Welcome (Céad Míle Fáilte!) to Small-leaved Shamrock

Friday, June 2, 2017

A decade has flown for Small-leaved Shamrock!

"Téann an saol thart mar a bheadh eiteoga air." - Irish Gaelic saying meaning Life goes by as if it had wings

Ten years ago today I created an account on Blogger.com, started a couple of blogs, and put out the word to the world that I was tracing my family tree and planning to share my family's stories with anyone who happened to click over.

I didn't know it at the time.

I thought I was reaching out to a few cousins who might read my blogs and be fascinated by our shared history. But it didn't quite go that way. The world found me, and my humble little blogs opened up connections that I had not expected.

Up to that point, my genealogical research project had been primarily a very personal project - a hobby that I pursued quietly on my own. The start of my blogs introduced me to other genealogists and a world of connections that have enriched my life and enhanced the search for my roots in a great many ways.

On this 10th anniversary of the date I started my blogs, I want to shout out to all my fellow geneabloggers who took the brave (or foolish!) step to jump out into the internet with their family stories! You continue to inspire my spirit and enliven my personal research journey.

I also want to give a round of applause to all of my family members - distant and not so distant - who made the effort to read my blogs, share what they know about our family, and spread the word to more cousins. Your interest in my work helps ensure that our ancestors will not be so quickly forgotten, but will become part of the collective memory of many more branches of our family tree.

It is a joy to see the way the stories I have shared on these genealogy blogs continue to touch others - those within my family (both in the United States and in my ancestral homelands), and those outside my family (wherever the internet can reach). Just yesterday a friend informed me that within a lesson on blogging in an online genealogy course she was taking, she found my familiar Small-leaved Shamrock listed as one of two blog examples. I continue to be surprised at where I find mention of my work and who has stopped over for an online visit.

For much of the past decade, I have not given the attention I had hoped to my genealogy blogs. But they have patiently remained waiting in the wings, ready for the time when I mosey back over and give them some new material. During this time, the stories I've shared have continued to receive new readers, many of whom I've connected with. I have spent the past several years using the genealogy time I have available to educate myself on research standards and to apply those standards to the work I thought I had done so well early on. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know.

My blogs continue to be an incredible resource for me - a easily accessible reminder of the work I have done on various family lines, the social history of the regions from which my ancestors emigrated, the questions I still want answered.

If you are new to Small-leaved Shamrock, here are a few highlights: some of the most popular articles and some of my personal favorites.

Thanks for making a visit - I hope you find something here that inspires your own search for family history.

If you have an interest, stop over to the other two blogs I also started ten years ago: 100 Years in America and A Light that Shines Again. You can also find more about my work at my website: smallestleaf.com.

There is an Irish blessing that begins:
"May there always be work for your hands to do...". 
If you are a genealogist, that is certainly a given, and one of the reasons why I hope to keep these blogs going for many more years to come.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

All I Really Needed to Know About Genealogy I Learned in Kindergarten

Well, not exactly. But it got me off to a great start!

If you are in the Philadelphia area on Thursday, June 18, please join me at the Third Thursday meeting of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania. I'll be presenting a back-to-basics look at the genealogical research process using Robert Fulgham's well-known essay and examples from my search for my Pennsylvania roots.
3rd thurs jun
"And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK." - Robert Fulgham
We’ll step back and look at some genealogical basics, with a light-hearted but serious eye toward improving the quality of our research process, and finding joy in the genealogical journey as we do! I hope you’ll come out and join us!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

News for Smallest Leaf: a new website and a new book!

This week I celebrate my eighth anniversary of blogging here at Small-leaved Shamrock, 100 Years in America and A Light that Shines Again. It has been slow-going at times, but I've stuck with it and look forward to many writing years ahead.

I am thrilled today to announce my brand new website and blog at smallestleaf.com. I have decided to pair my interest in genealogy with my other favorite hobby - poetry! - and use my website to share both.

Many of you have known me as a genealogy blogger for many years, but you may not have known of my love for poetry. Tales from my family tree are a regular source of subject matter for my poems, along with world history, nature, faith and the writing life.

I have just announced the upcoming publication of my first collection of poetry: winner of the Eakin Book Award given by the Poetry Society of Texas. You’ll find the title familiar. I feel a bit like the Irish mother who gives her firstborn a name that has been in the family for generations. My poetry collection is entitled (surprise!): Smallest Leaf. You can read more about my new book on the Poetry page at my website.

Thanks to all of you readers who have followed me over the years! I hope you'll stick around for what's to come. Happy reading!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

When it is the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and you discover that your ancestors' unit served at Gettysburg

Bells will be ringing across the nation this afternoon at 3:15 Eastern time as we commemorate the re-union of the United States of America with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee to Union General Ullyses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse 150 years ago today on April 9, 1865.

But bells are ringing for me this morning! I've just made an exciting genealogical discovery: my 3rd-great-grandfather James McGonigal's unit (162nd Regiment, 17th Cavalry) served at the battles of Chancellorsville and ...Gettysburg!

Private Levi F. Hocker of the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment (in which my 3rd-great-grandfather served) in uniform with pistol and sword. Image from collection of Library of Congress.

It's a long story, but James McGonigal is on a branch of my Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania Irish family tree that has been more difficult than others for me to trace. Until recently, I have focused on his daughter and grand-daughter and their families, and have still not been successful at finding key documents about their lives.

Because of this difficulty, I had all but ignored the little research I had done on Irish immigrant coal miner James McGonigal and his wife Mary of St. Clair, Pennsylvania, preferring instead to work through the more recent generations until I was satisfied with my conclusions there.

A month ago I delved back into this family and made the discovery that James was indeed a Civil War soldier, serving at the senior age of 43. (Two of his neighbors aged 44 were denied the opportunity to serve due to being "over age". See St. Clair Civil War registry below) .

Civil War registry of the residents of St. Clair, Pennsylvania. James McGonigal (spelled McGonegal) is listed last.

I ordered James McGonigal's pension file from the National Archives in Washington D.C. four weeks ago. It arrived pretty quickly - just a few days ago. I was eager to learn more about this branch of the family, and was very disappointed when I opened the digital file on the NARA CD and found that they had sent me the pension file for the wrong soldier.

