Sunday, June 30, 2013

Am I a Collins?

I was going through some photos and I found one that immediately sparked my interest. It was from my grandparents' trip to County Cork Ireland (Schull, to be exact) where my Grampy always said we hailed from. I have never found any evidence of this, but I trust him. He knew his family history although he regrettably never spoke with me at length about it.

Back to the photo I found. It's of a woman that I had heard about before, Catherine Collins. Supposedly she was related to my Grampy. This Collins name, according to my Grampy, is a family name. In my research I have looked for this name but have never found it. I didn't know how we were supposed to be related to Catherine Collins or whom the name belonged to. Which brings me to the photo, and more importantly the caption my Nana wrote on the back...

The caption on the back of the photo reads:
Catherine Collins
Skul (sic) C. Cork
Don's relative -
on (Grandfather's Driscoll) (Mothers Collins) side

At first I thought that this meant my Grampy's grandmother's name was Collins, but no. Her name was Mary J Ennis. I know this for a fact. However, my Grampy's grandfather William H Driscoll's mother Helena, married to Timothy Driscoll, has no last name. The only place I've seen her name is on her son's marriage record.

I looked on Family Search, and there is an Ellen (Close enough?) Collins married to a Timothy Driscoll in Cork Ireland, and they did have a son named William. Their son was born on 27 Aug 1870. My 2nd great-grandfather's birthday according to his naturalization record is 25 Nov 1870, and it also states that he was born in County Clare. Then again, almost every single document I have for William lists a different birth year.

Then there is a marriage record from, which says that a Timothy Driscoll married an Ellen Collins in Schull, Cork County Ireland in 1869, which is the right time frame. I searched and could not find a baptism record for William born to Timothy and Ellen.

So what I have is a lead, a good lead. I don't have proof yet, but I do believe my Grampy that Collins was in fact a family name. I will keep searching!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Man with 7 (Possibly 8) Birthdays

In this post I'll be discussing discrepancies in records. Specifically birth year/date discrepancies.
Sometimes they're easy to resolve if you have only one or two documents with the wrong year and the vital records to back up the actual DOB.
Sometimes, like in my 2nd great-grandfather William H Driscoll's case, it's nearly impossible to resolve since nearly every single record shows a different birth year/date. Only 2 records, the 1910 and 1920 censuses, have the same birth year for him. William is also hard to pin down because I don't know for sure his mother's name and therefore don't know for sure if I have his birth record or not. I'll discuss this issue more later.

On to William's many different birth years. They are:
  1. 1868 (Marriage record)
  2. 1869 (1940 census)
  3. 25 Nov 1870 (Naturalization record)
  4. Mar 1871 (1900 census)
  5. 1871 (1910 and 1920 censuses)
  6. 1874 (1930 census)
  7. 19 Mar 1878 (Death record)
1940 census for William H Driscoll,
 listing his age as 71
(Click to enlarge)
William H Driscoll and Mary J Ennis
Marriage Record
listing William's age as 22 in 1890
(Click to enlarge).
Naturalization record for William
H Driscoll, listing his birth date as
25 Nov 1870
(Click to enlarge)
1900 census for William H Driscoll,
listing his birth date as Mar 1871
(Click to enlarge)

1910 census for William H Driscoll,
listing his age as 39
(Click to enlarge)
1920 census for William H Driscoll,
listing his age as 49
(Click to enlarge)

1930 census for William H Driscoll,
listing his age as 56
(Click to enlarge)
Death record for William H Driscoll,
listing his age as 71 years, 10 months,
27 days
(Click to enlarge)

William's birth year on census records varies between 1869 and 1874. The problem with censuses is that you don't know if the person who gave the information knew what they were talking about. There are often mistakes on censuses because the person supplying the information was incorrect, or the person taking the information misheard or made a mistake filling out the form. So I don't rely on censuses to pin down my ancestors' birth years. They can give you an idea, but you're better off sticking with your vital (Birth, marriage, death) records.

