby pond to fetch sand for some household purpose. Little Lucy followed them through the woods. The sisters returned, but Lucy did not. Her poor mother Martha was devastated, as we might expect--I'd just go insane and be done with it. Martha repeatedly went out into the woods calling pitifully for Lucy long after the event occurred and when all hope had been exhausted by reasonable folks.

There were various explanations of the disappearance: Indian abduction being the most likely. That was somehow corroborated by a someone who met a group of Indians with a young European/white girl living with them who could only say " 'Chusett Hill" when asked where she was from. Robert never got a satisfactory answer about that during his lifetime though he spent a good deal of money trying. 

Gravestone of Mrs Martha Keyes, Meetinghouse Cemetery, Princeton, Massachusetts

Eventually the hubbub died down, though Martha was never quite right (goes without saying). She died in 1785, brokenhearted, and is buried in the Meetinghouse Cemetery in Princeton. The legend says that her ghost haunts the forests around Princeton, and her plaintive cry can still be heard late at night, searching and hoping--Luuuuuucy! Luuuuuuuuuucy!

There is no gravestone beside Martha for her husband Robert, nor was there one in 1893 when Blake wrote his pamphlet, though he was most likely buried there (and there is room next to her). Robert suffered great financial losses from his search for Lucy, and most likely died completely impoverished, with no money to pay for a stone. (1)

All was calm for many years until in 1859, during the Centennial celebrations in Princeton a letter came to light that purported to solve the mystery. According to witnesses at the deathbed of Tilley Littlejohn, he confessed to Lucy's murder shortly before he passed on! Tilley had been a neighbor of the Keyes family and in fact at one point there arose a boundary dispute, so there was some animosity there. Tilley said he was angry about the dispute, came across young Lucy wandering in the woods, and bashed her head against a log, stuffed her corpse into a hollow log and went home. Though his response may seem disproportionate to the disagreement, you can imagine that maybe he had some mental problems that exacerbated the animosity in his mind and caused him to grossly overreact. So far it's believable.

Tilley then joined the search party, steering them away from the log. He returned later and moved the remains to a hole in the ground, covered it with soil and leaves, set fire to it (not logical!--that would call attention to it) and went home again. Tilly supposedly furnished extensive detail in his deathbed confession. Eventually, they said, he moved away and everyone forgot all about it until the letter about his confession was unearthed.

Well, I suppose it was possible, but if you're like me by now you are frantic for some evidence! The facts need to be checked. Luckily we have Francis Everett Blake on the case! I'm not going to tell you what I think. I'll let you be the judge. Did Blake crack the case over 120 years ago? What really happened to Lucy Keyes? Read Blake's analysis and see if you agree.

1. Francis E. Blake, Lucy Keyes, the Lost Child of Wachusett Mountain (Boston: np, 1893), 9; Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org : accessed 7 November 2014).

07 November 2014

Three Negro Servants in Colonial Princeton, Massachusetts

Detail of gravestone of Flova, servant of Moses Gill, Meetinghouse Cemetery, Princeton, Massachusetts
One of my favorite burial grounds is the Meetinghouse Cemetery in Princeton, Massachusetts. It is right off Mountain Road, but sunken down a steep embankment so when you enter you're buffered from the modern world. It's as if you are traveling back in time.

Like most early burial grounds, it was sited adjacent to the original meeting house (church), which used to stand directly across the street, according to the website of Princeton's First Congregational Church.

The cemetery is small, and a real pleasure to explore owing to its beautiful gravestone carvings. Because slate holds up so well over time, the earlier stones are clean and legible, belying their age.

Courtesy of Wikipedia
Courtesy of Wikipedia
One of Princeton's most influential early residents, and the man who donated the land for the church and burial ground was Moses Gill. According to the History of Princeton (1) Moses was born in Charlestown in 1734. He was a successful hardware merchant who twice married into wealthy families. By marrying so well he became the owner of large tracts of land in Central Massachusetts and kept a beautiful country home in Princeton. He had no children with either wife.

By 1774 Moses had turned to politics and occupied various positions in government, starting with the Provincial Assembly and eventually moving on up to Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, then Acting Governor after the death of Increase Sumner. But it was his time as Judge and Chief Justice in the Worcester County Court of Common Pleas that will prove most interesting for our purposes.

