Over the past several months I have had the pleasure to exchange emails with Margaret from County Galway. Margaret has shared memories and stories about relatives who emigrated to America in the early twentieth century. I would like to show you how we were able to take Margaret’s memories, add some Irish Census evidence, throw in Ancestry.com, and put it all in the hands of an experienced researcher to identify the American branch of Margaret’s family tree.
In the pursuit of family history research, there are times when every path seems to lead to a dead-end. Other times the bits and pieces of information fit together effortlessly to tell a wonderful story of your history. Luckily for us, the data slid right into place. To get up to speed on Margaret’s research quest, click here.
When Margaret first told me about the Clancy siblings, her relatives who left Ireland for America, she shared some memories – Trimmings after the Rosary for the “boys in the war”, an old letter that mentioned debris from the Lusitania scattered in the sea as a young woman sailed to America, a generous wedding present from an American relative in New York. Great stories that provide priceless clues for the researcher, but a few dates will always make the research process easier.
Margaret delivered again and gave us the birth dates and places for the five Clancy siblings. She was unsure of exact emigration, but she provided information from the Irish Census – whether or not someone appeared on the 1901 or 1911 census helped us narrow our search and make positive identifications.
And did we make identifications! Margaret may well learn more about her Clancy relatives than she ever wanted to know!
Jim, a senior research associate from Archival Solutions , stepped in and began to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Jim told me that this project was made much easier by the information Margaret provided, and he said that the information he gathered is just the tip of the iceberg – there is much more out there, on both sides of the Atlantic and in cyber space. This brings up a key point to remember: When you begin family research of any kind, gather all known information at your disposal – the more you have, the easier your search will be.
Over the next week, I will highlight examples from this project that will illustrate the types of information you can expect to find when you embark on researching your family history in America. I will begin with a story with its foundations in the once-popular and treasured item, the emigrant’s letter home.
Margaret recalled an old letter belonging to her aunt. It was from her father’s cousin Nellie Clancy who went to America. In the letter, Margaret remembered a vivid description of the debris from the Lusitania floating in the sea as Nellie’s ship sailed for America. Margaret believed this letter was sent when Nellie returned to America after a holiday in Ireland. The letter is long gone, but the image of Lusitania wreckage stayed with Margaret.
Jim found Nellie Clancy on S.S. St. Paul ship’s manifest right away. She sailed from Liverpool on May 8, 1915 – the day after the Lusitania was sunk on May 7, 1915. Nellie was not returning from a holiday in Ireland as Margaret believed, but rather this was her first voyage to America. Nellie didn’t travel alone – she was accompanied by her younger brother and the youngest of the Clancy siblings, James. James is listed as an eighteen-year-old farmer, and the twenty-year-old Nellie’s occupation was listed as teacher. Their closest relative in Ireland is given as, father Theo. Clancy, Moylough, Ireland. All of this information is included in the Ship Passenger Manifest. What a way to start your new life, amongst the wreckage of a torpedoed ship!
The 1920 U.S. Federal Census shows Nellie and James living in a rooming house in Brooklyn, and the 1930 U.S. Census has Nellie married and living in New York, while a James Clancy is shown living in a house with two new Clancys – Teddy and Anna. Margaret will have to let us know if there were a couple more Clancys hanging around. Remember back to the ship’s manifest? The Clancy father was named Theo., so there is a chance James wasn’t the youngest Clancy after all.
Next time we will look at the “Boys in the War”: the American soldiers remembered in the nightly prayers of a family in Galway.