Consider Every Clue!

Years ago, I wrote to a cousin in Ireland asking what she knew about our family history.  She wrote back and said that she didn’t know much about my great-grandmother, Bridget Clark.   Just that Bridget was from Drumlish and some relation to the Bohan  boys.  My dad told me that the Bohan boys were cousins to my grandfather,  Cornelius O’Neill.  More recently, I was looking through some cards and letters that had been sent to my O’Neill grandparents.  Included was a Christmas card from Jim and Bessie Bohan in Ireland with this return address:

Bohan address

The return address reads:  Bohan Esker Drumlish!

I consulted a map and Esker North is a townland in County Longford that is not far from Creelaghta which is the townland where my grandpa O’Neill was born.  So next I searched the Ireland 1901 cesus for Bohan in Esker North.  Here’s what I found!! (Click on image to enlarge)

Bohan census 1901

On line 5 is James Bohan, age 7 which made him about the same age of my grandfather, Cornelius O’Neill.  The mother of this family is Ellen, age 40,  who was born in County Leitrim.  For James to be my grandfather’s cousin, Ellen would have to be Bridget Clark’s sister.  Next I used the Irish Heritage website, and looked for Ellen Clark born in County Leitrim about 1861.  I found an Ellen Clark baptzed in Gortletteragh Parish, County Leitrim in 1861 who was the daughter of Edward Clark and Anne McCormick.  So next I searched to see if this couple also had a daughter, Bridget, baptized a few years earlier and they did! I knew Bridget’s approximate age from her death certificate.  ( Finding her death certificate was another treasure hunt that I will describe in a later post.)  I had found Bridget’s family!  While the Irish Heritage website has records that you can’t find anywhere else online, the site also charges for each record viewed.  So I went to and looked in the Family History Library Catalog for Gortletteragh Parish  and yes, it had been filmed.  So I ordered the microfilm and spent several happy hours finding Bridget’s siblings, their spouses and children and even Anne McCormick’s baptismal record which included the names of Bridget Clark’s maternal grandparents!

Rose Lennon, Bohans, Uncle Ed

This past weekend as I was looking through old pictures, I found this one.  Left to right; Rose Ann Lennon, my grandpa O’Neill’s sister, Bessie Bohan, Edward O’Neill, my grandfather’s brother, and Jim Bohan.

So thank you, Bessie and Jim for sending that Christmas card 50 or more years ago.  It helped me find your family!


My mom, Eleanor May Black O’Neill died 40 years ago today on November 4, 1973, the victim of metastasized ovarian cancer. She died way too young. When I was younger, I missed her not being part of the milestones of my life. More recently, I miss her in the quiet, ordinary moments.

Eleanor black 1948 cropped

This is my Mom, Eleanor Black O’Neill in about 1948, shortly before she married my dad, Edward T. “Bud” O’Neill.
I have a great love for the natural world. As I look back, that love started and continued to grow because of the many experiences with nature and living things that my mom provided. We always had pets while I was growing up. Along with the typical dog and cat, we also watched chickens hatch and found a baby tortoise that had hatched out in our back yard.
The chickens hatched in a table top incubator that my mom had probably purchased from Sears. Once we had the incubator, we made a trip to a farm near Fresno to buy fertilized eggs. The incubator was small and sphere shaped, less than a foot in diameter. The top half was clear and lifted off. We incubated just two eggs. We had to turn the eggs a couple times a day for the three weeks that it took them to hatch. Those three weeks seemed like forever as we waited for the chicks to hatch out.  This past summer, at the Museum of Science and Industry, I stood with my grandson and we watched a chick hatch in a much larger incubator.


That moment with my grandson brought things full circle for me and got me thinking about all the wonderful experiences my mom had provided for me. It appears that I don’t possess the courage that my mom did because my kids didn’t get to watch chickens hatching on the kitchen table!