This burial ground contains the graves of three servants of Moses, all lined up together: Flova, Thomas and [illegible], pictured below.

In Memory of 
Flova a Negro wo
man Servant to the
Honbl Moses Gill Esqr
who died June 13th
1778 aged 41 years

In Memory of
Thomas a negro
man Servant to the
Honbl Moses Gill
Esq who died
Septr 14th 1782
Aged 89 years

Here lye[--]
body of N[---]
Negro man Ser
vant to the Hon'bl
Moses Gill Esqr
who died March
1th (sic!) 1776 aged 39 years

The History of Princeton mentions all three slaves in the sketch for Moses Gill (lists them as if they are children), and gives some additional information, citing only "town records of Princeton":

i. NERO, Negro servant to Hon. Moses Gill, came to Princeton from Sutton, Mass., with his mother  "Violet," July 1767, d. March 2, 1776 ae 39.

ii. FLORA, a Negro woman servant to Hon. Moses Gill; d. June 13, 1778, ae. 39.

iii. THOMAS, Negro servant to Hon. Moses Gill; d. Sept. 14, 1782, ae. 89.

Now. We can see what information he gleaned from gravestones, but obviously a good search of Princetown records is in order, because Nero coming from Sutton with his mother Violet is really interesting. They came to Princeton at about the same time as Moses did from Charlestown. Note the spelling of Flora here as opposed to the gravestone's Flova.

Princeton Town Records mention who came to town and from where. Invaluable! (2)

[-ilit a negro woman & Nero her son
Removed from Sutton into this Dist in July or
Augt 1767.

There are other volumes of town records which could be searched for more information. Without seeing the original register I can only hope that Francis Blake was accurate in recording the name [Vililit?] as Violet. But isn't it lovely that all of these people entering town were recorded, with their places of origin?

So Moses Gill had three slaves/"servants" that he thought highly enough of to erect gravestones in their memory. And not just inexpensive gravestones. Every letter carved cost something--every filigree, and especially portraits. The average person could not even afford a headstone, never mind one with words, but depicting a face was an honor indeed. While not an accurate rendition, these primitive images do have some detail. They are just one step in the development of gravestone iconography which started early on with winged skulls, progressed to death heads, and graduated to portrait stones.

Though slavery was outlawed in Massachusetts from the beginning (3), the practice did occur and people learned to avoid the slave word and call them servants. Moses Gill was Chief Justice during the famous Quock Walker trials. Quock's owner died, having promised him his freedom, and Quock was passed on to the deceased owner's wife. When she remarried her husband abused him. Quock sued for his freedom. This came on the heels of the American Revolution and there was much talk of "being created equal." There were several trials and the decisions went both ways, but in 1781 Quock Walker won. (4)

I could go off on a million tangents here because this subject is so ripe for exploration. Did these trials make Moses more sensitive to the plight of African American slaves or was he already so inclined? It may be assuming too much to say that he was probably a fair master, but I want to believe that is so. In any case, he gave his three slaves enough of an identity to still be remembered 230 years after their deaths, and that's worth noting.

1. Francis Everett Blake, History of the Town of Princeton in the County of Worcester and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 2 vols. (Princeton: Town of Princeton, 1915), 2:114.

2. "Town Records and Marriages, with Births, Marriages, and Deaths," Princeton, Massachusetts, p. 21 [penned]; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 November 2014), image 12. The image of the cover shows the title of the volume as "Records, Feb 9, 176[1?] - Mar 8, 1788, Births, Deaths and Marriages, Miscellaneous, Princeton, Mass.," and there is a note from Francis E. Blake dated 1883 mentioning it being rebound and saying that the records were put in more of a chronological order.

3. Nathaniel Ward, The Massachusetts Body of Liberties (Boston, 1641). n. 91. "There shall never be any bond slavery, villeinage, or captivity amongst us unless it be lawful captives taken in just wars, and such strangers as willingly sell themselves or are sold to us." 

4. Emory Washburn, "The Extinction of Slavery in Massachusetts, A Paper Read Before the Massachusetts Historical Society, at Their Monthly Meeting, April, 1857," Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 333; Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 7 November 2014). This is interesting because we hear the opinions written in 1857. See also George H. Moore,  Notes on the History of Slavery in Massachusetts (New York: Appleton, 1866); Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 7 November 2014).

