Two Exciting Announcements

January 25, 2011 § 2 Comments

I am very pleased to announce that Census Junkie is the proud recipient of the Ancestor Approved Award, and was nominated by fellow blogger Mike Dawson of You Don’t Choose Your Family. It is really nice to be recognized. The award stipulates that you must pass it on to ten other bloggers, as well as list “ten things you have learned about any of your ancestors that has surprised, humbled or enlightened you.” Check out the end of this post for the ten things.

I am little embarrassed to admit that I am not familiar with ten other blogs! I know a few, but it is hard to get much browsing time of my own. So let me at least acknowledge Mike Dawson’s blog again because, even though he has already received the award, I would still pass it on to him all the same. Also, Joe Beine’s Genealogy Roots Blog is another good blog, and he often has great links for vital records online. As for the other eight I’ll say this, I will endeavor to become familiar with some other blogs, and when I do I’ll make sure to say something about them here on Census Junkie.

The next exciting announcement is that Census Junkie has been added to the blogroll of the GeneaBloggers website. GeneaBloggers is a huge community of blogs devoted to genealogy, and I’m glad to be added to the ranks. The official announcement will come on Saturday, January 29, 2011. A day that will live in infamy, for sure. Well, perhaps not. Hopefully not.

Here’s the list:

  1. Recently discovering a whole mess of folks, all living in Newton, Mass., that I am still in the process of proving a relationship, but I’m pretty darn sure they’re related.
  2. In part because of the above, and others, realizing how important Newton has been to my maternal great-grandmother’s family. Such as St Bernard’s Church in West Newton where everyone seemed to get married.
  3. In contrast, realizing how important Calvary Cemetery in Waltham, Mass. is to my ancestral history, on account of how many folks are buried there.
  4. Getting in touch with a handful of distant cousins either through Ancestry.com or this blog has been a real thrill.
  5. Thanks to information from Griffith’s Valuation, and collaborated by Michael Flanagan of Dublin, I’ve come really close to being able to identify the exact farm the Conroys lived on in the early 1800s, land which has now be claimed by the wilderness surrounding it.
  6. Just as Newton seems to have been important, so have other towns in Massachusetts, such as Waltham, Natick, Cambridge, Somerville, Saugus, and Lynn. I am a native Bostonian by birth, but I never realized how deep and wide the connections within Mass went.
  7. On another branch of the tree, the Dunns have also been fascinating. Shortly after opening a ‘saloon’ in Worcester, Massachusetts, William Dunn died, and his wife, Ellen, took over the business.
  8. I am still mystified by Thomas F Dunn’s apparent departure to New York City in 1909, just before his supposed return to Massachusetts before his wedding in 1910.
  9. Edward Donnelly may not have been one of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, but he did serve in Cuba during the Spanish-American war, stationed in Havana.
  10. I haven’t been bored once, and while I occasionally am frustrated, I keep coming back for more.

Looking for a needle, found a haystack.

January 20, 2011 § 6 Comments

I think there are two great discoveries that one can make when researching a genealogical project. The first is locate a document that you set out deliberately to find, and the other is to find something unexpected that you weren’t looking for at all. This second kind of experience can be very exciting and lead to even more discoveries, and it is the kind of moment that keeps Junkies like me coming back for more.

It was a discovery such as this I made recently that really stunned me, and uncovered details that I am still working to sort out. I had been searching for an immigration record for Agnes Conroy, daughter of James and Catherine, and was not having much luck. But as I was looking through one search result after another, one stood out dramatically from the rest. It was actually an immigration record for Ellen Conroy which I had never located. I had found records that seemed plausible, but nothing that was without a doubt hers. This, however, was different. It stood out from the other search results mainly because the spelling of Rosenallis, Co. Queens had been so badly butchered by whoever had keyed in the document that it was impossible to miss, and when I took a look at it the manifest itself I knew I had found the right one. All the details matched, listing her birthplace as Rosenallis and her final destination as West Newton, Massachusetts. Also traveling with her was her sister, Mary B Conroy. As I looked at their names I was drawn to another detail. Accompanying them was a man named Harry Burns who was of Irish descent but apparently was already living in the States in Newton. It was clear that he had made the trip back to Ireland and then helped to bring Ellen and Mary across the sea. But the most amazing detail would be the destination information listed under Ellen. According to the manifest Ellen was traveling to meet her cousin Mrs. Harney living on Cherry Street in west Newton. When I read this my jaw hit the floor. Several years in the future, in 1907, Ellen would marry a Mr. Thomas B Harney of West Newton, and Ellen herself would then live out her life on Cherry Street. Did this mean that her future mother-in-law was also her cousin? This seemed unlikely, so I began to look a little further.