Once the chicks hatched in our kitchen incubator, my mom fashioned a brooder from a cardboard box with a light bulb shining into the box to keep the chicks warm. It wasn’t long before the chicks grew too large for the brooder and so my mom built a pen for them out of 2 by 4’s and chicken wire. The first time we took the chicks out to the backyard and put them in the pen, to our horror, our dog grabbed one of them in her mouth and headed back into the house. She didn’t hurt the chick; she just evidently thought the chicks belonged in the kitchen and not in the backyard! And so my mom added a roof to the pen so that the dog would leave the chickens in the backyard. It wasn’t long before that chickens outgrew that pen too and we were living in town; so my mom found a friend with a farm who would take the chickens.
We also had a pair of desert tortoises. We had a pair so that my brother and I could each claim one of them. We never expected them to mate and have little tortoises! But after we had the two tortoises for a while, we went out into the backyard and found a third tortoise that was much smaller than the original two. We looked around in the backyard and found a sandy corner of the yard where something had been digging and realized that this was where the baby tortoise had hatched out. When the mating season came again, we watched as the female tortoise dug a hole to lay eggs. It was fascinating to watch, as she dug the hole with her back legs which she was also using to stand on in the hole. She balanced herself on one of her back legs while she kicked dirt out of the hole with the other back leg. It was especially great that it was happening right in my own backyard. The dog tried to play with the tortoises too but they weren’t interested in playing with the dog any more than the chickens were.

Lady and the tortoise March 63

Christine, Lady, tortoise Mar 63Here’s me with the dog and the tortoises.  This picture was taken 50 years ago.  Note my play-clothes is a dress!

The dog, as you can see, was a white poodle which I named Lady. I think we got her when I was about 5 or 6 years old. We had Lady the whole time I was growing up. When I married and moved away, I couldn’t take her because my new husband, Joe and were moving into an apartment. So I left Lady with my dad. She lived several years after I left. When we first got Lady, I really wanted her to sleep on my bed. She was comfortable there but I couldn’t seem to get to sleep with her there. So Lady’s sleeping place became a folded blanket that in one corner of our eat-in kitchen. My mom really babied Lady who didn’t like dry dog food. So my mom purchased beef stew meat and cooked and put it on top of the dry food and Lady would eat that. Lady also got a bowl of ice cream whenever we had ice cream for dessert.

My mom loved dogs but my grandpa, Sam Black didn’t. Mom didn’t get to have a dog while she was growing up. Once she was an adult with a job, even though she was still living at home, she bought a border collie and brought it home.


She named her Micky so as to not make it too obvious that she was female. Her father liked female dogs even less than dogs in general, probably due to danger of puppies. Mom figured if he got used to the dog before he realized the dog’s gender, things would go better. I guess the Eleanor’s strategy worked as evidenced by these photos of my grandpa, Sam Black, hand feeding Micky .

Mickie and Sam Black cropped

Mickie and Sam Black0001 cropped

I remember Mom telling me that Micky hated the sound of fireworks, and so Mom spent every 4th of July up in the hills around Coalinga which was far enough away from the noise of the fireworks for Micky to be happy.
I have a great love of and fascination with the ocean and the beach. I love to watch the waves come rolling in, crash on the beach and flow back out. My mom provided me with the opportunity to spend countless hours near the ocean even though we lived in Coalinga which is in the foothills of the San Joaquin valley. She took any excuse she could find to get us to the ocean because she loved it too. One of the excuses was that she just couldn’t seem to find a dog groomer that was better than the one in Monterey, California. So every couple of months when Lady needed grooming, Mom would make an appointment with the groomer and we would spend the day in Monterey. We would drop Lady off at the groomer, go to the beach, go back and pick Lady up and head home. There isn’t much sandy beach at Monterey but the rocky shore provides space for wonderful tide pools. I remember spending hours, walking along the rocky shore and gazing into the tide pools. I found it so fascinating to watch the creatures that live in them.