26 October 2014

Irish Registry of Deeds Memorials Sooooo Rich in Genealogical Data

Memorial, Indented Deed of Lease, Mary Drapes to William Clarke, n. 510180, 750:245,
executed 15 March 1820, recorded 27 March, 1820, Waterford City;
Registry of Deeds, Dublin, Ireland (detail).
On my recent research trip to Dublin with Donna Moughty I visited the Registry of Deeds. I have made a guest post on Donna's blog about that experience so here I'll just describe and transcribe the one document I actually ordered.

The funny thing is, I was looking for another line when I accidentally stumbled upon this memorial. I couldn't believe it. If you could stand in the room with the hundreds of volumes you'd get more of a sense of how serendipitous that was. There was no way I could abstract it in a timely fashion, but it is so rich in names, occupations, relationships, and previous transactions that I was compelled to order it. Just look at how very many genealogical clues we can glean from this one document. In it we find reference to marriages, deaths, wills, sales, direct relationships, residence, and one humongous FAN club (Friends, Associates & Neighbors). It's far too complicated to analyze online but in my next post I'll make a list of what genealogical information is readily apparent.

The clerk starts off in very large, very legible handwriting but gets squished for space at the bottom so it becomes increasingly harder to read as the handwriting gets smaller. This causes the lines to wrap in this version but I wanted to leave it large enough for you to read. I've attempted to keep the same arrangement of lines, etc., but Blogger does not provide high level graphic design capability. The Registry photocopied the original in parts and then glued it together and folded it, so it should be recopied and scanned for archival purposes.

[Full-page image at end of post.]

                                                                    510180 [Memorial number]
                                                                    The Property Registration Authority
                                                                     Registry of Deeds
                                                                     Attested copy of Memorial / application
                                                                     Fee: 20 euros
                                                                     Applicant: Polly Kimmitt

To the Register appointed by Act of Parliament for the public registration of Deeds and so forth