1895 immigration for Ellen and Mary Conroy, and Henry Burn/Byrne.

When I went referred back to the Newton city directory I would make some pretty astounding discoveries. Suddenly there was Conroy’s popping out all over the place (well, mostly on Cherry Street). I found a John W. Conroy, whom with his son, Eugene, owned a painting business, J. W. Conroy & Son, which is referred to in the Illustrated Boston, the metropolis of New England, 1889.  Ellen Conroy’s sister-in-law, Mary Elizabeth Harney married a man named John (J?) Conroy, born in 1870, but I do not know if he is related. The thing that intrigued me the most was the relationship between Ellen and this “cousin Mrs. Harney.” At first I attempted to locate Harry Burns, the gentleman listed on the ship manifest who was travelling with the Conroy sisters, but after a brief search I couldn’t find anything. However, as I looked through the city directory I discovered a Martin Harney, also living on Cherry Street, and in 1893 Martin is living with a John Conroy (possibly the son of JW Conroy Sr or the man who marries Mary Elizabeth Harney) and a Henry Byrne. When I saw this I grew very excited (and also kicked myself for not checking a different spelling for ‘Burns’) and I went back and look more closely at the immigration record. Upon closer inspection with a magnifying glass I could see that the ‘Harry’ was actually a Henry, just that the ‘e’ had been squished into the ‘H’ a little bit. Eventually I found Martin’s marriage record and he married a girl named Eliza Byrne from Ireland. Although I haven’t been able to prove it just yet, I think that Ellen must have an aunt (on either her mother’s or father’s side) who married a Byrne at some point, and thus began the family connection. Mrs. Eliza Byrne Harney then is Ellen Conroy’s cousin as mentioned on the ship manifest.

271 Cherry St - Harney, Conroy, & Byrne. 317 Cherry - Thomas Harney Sr and Thomas M Harney, future husband of Ellen Conroy. 182 Cherry - J. W. Conroy, policeman.

I cannot show that Martin Harney is in anyway related to the Harney family that Ellen marries into, but I cannot imagine that they’re not given the circumstantial evidence. I also don’t know that the JW Conroy family is related either, but once again it seems very likely that they must be. An initial search of birth and marriage records from Ireland would suggest that all the Conroys, Byrnes, and Harneys all originally came from Queens County, now called Laois. It would make sense, then, that families who knew each other in Ireland would congregate near each other in the New World, even marrying together. Another piece of the puzzle that suggests this is that all of the marriages that occurred in Newton all took place at St Bernard’s, the same place that Ellen and Sarah, my great-grandmother, got married at, and everyone who died was buried in Calvary cemetery in Waltham, Massachusetts (Sarah herself had moved to Rhode Island and is buried there).

Even though there are some loose ends, uncovering this treasure trove of information has been a real exciting experience, and I’m somewhat awed by the realization of how important Newton, Massachusetts has been in the history of my maternal great-grandmother’s family. It is amazing to discover that you’re even more connected with ancestor’s than you had previously imagined.

1909 - John W. Conroy & Son, painters, 87 Derby St, Newton, MA.

PS I did find Agnes Conroy’s immigration record after all, only she’s listed by her birth name of Bridget. My friend Michael from Dublin reminded me that girls named Bridget would not like being called Biddy back in the early 1900s, so she most likely changed her name or used a nickname or even her middle name.

