The Irish in America

WHERE GENEALOGY COMES FULL CIRCLE


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One of the Foleys: What do you think?

Unidentified from the Foley family collection

Several years ago, my mother received a trio of photographs from her cousin Lorna.  Lorna knew that two of the photos were her great-grandparents (see below), but she had no idea about the identity of the woman pictured above.  All that Lorna could offer was, “Well, I am sure she’s one of the Foleys…”

Do you think she could be this guy’s mother?

Patrick T. Foley

This is my great-great-grandfather Patrick Foley who arrived in America in 1864.  He came from Kilmichael Parish, County Cork and settled in Fisherville, New Hampshire before heading West to Clontarf, Minnesota in the late 1870s.

Or, could the caped woman be this lady’s mother?

Mary Crowley Foley

Mary Crowley married Patrick Foley on November 13, 1869 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Providence, Rhode Island.  Mary also came from County Cork.  Patrick and Mary’s photographs are tin-types.

I really can’t tell who she is, nor do I know where the photo was taken.  If anyone has input or information regarding these photos, please leave a comment.  I would love to know more about the costume in the first photograph, and if you see any resemblance.


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She Liked Nice Things

Over the past several months, I have used the items left behind by my great-grandmother Annie Hill Regan to help tell the story of an Irish woman who came to the United States at the turn of the last century.

Items have included a sweet Christmas card from a sister in Ireland, a small photo-pin of a priest, some memorial cards, and a Whitsun postcard.

I find these remnants from Annie’s life fascinating, and they have provided tiny, yet invaluable peeks into her life.  They have also complicated my vision of Annie, creating new questions and contributing to ongoing mysteries.  This is especially the case with the photographs.

Nearly all of Annie’s photographs are unidentified.  There is ONE photo with the label, John’s Aunt Mary.

John's Aunt Mary

Initially I was so excited to find an identification that I forgot I had no idea who this Aunt Mary was!  I assumed the “John” was my grandpa, and he had an Aunt Mary Regan, but she died when she was thirty-years-old.  This Aunt Mary appeared older than thirty.  And the photo was one of Annie’s, so this Aunt Mary must have come from her side.  I knew so little about Annie’s family, so I set the photo aside and I would think about it later.

Later turned out to be seven years ago my mother and I began looking into our family history.  When we learned that Annie had a sister named Mary Hill O’Brien who lived in Montana, I remembered the photo.  Some lucky timing brought me in contact with Mary’s grandson who still lived in Montana.  Jack O’Brien has this same photograph of his grandmother, Mary.

Here is one last postcard that was among Annie’s things.  This is from Mary to Annie:

Lucille O'Brien amongst the sheep

from Mary to Annie

Annie, ca. 1900

Click here to read my story in the current issue of Irish America magazine about how meeting two of my great-grandmother’s nephews has brought me closer to developing an understanding of the woman Annie was.


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Missing Friends, Missing Links

I bet that almost every person engaged in family history and genealogy research  has lost track of someone – at some point compared census records and wondered, “Now, where did he (or she) go?”  And of course there are always those pesky unidentified mystery photographs that make their way into family collections.

No clue who these two guys are...

Often when compiling a family history relatives will drift in and out of the picture, sometimes disappearing forever.  This can be especially true if you are Irish, attempting to make sense of a family history full of the gaps left by emigration, or American with Irish roots, sorting through migration throughout the entire United States (it is a big country!)

It may be frustrating for genealogists tracing relatives who appear to be missing with no paper trail to follow, but imagine what it was like for the mother who had gone ten years without hearing from her emigrant son, or the brother who was separated from his siblings in the confusion of arriving in America?

I was thinking about some of the mysteries in my own research when I remembered a database put together by the Irish Studies program at Boston College several years ago – Missing Friends: Ads for missing Irish immigrants from the Boston Pilot

The database consists of text entries for 38.701 ads placed by individuals looking for lost friends and relatives from the “Missing Friends” column which appeared in the Boston Pilot from October 1831 through October 1921.  The amount of information contained in the entries varies, but can include specifics about birthplace, dates of immigration, locations, relatives, and occupations.

To test the database, I searched for my great-great-grandfather Francis McMahon’s sister who, according to family folklore, was lost once the family arrived in America.  No records matched for that search, but I quickly transitioned into general browse mode of the database.  It is possible through an Advanced Search to search by words you enter in any of the fields contained in the entry.  This way, if you are unable to locate a specific name, you might luck out and find someone from the same townland or parish as your relative, with whom there may be a connection.  Search by relationship to find all the grandmothers who placed ads for missing grandchildren, or ads for missing farmers, railroad workers, or miners.