A Memorial of an Indented Deed of Lease                         [dark label or seal, illegible]
bearing date the fifteenth day of March one thousand
eight hundred and twenty and made Between Mary
Drapes widow and Executrix of Samuel Drapes
late of New Ross in the County of Wexford Merchant
deceased who was Executor of Francis Drapes late of the city of Waterford Esquire deceased
of the one part and William Nehemiah Clarke of the said city of Waterford Esquire
Lieutenant in his Majestys Royal Navy of the other part. Whereby after reciting that
Sarah Denis of the City of Waterford widow acting Trustee and Executrix named in
the Last Will and Testament of the Reverend William Denis then late of the said
City of Waterford Clerke did by Indenture of the fourteenth of October one thousand
sevenhundred and seventy one demise and set unto Samuel Drapes father of the
said Francis Drapes All That and Those one Messuage House or Tenement
in Patrick Street in the said City together with a Small yard Back House and large
Garden behind the same and thereto adjoining and belonging and formerly demised
by the Reverend John Denis late of Enniskilling in the County of Fermanagh clerke
deceased to Patrick Graham then late of the said City of Waterford Innholder meaning
and bounding on the North with Saint Patricks Street on the South with a Malt House
formerly in the possession of Edmond Garvey deceased and then in the Possession
of William Grant Merchant on the East with with George Bryans holdings then in the
possession of the widow Gott and on the west with the Holdings of John Beard then
lately deceased formerly the holdings of Edward FitzGerald and then in the possession
of John Delany To Hold to the said Saml Drapes his Exec'ors & adm'ors from the first Day
of May then last for the term of Thirty five years at the yearly rent of Sixteen pounds
payable as therein mentd and that the said Sarah Davis afterwards obtained a
renewal of the said Premises from the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral church
of the Holy and undivided Trinity in the City of Waterford the Head Landlords thereof,
and all the said Sarah Denis's Interest became vested in John Denis of the said City of
Waterford Esquire and that by a certain Deed of Settlement bearing date the twenty third
Day of January one thousand sevenhundred and ninety two and executed previous to the
Intermarriage of the said John Denis with Rebecca White all the said John Denis's
Interest therein was assigned to and vested in John Grove White and William Denis with
power to the said John Denis therein named to grant such Leases of the said Premises as therein in ment.d
And that by Indenture bearing date the twelfth of April one thousand sevenhundred and ninety four
and made Between the said John Denis of the first part the said Sarah White by the name and addition
of Sarah White [orwi'se otherwise, meaning alias--her maiden name] Grade of Ballyboy in the County of Tipperary widow and John Grove
White of Doneraile in the County of Cork Esquire and the said Reverend William Denis of Salsborough
in the County of Kilkenny Clerke of the second part and the before named Francis Drapes of the
third part the said John Denis did with the Consent of the said Sarah White John Grove White and William
Denis demise and set to the said Francis Drapes all That and Those the said messuage House or Tenement in
Patrick Street in the City of Waterford as herein before described To Hold from the twenty fifth day of March then
last for twenty six years at the yearly rent of Twenty two pounds fifteen shillings with Covenant for renewal
as therein ment.d and that the said Francis Drapes is since Dead but before his Death did make and publish his last Will and Testament bearing date the first of November one thousand eight hundred and Seventeen and thereof appointed
Hannah Lambert and the said Samuel Drapes, Ex'ors & the said Hannah Lambert having renounced the execution
of the said Will probate thereof was granted to the said Samuel Drapes by the Consistorial Court of the Diocess of Waterford
& Lismore and that the said Saml. Drapes is now also Dead but did before his death make and publish his last will & Testament
bearing date the ______ Day of October one thousand eight hundred and nineteen and thereof appointed the said Mary
Drapes Executrix who has since proved the same in his Majestys Court of Prerogative in Ireland so that the sd Mary
Drapes is now the personal representative of the said Francis Drapes deceased. The said Deed of which this is a memorial
witnesses that the said Mary Drapes in consideration of the sum of four hundred and fifty pounds to her paid by the said
William N. Clarke and for the other Consi'ons therein ment.d Did grant & assign unto the said William N. Clarke his
Ex'ors admi'ors & assigns All that and Those the said one messuage or Tenement in Patrick Street in the City of
Waterford together with said Small yard back house and large Garden behind the same and thereto adjoining and
belonging [ineard?] and bounded as in the said recited Lease thereof and herein before more particularly described situate lying and being in Sd. Patricks Street and in St. Michaels parish in the City of Waterford aforesaid To Hold with the appurtenances together
with said recited Lease of twelfth of March one thousand seven hundred and ninety four & all other Deeds relating to the premises
unto the said William N Clarke his Ex'ors adm'ors and assigns from the twenty ninth day of September last for the residue of the
term by sd. Lease Granted and for every Renewal thereof and the said Deed Continuing a Covenant for further assurance & the same and
this Memorial are respectively witnessed by Bartholomew Delauche and Charles Samuel (wax seal)
Tandy of the City of Waterford Gentleman
                                                                                       9   750 –– 245   Mary Drapes
Signed and sealed in presence of
C S Tandy
Bart Delauche

The above-named Charles Samuel Tandy maketh oath and saith that he was present and did see Mary Drapes
duly sign Seal and execute the Deed of which the above writing is a memorial and that he also saw the said Mary
Drapes duly sign Seal and execute the above Memorial Saith that Deponent is a Subscribing witness to the
due execution of said Deed and Memorial by the said Mary Drapes respectively and that the name C S Tandy subscribed as a Witness to said Deed and memorial respectively is this Deponents proper name and handwriting
Sworn before me (a master extraordinary in Chancery at the City of Waterford)
this 24th day of March 1820 and I know the Deponent ––
C. S. Tandy                                  John Roberts

Memorial, Indented Deed of Lease, Mary Drapes to William Clarke, n. 510180, 750:245,
executed 15 March 1820, recorded 27 March, 1820, Waterford City;
Registry of Deeds, Dublin, Ireland 

25 October 2014

He Endeavored to Lay His Claim to This Land But Was Prevented

Evicted Tenants' File No. 13,324; County Kerry; Landlord, Francis Pierce; 
Evicted Tenant, Patrick J. Fitzgerald
Other posts in this series:
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!"
5. "Wronged Again"
6.  "He Endeavored to Lay Claim to This Land But Was Prevented"

In my last post I told the story of searching for proof of my grandfather's eviction from the family farm in County Kerry, Ireland in 1883. Before I left Dublin last week I requested case number 13,324 from the Irish Land Commission's Estate Commissioners' Evicted Tenant's Files at the National Archives. And today it arrived! But first a little background.

