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Friday, January 15, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Show and tell": Irish genealogical treasures

Genealogists are treasure hunters of a different kind. Instead of searching for riches, we dig for information. Instead of prizing gold, we value documents - the visual proof of the life stories of families that have passed before us.

This 17th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture is a chance for some of us to show off the treasures that we have accumulated during our search for family history.  Show and tell is always lots of fun, and this one is no exception.  Get ready to see some true Irish genealogical treasures and hear the stories behind them.  Happy reading!


A family Bible is a rare treasure appreciated by every family historian.  Frances Ellsworth (aka "Hummer") presents images of the family Bible that once belonged to her Magill ancestors.  Using the information in the Bible, she was able to confirm that the land patent records that she had found listed the correct Magill family. Visit Frances' 17th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture Irish Treasures posted at Branching Out Through The Years to see the Bible pages for yourself and read about the land records Frances found.

Unable to come across the information I was looking for in a family Bible, a state record repository, a county record repository, or church archive, I was thrilled to find it nestled within the pages of my great-great-grandfather's Civil War pension file.  View the church document (complete with the parish seal) that I found within that file that listed the birth and baptism dates of many of the Cowhey family members for whom I was searching at my article Family treasure at the National Archives: 19th-century birth records & more here at Small-leaved Shamrock.

Sometimes the rumor of Irish ancestry runs through a family, although the actual proof is hard to find.  Debra Osborne Spindle (aka "Tex") finds that to be the case in her family.  As she states in Irish Roots at Last. Probably., this author of All My Ancestors "joined the Carnival of  Irish Heritage & Culture on faith", since she has not yet been able to find a primary source document confirming her Mitchell clan's Irish ancestry.  She has, however, found a book that includes a mention that her ancestor "emigrated from Ireland in 1752".  Visit Debra's blog to read more about the story of her Mitchell ancestors and her quest to confirm her possible Irish roots.

Thomas MacEntee of Destination Austin Family has the type of family document in his possession that Debra is looking for.  Visit An Irish Treasure: Citizenship Papers for Matthew McGinnes to see a copy of "one of [Thomas'] most cherished treasures": his great-great-grandfather's original United States citizenship certificate dated 1888.

I have a similar document in my possession (although it is not the original): the naturalization papers of my great-great-grandfather dated 1876.  Visit Tierney family treasure: Patrick's naturalization papers, 1876 to see the documents, read their transcriptions, and learn which "item" within these documents that I like the best.

For this "show and tell" carnival Julie Cahill Tarr of GenBlog shares with us an obituary of her great-great-grandmother Margaret "Maggie" Millet Cahill.  It states an important piece of information: Maggie's birthplace in County Kilkenny, Ireland. Visit Julie's Irish Genealogy Treasures to read the obituary for yourself.

K. Wech started off her new blog with an entry for our carnival.  At Central PA Genealogist she presents the story of her First genealogical trip to Ireland which resulted from the discovery she made in an obituary of an ancestor who died in 1900.  Visit her blog to hear the story of the kindnesses she experienced in the people of County Longford, Ireland during a visit there in search of her roots.

Dorene Paul, the Graveyard Rabbit of Sandusky Bay, shares with us the Marriage Record of Thomas F. Larkins and Lula M. Cross, her great-great-grandparents.  After an unsuccessful search at the Erie County, Ohio courthouse, she states, "I came across the marriage record for my great-great-grandparents, Thomas F. and Mary Louise Cross Larkins, in Kalamazoo County, Michigan during a Google Search."  A happy surprise for Dorene in her search for family history!

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith wasn't sure he had any Irish ancestry until the discovery of the birthplace of his great-great-great-grandfather way back in 1745 in County Wicklow, Ireland.  Visit Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories for more of the fascinating story of John Butler - [Bill's] Irish Ancestor who followed his brother from Ireland to America and fought in the Revolutionary War.

Moving ahead to the middle of the 20th-century, Bill West of West in New England shares the 1949 land deed for the transfer of a Boston home from one family member of The McFarlands of Parker Street, Boston, MA to another. Like my Boston Tierney family and many other extended families of the time, the McFarlands settled together on one street, sometimes renting, sometimes buying, sometimes moving down the street, but often remaining close neighbors with other family members.

Karen Hammer of Ancestor Soup shares with us her most important "treasure" in terms of her Irish ancestry - and the reason that her family has retained pride in their Irish heritage.  Visit My Irish Genealogy Treasure to read her story.  Those of us that have an "Uncle Jimmy" in our own families certainly can relate.

