Narrow Escape!

I found this a while ago but realized I never posted it here. It is a news clipping entitled “Narrow Escape” which describes a fire at my great-grandparents’ apartment in 1905 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Three children of Mr. and Mrs. John Hegarty, of 80 Howard street, Leo, aged 3 1/2 years, Margaret, 2 1/2, and Joseph, 1 1/2, had a narrow escape from being burned to death Tuesday afternoon. The children were playing in the kitchen, while the mother was upstairs, when the oldest child, with a broom, knocked a lamp off a shelf on to the stove. The burning oil ignited the clothes of the other two children. Margaret was badly burned about the head, arms and chest, and after being attended by Drs. Norton and Joseph Cunningham was sent to the Cambridge hospital. Joseph was burned about the legs. Mrs. Hegarty rescued the two younger children with some difficulty, as the whole room was in flames in an instant. The fire completely destroyed the apartments of the Hegartys, which is the rear one of a four-apartment wooden house. The house is owned by S. J. Kelley. The loss will amount to $1500. An alarm was rung In from box 145 at 1.30 o’clock.
from Cambridge Chronicle, 21 Jan 1905, page 10

I found this article at the Cambridge Public Library’s free searchable database: Historic Cambridge Newspaper Collection. Worth checking out if you have Cambridge connections.

RIP James Hegarty 1932-2013

My father died in Cambridge, Massachusetts on February 28th after a long illness. He will be dearly missed. This photo is perhaps ten years old.
It’s been a long week of seeing rarely-seen relatives. (I live out of state, so I rarely see any relatives.) I did make plans to compare genealogy notes with one cousin. There is a lot to catch up with, but eventually there will be more blog posts here.

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!

I’m back, and I’ve tried’s Facebook app

OK, I could not stay away for very long and this blog is functional again. I don’t guarantee how often I’ll update though, as I haven’t had as much genealogy time as I’d like.

I had a few days off work due to Hurricane Sandy, though, so I spent some time playing with’s Facebook app. I had been hesitant to try it for fear it would be creepy, but it wasn’t that bad. At least it didn’t post random things to my facebook page.

First it identified me, and then it rifled through my facebook friends and suggested connections. Confirming them was a little tricky as there was an intricate panel of dropdown menus for specifying relationships. For example, that cousin is my father’s brother’s son. Some distant relations required workarounds in that I had to specify how they were related to other relatives (chosen from another dropdown menu) to get them to connect. I ran into a few instances of confusion about where to assign children in cases of multiple marriages. (People on Facebook don’t generally specify “step” when they name their relatives because it doesn’t sound warm. Also, subsequent spouses often adopt children of previous marriages.)

As I connected people, their Ancestry entries were updated with their facebook profile pictures and often some personal information, such as a birthday if they had that available on their Facebook profile. If they had other relatives listed who had not been in my Ancestry tree, they were also added.
I found the app useful. I discovered relatives on Facebook and realized I could not properly place them: they were someone’s kid but whose? The process inspired me to sit down and add all my cousins to my Ancestry tree — putting a lot of trust in Ancestry’s privacy safeguards for living people. Once they were in Ancestry, though, all their records popped up right away, so now there are obituaries attached to late cousins, etc.
Working through it made me realize that I am getting older. I started my genealogy project more than ten years ago. At that time, I only included people from my grandparents’ generation and earlier in order to respect people’s privacy. Now most of my grandparents’ generation has died, and I am just one generation down from the elders. It used to be easy to keep my cousins’ families in my head, because they were young people with only a few children. Now they have grandchildren of their own, and I need to make a little chart.
So what about the privacy issues? My personal offline database includes information on everyone, but that is never uploaded anywhere, and I carefully scrub reports it generates so as not to expose anyone. You will never see living people’s personal information here on this blog, for example. However, I am putting everyone on Ancestry and trusting Ancestry’s privacy safeguards. Although I hesitated about this, the app is only importing information people have themselves posted to Facebook. And Ancestry is password protected and their personal information is hidden if they are alive. So I feel like it wasn’t that creepy after all.
Have other people tried it? What was your experience?

End of the week links

  • “Obama Slave-Ancestry Report Misses the Mark” by Linda Heywood and John Thornton at The Root. Without faulting the actual genealogical links in the widely publicized report tracing President Obama to John Punch, historians Heywood and Thornton explain more about laws and social practices related to 17th-century slavery in Virginia. It’s an interesting discussion of interpretation, because they argue that finding the earliest penal sentence of slavery doesn’t mean other people weren’t already enslaved.
  • My family are mostly in Massachusetts, but I moved to New York years ago. I keep in touch with them mostly through Facebook. Sometimes Facebook is where I find out that someone has died, or married, or had a baby. I put these events in my genealogy program and note as a source “Facebook.” And each time I think, “Wow, that’s some sorry-ass sourcing right there. But it’s what I have for now.” But maybe it’s not so bad after all. In a New York City racketeering case, Facebook has been ruled sufficient evidence to support indictments and search warrants. So maybe it holds up as a source for the names of a cousin’s children. I suppose I should be working out a more elaborate format for the source, indicating the date posted and the name of the account, etc.  How do other people treat Facebook? Is it a source or just gossip?