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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Mystery Priest

Photograph pin, ca. 1890-1900

This “photo-pin” belonged to my great-grandmother Annie Hill Regan.  Annie passed away in 1937, and this pin was among a small collection of cards, photographs, and memorial cards that made their way to my mom.  Click here to see a 1930s Christmas card from Annie’s sister Katie in Ireland.

I remember seeing this pin as a child and being puzzled as to why my great-grandmother had such a thing.  Who wore a pin with someone’s picture on it, especially a picture of a priest?  I didn’t get it, but I was relieved that the fad of priest-photo-pins didn’t carry over to the 1980s – the thought of wearing a picture of my parish priest Father O’Sullivan stuck to my cardigan gave me goosebumps!

Several years ago I became curious about the identity of the priest in the photo-pin, and I started to ask questions…

  • Could this be Annie’s brother, or maybe an uncle or a nephew?
  • When Annie came to the US, she worked as a housekeeper for Father Molloy.  Maybe this is him?
  • Were pins like this common or did she have this specially made?

I have never been able to answer these questions.  I know Annie had one brother, John, but I know nothing about his life, and I have seen photos of Father Molloy, but only as an older man and there isn’t a strong resemblance.

Maybe you can help me with the third question.  Has anyone come across an item like this, maybe in an old box of your great-grandmother’s treasures or at an antique shop?  The pin measures about two inches in diameter with a coppery, scalloped edge.  Leave me a comment if you have any ideas…

Check out this website for more on photo jewelry.

 

 


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Well now, of course they did!

When I read the headline, How the Irish Saved Thanksgiving, on IrishCentral.com, I was curious, but not surprised.  After all, what aspect of American culture and society has not been influenced, and quite often saved, by Irish immigrants and their descendants?

Everyone knows that the Kennedy clan changed the face of American politics, and it is impossible to imagine American business and industry without Henry Ford, but did you know that the co-founder of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher, is of Irish descent?  Or Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza, claims a couple of Irish grandparents?  Perhaps they did not “save” the airline industry and home pizza delivery, but these two Irish Americans have had tremendous influence on how business is done in America.

While the story on IrishCentral.com was entertaining, I am not certain I agree with the premise that the Irish saved Thanksgiving.  The contributions of Irish immigrants have definitely made America a better place.  And not just for inexpensive, home-delivered pizzas…

Happy Thanksgiving!

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