A few months ago, a window of opportunity to travel opened up here in Ireland. Our own Michael van Turnhout decided to visit his family in The Netherlands. The last time he visited his mother had been in January 2020, and the opportunity to visit was warmly welcomed.
One thing he had promised his mother was that during his stay, he would bring her to some of the old addresses she had lived as a child, including the address where she was born. As her family had moved within a year of her birth, she could not remember it, nor had ever visited it. Thanks to some pre-travel research, we had discovered the address. This was not as easy as it sounds, as most cities and towns in The Netherlands renumbered their streets at some stage after the Second World War. So whilst we had an address, that address no longer exists. We just knew the street, which unfortunately for us is a very long one. It took the combination of a number of sources (newspaper, land registry, and municipal archives, old phonebooks and even a war diary of a local published online) to find it.
The house itself had been replaced by a more modern dwelling, but the hall behind it – where Michael’s grandfather ran a milk business – still exists, albeit that it has been converted into a separate house.
Spurred on by this trip, Michael’s mother produced an old photo album that she had inherited from her mother, his grandmother. The pictures had been added without any comment and in a seemingly random manner. It was (relatively) easy to recognise Michael’s mother and her brother as babies, children, and young adults. But there were also lots of pictures of his aunt, who had died at a very young age before he was born. Michael had seen pictures of his maternal grandmother before, but was amazed to see pictures for the first time of his grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-grandmother. The oldest pictures were 100 years old!
There were many other family members. It was only possible to put names to the many faces thanks to the amazing memory of Michael’s mother. Michael took of course many notes, and is now in the process of cataloging the collection, preserving the information.
Michael’s mother also told the sad story of two of her nephews, Theo and Arie Klever. During the Second World War, they joined the resistance against the Germans who had occupied The Netherlands. Their local resistance group was however betrayed. When the Germans tried to arrest the group, a firefight resulted in the death of Theo. As several German soldiers had been killed too, out of revenge, the Germans executed 7 young men, some not even attached to the group. Arie was one of them. Both Theo and Arie were only in their twenties, and this happened just a few months before the end of the war. The story of the betrayal has been turned into a book and later also a documentary (in Dutch).
If you get the chance to visit a member of (a) previous generation(s) of your family this Christmas, why not ask them if they have any old family photo albums? And if they do, why not take some time to go through the pictures, ask as many questions as you can and take copious notes.
THE TEAM AT GENEALOGY.IE WISHES YOU A HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND A FANTASTIC 2022!
The creation of permanent images began with Thomas Wedgewood in 1790, but the earliest known camera image belongs to French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. In the late 1830s in France, Joseph used a portable camera to expose a pewter plate coated with bitumen to light, so recording images for the first time. Together with Louis Daguerre he experimented using different materials (copper, silver, chemicals) and their camera became (relatively speaking) popular. But it was an expensive hobby and the “film” needed to be exposed to light for 15 minutes!
Further developments followed with “wet plates” in the 1850s and “dry plates” in the 1870s. In the 1880s a George Eastman started his company in the US, called Kodak and he made the first camera that was accessible to a much larger audience, in other words, the middle classes.
And that included John J. Clarke, who came to Dublin from his Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan home to study medicine at the Royal University. During his time there, 1897 to 1904, he took many pictures. Most of them in and around the Grafton Street and St Stephen’s Green area, but also Portobello, Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire today), and Bray. What is remarkable is that he took pictures of everyday people as they were going about their business, not posing. This allowed him to capture real-life scenes from the daily lives of Dublin’s men, women, and children. And that, in turn, gives us a wonderful insight into the Dublin some of our ancestors would have lived in.
A large number of photographs survived and were donated by his family to the NLI. You can see most of them on the NLI website, by clicking the logo below.
In the late 19th century, different aesthetic and behavioural norms required keeping the mouth small, which led to photographers using “say prunes”. By the mid-1940’s, smiles became the norm which led to the introduction of “say cheese”.
Why not dig out your family photos and try to see if you can date them and name who is in the photo? If you are having difficulty dating them, why not share online and ask other family historians to use their expertise along with your knowledge of your family. We have witnessed so many puzzles by crowdsourcing the answer online.
The National Archives of Ireland is Ireland’s repository for records relating to administrations, Public Records (administrative, court, and probate records), and records of Government Departments and their agencies.
