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Have you lost your census?
By Mattie Lennon
It has been said that ancestors are like potatoes; the best of them are under the ground, but have you ever wondered if your great-grandmother was related to Royalty or if your grandfather was in the Black-and-Tans, but didn’t know how to go about finding out?
In the last four hundred years millions of Irish people emigrated; some through wander lust or a spirit of adventure but mostly because of economic necessity. People of Irish descent are now to be found in all parts of the world. It is a slight exaggeration to say that everybody has an Irish grandmother; but perhaps you have.
Perhaps one or more of your forebears sailed out from Queenstown after a night of merriment turned into a tearful farewell, taking their last fond look at Irish soil. (The late Eamon Kelly once said, “The best American Wakes were in Ireland and the best Irish Wakes were in America.”)
If you think you have Irish ancestry, and you have an enquiring mind, what is the next step? If you have limited information and a creative mind I suppose you could do a bit of designer genealogy yourself. Let’s say that your great-great uncle Patrick Murphy, a fellow lacking in character, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1868. A cousin has supplied you with the only known photograph of Patrick, showing him standing on the gallows. On the back of the picture are the words: Patrick Murphy: Horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison, 1865.
Escaped 1867, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton Detectives, convicted and hanged, 1868.
A pretty grim situation but if you were slightly dishonest (which of course you’re not) you could revise it a bit. Simply crop the picture, scan in an enlargement and edit it with image processing software so that all that is seen is a head shot.
Next, rewrite the text:
Patrick Murphy was from County Donegal. He emigrated during the great famine and became a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1865, he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1867, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1868, Patrick passed away during an important civic function held in his honour when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.
But there is no need to go to all that trouble. Irish Roots magazine, which has been running for seventeen years, has been purchased by Historian Maureen Phibbs and her daughter Julie, a broadcast journalist and film director. It has been said that you know you are a genealogy addict when your dining room table has been transformed into an office and the table has been pushed into a corner to make more room for your files. Maureen Phibbs had all the symptoms. She is originally from Cullen, a small village outside Millstreet, Co. Cork. She is married to Pat and they live in Co. Wicklow. They have six children. Maureen’s passion for genealogy was first ignited in 1984 when a relative contacted the family from Australia. The family had been unaware of these relations and so an exciting discovery of relatives was uncovered as was a deep interest in genealogy and family history.
This led Maureen to undertaking various courses in genealogy and local history, among them a course in Maynooth NUI as well as many intensive courses in different strands of the subject. In April 1998 Maureen founded the Blessington Family History Society which went on to inspire many members and which continues to be a thriving, active and invaluable part of the West Wicklow community. Maureen compiled and contributed to many books. Maureen, who believes that research, like charity, begins at home organised a conference style reunion for Phibbs family members. The highly successful ‘Phibbsfest’ brought together Phibbs family relatives from all over the World. The emotional celebration unearthed the Phibbs family tree and culminated in an enriching experience and a powerful tribute to the many Phibbs ancestors which had long since scattered across the globe. Maureen joins the Irish Roots’ team as editor and brings with her over twenty three years experience of research in the genealogical field. Maureen hopes that her enthusiasm, zeal and genuine passion for genealogy and family history will be reflected in her involvement in the magazine.
Julie Phibbs is Maureen’s eldest daughter. Julie’s background is mainly in TV Production which she studied in the Liberties College, Dublin. Julie went on to further her career in Broadcast Journalism with East Coast Media in North East Lincolnshire in 2001. She was proud to collect two of four NTL television awards at the 2002 ceremony where she won ‘Best College TV Item’ and ‘Best Community or Business Item’. Julie was first introduced to the world of genealogy by Maureen where they collectively combined their skills to document elderly Gerard Wakelam’s moving story ‘When Evening Falls The Search for Barbara O’Connell’. The documentary tells the story of Gerard’s search for information about his Irish mother who died when he was only four years old. Gerard from Herefordshire in England was forbidden by his grief stricken father to ever speak of his mother after her death and so the woman who was Gerard’s mother remained largely a mystery to him. The documentary follows Gerard on what would become his last trip to Ireland and his final chance to answer questions that had haunted him about her all of his life. The documentary has been shown at various film festivals around the Country.
