Year’s end, wit’s end: my brick walls

This post is inspired by the recent “Post your brick walls” meme I’ve seen around, especially at the Nutfield Genealogy blog.

Here is my list of brick walls. I went way over ten! These are basically the endpoints of the lines I am researching. In many cases, I think I am stymied along with everyone else for lack of records. Many Avalon Peninsula records, particularly from the Harbour Grace area, were destroyed in fires. The dire situation with regard to Irish genealogy records is well known. In other instances, I think the brick wall is my own ignorance of how to proceed.
Newfoundland brick walls: I have combed through all the relevant Newfoundland records available at the Newfoundland GenWeb and Newfoundland Grand Banks sites. I don’t think records exist for most of these.
  • The unknown wife of Richard Coombs. Richard died a widower in 1922 so his wife died sometime before then. They probably would have married about 1863 in the Harbour Grace area, where this woman was probably born. There is a vague family tradition that she was named Lavinia, but I can’t find a record for her anywhere. Her children were named Elizabeth, Ann Eliza, William, and Eli Coombs. Online, I have checked all the records at Newfoundland Grand Banks and Newfoundland GenWeb, as well as the unindexed Newfoundland records at FamilySearch. The actual church records from Harbour Grace were burned in a fire, so there’s nothing for the years I need. I am hoping that a descendant of one of Eli’s siblings will know something more.
  • My 4th-great-grandmother Mary was born about 1765 in Harbour Main, Newfoundland and married John Kennedy. She died in 1855. What was her maiden name? Who were her parents?
  • William Furey was born about 1770, probably in Harbour Main, Newfoundland, but possibly in Jersey, Channel Islands. He had a son named James Furey.
  • John Hicks was born about 1744 and died about 1812 in Harbour Main, Newfoundland. He was married and had three children, but I don’t know who his wife was. I don’t know where John was born: some people say Newfoundland and others say England.
  • Edmund Cleary and Johanna Gibbs were married in Harbour Grace, Newfoundland in 1815. That is all I know about them.
  • Simon Gorman was born about 1800 in Harbour Main, Newfoundland. That’s all I know about him.
  •  John Coombs was born about 1752, maybe in Newfoundland, maybe somewhere in England.
  • Mary Minchions was born about 1790 in Upper Island Cove, Newfoundland. She married Richard Coombs and had children with him. I don’t know when she died nor anything about her parents.
  • Cecily Southwell died in 1878 in Carbonear, Newfoundland. She was born around 1781 but where? And who were her parents? What was her maiden name? What was Mr. Southwell’s first name? This may have been a Roman Catholic family.
  • Mary King was the wife of William Southwell of Upper Small Point (Kingston), Newfoundland. Who were her people? Where and when was she born? Where and when did she die? We don’t know.
Cork, Ireland brick walls: I’ve been through the online parish records.
  • John Hegarty and Julia Fitzgerald married in Cork City in January 1849 and had a son named Michael Hegarty. That’s all I know about them. [ETA June 2013: I no longer believe Julia Fitzgerald belongs in my tree.]
  • Michael Hegarty married an Ellen Cronin in 1866. Her father’s name was given as Cornelius Cronin. But there are so many Cornelius Cronins in Cork with daughters named Ellen that I can’t choose among them. [ETA June 2013: I may have narrowed this down somewhat.]
  • Ellen Crowley who married James Deasy about 1829.
  • Michael McCarthy and his wife Honora Callaghan, who married around 1840.
Kilkenny, Ireland brick walls: I am overwhelmed by the needle-in-a-haystack search for the right Murphy in Ireland.
  • Thomas Murphy and his wife Catherine Ryan from Kilkenny, Ireland, who married around 1865. Most of their children emigrated to the US, but I can’t find any more info about this couple, in part because their names are so common that I can’t pick them from records.
Waterford, Ireland brick walls: 
  • John Gaule (1841-1886), married to Ellen McGrath.
  • John McGrath and Kate Clancy in Waterford, who married about 1840-1850.
  • James Kennedy was born about 1716 in Waterford, Ireland and emigrated to Harbour Main, Newfoundland, where he died in 1776. I don’t know who his parents were nor who his Newfoundland wife was.
Tipperary, Ireland brick wall:
  • Vincent Costigan was born in 1790 in Kilcash, Co. Tipperary. He later emigrated to Newfoundland.
Channel Islands brick walls: I really know nothing about the Channel Islands, so I don’t know how difficult these are or aren’t.
  • Edward (de) LaCour was born in the 1760s in Jersey, Channel Islands. He emigrated to Newfoundland where he married Mary Hicks in Harbour Main. I don’t know anything about his family in Jersey.
  • Sarah Vokey was born about 1757 in Jersey, Channel Islands. She emigrated to Newfoundland, possibly with her brother Philip Vokey, and married John Coombs.
England brick wall
  • John Clare was born in England around 1836, but I don’t know where or who his parents were. He emigrated to Newfoundland and died there in 1892. I have checked the 1851 census but can’t find a Clare family with matching sibling names (Bridget, Ellen, and Eliza). His sisters are in Newfoundland with him so I think they must have emigrated as a family. No idea about his parents’ names. I believe this was a Roman Catholic family.
If you have hints or pointers, please share in the comments!