Recently the NAI agreed that an organisation that had handed over their old archives to the National Archives, would be allowed to film them. Very unusually, it allowed the archives to be taken from its offices for the duration of the project. Filming them on the premises of the NAI would mean spending a long time there. Because of COVID-19 this was not considered best practice from a health point of view.
Taking the opportunity, Genealogy.ie was asked to digitise the 20 boxes of archives, with due care.
The archive consists of documents, pictures, certificates, logbooks, etc. in many different formats and sizes. Some were individual documents, some stapled together and others were in book form.
To be able to cope with the vast amount of archive material Genealogy.ie decided to invest in some proper equipment, which you can see in the pictures below. It comprises a high-resolution camera, mounted in a stand. In manual mode, there is a handy separate remote control button to take a picture. But there is also an automatic mode, which takes a picture every 5 seconds.
The software that comes with it allows you to crop and adjust the pictures and export them in a number of different formats, includes searchable PDF. This way, not only are the archives copied, but also digitised.
Even with the new equipment, the project will take about 3 weeks to complete.
Whilst carrying out family history research, we all encounter brick walls. One particularly stubborn one that I revisit every few years is the question of who the parents of my Great Grandfather Michael Foley were.
As I am a professional genealogist, you would think I would have my own family tree done. But take it from me, you are never finished. That is why I always keep an eye on new records becoming available. I got a flutter when I heard new records of the parish where my great grandparents hailed form had become available. I couldn’t resist and immediately looked… but first, let me give you the background story.
When I started working on my family tree, I quickly found the marriage certificate of my Grandfather, Michael Foley to Julia Cronin on 23 April 1898. The certificate informed me that Michael Foley was a teacher living in Cromane, Killorglin, County Kerry, and that his late father, John Foley, was a farmer. As a child, I spent many a happy summer holiday in Cromane in the former home of my Grandmother and my Great Grandparents.
To put a face to the name in this story, Michael Foley is on the left in the photograph, he is the man with the fantastic moustache. I can only imagine the scene, my Grandfather John Francis Hassett took a photo of his wife, his then five children, and her parents. My father, Michael Hassett, is the child sitting in the centre on his Grandmother’s lap. It took me some time to realise it was my Dad as I saw a ‘child in a dress’. I soon learned it was not unusual for young boys at the time, around 1940, to be dressed in this way.
This photo is very special to me as by 1945, both of my Great Grandparents Michael Foley and Julia Cronin, and my Grandparents John Francis Hassett and Mary Foley had all died. And this is one of the few pictures I have of them.
Since my childhood, I have always known my Great Grandfather was a school teacher and was the first ‘Master’ in Cromane near Killorglin. Through family history research, I established that Master Foley was the first headmaster of the newly built school in Cromane in 1886. I have visited the site of the old school and, with sincerest thanks to the current headmaster, I have been able to view and take photographs of the old school registers.
I discovered that his grandchildren, including my father, regularly came from their then home in Cork for a long summer to Cromane. They would arrive around March and leave around October – thus enrolling in school for a few months and then returning to school in Cork. On occasion, they would even spend a full year in Cromane living with their grandparents.
I visited the Killorglin library and read an article from the 1980s published in a local history publication entitled “COIS LEAMNTHA”. A local oral historian had interviewed William Griffin, who was born in Cromane Upper in about 1894 and attended the school in the late 1890s / early 1900s.
From other information available to me, I know Michael Foley taught at Cromane National Boys School from 1886 to 1918, when Stephen Coffey succeeded him as Head.
Michael Foley had four children: Helen Maria Foley (1900 to 1980), John Laurence Foley (1904 to 1933), Mary Catherine Foley (1904 to 1944), and Catherine Mary Foley (1907 to 1909).
Helen Maria Foley was my Godmother and I was very lucky to have her in my early life. She encouraged me to explore the world. I didn’t realise until I started working on my family history that she had been a customs officer and that that was the reason why she was so informed about countries around the globe, bringing to life in her bedtime stories their sights and smells.
Mary Catherine Foley was my Grandmother. She sadly died when my father was only eight.
John Laurence Foley was also a customs officer and died at the young age of 29 of TB, still very common in those days. The write-ups in the newspaper articles I found were very moving.