Knowing that I would have to wait another month for James' file to arrive, and eager to know more about this man's service as I was thinking of today's 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, I did a little digging online this morning and learned the name of and the actions engaged in by James' regiment.

The History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65 by Samuel P. Bates tells the details of the activity of the 162nd Regiment, 17th Cavalry. The book speaks glowingly of their efforts during the war, including their four hour resistance of the advance of the Confederate troops into Gettysburg on July 1, 1863 under the command of General John Buford as they awaited aid from additional Union troops. Their efforts were critical to Union success at the Battle of Gettysburg, as they had arrived before the Confederate Army became well organized, and were able to establish a solid presence on much-desired high ground south of the town.

As Cavalry General Alfred Pleasanton later wrote in Conduct of the Civil War, Supplement, Part 2Pleasanton's Report, page 9:
"To the intrepidity, courage and fidelity of General Buford and his brave division, the country and the army owe the field of Gettysburg." - General Pleasanton
It is inspiring to learn more about the valiant efforts of these cavalry men in the face of what would become such a grievous battle and one of the turning points of the Civil War. I look forward to learning more about my ancestor James McGonigal's role in the cavalry during those historic days.

And as the bells ring today throughout the nation - in Appomattox, in Philadelphia (the Liberty Bell), at the Statue of Liberty, and in national parks, cemeteries, battlefields, municipal buildings, schools and churches throughout the nation this afternoon, I'll be ringing my own bells - and thinking of James McGonigal and his brave companions.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A St. Patrick's Day tribute to the Church of St. Patrick, Pottsville, PA

As early as 1827, its parishioners were meeting in each other's homes. By 1838, they had moved into their first real church structure - a log cabin, and then on to building a conventional church. This structure would serve the parish well, but would last only fifty-three years, when it was torn down to make room for the larger limestone exterior Church of St. Patrick that still stands today.

I wrote about the history of the parish previously within my article Coal region Catholics: The story of Pottsville's Church of St. Patrick. There was no shortage of photographs of the current church for me to choose from, and I decided to use some that I had taken myself during my visit to Pottsville the previous year. I was particularly interested, however, to see the church building that had served the parish from 1838 to 1891, since my family had arrived in the area in 1840 and so many of the rites of passage of those early ancestors and their families and friends had taken place in that church.

Church of St. Patrick, Pottsville, 1838-1891
(This church was torn down to make way for the current structure)
I was able to find and include a photo of the 1838 church's exterior within my article (see above), but what I really wanted was to see the inside - the interior of the church in which my great-great-great-grandparents had stood when they baptized their children, the place that was the center of family worship - where they prayed at Mass each Sunday, where they said their final goodbyes at Requiem Masses prior to making the walk up the hill to St. Patrick's Cemetery to bury loved ones who had passed.

I was thrilled when I discovered that there was, indeed, a photograph of the interior of that second Church of St. Patrick! The photo, dated sometime in the 1880s, was taken by renowned "photographer of the mines" George M. Bretz who worked in Pottsville from 1870 to the year of his death in 1895. His photographic images of the interior of the second Church of St. Patrick along with many photos of Schuylkill County mines and other scenes, can be found online within the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Digital Collection. (Start at the landing page for the George Bretz Collection if you are interested in viewing these images.)

Below is the interior of the Church of St. Patrick as it looked sometime during the 1880s. It is a beautiful church and the parishioners must have been sad to see it torn down, despite having a new, larger and also beautiful church built on its site.

It was before this altar in the second Church of St. Patrick that my great-great-grandparents Margaret Foley and William Cowhey were married in 1878. It was a second marriage for William, age 43 (who had lost his wife Catherine to consumption, and brought five children into his second marriage with Margaret). The young bride, at age 21, was embarking on a life as a mother to William's first five children and later ten more of their own.

I was very happy to find the details of William and Margaret's marriage within William's Civil War pension file. Among the many pages within this file (circa 1890s), was a Record Proof of Marriage of Widow to Soldier. Signed by then pastor Rev. F. J. McGovern, it attested to the extract from the registry of St. Patrick's Church indicating that William and Margaret had been married by Rev. A.J. Gallagher on February 23, 1878, witnesses Maurice Ryan and Clara Kitchen. This is a true family treasure, particularly since the church itself has been unable to provide access to the listing of this couple's marriage within their registry. Below is the page documenting that day 137 years ago when my great-great-grandparents were joined in marriage at the altar of the second Church of St. Patrick in Pottsville.

William and Margaret (Foley) Cowhey
Marriage at a Glance

  • Married: 23 February 1878 at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Pottsville, Schuylkill Co., PA 
  • Children of William and Catherine (Regan) Cowhey: Anna (b. 1866), Margaret, (b. 1868) William F. (b. 1871), John J. (b. 1874), Richard (b. 1876)
  • Children of William and Margaret (Foley) Cowhey: Mary (b. 1878), Ellen (b. 1880), Elizabeth (b. 1881), Thomas (b. 1883), Ambrose (b. 1884), Clara (b. 1886), Charles (b. 1887), Blanche (b. 1889), Lena (b. 1891), Isabella (b. 1892)
  • Duration of Marriage: 14 years ending at William's death on 17 November 1892

William Cowhey
Life at a Glance

  • Name at birth: William Cowhey
  • Parents: Patrick and Ann Cowhey
  • Siblings: John (1832-1836), William (1834-1892), Ann (1837-1864), Ellen (1840-1898), Thomas (1842-1899), Elisabeth (1844-1845), Johanah (1844-1846), John (1846-1920), Michael (1846-1855) 
  • Born: 29 April 1834 in New York City, NY
  • Died: 17 November 1892 in Cressona, Schuylkill Co., PA at age 58*
  • Buried: St. Patrick's No. 3 Cemetery, Pottsville, Schuylkill Co., PA