As far as William's vital records go, there is a 10 year gap. Not good. His marriage record from 1890 says he's 22 years old, putting his birth in 1868. His death record from 1950 says he is 71 years, 10 months, 27 days old, making his birth date 19 Mar 1878 (If I've done my math correctly, which is unlikely). I can pretty much throw this date out right away because he would have to have been 12 years old when he got married. So in this case vital records are not reliable.

The naturalization record has an exact birth date. I suppose it's close enough to most of the other records to seriously be considered. But I'm iffy on adding this as his real, true, actual birthday without a birth record. Without a lot of experience with naturalization records, I'm not sure how reliable they are. Someone might tell me they're pretty darn credible, in which case my mystery could very well be solved. But they might not be, so I'm keeping it squarely in the 'maybe' column.

Still with me? Whew. I've been studying this for years and I still get confused sometimes.

You may notice that the title of this post is The Man with 7 (Possibly 8) Birthdays and I've only listed 7. Here is the possible 8th:

Possible birth record for
William H Driscoll, listing
his birth date as 27 Aug 1870
(Click to enlarge)
Why is this a possible birth record? Because I don't know if this is actually his birth record. Why not? Because I don't know if Ellen Collins is his mother. My next blog post, which I posted before the re-tooling and will re-post, will explain all of that.
The birth year is 1870 which is close enough to the other records to be considered, if this is in fact my William.
There's also the issue of his birth place, which on his naturalization record is listed as County Clare, Ireland. However my Grampy has always told me that we are from Schull, County Cork and seemed to know his stuff. The William from this birth record was born in County Cork, which fits with what I know from my family history. 

So I don't know William's birthday. I might not ever know for sure. It's a bummer. The researcher in me wants a concrete date and to know for sure that my information is correct. The great-great-granddaughter in me really wants to know when to say a little "Happy Birthday" to my 2nd great-grandfather. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Adoption in Genealogy

Adoption in genealogy became an interest of mine when I discovered that my 3rd great-grandparents William Patrick Jordan and Georgiana Farmiloe had adopted a son named Harry L Lynch. For some reason it surprised me. I don't know why, but it just wasn't something I was expecting. It was a pleasant surprise though! My 3rd great-grandparents did an awesome thing by adopting Harry and I'm sure he was loved and taken care of by them. Just look at this family:
Jordan Family (1903)
Floss (Florence), Mary (Holding George (Dumas)), Grace
Mabel, Georgiana (Farmiloe), William, Lillie
Bill, Mary, Walter (an orphan)
(Click to enlarge)
(Enough parentheses for you?)
I mean really! William Patrick Jordan (Admittedly my favorite ancestor) is such a proud papa bear surrounded by his kids. grandkids, and possibly another adopted child, little orphaned Walter. Georgiana looks like a strong, hard working woman. I wish I could go back in time and meet these people. They're amazing and I love them.

Aaaaanyway...enough gushing. Back to the subject at hand. This is the document, the 1900 census, where I discovered Harry Lynch.

Part 1 of the 1900 census, showing
William P Jordan and Georgiana Farmiloe
living in Everett, MA
(Click to enlarge)
Harry L Lynch b. abt 1885 Everett, MA ca 1900
Page 2 of the 1900 census, showing
Harry L Jordan, their adopted son,
highlighted in red.
(Click to enlarge)

I was hoping to see Harry on more records and follow his life story. Unfortunately Harry isn't on any pre-1900 records that I could find and he disappears after this census. Although Harry isn't a direct ancestor of mine I would love to be able to learn more about him. Where did he come from? Who were his birth parents? What did he end up doing with his life? There are so many questions!

One obvious place to start is his adoption records. I'm not 100% sure he was officially adopted, although that was the law in Massachusetts beginning in 1851. While looking into whether or not adoption records were available for genealogical research I came across this information:
Massachusetts State Archives
As mentioned earlier, vital records between 1841 and 1921 are housed at the State Archives in Boston. Not only can you freely access and copy all vital records for these years, but the rest of their collection is of great importance to most Massachusetts genealogy pursuits.
In their research room, you can find passenger lists, military records, judicial archives, census records, military records, probate documents, adoption records, naturalization documents, photographs, maps and a lot more. You can visit the Archives Monday through Friday, during regular business hours. They also offer regular workshops for people interested in local history and genealogy.
I'm hoping to get there soon and see if I can find Harry's adoption record. That would be such a huge breakthrough!

