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

Monday, September 12, 2011

What's in a name? - at The Catholic Gene

"The job of a genealogist is much like that of a police detective. Success in both pursuits depends on searching predictable hidden places where evidence would be expected. A true detective genius, however, finds traces of clues out in the open – signs within plain sight yet invisible to the average eye."
So begins my first article at The Catholic Gene, the new blog dedicated to genealogy and the Catholic faith.  Stop on over to The Catholic Family Detective: Finding Clues in Given Names to read more.  I've shared some stories about the significance of many of the first names within my Catholic family tree.  I hope you'll be inspired to look at your ancestors' names in ways you never have before.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Saints preserve us! (and our Catholic genealogy, too)

This little girl dressed in her finery on First Communion day is here to make a special announcement.  She is hanging out over at a new blog and would love for you to come visit!

The Catholic Gene is a brand new project in the works dreamed up by one of my favorite genealogy bloggers: Donna Pointkouski of What's Past is Prologue.  The new blog will feature the writings of a chorus of Catholic genealogy bloggers who may already be familiar to you (including myself, pictured here on my First Communion day.)

If you have an interest in family history and (A) are a card-carrying Catholic or (B) have ancestors who were Catholic, do we have a treat for you!  Whether the season is one of feasting or fasting, we'll be serving up a bountiful harvest of articles designed to inspire you in your genealogical pursuits related to the Catholic faith.

If you feel moved by the Spirit, take a Sunday drive on over to The Catholic Gene and join us in celebrating the joys of the Catholic faith and Catholic genealogical records.  See you there!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Civil War 150: The Cowhey brothers volunteer for the Union

(Image credit - MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History)
Only days after President Lincoln's call to arms following the attack on Fort Sumter in April 1861, the men of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania turned out in droves to offer their assistance.  The Cowhey brothers were among them: 21-year-old Thomas and his older brother William (Great-Great-Grampa to me), just a few days shy of his 27th birthday on April 29th.

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, I'll be following along with these two brothers - Thomas, who served only a short three months; and William, who re-enlisted and continued serving in the army throughout the duration of the war.

I hope you'll join me as we remember William's journey as he worked his way through those four trying years defending the Union. Here is one of the documents from his Civil War pension file.  It lists his date of enlistment as a volunteer and the date that he ended his three month period of service prior to re-enlisting.  You can click on the image of the document to view it up close.  I've also transcribed it below for easier reading.

War Department, Adjutant General’s Office
Washington, Aug 1, 1889.

Respectfully returned to the Commissioner of Pensions. William Cowy Jr., a Private of Company “I”, 16th Regiment Pa. Vols. Volunteers, was enlisted on the 26 day of April, 1861, at Harrisburg for 3 Mos. and is reported: on muster out roll of Co. dated at Harrisburg Pa. July 30/61 as mustered out at that date and place as Private. Also borne as William Cowey Jr. Return for May also Books of organization are not on file Muster in and out rolls only records on file No further information. Name of William Cowley is not borne

Key to Transcription:
Black = pre-printed on form
Blue = handwritten

As I mentioned above, these three months were only the very beginning for William.  His initial volunteer period would just help him to get his feet wet in the army.  Well, actually more than his feet.  If you read Thomas' account of their experience crossing the Potomac River at Williamsport, Maryland, you'll understand what I mean.  (More to come later on that story.)

In the meantime, stay tuned as I follow the path of my great-great-grandfather and his Union comrades 150 years ago.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

150 Years Ago: The Civil War Comes to Schuylkill County

On April 12, 2011 the United States commemorates the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War with the firing on Fort Sumter.  Back in April 1861, it did not take long for the news to arrive in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.  In fact, it was the first northern town to hear the news, as Stu Richards explains on his blog Schuylkill County Pennsylvania Military History.
View of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, October 1854
from Gleason's Pictorial Drawing Room Companion
The firing on Fort Sumter had begun on a Friday.  By Sunday afternoon, April 14, Union forces had surrendered to the Southerners.  The next day, aware of the great danger facing the nation, President Abraham Lincoln issued a call-to-arms for 75,000 able-bodied men. 

A portion of the President's proclamation read:
"Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth, the militia of the several States of the Union, to the aggregate number of seventy-five thousand, in order to suppress the said combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed.  The details for this object will be immediately communicated to the State authorities through the War Department.