It was only when I visited the cemetery where my family was buried, in Killorglin, I found evidence of a fourth child, Catherine Mary Foley, who died at age two.
However, despite finding all of this information, I could never find out more about my Great Grandfather John Foley. From the wedding certificate of his son Michael Foley in 1898 I could see he had been a farmer and had died before his son married. I searched all deaths of all John Foleys before 1898 in the area (and wider area) in the records available but without success. My search was made more complicated, because, at that stage, I didn’t even know if my Grandfather Master Michael Foley was born in the area. I only knew that in 1886 he was the first schoolmaster. Also, Foley is not an uncommon name in the area.
Through a newspaper article on the death Michael Foley’s son, John Laurence, in 1933, I was able to confirm that Michael Foley had a sister: the newspaper article listed the mourners and this list included an Aunt Joanna Conway. She married a Francis Conway. Joanna Foley was also a school teacher. This information would prove to be important, as you will see later.
Then, a few years ago, the National Archives shared a gem of record set: the ‘List of Teachers Employed by the Commissioners of National Education on 31 March 1905’ went online. With this list, I was able to establish the month and year my Grandfather was born and where he went to primary and secondary school. I now knew he did grow up in the area. I doubled down and tried DNA, but it didn’t open any obvious doors. The wall seemed to be getting higher.
Every year, I would dip in again and see if any new information would become available. And it finally paid off when I looked at the new parish records mentioned at the start of this article. The 1898 Marriage register of my Grandparents Michael Foley and Julia Cronin had the names of the father and the mother of each of my Grandparents. The parents of Michael Foley are John Foley and Ellen Murphy. My great-grandmother’s name was there right in front of me. It almost seemed too easy. I admit to doing a little dance.
And if any more proof was needed, I also found the baptism record of Joanna Foley with her parents John Foley and Ellen Murphy, and the dates matched.
Next, I looked for the marriage of John Foley and Ellen Murphy and found a transcription on RootsIreland of the marriage of John Foley and Ellen Murphy on 2 March 1840 in Killarney, County Kerry. The transcription stated John Foley lived at Coolcorcoran, near Killarney. The witnesses were Timothy Murphy and David Foley.
So, I then searched land records available for Coolcorcoran and could find that a Timothy Murphy was a tenant and could find baptism records for an Ellen Murphy and her siblings and a marriage record in 1803 for Timothy Murphy and Hannah Sullivan.
However, there was no sign of any Foley’s living at Coolcorcoran. As a genealogist, I was of course now itching to see the original marriage register. On Ancestry.com, I found the original page on the register from Killarney Parish Register. And as you can see, it was Ellen Murphy who was from Coolcorcoran.
In a short few hours, I was now back two further generations. And have many new doors open to examine and explore. I wish you equal success with your brick walls.
The Irish Government has launched a new online resource for the Decade of Centenaries – it is called Mná 100 (Women 100). The updated website Mna100.ie includes original research with some previously unseen photos and historic documents drawn together in new and innovative ways.
This new resource will reflect on key themes, such as the role of women in advocating for Ireland internationally; the role of women’s organisations during the Campaign for Independence and the Civil War; women in the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament); and the stories of the pioneering women who were trailblazers within their chosen professions.
We recommend the special curated short film for Mná 100 called Toward America. The film looks at the American Committee on Conditions in Ireland and the foundation of the Irish White Cross. The piece is grounded in original research, with a wealth of images from private and public collections in Ireland and the United States. It is exclusively curated for Mná100.
The 100 Year Journey will guide the viewer through the journey of women through the 20th century and early 21st century. The 100 Year Journey showcases women who implemented change, through an easy-to-navigate timeline that includes images and illustrated biographies, with personal archive material and animated content.
Mná 100 was launched both simultaneously in Ireland and in New York with guest speakers from Glucksman House, NYU, and the Irish Consul General in New York.
In family history, we often find it more difficult to trace female lines. We welcome and encourage all new resources that are working to uncover women in Irish history.
James Hoban was born around 1758 in Desart near Callan, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland. His parents were Martha Bayne and Edward Hoban. We know he had three siblings – Joseph, Philip, and Ann – but there might have been more. The estate they lived on was owned by Baron John Cuffe. It is not sure what the position of the Hoban’s on the estate was, but they were not very well off.