Margaret (Foley) Cowhey
Life at a Glance
  • Name at birth: Margaret Foley
  • Parents: Patrick Foley and Margaret Graham
  • Born: 10 August 1855 in Port Carbon, Schuylkill Co., PA
  • Died: 5 October 1912 in Mount Carbon, Schuylkill Co., PA at age 57
  • Buried: St. Patrick's No. 3 Cemetery, Pottsville, Schuylkill Co., PA

This article is included as part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge organized by Amy Johnson Crow. The theme for Week 11, in which this article falls, is "Luck of the Irish". [Note: Hat tip to Donna Pointkouski of What's Past is Prologue for the summary format I've used at the end of this article.] Find more stories of my family's ancestral churches visit my Churches of My Ancestors Pinterest board.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Mother to 15, Widow at 38: My discovery of the photograph of my quietly heroic great-great-grandmother

Margaret Foley was 21 when in 1878 she married William Cowhey, age 43, at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Pottsville, Pennsylvania and walked into the world of motherhood. She immediately inherited his five children: Annie, Margaret, William, Joseph and Richard. The children were ages 11 down to 2, and had lost their mother, Catherine (Regan) Cowhey, to consumption the previous year.

Margaret and William went on to have ten children of their own together: Mary, Ellen, Elizabeth, Thomas, Ambrose, Clara, Charles, Blanche, Lena and Isabella. In all, there were fifteen children born to William within a twenty-six year span - a very big family.

Margaret has long been one of my personal heroines. Not only did she become an instant mother of five at a young age, but she also suffered the grief and loss of her husband in a terrible accident, and the loss of several children who died young. By the time she was only 38, she was a widow left with eight children to care for under the age of sixteen. Margaret and William had been married only fourteen years.

It is only fitting that in March - Women's History Month and the month of St. Patrick - I would take the time to honor this brave Irish-American great-great-grandmother of mine. I was pleasantly surprised to realize, also, that today the Catholic Church celebrates the life of St. Matilda, patroness of large families, widows, and the death of children. She is perhaps the best patron saint I can think of for Margaret (Foley) Cowhey.

Five years ago I wrote a draft for a blog post which I never published. It started out:
"No photograph is known to exist of my great-great-grandmother, Margaret (Foley) Cowhey, yet I have an image in my mind of what she might have looked like.  I picture her wearing the black uncomfortable shoes and long skirts of women of her generation.  On her feet for many hours each day, she feels the constant pull of little hands on her skirt - little ones needing attention.  Her hands are worn by the toil of 19th-century women's work..."
I was thrilled just a few days ago when I made a discovery: a photograph of Margaret circa 1901! A cousin had posted a Cowhey family photograph on her Ancestry tree (thanks, Linda!), labeling a few of the family members. When I compared her photograph with one taken thirty-plus years later, I was able to make some conclusions about family members in the 1901 gathering, and have determined with great certainty that Margaret is pictured. I believe Margaret (Foley) Cowhey is the woman seated in the black dress.

Here she is, widow and matriarch of a huge family (only a small portion of whom are pictured) at the ripe old age of 46. Margaret would live only one more decade, dying of kidney disease at the age of 57. Her obituary reads:
Death of Mrs. Margaret Cowhy 
Mrs. Margaret Cowhy, a well-known and highly respected resident of Mt. Carbon, died at her home, at that place, Saturday afternoon after a long illness, death being due to a complication of diseases. Deceased was a former resident of Pt. Carbon, that town being her birthplace. She is survived by three sons, Thomas, Ambrose, and Charles, and four daughters, Mrs. Julius Stockel of Georgetown, Del., Mrs. A. Brown of Phila., and Mrs. Wm. Rodgers of Jersey City, N.J. and Miss Blanche at home.

Margaret (Foley) Cowhey
Life at a Glance
  • Name at birth: Margaret Foley
  • Parents: Patrick Foley and Margaret Graham
  • Born: 10 August 1855 in Port Carbon, PA
  • Married: William Cowhey 23 February 1878, St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Pottsville, PA
  • Stepchildren: Children of William from first marriage to Catherine (Regan) Cowhey: Anna (b. 1866), Margaret, (b. 1868) William F. (b. 1871), John J. (b. 1874), Richard (b. 1876)
  • Children: Mary (b. 1878), Ellen (b. 1880), Elizabeth (b. 1881), Thomas (b. 1883), Ambrose (b. 1884), Clara (b. 1886), Charles (b. 1887), Blanche (b. 1889), Lena (b. 1891), Isabella (b. 1892)
  • Duration of Marriage: 14 years ending at William's death on 17 November 1892
  • Died: 5 October 1912 in Mount Carbon, Schuylkill, PA at age 57
  • Buried: St. Patrick's No. 3 Cemetery, Pottsville, Schuylkill, PA

This article is included as part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge organized by Amy Johnson Crow. The theme for Week 11, in which this article falls, is "Luck of the Irish". [Note: Hat tip to Donna Pointkouski of What's Past is Prologue for the summary format I've used at the end of this article.]

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"The long and stormy passage": The 1823 sea voyage of Patrick Cowhey and a spirited Irish priest

"In early nineteenth-century Ireland, the Reverend Jeremiah O'Callaghan refused the sacraments to a dying man until he recanted his alleged usury, an incident that eventually got the priest banished to the wilds of northern Vermont," writes Charles R. Geisst in his book Beggar Thy Neighbor: A History of Usury and Debt.

Fr. O'Callaghan was a strong-willed priest on a mission. His determination to rid society of the sin of usury (monetary loans that he thought the church should consider unethical) led him to leave Ireland where he took up his cause first in New York, then in Rome. The end of his efforts, which were not taken seriously, resulted in him being sent to act as first pastor to a remote group of Catholics in Vermont.

My interest in Fr. O'Callaghan began not because of his campaign against the errors of capitalism, but because of the description he wrote of his first voyage to New York. It turns out that the priest made the same journey on the same ship in 1823 as my great-great-great-grandfather Patrick Cowhey, and the difficulty of the voyage led him to write about it. Fr. O'Callaghan makes mention of the experience within his 1824 book explaining the reasons behind what became his life's campaign Usury or Interest Proved to be Repugnant to the Divine and Ecclesiastical Laws and Destructive to Civil Society.