"I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate, and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union, and the perpetuity of the popular Government, and to redress the wrongs already long enough endured."
Abraham Lincoln's April 15, 1861 call-to-arms
Word of Lincoln's proclamation was received that Monday, April 15 in Pottsville at the noon hour.  By Tuesday evening, April 16, 1861, a meeting of the citizens of Pottsville convened at the county Court House.  The purpose of the meeting was "to take into account the state of the country, and make the necessary arrangements to provide for the families of soldiers then leaving us."  That evening, the citizens of Schuylkill County made the following resolution in support of their country:
"Resolved, That the citizens of Schuylkill County, in reply to the Proclamation of the President, adopt as the expression of their sentiments, the address now being signed in the city of Philadelphia, in the following words: - 'The unparalleled event of the past week has revealed to the citizens of the United States, beyond question or possibility of doubt, that a peaceful reconciliation under the form of our Constitution, is repelled and scorned, and that secession means, in the hearts of its supporters, both treason and war, against our country and nation.  We, therefore, the undersigned, loyal citizens of the United States and inhabitants of Schuykill County, responding to the proclamation of the President of the United States, hereby declare our unalterable determination to sustain the government in its efforts to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union and the perpetuity of the popular government, and to redress the wrongs already long enough endured.  No differences of political opinion, no name or badge of diversity upon points of party distinction, shall restrain or withhold us in the devotion of all we have, or can command, to the vindication of the Constitution, the maintenance of the laws, and the defence of the Flag of our Country.' "
And their word was good.  That very day, Captain Wren and Captain McDonald, both of Pottsville, telegraphed Governor Curtin offering the services of their militia companies: the Washington Artillery and the National Light Infantry.  Along with three other companies from southeastern Pennsylvania, they were the first to respond to Lincoln's call, and are known to history as the First Defenders.  (Read more about these companies in John David Hoptak's book First in Defense of the Union: The Civil War History of the First Defenders.) The five companies were told to set out for Harrisburg on April 17. The Miner's Journal reported on April 20, 1861 about the day the first troops departed Schuylkill County earlier that week:
"During the whole day the greatest excitement prevailed among our citizens, and the scene at the armories of the respective companies was quite lively and spirited.  New recruits were rolling in at every moment, and the lists soon swelled to above the requisite number...

"The day was very cold, raw, and disagreeable; but notwithstanding this, the people flocked in by thousands from all parts of the County, and it seemed as if its whole population had been poured forth to witness the departure of our gallant volunteers, who with a noble spirit of self-sacrifice, have exchanged the comforts of home, for the fatigue and labor of a soldier's life...

"As the companies proceeded down Centre Street, to the depot of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, they were greeted with cheers from thousands who lined each side of the street, and a perfect ocean of handkerchiefs waved by the ladies, who had taken possession of all the windows, and every available situation along the street. All the stores were closed and business entirely suspended.  At the depot the crowd was immense, and it was almost impossible to force your way through it.  The tops of the passenger and freight cars, the roofs of the depot and neighboring houses, were black with spectators.  Never had so great a concourse assembled on any one occasion before in Pottsville...

"The Pottsville Cornet Band, which had escorted the companies to the depot, immediately before the starting of the cars played 'Hail Columbia' and 'Yankee Doodle'.  As the train slowly left the depot, cheer upon cheer went up from the assembled thousands.  The men were in good spirits, but there were some, who though possessed of manly hearts, who could brave toil and danger without complaint or fear, who could endure suffering with stoical indifference, but who could not prevent the tear from starting to the eye, when called upon to bid farewell to all their friends."
As Francis B. Wallace wrote in his 1865 Memorial of the Patriotism of Schuylkill County in the American Slaveholder's Rebellion:
"The spirit of patriotism that pervaded the County in those April days, when the Government was in imminent danger at the hands of traitors, is illustrated in the fact that an entire brigade of troops was offered, and that gray-haired men, and lads scarcely seventeen years of age, wished to be enrolled as volunteers, and were much depressed when refused. Another gratifying exhibition of the hour, was the spectacle of men of all parties, Democrats, Republicans, etc., vieing with each other in proclaiming their determination to stand by the Government in its hour of trial, in sustaining the Constitution, the Union and the laws."
The brave and patriotic men of Schuylkill County would play a very important role in the defense of the Union during those crucial years 1861-1865.  Among them were my great-great-grandfather William Cowhey and his brother Thomas.  Stay tuned here at Small-leaved Shamrock as we follow in their footsteps 150 years ago, commemorate their heroism, and remember the years that the young United States of America became a house divided.


Wallace, Francis B. Memorial of the Patriotism of Schuylkill County in the American Slaveholder's Rebellion Embracing a Complete List of the Names of All the Volunteers from the County during the War, Patriotic Contributions by the Citizens ... Pottsville, PA: B. Bannan, 1865. Print. (Online here at Internet Archive.)

Lincoln, Abraham. Proclamation on State Militia, April 15, 1861. Digital image. American Memory Collection. Library of Congress. Web. 1 May 2011.

For further reading:

For more on Lincoln's April 15, 1861 call to arms, you might enjoy reading Ted Widmer's Lincoln Declares War on The Opinion Pages of The New York Times website.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Celebrate Irish roots with GeneaBloggers Radio

The celebration of Irish heritage continues this St. Patrick's week as Thomas MacEntee's GeneaBloggers Radio presents Irish Roots – A St. Patrick’s Day Celebration! tonight from 10:00 - 12:00 p.m. Eastern.

Listen to internet radio with Geneabloggers on Blog Talk Radio
Special guest Brian Mitchell, author of a number of Irish genealogy reference books such as A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland, 2nd Edition will open the show.  He will be followed by myself and several other genealogists and family historians with a focus on Irish genealogy: Sharon Sergeant, Mary Ellen Grogan, Jennifer Geraghty Gorman and Deborah Large Fox.

I hope you'll take time to listen - and call in - to the show as we delve into various topics related to Irish research and heritage!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

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.

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!


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