James learned the skills of a carpenter on the estate. He was given the opportunity to go to the Dublin Society’s School of Architectural Drawing in 1780. This society was and is an Irish philanthropic organisation founded on 25 June 1731 to see Ireland thrive culturally and economically. It would become the Royal Dublin Society in 1820. They would not charge fees to talented but poor students. This is how James became an architect.
He specialised in the Georgian style then popular in Ireland. An excellent example of this style is Leinster House. It was constructed as a home for the Duke of Leinster and designed by the famous architect Richard Cassels. In 1815 it was purchased by the Dublin Society, the same society that had sponsored James’s education. In 1922 the newly formed Irish state rented the main meeting room as a temporary chamber for its parliament. It would become its permanent home.
Back to James: his first job was that of an apprentice to the school’s principal Thomas Ivory. But it was in the United States that he would make his fame. He moved shortly after the Thirteen Colonies had gained their independence, presumably attracted by the possibilities for advancement in the United States. He went where his work took him: first, in 1785, he worked in Philadelphia, then in 1787, he went to Charleston and Columbia in South Carolina, where he designed the Capitol building (burnt in 1865).
The new republic had made plans for a new capital, including a grand home for its president. In 1791 a French-born architect called Pierre Charles L’Enfant was hired, who chose the location. However, his designs did not meet the approval of the president’s commissioners as it was deemed too opulent. L’Enfant was fired and an open competition was held to find a replacement. James Hoban entered the competition and won. And this is how he got to design and manage the construction of possibly the most famous building on the planet right now: The White House.
It is sometimes said he modeled it on Leinster House. We rather believe they are both simply examples of the same Georgian design style, which is called Neoclassical in North America. Construction of the White House started in 1793 and was not finished until 1801. And then Hoban had to do it all over again: The first White House was burned down during the invasion by British troops from Canada in 1812, in an attempt by Britain to regain the colonies. This time the job took 3 years, as the building was not completely destroyed.
James also worked as a superintendent on the construction of the Capitol (designed by William Thornton) and designed the State and War Offices in Washington DC (1818) as well as many, many other buildings.
James Hoban was a local councilor in the District of Columbia. He founded a society (Sons of Erin) to help Irish workers with food, medicine, and a roof over their heads when they needed it. He would speak up for immigrants. But he also owned slaves, some of whom worked on the construction of the White House.
James was married to Susanna Sewall. They had 10 children and he had considerable wealth at the time of his death on 8 December 1831 in Washington. He is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
At Genealogy.ie we love when we come across the work of previous genealogists. In this regard, we hail Dr. Francis Crosslé and his son Philip Crosslé (1875-1953) who created the Crosslé Genealogical abstracts in the 19th century. Their work is now available online, and for one of our clients, it helped us break through a brick wall.
The Crosslé Genealogical abstracts are a miscellaneous collection of more than 657,000 detailed abstracts dates from 1620 to 1804. Many records are transcriptions from prerogative wills subsequently destroyed in the fire at the Public Record Office in Dublin in 1922. Crosslé also provides a wealth of material for those tracing military ancestors, including yearly Army returns from 1767 to 1816. A large proportion of the material comes from the Northwest of Ireland.
In the Crosslé Genealogical abstracts, we came across this great quote from Philip Crosslé when he was writing to a potential client:
“The fees for search and matching of abstracts of records are 3/ per hour, but when one is experienced a good deal may be done in a short time”.
In the past year, we have seen an increasing number of records becoming available online. If you have a brick wall, perhaps the time is now to relook at the information you know and to see if there are any new resources to help you find out more about your ancestor.
If you need help to find out more about an ancestor, explore a line on your family tree, or build your family tree, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can check out our customer testimonials on our website:
As the Covid19 pandemic continues, why not take some time to interview your older relatives or answer these questions yourself to leave for future generations? While you may not be able to be physically together, you could phone or use online software to meet your relative? Take the time over the coming weeks to share and engage?
Remember, this should be a conversation and not a memory test; here are some suggestions for conversation starters. It is best to keep your questions as open-ended as possible and to let the interview flow naturally.