The 1835 printed edition of Fr. O'Callaghan's book
Here is the priest's description of the voyage:
"In expectation that America, the garden of liberty, would grant what had been denied me in Ireland, that is, power to pursue my clerical office, I sailed from Cork by the ship William, on the 6th of March, 1823, [some texts indicate the 8th of March] and after a boisterous passage, made New-York the 23d April. Visiting my old friend, Rev. John Power, of Skibbereen, Ireland, who for some years dignified the pulpit of this city. Several days elapsed in recounting our mutual adventures, putting and solving spiritual questions, and grieving for the distress and gloomy prospects of mother Erin. As soon as my constitution, that had been broken down by the long and stormy passage, was retrieved at his hospitable table, he presented me to Dr. Connelly, bishop of that city..."
A famine ship during a storm
It was a great surprise to find this description of my ancestor's voyage to New York, particularly since I have not even been able to locate a picture of the Ship William. After discovering Fr. O'Callaghan's words about his negative experience on the ship, I took another look at the passenger list. There was the familiar document that I had viewed many times, with its arrival in New York from Cork, Ireland on April 26, 1823. But now I saw something I had not noticed before. Listed in the second row, several names above 15-year-old Patrick Cowhey, was another name now newly-familiar to me: "Rev. Jer. O'Callaghan".

Passengers on the Ship William arriving in New York, April 23, 1823

Patrick Cowhey
Abt. 1807-1871
Life at a Glance
  • Name at birth: Patrick Cowhey (possibly O'Cobhthaigh)
  • Parents: Unknown
  • Born: About 1807 in Ireland
  • Siblings: Unknown
  • Immigrated: Departed Cork aboard the Ship William between 6 and 8 March 1823; arrived in Port of New York on 23 April 1823
  • Married: To Ann (unknown maiden name) about 1831, probably in New York City
  • Children: John (1832-1836), William (1834-1892), Ann (1837-1864), Ellen (1840-1898), Thomas (1842-1899), Elisabeth (1844-1845), Johanah (1844-1846), John (1846-1920), Michael (1846-1855)
  • Duration of Marriage: About 40 years ending at Patrick's death on 7 March 1871
  • Died: 7 March 1871 in Pottsville, Schuylkill, PA about age 64
  • Buried: probably at St. Patrick's Cemetery, Pottsville, Schuylkill, PA

This article is included as part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge organized by Amy Johnson Crow. The theme for Week 10, in which this article falls, is "Stormy Weather". Most of this article was previously published here at Small-leaved Shamrock. [Note: Hat tip to Donna Pointkouski of What's Past is Prologue for the summary format I've used at the end of this article.] Find more stories of my ancestors' journeys on my Voyages of My Ancestors Pinterest board.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

It's official! My PA roots go back prior to the Civil War

It's official! The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania has accepted my application for their First Families of Pennsylvania lineage society. My Keystone State roots go back to 1840. That makes me a "Keystone and Cornerstone" member.

I've always been proud of my PA roots. I've never lived there, I wasn't born there, and I've not spent nearly enough time visiting, yet I love the state of Pennsylvania and now I have the official certificate showing one reason why!

As I mentioned in my earlier post at the time I mailed my application, I combined all my research into this line of my family into eighty-three final pages, including sixty-five pages of documentation and a sixteen-page summary of the generations and sources I used to document them. All in all, I compiled documentation for six generations of my family spanning 174 years back to 1840 in Pennsylvania. Not bad for a spare-time genealogist!

Documentation for the two earliest generations of my Cowhey family members in Pennsylvania.
Above is a screenshot I took of the pages within my application including genealogical documentation for just the earliest two generations of the Cowhey family in Pennsylvania:

If you are a cousin of mine and we are connected through Patrick & Ann's family tree, please contact me and I'll give you details about making your own application to the First Families of Pennsylvania.

Good news! I've done the hard work for you (finding proof back to our earliest ancestors in PA). Now you just have to connect the pieces in later generations, send in your application and - voila! - you, too can be an official First Families of Pennsylvania member. Please let me know if you'd like help with the process. I'd love to have some cousins join me in celebrating our Pennsylvania roots in this way!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

First Families of Pennsylvania application - check!

My application consisted of eighty-three final pages, including sixty-five pages of documentation and a sixteen-page summary of the generations and sources I used to document them. All in all, I presented my research into six generations of my family spanning 174 years back to 1840 in Pennsylvania. Not bad for a spare-time genealogist!

It has been a joy to trace my roots in Pennsylvania and it will be an honor to see my ancestors included within the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania's official list of First Families of Pennsylvania within the designation "Keystone & Cornerstone: 1791-1865".

I always love to visit Pennsylvania, but it will be even more special to step onto the soil of the Keystone State once I receive word from GSP that my application was accepted and my family is enrolled within their list of First Families. This is one package that was sent to Philadelphia "from Texas with love", for sure!

Monday, March 17, 2014

A St. Patrick’s Day miracle for the Irish/Hungarian genealogy blogger

You may be thinking, “It’s a miracle! Finally a new blog article from Lisa!”

Though this very well might be a small miracle, there is a real miracle I’d like to share with you in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. It is a documented phenomenon that occurred over three centuries ago that is still remembered and celebrated today. It is close to my heart for a very special reason, as you’ll see when you read on.

I first posted this article three years ago, but really wanted to share it again this year. Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Smallest Leaf!

As a Catholic and a mother, I often look to Christ’s mother, Mary, for inspiration. She is the perfect example of womanhood. Her life has provided encouragement to women for many generations, including my own and my beloved ancestors’ (on both the Irish and Hungarian/Croatian sides of the family).

In many places throughout the world, Mary is remembered by a special name or title, or honored with a particular statue or painting containing her image. There are countless “names” for Mary. I thought I had heard of most of them.

I was surprised to come across a new title for Mary recently that I absolutely could not believe. As the descendant of Irish and Hungarian ancestors, I was thrilled to discover the Irish Madonna of Hungary. The story behind this title of Mary involves a beautiful painting, two European cities a continent apart, and a documented miracle that is as surprising as it is inspiring.