I've tried searching probate and newspaper records with no results so it looks like I'll just have to wait and see if I can find Harry's adoption papers at the state archives.

I had much more luck helping my friend reconnect with her great-aunt's family. My friend's grandmother and her siblings were adopted separately in the 1920s and were able to find each other over the years, but they couldn't find their youngest sister. was extremely helpful since the sister's family happened to have a family tree there. Unfortunately she passed away a year (to the day!) of me finding her daughter and my friend's grandmother will never get to know her little sister. But they have connected with her children and grandchildren, which has been wonderful for all of them, and very fulfilling for me to watch.

Another story of adoption in my own family tree comes from my Driscoll side. It's not a formal adoption but it is an adoption of sorts. My 2nd great-grandparents William H Driscoll and Mary J Ennis raised their granddaughter Audrey after her mother, my 2nd great-aunt Genevieve, moved to New York and started a new family following her husband's death 2 months before Audrey was born.

The 1930 census, showing Audrey
living with her grandparents
and her aunt in Everett, MA
(Click to enlarge)
The 1940 census, showing Audrey
living with her grandparents
in Everett, MA
(Click to enlarge)

Genevieve was married and had another child within 2 years of Audrey's birth, and I wonder why she didn't have her daughter with her once she was established in her new life. Either way I'm sure William and Mary took great care of Audrey because she grew up to be a wonderful woman who I'm lucky to have known.

My great-grandparents also took a child into their home in the '30s.
The 1930 census, showing Josephine Cader living with
William and Margaret Driscoll in Everett, MA.
The transcription of the image says that the little girl's name is Josephine Cader, but it could just as easily be Goder, Goda or Coda, I can't really tell either way. She is 7 years old in 1930, close to the age of William and Margaret's son William Jr. I wonder if she was a schoolmate of his. The census shows her as a boarder, not an adopted child. But I wanted to include her in this post anyway. She disappears from the home by the 1940 census and there is no record of her anywhere that I can find. Like Harry Lynch, although Josephine isn't related to me I do care about her and feel like she's part of my family. I want to know what came of her, what she did with her life.

While none of my direct ancestors were adopted, I'm very interested in the stories of my great-aunt Audrey, Harry Lynch, and Josephine Cader. Especially Harry and Josephine, since I have no idea what happened to them after the censuses they appeared on. Hopefully one of their descendants is searching for him and ends up on my blog. If that's you, don't hesitate to contact me and let me know what they were up to!

Have you come across adoption in your genealogy research? What obstacles did it cause? If you were able to solve the mysteries, how did you do it? Let me know, I'd love to hear your stories!

Here are some helpful links about adoption in genealogy:

Monday, June 10, 2013

Just Like Starting Over

In the words of Gob Bluth from Arrested Development, I've made a huge mistake.

Actually, that might be slightly overdramatic. But I did make a mistake. Several in fact.

My excitement to start the blog got the better of me and I slapped it together too fast, without sitting down and actually thinking out exactly what it was going to be and how best to come across.
Reading my posts back, they seem very clinical. There's no real flow, no story. Just the facts, ma'am.
I pumped out a bunch of boring posts that almost put me to sleep. They were all the same. "Here's so-and-so in 1910 with his/her they are in 1920 with the same people...blah blah blah." That is not what I wanted to do. Genealogy is (in large part) about the facts, but there are better ways to communicate the facts.

So I'm starting over. I still want to get the facts about my ancestors out there, and I will. Only this time I hope to do a much better job. And this time I won't be posting every single day going up the lines of my tree one by one. I'm gonna mix it up. I'm gonna be myself. I'll take my time. I'll talk about genealogy related articles, books, websites, and TV shows that help me (and you) learn more about this great journey.

Genealogy is incredibly fulfilling. It's also incredibly bang-your-head-against-the-wall frustrating, and dance-around-like-a-2-year-old exciting. Maybe this time around those feelings will come across on your computer screens. Here's hoping!

Here we go...