As is usual in genealogical research, the deeper you dig, the more you find. One newspaper article leads to research in Evicted Tenants, and that leads to studying the laws that caused the records to be created in the first place. And that leads back to the article to read it more closely.

Over the course of the eighteenth century for a variety of causes (emigration, competition from US grain producers, a mini-famine, inequitable laws, and all kinds of financial kerfufflement) the cost of leasing land became prohibitively higher and many tenants were evicted. From the 1870s to 1890s Ireland experienced much political and legal activity around inequities in land ownership. The Irish National Land League was established to improve the lot of poor tenant farmers and attempted to bring about redistribution of the land from landlords (especially absentee ones) to those who had occupied the land for decades or longer.

In response, the UK government introduced a series of laws (Irish Land Acts) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries designed to improve the lot of the tenant farmers. The law of 1903, the Wyndham Land Purchase Act, was what spurred my grandfather to action. In that act: a) sales agreements were to be agreeable to both parties; b) the land was to be offered at fair market value; and c) the government was to step in to pay the difference between the price offered and the actual value. This effectively ended landlordism in Ireland and by 1914 about 9 million acres had been bought up by tenants.

Here is what came in the mail today.

This letter and the next essentially state that he missed the May 1, 1907 deadline as specified by the Evicted Tenants Act of 1907. Given what is stated in the Globe article, that is odd.

 This letter is from Patrick's solicitor (attorney) in Ireland, John O'Connell, LLD. It is dated Tralee, 28 October 1914, and is stamped [received] "Estates Commrs 26,573 - 29 Oct. 1914."

It reads:

Dear Sir:         Estate of Francis Pierce, Co. Kerry

I am instructed by Patrick J. Fitzgerald of 12 Lamson Ct. East Boston Mass. USA to inform you that he claims an interest as evicted tenant in part of the lands of Farnas at present in occupation of Robert Evans. He endeavored to lay his claim to this land but was prevented through non-delivery of his letters. The lands were evicted about 1884.

I would be obliged if you would let me know how the matter stands and what further steps my client should take to prove to you that he is entitled to consideration.

                                    Yours faithfully
                                             John O'Connell

Are you kidding? He "was prevented through non-delivery of his letters?" Sabotaged? Bad postal system? Rotten luck? What happened?? Why had so much time elapsed?

The December 27, 1903 Boston Globe article states "in the past 10 days the United Irish League in Ireland has taken steps to secure the best legal assistance in behalf of all the evicted tenants as part of the program of the national organization." It also says that the act had taken effect on November 1st of that year and "some 50 cases have already been brought before the Land Commission by the officials of the United Irish League of America, and of that number about one half of those affected are at present residents of Massachusetts, particularly in the vicinity of Boston. Among the number are the following:" And then he goes on to interview my grandfather. Well that explains how he was able to afford a lawyer.

I know this is my Patrick because the address he gives is the same street where the family lived when my father was born. For now, I am satisfied that Patrick did pursue restitution of his family farm. But it is still only his word that he was evicted, though there's really no reason to doubt it. I wonder if one of his brother's tried for it. He did have two brothers who remained in Ireland, John and James. John seems never to have left Ireland, but James went back and forth to the US and I haven't been able to find a marriage or death for him yet.

Does the No. 26,573 refer to another case file? I will request it and hope for further information, but something tells me I won't get it. I'll also now write to the archivist and hope he can give me some more ideas, but for now I guess I'm satisfied.

Wronged Again

Irish cottage, County Kerry, 1989
Other posts in this series:
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!"
5. "Wronged Again"
6.  "He Endeavored to Lay Claim to This Land But Was Prevented"

I have been feeling mighty discouraged at the National Archives of Ireland's inability to locate a file in the Evicted Tenants collection which I am quite sure treated the eviction of my great-grandfather from the 75-acre FitzGerald family farm in Farnes, Kilgbarrylander, County Kerry, in 1883-84.

I have to say I was a little surprised at my reaction to the file not being found. It went beyond disappointment in not finding a record and instead felt like a slap in the face after all my grandfather had been through. He had been defeated by the system and so had I. I even felt a tear well up, and my friends will tell you I'm not the weepy type. This was pure frustration, passed down and brought to life a century later by one missing file.