This database is definitely worth a look.  Let me know if you find anything interesting!  Leave a comment or send me an email – aine@archival-solutions.com.  I came across something interesting when I was browsing the database…well, interesting to me at least!

I did an Advanced with Fisherville, NH in the “Location after arrival” field.  Fisherville, NH was where some of my relatives first settled after arriving in the US.  Two ads resulted from the search, both for Thomas Keenan.  One ad was placed February 11, 1865 by his brother Peter, and the other March 11, 1865 by his mother Ann.  Thomas was my great-great-grandfather Patrick Foley’s brother-in-law (sort of convoluted relationship, I know!)  At any rate Thomas had left Fisherville for Australia in 1857 and the family lost touch with him at some point.  The ad placed by his mother says, “Afflicted mother Ann Keenan wants information.”  This makes me wonder…was it simply that they had not heard from Thomas that prompted two ads in two months, or was there something else going on in the family in Fisherville that made them want to find him?

This great database is just another way we can get closer to the stories of the Irish in America…


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Diaries and letters and newspapers…oh my!

Where can you find these treasures, in addition to many other historic research sources? Online at DIPPAM – Documenting Ireland: Parliament, People, and Migration.  This is one of the coolest websites out there for anyone interested in Irish studies, emigration, and history.  DIPPAM is a project of Queen’s University, Belfast and several other entities.  They describe themselves like this:

DIPPAM is an online virtual archive of documents and sources relating to the history of Ireland, and its migration experience from the 18th to the late 20th centuries.

DIPPAM consists of three databases – Enhanced Parliamentary Papers on Ireland-EPPI, Voices of Migration and Return-VMR, and Irish Emigration Database-IED.  Let’s take a closer look at the IED.

The IED is a collection of over 33,000 documents (with new material added regularly) covering the 32 counties of Ireland, with the majority dated from 1820 to 1920.  If you relish the thrill of perusing old archived collections in person, browsing this virtual archive could become a new favorite destination.  Why not take advantage of the neatly transcribed diaries and letters, and set aside the microfilm reader for a bit – all the documents in this collection are available to view online.

Click here to read the general guidelines for searching the IED.  You are able to search for a specific term, or use the categories on the left side to define parameters and browse the fascinating collection of documents.

Here is an example of a search I did on the emigrant letters in the collection.  I began by restricting the “Document Types” to Letters (Emigrants).  Next I entered Minnesota in the “Search” field.  This search resulted in 14 emigrant letters with some mention of Minnesota.

I selected the following return:

18-10-1884    Thomas McCann, Minneapolis, Minnesota to Mary McKeown, Belfast.

Mr. McCann is writing to his sister in Ireland from Minneapolis, Minnesota, which is located in the north central portion of the United States.  Most of the letter talks about the McCann siblings who are scattered throughout the US and Ireland.  The pattern of Irish emigration is evident in this letter; one at a time the siblings made their way to the US, some via Scotland, joining relatives already established in American cities.  Once in the US, some stayed in New York while others moved west to Madison, WI, Minneapolis, MN, and beyond.

…dear sister
Maggie is well and likes this
country she would not go back to old
ireland for any money she came to
Uncle James from New York and stoped [stopped?]
there last winter so she do not think
of the old Country any more she sayes [says?]
she had to work to [too?] hard when she
was there and had nothing for it
she is now working in a hotel in
Madison near my uncles house but
I am 2 hundred and fifty miles furder [further?]
west I left my uncles last spring and
came west I am now 7 hundred miles
from New York so you may think I am quite
away from the place I was Born in
old Ireland but I am quite happey [happy?]
sometimes I never think I was in old
Ireland still I never think of it
sometimes for I do not entend [intend?] ever
to see it I am still working at my
trade and always has plenty to do
I spent quite a little some [sum?] on maggie
to take her here she cost me forty
seven dollers [dollars?] to take her from
Ireland to here but I do not care
for that it makes me happey [happy?] to
hear from her and that is all I want
from her sometimes she do not think
worth her while to write me a few
lines to let me know how she is getting
along well…

Click here for the full text from ied.dippam.ac.uk

Maybe I am cynical, but I note a hint of a passive-aggressive tone when Mr. McCann refers to his sister Maggie.  Glad to see that was alive and well in the 19th century.  Also interesting are the attitudes he expresses toward his homeland – more practical than sentimental, but rather sad.  Reading this letter we can understand a bit more about how it must have felt to have to leave home and have your family dismantled.

Start browsing: click here to go directly to the Irish Emigration Database.  What else do you have to do this weekend?


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