1. What is your full name? Do you know why that name was selected for you?
2. Where and when were you born?
3. Where did you live growing up?
4. Were there other family members in the area? Who?
5. Who’s the oldest relative you remember (and what do you remember about him or her)?
6. Were there any special items in the house that you remember?
7. What was your favourite thing to do for fun (playing ball, going to the movies, etc.)?
8. What is your earliest childhood memory?
9. Describe the personalities of your family members.
10. Were you ever mentioned in a newspaper?
11. How were holidays (birthdays, Christmas, etc.) celebrated in your family? Did your family have special traditions?
12. Describe a typical family dinner. Did you all eat together as a family? Who did the cooking? What were your favourite foods?
13. Are there any special heirlooms, photos, bibles, or other memorabilia that have been passed down in your family?
14. What stories have come down to you about your parents? Grandparents? More distant ancestors?
15. What did your family enjoy doing together?
16. What was your profession and how did you choose it?
17. Of all the things you learned from your parents, what do you feel was the most valuable?
18. What accomplishments are you most proud of?
19. What is the one thing you most want people to remember about you?
20. What haven’t we talked about that you would like to discuss in the time we have left?
Ensure you record (with permission) or transcribe your notes afterwards to keep an accurate record of this rich and valuable information you have gathered.
Christmas Customs in Ireland
One hundred years ago, in December 1920 in the Freeman’s Journal, Mary Mackay felt it was essential to share her views about a true Irish Christmas. She looked to the west and south of Ireland where they are “jealous and tenacious of their own national customs and celebrations”. “There we have words and phrases lingering through centuries to tell us”.
26 December is nowadays called “St Stephen’s Day” in Ireland. In the past – and in some places to this day – it was called “Wren’s Day” or in its Irish form “Lá an Dreoilín”. The tradition consists of “hunting” a fake wren and putting it on top of a decorated pole. “The Wren Boys appear, masked, beribboned, and covered with green and coloured wreaths and garlands, chanting the story of the captured wren, which their leader is supposed to carry attached to the top of an ivied pole”.
In her article, Mary Mackay explains that Christmas Day is scarcely noticed in favour of “Little Christmas” or “Twelfth Day” which was the day the festival was observed before the change of calendar. Little Christmas is marked on 6 January and is more widely known as the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrated after the conclusion of the twelve days of Christmastide. In traditional custom, this was the day of a festival in Ireland. In some parts of Ireland, it was and still called “Nollaig na mBan”, literally “Women’s Christmas” and it is the day the menfolk take down the decorations while women relax or meet their friends socially returning home to a meal cooked for them. It is also the traditional end of the Christmas season and usually the last day of holidays for school children.
The article tells us of the old and purely Irish tradition of candles. On Christmas Eve, “custom says that it must be a man, preferably dark-haired, who will light the first [candle]; and all the other will be lit from that flame. They are supposed to be kept burning all night, though that is seldom found practicable; but it is extremely unlucky if one goes out or is quenched accidentally before its time. Then for Christmas wishes …”.
In more recent times, and I think appropriate now, is to light a candle in your window for the Irish diaspora in the world. This year, we will light our candle and think of all the family histories we have uncovered and the stories we have shared. From all of us in Genealogy.ie we will light our candle to send a warm glow and message of love to all the Irish and friends of Ireland around the world.
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
If you want to read the original article, click on it below to download it.
Our Michael van Turnhout has been a member of the Kilmacud Stillorgan Local History Society since 2016. Every year the Society publishes a journal, called “Obelisk”.
Michael van Turnhout has been a regular contributor to the magazine. This year his article is “Fernhill House and Gardens”, about a beautiful estate just around the corner from where Genealogy.ie is based, and which has recently been turned into a public park.
The fifteenth edition of the “Obelisk” was launched on 28 November 2020. Normally, the launch takes place in a local sports facility, where the members get a chance to meet the authors and enjoy some refreshments together. COVID-19 makes that impossible. So instead, the launch was a virtual one. Why not relax with a cuppa or a glass and enjoy the six-minute presentation by clicking here.
The image, which features on the cover of the journal, offers a view of Dublin Bay from the Stillorgan area in the early 1800s. Click on the image for the list of contents.
You can buy your own copy on the Society’s Online Shop. (Scroll down for “Obelisk 2021”).
Wishing you all a happy and safe Christmas and New Year.