Posts tagged ‘Ireland’

I Stepped into my Grandmother’s World

On a recent trip to the upper east side of Manhattan, New York, I had the opportunity to spend an hour walking where my grandmother likely walked a hundred years ago.  To say Manhattan, New York has changed drastically in the past hundred years is an understatement.  Most of it would be totally unrecognizable to its turn of the 20th century residents.  Remarkably, I found that one of my grandmother’s neighborhoods of that time period that still bears a resemblance to the way it looked a century ago.  Before I tell more about the neighborhood, let me tell you a little about my grandmother. Mary Ann Kenny abt 1906 My paternal grandmother was Mary Ann “Molly” Kenny.  She used the nickname Molly probably because she had 4 sisters who were also named Mary.  She was just 17 years old with just 5 dollars in her possession when she passed through Ellis Island in 1904 on her journey from Ireland, her birthplace, to start her new life in America.  Molly is the girl on the left in the above photo which was likely taken in 1906.  One of her Manhattan addresses was 122 East End Avenue which was at the corner of 85th Street and East End Avenue.  Molly rented a room there as did her older sister, Tess.  That boarding house has been replaced with this high rise condominium.  The weekend of my visit, there was a unit for sale in this building for 12 million dollars. Just a block away at the intersection of 86th Street and East End Avenue there are homes that Molly would recognize if she returned to the neighborhood today.  These brick row houses are so unique among the neighboring high-rise buildings that they have been designated a historic district.


Manhattan rowhouses 2


Manhattanrow houses 5

This picture courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York show these row houses as they appeared when they were built in the 1880’s.


This housing development was the work of developer, John C. Henderson who created them for families of modest means.  Today 24 homes remain of the original 32 that were built.  Originally, a home here could be rented for 650 dollars a year.  How times change!  They now sell for 3 to 4 million dollars.  Right across East End Avenue is Carl Schurz Park which has existed since the turn of the 20th century.  It is very pleasant park to stroll through with a dedicated group of volunteers that keep it well landscaped and very clean.

Carl S park


Carl S park 2 fuzzed

This park borders the East River and as you look down the river, you can see the Queensboro Bridge.  Molly married Cornelius T. O’Neill who worked for a short time as a conductor of a Queensboro bridge trolley.

Queensboro bridge from Carl S park

There is also a small lighthouse in the river adjacent to the park. It stands on the northern tip of Roosevelt Island.

East river lighthouse

As I strolled the park, I thought about how  it was  likely Molly had spent time walking in the park a hundred years ago.  It was sweet feeling to have that connection to my grandmother.  There have been additions to the Carl Schurz Park in the years since Molly lived in the neighborhood.  In 1975 this statue of Peter Pan, which was originally part of a 1928 fountain that stood in front of the Paramount Theater, was added to the park.

Peter pan statueVandals, perhaps friends of Captain Hook, removed the Peter from the park and he was eventually retrieved from the bottom of the East River.  The statue was re-installed in  the park in 1991.  It is framed today by this lovely arch.

Peter Pan Statue in park


If you would like to explore more of this lovely neighborhood, search Google Maps for Carl Schurz Park, New York, NY.


World War I Soldiers, John and Sam

John Kenny passport application potrait crop

This is John Kenny, my maternal grandmother’s brother.

John Kenny was born in Ireland but served in World War I in the U.S. Army as an American citizen.   He was naturalized an American citizen in the Circuit Court of  Newport News, Virginia in July 1918.  Back then, men could become citizens of the United States by enlisting in our military.

John served in France with the United States Army from August 18, 1918 until July 4, 1919 and never even learned to shoot a gun!  No, John wasn’t a pacifist.  The army never issued him a gun!  He practiced marching with a broom stick while in the United States and when he got to France, he still didn’t get a gun because  there weren’t enough to go around.  Fortunately, John got to France just before peace was declared.

Harmon Black, end WW1, front

This is my maternal grandfather, Samuel Harmon Black

Samuel Black served in the U.S. Navy from March 2, 1918 to February 5, 1919.  I wish I knew more than that concerning his time in the military.  I sent in the required form to get more information and am currently waiting for a reply.

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!

For the Joy of Finding Cousins

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

Finding Irish Civil Registration Records

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.