Julie has directed various videos and DVDs for the corporate and commercial sector including ‘A Journey through West Wicklow’ and more recently ‘Sunrise on the Wicklow Hills’ a DVD commemorating four hundred years since the inauguration of Co. Wicklow. The County is depicted through ballads, stories and breathtaking scenery.
Julie is looking forward to working with the Irish Roots team and to further excavating her interest in the world of genealogy.
The next issue, which is out in March, has informative articles on many aspects of genealogical research as well as Links to archival material in Ireland. Back-numbers of the magazine contain articles on subjects as diverse as Irish National Dress, Hitler’s Irish Relatives and The Black Irish. If you have any interest in Ireland (or wish to develop one) Irish Roots is for you. Just remember it’s not all plain sailing as this poem (written by a frustrated researcher) will testify:
I went looking for an ancestor I cannot find him still.
He moved around from place to place and did not leave a will.
He married where a courthouse burned. He mended all his fences.
He avoided any man who came to take the US census.
He always kept his luggage packed, this man who had no fame.
And every 20 years, this rascal changed his name.
His parents came from Wicklow, they could be on some list
Of passengers to the USA, but somehow he got missed.
And no one else anywhere is searching for this man.
So I’m perusing Irish Roots to find him if I can.
I'm told he's buried in a plot, with tombstone he was blessed.
But the weather took the engraving and some vandal took the rest.
He died before the county clerks decided to keep records.
No family Bible has emerged in spite of all my efforts.
To top it off this ancestor, who has caused me many groans,
Just to give me one more pain, betrothed a girl named JONES!
And if you discover a parsimonious forefather remember . . . misers make great ancestors.
You can email the Irish Roots editor at: firstname.lastname@example.org
And the website is: Irish Roots Magazine.
To read more from and about Mattie Lennon please click Tribute to Eamon Kelly. You'll find Matties bio at the end.
Also, you should enjoy Mattie's thoughts on the dialect of Wicklow, please click Spakes from Wicklow. To read even more of his stories visit his website at Mattie Lennon.
An interesting footnote on losing things. Australia seems to hold the world record, their citizens have managed to lose $16 billion in pension money, see here.
Poor Emigrant Family - Irish American Experience/UCLA Graduate School
Wealthy Emigrant Family: Every Culture
Canadian Emigrants: The Shamrock & The Maple Leaf
Fri, Nov 3, 2017
The Round Towers
The Round Towers of Ireland are remarkable among the world's ancient monuments; one author has called them 'Elegant, free-standing pencils of stone.' Today, 65 survive in part or whole. Hand-crafted in native stone and cemented with a sand, lime, horsehair and oxblood mortar - a technique imported from Roman Britain - it's said by many historians that they were built by monastic communities to thwart Viking invaders. And yet, there's reason to believe that the towers were built long before Christianity came to Ireland. Whatever their origins, monasteries did indeed flourish where the round towers existed. And why not. These imposing edifices provided a watch tower, a keep and a refuge.
Image: By kind permission of Stephen Cassidy, The Cassidy Clan.
Click for More Culture Corner.
In addition to the volatile teaming of Sean Connery and Richard Harris on opposite sides of a Pennsylvania miners' war, director Martin Ritt and screenwriter Walter Bernstein give viewers a visceral, grittily authentic drama about the exploitation of Irish immigrant miners in the centennial America of 1876. Connery's secret gang, the Molly Maguires, retaliates by destroying mines and equipment; Harris infiltrates the group as an informer hired by the coal-company owners, leading to his inevitable crisis of conscience. Pub brawls and manly action give the film its meat-and-potatoes appeal.
Amazon reviewer, Jeff Shannon
Click for Molly Maguires