Irish census conundrum

I thought I had found my great-great-grandmother Ellen Cronin Hegarty in the 1911 census, living with her widower son-in-law Michael Phipps. Her age was mistranscribed, but I opened the image of the page and she was 67. She is listed as single with no children, and her role in the family is scrawled unclearly, but what other elderly Ellen Hegarty would be living with this man who wasn’t his mother-in-law?

However, I found that census entry by searching through the images at Ireland’s National Archives site. Since then, the 1911 Irish census has been indexed at Ancestry’s search turned up another 1911 census image for an Ellen Hegarty who is a 67-year-old widow sharing a house with someone, still working as a housekeeper, and the mother of 15 children of whom 5 survive. That sounds like it fits my actual ancestor much better. She is also living on the same street as someone who might be her son.

But if this new independent housekeeper person is my great-great-grandmother, then who is the Ellen Hegarty living with the Phipps? Could it possibly be Michael Phipps’s late wife’s maiden aunt, and that scrawl is for “Aunt”?  What did widows and maiden aunts tend to do in 1911 in Cork?

And why is Ancestry’s index finding things that I didn’t find in my fairly methodical searching?

It needs more looking into but it’s late at night so I will wait until I am fresh.

I am mostly posting this so I will remember what my thinking was when I return to this problem.

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?

Brooklyn represent!

I’ve been very busy with professional responsibilities lately, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but is why this blog has been quiet.

My eventual plans for this site are:

  • rewrite the family pages to incorporate better sourcing, which will force me to analyze the material I have and hopefully clarify my next research steps
  • scan some more photos
  • read more relevant history

I am not really pleased with’s new Irish databases, since they are mostly barebones indices. Many of them replicate information I already had from (because it’s the same info being indexed). I think I’m eventually going to have to join one of the Irish-specific sites, and probably also seek professional guidance, but that’s further down the road.

Today I just went through my “people with hints” list on, and discovered that some Deasy ancestors lived right here in Brooklyn! I love it when things get local!

Circling around Irish parish records online

The latest newsletter featured a great article by Juliana Smith on their new collection of Irish Catholic parish registers, which are said to be digitized versions of holdings at the National Library of Ireland. I am pleased to have these records as an integrated database and have already located a great-grandfather in them, but the fact is that I had already found the identical record at the Irish government’s free Irish Genealogy site.

I would love to see a clarification of the relationship between these two sets of records, both apparently emerging in digital format under the aegis of a government initiative. Are they the same collection? Or do they just overlap? I thought the Irish Genealogy site was stalled in its digitization project due to the economic problems in Ireland. The site says it anticipates adding more records on October 4th, which is almost as exciting to me as the new iPhone release :)

In a related point of interest, the Irish Times reports that the National Library of Ireland is making legal inquiries into the release of these Irish records on the UK branch of, with concerns that there are copyright violations. The report says that a private company digitized the records on behalf of the library. Is this private company by any chance the company Irish Genealogy Ltd. that is mentioned on the government’s Irish Genealogy site? Because that would imply that these are the same set of digitized records, wouldn’t it?

I don’t know if these are good questions or stupid questions, because I feel like I am just beginning to learn how to research Irish ancestors. Smith’s article links to the Irish Ancestors site sponsored by the Irish Times newspaper. She was linking specifically because the site reflects John Grenham’s work on civil parishes versus Catholic parishes. But the site also features a surname search, with links to surname histories, bibliographies, and link lists.

Naturally I typed my surnames Hegarty and Costigan into the little search box. Imagine my surprise when I found the Irish Times site linking to me! And not even to this site but to my now defunct Earthlink site. I was so disheartened; it is like when tells you there are new hints but the hints are only people who have linked back to you. I don’t know whether to email the Irish Times and give them my new URL or not. I don’t feel I am an expert, but apparently no one else is researching these names — or if they are, they’re not doing it online. (N.B.: There is another Costigan researcher listed — she is my 3rd cousin with whom I traveled to Newfoundland. The other Hegarty researcher is working on the Donegal branch, not only not mine, but a whole different region.)

An unrelated linkage note: Now that Google+ is open to everyone, I am there. There are a lot of genealogists networking on Google+, though I also use it for academic stuff. Feel free to follow me!

Coombs changes

I had to make a small change to the Coombs page and remove the wife of Richard Coombs, Jr. I had read on a private family tree website that her name was Lavinia Smith. This seemed plausible to me because my grandmother had mentioned the name Lavinia but she wasn’t completely sure of how it fit in. So given my years of fruitless searching for Richard Jr’s wife, I went with it.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, depending on your outlook, people on have been showing the same Lavinia Smith married to a Henry Badcock in Spaniards Bay. I no longer have access to the private website where I got her name, so I can’t check back there. I searched a ton of parish records on NF Gen Web and found supporting evidence for the Badcock marriage, so I am deleting her from my tree. (Yes, I considered whether they could have been the same woman with two husbands but the dates don’t work.)

And wouldn’t it have been great if the people on had included a mention of those parish records? But of course not.

The Coombs page is the most popular page on this site, so if anyone was relying on it, take note of the change.

That’ll teach me to believe undocumented trees on the internet!