Alice Keesey Mecoy has a special treat for us at this edition of the carnival.  She says, "I don't believe that I have any Irish blood flowing in my veins, but I can share my love and memories of the Irish Crochet my grandmother lovingly created for many, many years." Visit Genealogy Treasure Show and Tell in the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture posted at Alice's John Brown Kin.


Thanks to all of you who contributed to this "show and tell" fun and to those of you who took the time to read.  Please plan to join us for the upcoming 18th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture, also known as the:

3rd annual 
Small-leaved Shamrock 
St. Patrick's Day 
Parade of Posts 

The topic is anything and everything Irish, so come join in the fun whether or not you have Irish roots!  The deadline is Sunday, March 14, 2009.  The carnival will be published on St. Patrick's Day, March 17.  For more details, visit the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture blog.  See you there!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Family treasure at the National Archives: 19th-century birth records & more

My great-great-grandparents William & Margaret (Foley) Cowhey had many children.  Prior to their marriage, William and his first wife also had several children.  I had the information from a handwritten family tree that I had been given by a distant cousin.  I hoped to sort out and confirm these names, birthdates and mother/child relationships with official birth records. 

At first my search was not easy.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health didn't have the information I was looking for.  Their records only went back to 1906.

I had no success either when I contacted the Schuylkill County Courthouse.

St. Patrick's Catholic Church of Pottsville, Pennsylvania surely had the information somewhere in their archives, but they wouldn't allow information requests for records of that age due to their fragility. (They had a parishioner who had been painstakingly transcribing those records, but he had passed away and no one had taken his place.)

I had heard of the existence of a Cowhey family Bible (possibly a good source for some of the information) but I had no idea if it had survived the second half of the 20th-century, and if it had, in whose home it might currently reside.

Ironically, it turned out that the records that I was looking for did not reside in Pennsylvania at all - at least not that I could find.  Like many Cowhey family descendants who had moved out of state, these birth records had also.  I found them (unfortunately after my original research visit) residing happily at the National Archives building in Washington D.C. within the Civil War pension (and widow's pension) file for William Cowhey and his wife Margaret (Foley) Cowhey.

You can imagine how happy I was when I received the envelope in the mail with copies of the documents in this file and found the one below.  As part of the paperwork filled out at the time of Williams' death on behalf of his wife Margaret was this Record Proof of Births of Surviving Children of Soldier Under Sixteen Years of Age - a list of eight of their children's names, birthdates and baptism dates taken from the records and bearing the seal of St. Patrick's Catholic Church of Pottsville, Pennsylvania.



As I mentioned in Death comes in threes: The sorrows of Margaret (Foley) Cowhey, William's untimely death had left his 37-year-old wife Margaret a widow and the sole caretaker for their eight youngest children.  The Record Proof of Births of Surviving Children of Soldier Under Sixteen Years of Age within the pension file listed Margaret's living children from age fourteen down to eight months. (The couple's two eldest children were not covered by the pension, nor were the children of William Cowhey and his first wife.)

This primary source document was the first that I had found (besides U.S. census records) that validated some of the information in the handwritten Cowhey family tree that I had been given: a true family treasure.

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The eight children listed within the Record Proof of Births of Surviving Children of Soldier Under Sixteen Years of Age shown above are Mary, Elizabeth, Thomas, Ambrose, Clara, Charles, Blanche and Isabella Cowhey, born 1881 to 1892. (The youngest, nicknamed Bella, would die a tragic death at a young age only two and a half years following William's death.)


Williams's Civil War pension file also included many other family treasures within its pages, including the handwritten account of he and his brother Thomas' night crossing the Potomac River in 1861. The account was written in Thomas' own handwriting in 1889 and is another one of the family documents that I treasure most.

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In search of your own Civil War ancestors' pension file?  Check out the resources on this Genealogy Branches webpage to get started.  (Note: You might have to try several sources before you find your ancestors' index card. I finally found William Cowhey's on Footnote.  Try their Civil War & Later Veterans Pension Index to do your own search.)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Calling all "Irish genealogy treasure" carnival entries!

Several of us have experienced difficulty with the Blog Carnival website over the last few days.  If you have had similar trouble (or you are just plain late!), please email your submissions directly to me for inclusion in the carnival.  My email can be found on my profile page

Look for the 17th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture to be posted this Thursday, January 7.  See you there!

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