My Grandma Molly O’Neill didn’t tolerate the heat of summers in Coalinga very well. Later in her life, she and Grandpa Cornelius O’Neill spent summer in a rented house in Cayucos, California. On summer weekends, my mom, dad, brother and me would go and spend the weekend with grandparents in Cayucos. Mom and I would get up early on Sunday mornings and head down to the pier with our fishing poles. We walked out near the end of the pier. As we walked, we peeked in other fisherman’s buckets to see what they were catching. I liked being out on the pier but I didn’t like walking on the sections of the pier where there was space between the planks. I hurried until we got to the section of the pier where the planks where closer together. I enjoyed looking over the side and end of the pier and watching the waves swirl around the pier pilings. Mom and I never caught many fish and almost none that were big enough to keep. When we did catch something big enough to keep, we dropped into someone else’s bucket as we left the pier. We weren’t really interested in catching fish. It was just fun to be together and near the ocean. We had to make sure we got back in time so that we could eat breakfast and get changed into our Sunday clothes in time for morning mass at the local Catholic Church.

Thanks for listening while I shared these memories of my mom, Eleanor Black O’Neill. I am really looking forward to seeing her again and spending eternity with her. If you would like to know more about spending eternity with your family, please contact me, I would love to share with you how it can be possible. I have a sure testimony that families can be forever.

Eleanor Liked School!

I wish I knew more about my mom, Eleanor Black O’Neill, when she was a little girl. These items I found among the things she behind tell me that she enjoyed elementary school.

Packwood School 1930

This is Packwood Elementary School in Goshen, California in 1930.  Eleanor is one of the few children smiling in this picture.  She is fourth from the left in the third row back. I also found certificates Eleanor earned for never being tardy or absent for the years 1932 through 1935.

Eleanor Black Attendance 1932

In my previous post, I shared the excitement of making contact with a cousin I didn’t know existed.  We have now exchanged several emails and shared family pictures and stories the other didn’t have.  That is the power of finding extended family.

This is a picture of a painting that  my new-found cousin shared with me.  The painting is of the Irish farmhouse in which my paternal grandmother grew up.  It has been torn down, so I am really happy to have this.

kenny farmhouse in Skeanavart

This picture matches the description of the property that I found in 1911 Ireland census.  The 1911 Irish census contains a lot more information than who lived in the houses, it describes the houses too!  The 1901 and 1911 censuses can be searched at:    Once you find your family, be sure to look at the additional pages that the census contains.  Form B1 which is the House and Building Return and here you will find a description of the house.  The following Form B1 is for Michael, son of Thomas Kenny mentioned in previous posts.

Form B2 which is the Return of Out-buildings and Farm Steadings tells if there was a barn or other additional buildings on the property.

While From B1 lists the family name on each line, for Form B2 you will need to note the line number that your  family is on.  This will allow you to know which line describes your family property

Ireland Reaching Out

Ireland XO RGB

For those of us who are of Irish descent, Ireland Reaching Out is a great program.  It seeks to reunite the descendants of Irish immigrants with the places in Ireland that their ancestors came from, so that they will want to come visit.  However, their website  can a great help even if a trip to Ireland isn’t in your budget this year.  Each civil parish has a message board where requests to connect with other descendants of your ancestors can be posted.  This is the message I posted back in April of 2012 on Kilmacumsy, County Roscommon message board:

Thomas Kenny and Catherine Corcoran baptized their children in the Roman Catholic parish of Boyle.  They raised them in Skeanavart.   Their son, Michael, who was baptized in 1843, is my great-grandfather.  Michael Kenny married Catherine Sweeny in 1872.  I would like to connect with other descendents of Thomas Kenny and Catherine Corcoran.  I live near Chicago in the United States.

Today, I got a reply from a second cousin, who in her first reply, supplied information that I didn’t know.  I don’t where she lives yet but I suspect it is somewhere in the United States.  She is eager to share information and I’m delighted both with having found her and with this opportunity that Ireland Reaching Out is providing to connect with extended family.

If you are not sure of the parish, the website also has message boards on the county level.  The website home page is very user friendly.