The village of Clonfert in County Galway, Ireland could not hide from the troubles facing the island during the middle of the 17th century. Oliver Cromwell was imposing his will on the Irish people – often brutally – and many, particularly church leaders, were displaced, persecuted, or killed. Among those was one Irish bishop by the name of Walter Lynch. As history tells us, Bishop Lynch was forced to flee his native Clonfert to Galway city. After the attack and capture of Galway, he was pursued to the island of Inisbofin, and then escaped to mainland Europe. He was in Austria by 1655 – four years after fleeing Clonfert. While in Austria, the good Bishop met the Bishop of Győr, Hungary, who offered him the opportunity to continue his ministry within the Győr diocese until the time when Bishop Lynch could safely return to his homeland.

Sadly, Bishop Lynch, who was making plans to return to Ireland, passed away in Győr in the year 1663, twelve years after leaving Clonfert. During his travels as an exile, the Bishop had carried with him a painting of Mary and the child Jesus (shown below), which he had saved from the Clonfert cathedral. Before his passing, Bishop Lynch had placed the picture in the care of the Bishop of Győr, who put it on display in the Győr cathedral.

Thirty-four years passed with the painting housed in the Győr cathedral. The Hungarian faithful venerated this beautiful image of the Madonna, and felt sure that Mary’s intercession on their behalf had ensured their recent victories over the Turks. By the year 1697, Hungary was enjoying newfound peace. Unfortunately, that same year, Ireland was beginning to face one of its greatest trials: the outlawing of the Catholic faith, the confiscation of its churches, and the banishment of all Catholic clergy from the British Isles.

As historical accounts tell us, on the feast of St. Patrick on March 17, 1697 a miracle occurred in Győr. According to the account of a priest who witnessed the event, “…the picture of the Blessed Virgin in the cathedral began to weep copiously.” Additional details recorded indicate that this “weeping”, or “bloody sweat”, went on for several hours, and that witnesses of various denominations were unable to attribute the occurrence to any natural cause. Eventually, word of the miracle spread throughout the city. It was witnessed by thousands, many of whom signed a document indicating their presence at the time of the miracle. These included the imperial governor of the city, mayor, councilmen, the Bishop, priests, Protestant ministers, a Jewish rabbi and many more. A linen cloth used to soak up the liquid is still on display today in the cathedral. The inscription on the case reads: “This is the true cloth which was used to dry the blood, which this picture shed in this church on St. Patrick’s Day 1697.”

The linen cloth on display in Győr Basilica today
(Image thanks to Győri Egyházmegye - Győr Diocese)

The beautiful image of the Irish Madonna of Hungary, also referred to as the Consolatrix Afflictorum (Consoler of the Afflicted), remains in the cathedral to this day, framed in silver above the altar. For over three centuries, it has played a special role in drawing together the two nations of Hungary and Ireland.

Every March 17 since 1947 (the 250 year anniversary of the miracle), even during the Communist regime, Hungarian priests have made a pilgrimage to the Győr cathedral and visited the Győri Könnyező Szűzanya (Győr Weeping Virgin Mary) or Ír Madonna (Irish Madonna), as they call the painting in the Hungarian language.

Hungarian priests in procession at Győr Basilica
(Image thanks to Győri Egyházmegye - Győr Diocese)

Other special celebrations occur regularly for Hungarian lay Catholics to honor Mary’s weeping image in Győr, and there is even an annual Croatian-speaking celebration. Irish Catholics, too, regularly make pilgrimages to the Irish Madonna of Hungary. The year 1997 (the 300-year anniversary of the miracle) saw a special exchange as the Irish Clonfert Bishop John Kirby was presented a copy of the painting by Győr Bishop Lajos Papai on his visit to the city.

Győr, Hungary's Bishop Lajos Papai giving a copy of the
painting to Clonfert, Ireland's Bishop John Kirby
(Image thanks to Hitvallás)
As Clonfert’s Bishop John Kirby wrote, “The kindness shown to Bishop Walter Lynch has led to an unusual link between the small Irish rural diocese of Clonfert and the large Hungarian diocese of Győr centered in a big industrial city. It has shown us the value of friendship and the way that the consideration shown to a refugee can deepen the understanding between peoples who might otherwise never have known each other. The history of the painting has an even deeper message. It reminds us of the faith and trust in the intercession of Our Lady that existed both in Ireland and in Hungary 350 years ago.”

The Basilica of Győr today
Where were my Irish and Hungarian ancestors 350 years ago? I haven’t determined that yet, but it is interesting to imagine the possibilities knowing the history of the time.

As you may know, Catholics like to choose patron saints for themselves. I think it’s pretty obvious that Mary, the Irish Madonna of Hungary, is the ideal patron saint for this Irish/Hungarian genealogist! I hope that Győr’s Weeping Virgin Mary, the Consoler of the Afflicted, will smile down on my efforts to continue the search for ancestors on both sides of my family tree: those from Bishop Lynch’s beloved native Ireland, and those from Hungary, the country that welcomed him with open arms.

If you'd like to read more about the history of the Irish Madonna of Hungary, check out the following websites and books:
Note: This article is cross-posted to my Hungarian genealogy blog, 100 Years in America.  Happy St. Patrick's Day to all!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

"Don't blow the tall white candle out...": A song for Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is a magical time. The waiting of Advent is over and the celebration of the Savior's birth is about to begin.

Photo by Malene Thyssen
One beautiful way that the Irish have traditionally kept this holy night is with the lighting of a candle in the window. The warm light from its glow acts as a welcome to all so that no one should be without shelter.

Offering hospitality to others by way of a lighted candle is a tradition as old as ancient Ireland. In more recent centuries during times of persecution in Ireland, the candle offered a welcome to priests that the home was a safe haven and that Mass could be offered there. On Christmas Eve, the candle also symbolizes the willingness of the household to welcome the Holy Family, so that the Infant Jesus and his family would not again be turned away. One Irish belief held that Joseph, Mary and Jesus still wandered the world, seeking a place of refuge from Herod.

