Kimmitt Genealogical Research

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 ( : accessed 7 November 2014).

07 November 2014

Three African American 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 enslaved persons, 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 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 enslaved people he called "servants" but thought highly enough of them 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. It may be asking too much to imagine he treated them fairly but the gravestones show he held them in some esteem at least. Did these trials make Moses more sensitive to the plight of African Americans or was he already so inclined? In any case, he gave them 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]; ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : 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...

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!"

5. "Wronged Again"
6.  "He Endeavored to Lay Claim to This Land But Was Prevented"

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. (See next post for update!)

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!"
5. "Wronged Again"
6.  "He Endeavored to Lay Claim to This Land But Was Prevented"

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!"
5. "Wronged Again"
6.  "He Endeavored to Lay Claim to This Land But Was Prevented"

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 ( 15 December 2008).
I had already searched in the State Commissioner's Offices "Applications from Evicted Tenants, 1907," database on, 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; ( : 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!"
5. "Wronged Again"
6.  "He Endeavored to Lay Claim to This Land But Was Prevented"

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.