In my previous post, I referred to obtaining the death record for my ancestor, Thomas Kenny.  In this post I will share how Irish civil registration records can be obtained.  Civil registration of non-Catholic marriages began in 1845 and registration of all births, marriages and deaths began in 1864.  Church records are the best source of records of these events prior to the beginning of civil registration.  Also, keep in mind that in the early years of civil registration, many births, marriages and deaths were never registered.

Today, there are two Irelands, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.  Prior to 1922, there was only one Ireland, so all the records prior to 1922 are in the same indices.  These indices are searchable for free at under Record Collections.  The searchable indices were created by transcribing the digital images of microfilm copies of the original records.  The following is the death record I found for Thomas Kenny

name: Thomas Kenny

registration district: Boyle

event type: DEATHS

registration quarter and year: 1871

estimated birth year: 1800

age (at death): 71

mother’s maiden name:

film number: 101585

volume number: 14

page number: 45

digital folder number: 4200217

image number: 00404

Collection: “Ireland, Civil Registration Indexes, 1845-1958,” Thomas Kenny, 1800 citing vol. 14, p. 45, General Registry, Custom House, Dublin, Ireland; FHL microfilm 101585

This record is one of seven records that all list Thomas Kenny who died in 1871 in various locations in Ireland.  The registration districts for birth, marriages and deaths were the same as the Poor Law Unions.  Since Skeanavart is in the Poor Law Union of Boyle, I was fairly sure the above record was the one I was looking for.  There is an excellent book for making sense of the various political jurisdictions within Ireland.  It is called, A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland by Brian Mitchell published by Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.   Mitchell’s book does not include the townlands, so another source is needed to determine which civil parish contains the townland.  A townland is the smallest Irish land division.  I have found the website very helpful for locating townlands within the counties of Leitrim and Roscommon

Since microfilm 101585 is an index film and not a film of certificates, it doesn’t contain anymore information than the above transcription, so looking at the film itself wouldn’t provide any additional information.  The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has microfilms of Irish death certificates but they only include the years of 1864 to 1870.  This transcription does contain all the information needed to get a copy of the death record  from The General Registration Office in Roscommon, Ireland.  Go to their website: where application to obtain certificates can be downloaded.  There is not a place on the applications for certificates to include the volume number and page number that you find in the index but be sure to include them.  There are several copy options but the best and least expensive is a photocopy.  All the other options are transcriptions.  Whenever anything is transcribed, there is a risk that it will not be copied correctly.

The Family History Library microfilms include images of marriage certificates for the years 1845 to 1870 and birth certificates between the years 1864 to 1955 except for the years 1881-1900, the first quarter of 1909 and 1914-1929.

Another source of transcribed Irish civil and church records is the website for the Irish Family History Foundation  This site requires payment but fees are reasonable and there are some records for which they are the best source.  This website gives examples of records you are purchasing.

Thomas Kenny

Thomas Kenny is buried here in St. Patrick’s Churchyard Cemetery
His headstone  reads, Thomas Kenny died July 7, 1871  Husband of Catherine,  Skea
I found this headstone inscription and picture of St. Patrick’s Churchyard Cemetery thanks to the efforts of Anna Ryan.  She posted both on  I emailed her and received the reply that taking photographs of cemeteries and transcribed some of the headstones in each has been her hobby for a number of years.  I am very grateful for her efforts.
Having found this headstone transcription, I wondered if this my great-great grandfather since Thomas Kenny is a common name. However, my great-great grandmother who  was Thomas’s wife was named Catherine and family did live in Skea.  The townland is actually Skeanavart which is in the civil parish of Kilmacumsy and the Roman Catholic parish of Elphin but is often abbreviated as Skea.   So I wrote to the General Registration Office in Roscommon, Ireland and requested the death certificate.  When it came back, I knew this was my Thomas Kenny
The name of the informant on Thomas’s death certificate is Micheal Kenny which was Thomas’s son and my great-grandfather. With this additional coinciding information, I feel confident this is my ancestor.
 My goal is to make my first trip to Ireland in 2014 and I will be sure to visit this cemetery on that trip.  Since Anna Ryan only transcribes some of each cemetery, I may be able to find other family members buried there.