The words of The Kerry Christmas Carol, written by Sigerson Clifford, admonish us to be sure to provide a welcome for the Holy Family on this special night before Christmas. Below are verses two and seven. I've placed the full version of the song here.

Verse 2

Ná múch an coinneal ard bán,
Ach fág é lásta go geal.
Go mbeidh siad cinnte ar aon
go bhfuil fáilte is fiche roimh cách
Sa teach ar an Oiche Nollag naofa seo!

Don't blow the tall white candle out
But leave it burning bright,
So that they'll know they're welcome here
This holy Christmas night!

Verse 7

Ná cur ar an ndoras ach an laiste anocht!
Agus coimead na gríosaigh beó -
Agus guí go mbeidh siad fén ar ndíon anocht
Agus an domhan 'na chodladh go suan.

Leave the door upon the latch,
And set the fire to keep,
And pray they'll rest with us tonight
When all the world's asleep.

Tim Dennehy, who has recorded The Kerry Christmas Carol, has also written a song of his own to be sung in welcome of the Holy Family on Christmas Eve.

Tim has taken a traditional Irish prayer of welcome and added additional verses and a refrain. His song, An Nollaig Theas, begins as follows:

Dia do bheatha 'dir asal is damh gan riar
Dia do bheatha id' leanbh, id Fhlaith gan chiach
Dia do bheatha ód' Fhlaithis go teach na bpian
Dia do bheathasa 'Íosa.

Dún do shúil a Rí an tSolais, dún do shúile ríoga
Dún do shúil a Shaoi an tSonais, dún do shúile síoda.

Translated to English, the words are:

God's greeting to you untended 'tween ox and ass
God's greeting to you Child and Prince serene
God's greeting to you from heaven to the hour of pain
God's greeting to you dear Jesus.

Close your eyes oh King of light, close your regal eyes
Close your eyes oh fount of happiness, close your silken eyes.

You can find the rest of the lyrics to the song on Tim Dennehy's website.

If you choose to light a candle in your window this Christmas Eve and would like to follow Irish tradition, remember that it requires that the candle be left burning throughout the night. Oh, and it must only be blown out by one having the name of Mary! Or was that the youngest child in the family? Actually it might have been the youngest child who would, of course, be named Mary.

No matter. As long as you get the candle in the window I think any Irishman or woman would be feel welcomed at your home on Christmas Eve, not to mention Mary, Joseph and the Infant Jesus.

This article previously appeared here at Small-leaved Shamrock as part of Thomas MacEntee's GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2008 and 2009. I've republished it this year in celebration of footnoteMaven's Blog Caroling event. Merry Christmas to all!

Image thanks to DoChara.com.

Friday, December 20, 2013

One-hundred and twenty years ago today: The death of Ann Cowhey, 1893

It was just five days before Christmas in the year 1893 that Ann Cowhey left this life. Her obituary says she died at home and was in her 90th year. Other records indicate she may have been closer to eighty. If she did as some of her great-granddaughters were known to do, she may have underestimated her age when she had the opportunity.

Ann's obituary also states that she was a "lifelong resident of East Mt. Carbon". I know that to be untrue. She and her husband started their family in New York City. More than likely Ann (whose maiden name I have not yet determined) also immigrated to New York from Ireland, as did her husband Patrick (who came to New York City at age 15).

Patrick and Ann resided in New York City's fifth ward and more than likely attended Old St. Patrick's Catholic Church on Mulberry Street. (The city registry listing their firstborn son's death at age 4 in 1836 indicates that he was buried within St. Patrick's cemetery. Unfortunately, the church could not find any sacramental records for the family.)

After living in New York City, Patrick and Ann arrived in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania with their two surviving young children. They spent the rest of their lives there and Ann gave birth to six more children (including two sets of twins). Of the four children who survived her, however, only one remained with her in Mount Carbon at the time of her death: her youngest son John.


I was privileged a couple of years ago to have the chance to hold in my hands the family Bible that first belonged to Ann. In this Douay-Rheims translation Catholic Bible published by Edward Dunigan in New York in 1844, she and other family members chronicled the births, marriages and deaths of many Cowhey family members. The year that her husband Patrick (and therefore she) became a naturalized U.S. citizen is also handwritten into the Bible. This book is a true family treasure: a small tangible glimpse into the life of my 3rd great-grandmother.

On this, the 120th anniversary of Ann Cowhey's death, I'd like to share copies and transcriptions of the three newspaper announcements that appeared in the Pottsville Republican Herald at time of Ann's death:

Announcement of Ann Cowhey's death (published December 20, 1893)
COWHEY - At East Mt. Carbon, on Wednesday morning, December 20, 1893, Mrs. Ann Cowhey, in her 90th year. Funeral on Saturday morning. High Mass at St. Patrick's church, at 9:30. Interment in No. 3 cemetery. Friends and relatives respectfully invited.

Obituary for Ann Cowhey, age 90 (published December 21, 1893)
Mt. Carbon Briefs.  
Mrs. Ann Cowhey, a lifelong resident of East Mt. Carbon, died at the residence of her son, John Cowhey, yesterday, in the 90th year of her age. The deceased has been ill for some time, and her old age enfeebled her, so that she was unable to leave the house. She leaves to survive her two sons and a daughter, viz: John, the Pinedale Park hotelkeeper; Thomas, at the Soldiers' home, Dayton, Ohio, and Mrs. Charles McWilliams, of New Haven, Conn. Another son, Engineer William Cowhey, was killed at Connor's Crossing by the explosion of an engine about a year ago.

"The funeral offerings were two sheaves of wheat." - Ann Cowhey's funeral description (published December 26, 1893)
Deaths and Funerals.
The funeral of Mrs. Ann Cowhey took place Saturday morning from her late residence at East Mt. Carbon, at 9:30 o'clock. Requiem High Mass was celebrated at St. Patrick's church by Rev. F. J. McGovern. The floral offerings were two sheaves of wheat. The pall bearers were Thomas Dobbins, Jere Sullivan, Michael Sullivan, John McCarthy, Ed. Brehony and James McGovern. R.A. Waldron, funeral director.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

On Christmas bazaars, ping pong tables and a pleading daughter

If you are reading this because the title intrigued you, you may be surprised to learn that this article is about Christmas ornaments. More specifically, it is about a woman, her dedication to the year-round crafting of such ornaments, and her grown daughter's desire to be the recipient of some of those creations.