What little I know of my grandparents came from my father. Both of his parents were dead by the time I was born and no one ever spoke much of them. They had been simple, hardworking folk, uneducated farmer types trying to survive in the swirl of greater Boston. They had thick brogues and couldn't read or write. My older siblings tell me that Patrick was strict and used to swing his cane at them, and Annie, his wife, liked a good snort of booze on a Friday night.

A first generation kid, born in the teaming tenements of East Boston in 1910, my father did everything he could to distance himself from his provincial parents. By the time he graduated from high school they had lived for nearly a decade on a little dairy farm in Lexington, Mass., just a stone's throw from Lexington Common, scene of the "shot heard round the world," and quintessential New England town. Pops was not one of those Irishmen who longed for the old country. It wasn't his country: he was an American. He didn't celebrate St. Paddy's day, didn't attend parades, hang out in pubs or drink much beer. He self-identified more as a Yankee than an Irishman and even went so far as to marry a Priscilla Barnes, a Protestant Mayflower descendant (below).

Priscilla (Barnes) FitzGerald standing on farmland previously owned by her father-in-law
Patrick J. FitzGerald's family, Farnes, Kilgarrylander, County Kerry, 1989

Because my father virtually ignored his Irish heritage, I just never imagined that his parents had wished to go home so very badly. So it took time for me to realize that Patrick really did not want to be here in the United States--he wanted to go home to his farm in County Kerry. He had come over just to make a little money to send home to his mother, and probably hoped he'd be home in a few years. Even after he met my grandmother Annie and settled down he did not stop longing for home, as we have seen by the 1903 article. At that time they had three children and would go on to have another three. He still lived in East Boston, an area heavily settled by immigrants.

I very much want to tell his story, and without that file I cannot. I'm pretty sure it is somewhere at the Four Courts. I wonder if it was pulled and filed in another later file, perhaps. I haven't given up. But at the moment, I'm denied that file. However, just the fact that there was a case in the index that matched what Patrick recounted provided some support to his statement that they had been evicted, though not nearly enough for me to feel confident in citing it as proved. With Irish research you have to be content with the tiniest of steps toward your goal, so I was ready to accept that.

In my previous posts I described the process for obtaining those files. First you have to request the "Evicted Tenants Index and Registers." These are held offsite, at the Four Courts and take a day to be retrieved. Once you have the index and registers you can search each one for your person of interest. They are a jumbled mess of three overlapping systems, in about 12 volumes, all of which must be searched. Some but not all information gets repeated. The volumes were not always labelled and some titles were illegible. The registers gave very little information beyond what the indices had, but sometimes very little is enough.

One set of indices includes people in all counties, arranged alphabetically by first letter, then first vowel of surname, and finally by county. So, for instance, I go to F for Fitzgerald, then at the top of the page you can see "i" above the columns, indicating the first vowel is an i, then I skim down to those in Kerry. At that point they are not in alphabetical order, so you have to look at all of the Kerry entries.

Above is the entry in the index for the file that could not be found, number 1624 for Patk Fitzgerald of Kerry. There was no further information, so I went to the register. 

Below is the entry in the Land Commission's Evicted Tenants, Register, vol. 4, that supports but does not strongly corroborate Patrick's story. It gives the landlord's name as Rae--a match!. And of course the case was refused, or Patrick and Annie would have gone back to Farnes. But I'd want to see more to be sure. The file being not found left me at a dead end.

So what do we do at dead ends? We reverse back up the lane a bit and see if there is alternate road we can explore. I had, in fact, found another possible file on my last day in Dublin. I could order it but it was offsite and wouldn't be delivered until I had left, so I requested that it be sent to me and paid a fee. Here is the entry, below, right page, then left.

 It was simultaneously encouraging and discouraging. This time he is Patk J, and my grandfather was Patrick John. Best of all, the townland is "Fainas"–close enough to Farnes to make me hopeful. The 1884 year of eviction is close enough to 1883 to give me more hope still. But the landlord was wrong.  What happened to Mr. Rae? And what was the outcome?

But OMG, the page is shredded along the left side where the file number would be. I panicked for a second until I realized that in this particular register the files were in numerical order. So I went back a page and counted forward, hoping that the gaps in numbering that I had seen elsewhere would not be a problem here! I came up with number 13,324, and I ordered the file to be sent home to Massachusetts. 

Now we wait...