Butte, Montana

NASA satellite image of Butte, Montana minepit

In the first few decades of the 1900s, several of my ancestors traveled from Newfoundland to Butte, Montana to work in the mines there. According to Wikipedia, Butte was one of the most unionized towns in America at the time, due to labor activism among the miners. I wonder how that experience shaped the Newfoundlanders’ responses when they came back East and worked as longshoremen, another industry with serious labor organizations. My grandfather worked at different times as a fisherman (where he lost a finger), a miner, an ironworker (where he lost an eye), and finally as a longshoreman. His longshoremen’s union pension was a big part of my grandparents’ retirement security. I remember how angry my grandparents were during the Reagan years when they heard anti-union arguments. Their Newfoundland brogues would get thicker and they would try to explain how the bosses always wanted to get rid of the unions and the workers always suffered without unions.

I’ve been thinking about them a lot during the recent weeks of attacks on teachers’ unions.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: #4 Home

I missed a few weeks of these due to the start of the new semester.

The house I grew up in was a third-floor apartment in a typical Boston style triple-decker. It was a long hallway with the parlor at one end and the kitchen and dining room at the other, with bedrooms off both sides of the long hallway. It was very noisy because you could hear what everyone else was doing, and it was near the airport so jets roared overhead all day long. I got pretty good at tuning things out.

It was too crowded. When I was small we had a parlor and a dining room and a playroom for all our toys, but as we got older and there were more of us, all the rooms were turned into bedrooms and we just had a kitchen and a dining room/living room as shared space. There was only one bathroom, so it was a challenge for everyone to get ready and get out to work in the morning. Things were always interfering or in the way: someone’s music was drowning out your TV, or someone’s project on the dining room table was interfering with dinner. At one point I was sharing a bedroom with both of my sisters. We each had a single bed and a couple of bureau drawers and a tall industrial-type metal shelf (spraypainted bright colors). All our stuff had to fit in that space if we wanted to keep it.

It was an old building with a neglectful landlord and things were always leaking or breaking. But it was affordable so we stayed and stayed and stayed. I even moved back in there for awhile when I ran out of money during grad school. I love living alone now because it feels so luxurious to have all my space to myself without interference. That probably sounds more antisocial than I really am — I do enjoy having houseguests and visiting other people! But I really love living alone.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: #1: New Year’s Memories

I am going to try to keep up with the weekly prompts from Geneabloggers this year. I’ve added the theme badge to the sidebar.

This week’s prompt asks about family New Year’s traditions. I have to say that I don’t really remember any. Christmas was so family intensive that by New Year’s Eve we were more willing to go our own way, out with friends or to parties or whatever. Boston’s First Night was a big draw for some, though I never saw the charm of shivering my way through a freezing city all night. Those of us who stayed home would usually send out for Chinese food and watch movies on TV. We would only switch on the countdown clock in the last few minutes, and then we’d toast one another and either go to bed or finish the movie. It was really not a big deal for us.

I believe that some of my family still practice the ritual of sending out for Chinese food on New Year’s. I am at an age where takeout Chinese food does not agree with me, so I have dropped that tradition.

My grandparents were married on New Year’s Eve, which I think is terribly romantic. But apart from that I have no strong family associations with the holiday. It was always a very makeshift thing with us.

Of course, I hope that my readers had a great First Night however they went about it, and that a wonderful 2011 awaits us all!