Let me begin by introducing the woman herself (my Nana): Anne (Cowhey) McCue. When our story begins Anne is in her sixties and in ill health. She has raised her children to adulthood, though one still lives at home. She has more time on her hands than she has had for many years. Although she finds some days challenging because of her physical state, Anne has taken on a monumental task for herself: to design, craft, and sell loads of felt Christmas ornaments to raise money for the church bazaar at her parish: St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Massapequa (Long Island), New York.

Anne (Cowhey) McCue, 1978
Anne takes regular walks at the local mall, hiding a small sketchbook in her purse. Whenever she sees a character or other design that she thinks would make a good ornament, she takes a few minutes to sketch it, watching over her shoulder for clerks who might not appreciate her "stealing" an idea. She sketches figures of all kinds, including newly popular characters (this is before the age of the internet, so she can't go look Ziggy or the Hobbit up online when she decides to make them into felt ornaments).

Before too much of each year goes by, Anne's brainchild design ideas have been crafted into touchable felt ornaments. Where to store all these treasures while they await the annual parish bazaar? Her solution is her basement: on top of the ping pong tables that take up residence down there. Visiting grandchildren who love to play ping pong get ousted certain months of the year when the ornament population is high. The church bazaar takes precedence!

Speaking of visitors, one visitor and great admirer of Nana's ornaments is her eldest daughter. Whenever she is in town during peek ornament season, she enjoys taking the steps down into the basement to admire her mother's work. Walking around the ping pong tables, she admires the many characters, mentally choosing the ones she'd like for her own Christmas tree. But her wishes are in vain - her mother has dedicated herself to raising money for the church bazaar. Quantity counts, so the ornaments must remain in inventory!

Over the years, Anne's daughter is able to procure a very small collection of her mother's ornaments: sweet little winking mice, teddy bears, Santas, puppy dogs, even a Nativity ornament. Her collection, which is just a small sampling of her mother's work, is a family treasure enjoyed by herself and her children each year as they set up their Christmas tree many states away from Nana and her ornament workshop.

Anne McCue died in 1985 at the age of 71. Yet Nana is still fondly remembered in a special way each year at Christmas in my household and the households of other family members who were lucky enough to receive a few of her ornaments. When I unpack Santa (pictured above) each year, I can't help but think of Nana and wonder whose Christmas trees might also be graced by some of her handiwork and who might have benefitted from the church funds raised because of her valiant effort to fill a basement with Christmas cheer in the form of felt ornaments.

Nana with some of her larger hand-crafted friends

As Nana's eldest grandchild, I had the privilege of getting to know her better than many of my siblings or cousins. (Here I am with Nana and Mommy on my second birthday. Notice me eyeing the cake.)

Not only did I have the joy of getting to know Nana, but since I was old enough when she began making her famed Christmas ornaments, she spent some time teaching me how to make them. I made a handful of her designs with her help, and even created a few new ones myself. I still have some of Nana's unfinished ornaments in the box in which I keep my little treasured collection. Maybe someday I'll take up ornament-making again and finish the work she started. But I can't imagine filling up even one ping pong table-full (not without a team of little elves!).

This article is part of a series written in celebration of the Advent and Christmas seasons. It will be included as part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2013, Day 9: Christmas Crafts and Day 15: Christmas Tree Decorations. For more Advent and Christmas memories here at Small-leaved Shamrock (going back to 2007), scroll through these articles or stop by my Pinterest page. Visit this preview for more details about the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories and to get some inspiration to get yourself in the holiday spirit!

Monday, November 25, 2013

"Clearing the Wreck: Around the Scene of the Locomotive Explosion", November 15, 1892

News traveled fast in 1892 of the train engine explosion that killed my great-grandfather. By the next day, details of the accident were published in the New York Times and various other city newspapers throughout the country. Yet, the most detailed coverage can be found within the local paper: the Pottsville Daily Republican.

Two weeks ago on the 121st anniversary of this horrible accident, I published an article describing the event and sharing details of my great-great-grandfather William Cowhey's funeral, which was fit for a hero. Within this article and one last Monday, I have shared with Small-leaved Shamrock readers the two articles that appeared within the Pottsville Daily Republican two consecutive days after the accident. I have transcribed them for easier reading. This second article appeared on page 1 of the paper on Tuesday, November 15.

The Pottsville Daily Republican ran this article on page 1 the day after the accident, Tuesday, November 15, 1892. The three scans above overlap slightly, but by enlarging them you can read the text of the full article which I've also transcribed below.