Finding Hugh

January 13, 2011 § 5 Comments

It is a goal within my research to attempt to identify as closely as possible the place of origin of the two families from which I directly descend, in this case the Conroy and Dunn families. I am compelled to find as many details as I can, and simply knowing the county or townland is not satisfying enough to me. I guess that’s the perfectionist in me coming through. For now, I have been principally focusing on the Conroy family, and I believe I am getting close to knowing exactly where they came from, right down to the actual farmland they lived on.

I have commented before (see post) on the interesting experience of learning more and more about an ancestor’s place of origin, as I go from more broad and general details to more exact and specific ones. This has been the case with the Conroys. At the beginning of my research I knew they came from area of Mountmellick in County Laois but over the past few months I have narrowed that down considerably.

In the 1901 census return for Ireland the Conroy family is listed as living in the Cones townland. James Conroy, my great-great grandfather, is the head of house, and at least a few of his daughters, including Sarah my great grandmother, are also present. James is about fifty four which puts his date of birth at about 1847, right during the height of the Famine.

I have recently been looking through Griffith’s Valuation and located the index listing for the Cones townland. For a while I have been a little confused about under what parish did Cones exactly lie, but comparing the results from the valuation and the 1911 census leaves me with no doubt that I am on the right track. Cones is clearly within the Rearymore parish of the Mountmellick Poor Law Union. Consulting Griffith’s Valuation I discovered that there is a Hugh Conroy living in the Drummond townland, as well as a Matthew Conroy. In Cones there is a James and a John Conroy. Since the Laois valuation was supposedly completed in 1854, I doubt that a five or seven year old James Conroy would be the owner or occupier of his own farm, so perhaps the James listed in Cones is an uncle or some other relation. I cannot yet prove that the Hugh Conroy in Drummond is my great-great-great grandfather, but perhaps when his son James grew older he then moved to the Cones townland where James later appears in 1901.

A while ago I was at the local Family History Library branch, looking through the registers for the Roman Catholic parishes of Rosenallis and Mountmellick. Among the records for baptisms I found what I believe to be James’ baptism. Below is the record. Unfortunately the quality is a little poor, as it is a scan of a paper print out from a microfiche reader, but I hope to replace it with a straight digital copy at some point. Under the April 1847 heading James Conroy, appearing at the end, is listed as the son of Hugh Conroy and Cath(erine) Beu, with witnesses Nat./Mat. (Nathan or Matthew?)  Conroy, and possibly another Conroy, although it is difficult to read. The place of birth is then listed, and for a long time I was not sure what it said, but after my recent discoveries I am certain that it lists Rearymore as the birthplace. Rearymore can be seen listed as the birthplace of the last individual under the March heading, and I think it is plausible to believe that they are the same.

In order to be sure about any of this I think a consultation with the current Valuation Office is likely in the future, and locating any other birth and marriage records would also help. I really hope to be able to identify exactly where the Conroys where living, and it would sure be fun to do so.

A good start to the New Year

January 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

As predicted at the end of last year, it wasn’t too long before I returned to doing research into my family’s history, and the New Year brought a flurry of activity, much of it done in a short time. I cannot do the full story justice in this post, but I’ll at least hit the highlights.

Perhaps the most exciting moment was being contacted here through the blog by a distant cousin living in Dublin, Ireland, who has been very generous with his time and has helped to fill in some details of the family tree. I have to say that it feels like one of the great goals of family research has been accomplished, namely, making contact with living relatives still living in the country of your family’s origin.

The next exciting thing has been the unearthing of an entire group of ancestors living in Newton, Massachusetts that I had no idea existed. I had one of those classic research moments when you realize that names of persons in records you have already viewed once were in fact members of your family tree, only you didn’t know it the first time around.  I hope to be able to tell this story a little more fully in a future post.

And lastly, I have been pushing to try to determine where exactly in County Laois the Conroy family is from, and I think I have narrowed down the possibilities, thanks to the help of Griffith’s Valuation, which was a landowner survey conducted in Ireland between 1847 and 1864. It is hard to know for sure if I have found my actual ancestors listed in the index without consulting the “house” books held in the National Archives, or perhaps commissioning the actual Valuation Office to research it. However, I think I am on the right track, and hopefully I will be able to figure this out for sure sometime soon.

More coming soon…!

A quick look into what I've been up to... it's complicated!

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