Around the Scene of the Locomotive Explosion. 
The Inquest Will Not Be Held Until He Is Able to Testify - His Conditions Improving Slightly - Particulars Coming Out Slowly. 
John Day, a well preserved man of over 70 years of age who ran an engine for over thirty years and has worked on the railroad ever since [1862?], was the watchman on duty Sunday night where the engine exploded on the Reading railroad, at Conner's, a small station three miles south of here, whereby five men were killed outright and one very probably fatally scalded. Day says it was 12:15 when engine 563 pulled up and stopped just south of his watch-box, where the wagon road between Cressona and Schuylkill Haven crosses the railroad, and sorted out a long string of cars onto the side track. Owing to difficulty experienced in getting out some bent coupling pins they laid there fully twenty minutes, after which they started north again for Palo Alto with the balance of the train but they had trouble starting and they made very poor headway, and he judges that they had allowed the steam to run down. They made several starts and stops before they could get by his place, and when they had gone beyond it a little over 100 yards, they stopped again, and immediately thereafter the explosion occurred. 
He was [?] stunned himself and greatly bewildered and when he was starting to go up to the head of the train, brakeman Dobbins came running to him with his clothes all afire and crying to him to help him extinguish the fire on his person. Day aided Dobbins in tearing off the burning clothes, afterwhich at his request he gave Dobbins some water with which he washed the dirt out of his eyes and from his face and hands. Dobbins said to him: "They are all killed; oh, see if you can't help Harry Allison." By this time men came running up from the Mine Hill junction dispatcher's office and the Schuylkill Haven railroad yards, and after sending out flagmen to stop all trains search was made for the victims of the catastrophe. Cowhey and Moyer were found on the south bound track just above his watch-box, where they had dropped after being blown against a wall of rock several hundred feet high. Engineer Allison and his fireman, Mackey, were found underneath the engine, and Kendricks, the conductor of the ill-fated crew, was blown several hundred yards into a field to the east of the tracks. Before the accident the engine was headed north, and by the force of the explosion it was turned upside down the tracks on top and heading to the south, virtually making a back somersault to the east of the track. The cylinder head and front of engine were a hundred feet still further south. 
The explosion occurred directly beneath the long iron bridge of the Lehigh Valley and Schuylkill railroad which crosses the Pennsylvania railroad, turnpike, canal, the junction railroad river, valley and Reading tracks at a height of about 50 feet. This bridge was not injured in the least. 
The bodies of the victims were gathered together and taken into Day's watch-box and after being viewed by the Coroner were sent to their late homes. The faces of all but one were unrecognizable and their identity was disclosed by the clothing and bodily appearances alone. 
At six o'clock last evening all evidences of the wreck had been cleared away excepting the frame of the immense boiler and fire box, which was lying along-side the track. Company officials were early on the ground and thoroughly examined into the cause of the accident, and this was made plain late yesterday afternoon when they loaded up the crown sheet and sent it to Palo Alto. 
On the crown sheet is unmistakable evidence that the explosion was caused by low water as the iron is badly burned to a deep blue color and the marks show just how high the water was. Friends and all railroad men, after seeing this, acknowledge that there was no other cause. It is thought that in the excitement in trying to get the bent coupling pins out and shorten the delay on the siding as much as possible, that unintentionally the water was allowed to get low. 
Day says that Dobbins told him that when the engine stopped, at Allison's request, he had got down on the tank to get a bucket of water with which to extinguish a fire that had started on the jacket, and that Allison had just started his pumps. 

Harry C. Allison, the engineer of No. 563, was a native of Panther Valley, a short distance west of Cressona, where he was born about 44 years ago. He early went to railroading, and was one of the most careful of the many engineers in the employ of the company. He was a Union soldier during the Rebellion, and was a member of Gowen Post No. 23, G.A.R., and Seneca Tribe No. 41, I.O.R.M. he leaves a widow and a married daughter, the wife of Bert Nimbleton, to mourn his loss. His only son was buried a little over a week ago. His funeral will take place on Thursday afternoon from his late residence, 606 Bacon Street, Palo Alto. 
Charles J.C. Mackey, fireman, resided at Port Carbon. He was about 28 years of age, and leaves a widow and one small child. He was a prominent and active member of the following organizations: W.C, No. 134, P.O.S. of A; Grant Commandery, No. 36, P.O.S. of A; Golden Rule Castle, K. of P.; Schuylkill Lodge, I.O.O.F., No. 27, and of the Port Carbon Band. He was the efficient secretary of the latter organization. 
Charles H. Kendrick was also a resident of Port Carbon, and was about 32 years of age. He, too, leaves a widow and four small children to mourn his loss. He was the conductor of the ill-fated train.  
William Cowhey resided at Mt. Carbon, and was in his 59th year. He was twice married. Four grown up children blessed by that union survive him. His second wife he leaves a widow, with eight small children ranging from 14 years to an infant of but a few months old to mourn his sudden death. The deceased was a soldier on the Union side in the late rebellion, and a prominent member of Gowen Post No. 23, G.A.R. 
William H. Moyer is a native of Summit Station, on the S. and S. R.R., where he was born about twenty-six years ago. He engaged as a railroader about five years ago and removed to Palo Alto three years after accepting the employment as fireman. He leaves a widow and two small boys, aged 4 years and 19 months respectively. His funeral will take place on Wednesday. Interment will be made at Summer Mountain cemetery. He was a member of the Summit Station Lodge of the I.O. of O.F. 
The explosion occurred immediately under the overhead bridge of the L. and S. V. railroad. The engine 563 was of the L class, which are used to draw freight. Although she was running north the force was so great that she was lifted completely from her frame and turned southward, in the opposite direction. Everything about her has been shivered to pieces and she was, to use a "railroaders" term, "turned completely inside out." The railroad track for a short distance was also torn up. It is truly wonderful when the wrecked condition of the engine is taken into consideration that the bodies of the victims were not more badly mutilated. Excepting Cowhey and Moyer, whose bodies and faces were somewhat battered, the others were not so badly mangled or defaced. 
At four o'clock this morning, Deputy Coroner, Dr. H.G. Weist, of Schuylkill Haven, was aroused and immediately summoned a jury. The Coroner B.C. Gulgin, also appeared as early as possible and they with the jury viewed the scene of the accident. No testimony will be taken for a day or so to await the condition of the injured man, Michael Dobbins. 
The jury consists of Messrs. Hock, Fry, Greisinger, Jones, Brown and Brennan.  
The steam crane which is used to remove debris and other material in the event of a collision or any other accident on the railroad, was broken a few days ago, and the wreck crew was therefore very much hampered in removing the wreck. The wreckers under Yardmaster Wm. Sabold worked very faithfully notwithstanding their great drawback. 
The Reading railroad has been very unfortunate during the past year, with the number of explosions of locomotives which have occurred. One old railroader this morning assigned the following as the prime cause why these engines have exploded. He said in substance the crews are compelled to run their engines at a very high pressure to draw the very heavy trains which are put behind them for the past year. That to keep up the great pressure of steam and the quantity used the fires are forced and the exterior of the boilers are burned out, and something must give way, he added.

This article has been posted in honor of the 121st anniversary of William Cowhey's death on November 14, 1892. I have also shared it as part of Amanuensis Monday, a Geneabloggers Daily Prompt dedicated to the transcription of important documents such as this newspaper article detailing the accident that took William Cowhey's life.


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