Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Wisdom Wednesday: Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Why I am Taking a Blogging Break

Image provided by Carol Sutton at
Warning:  This post may not be suitable for all readers.  It contains introspective and mystical content that may trigger discomfort or disdain. 

One of the things you start to pay attention to as a genealogist is when and how your ancestors died.  Most of my ancestors, on the Irish and Italian sides, lived long lives, even the ones born during the Great Famine.  My maternal grandmother passed away two years ago, days short of her 99th birthday.

My side of the family hasn't dealt with much cancer.  So maybe I took my own longevity for granted.  I didn't know that most women that get breast cancer don't actually have a family history of it.

Since I learned I was pregnant with the Bean, my lovely little girl, I've been careful.  I've tried to eat well, keep my weight down.  But I exercised too little and snacked too much.  I've made sure to look both ways before crossing the street, but still got knocked down by a truck once.  I've seen my doctor regularly, but I forgot to do my monthly breast examination.  I didn't realize how risky that could be.

As a result, last night, I had to tell the Bean that Mommy has breast cancer and it's in a few places it shouldn't be, besides my breast.  So now we know why I've been feeling so low since the end of August. 

To my surprise, today I feel better than I have in weeks.  I feel that today's new cancer treatments, plus all the support I've received from family, friends, coworkers and bloggers has built me an army that can kill cancer.

And my relatives and in-laws are part of my army.  I have been doing a visualization involving pulling out my tumours and replacing them with loving, healing light.  From the beginning, the living and the dead from my family tree have been joining me in the visualization, helping to heal me.  My Sweetie's mom, who survived breast cancer but not lung cancer, is there.  Her name was Helen, which means "light."  Helen, my Moynihan aunts and uncles, my grandmother are all helping.  And I swear that last night, my other grandmother, my namesake Katie, came by to give me a hug goodnight.

You know, I thought I was going to write about how it feels to add the yucky information to the family tree:  the illneses, the deaths, the tragedies.  But that's not really the lesson I want to share.  I've realized in writing this that whether we call ourselves genealogists or family historians, whether we research for fun or for posterity, genealogy has been giving back to us.  We're giving it dates and sources, it's giving us people.  Today, for me, it's giving me support and healing.  My family tree isn't a GEDCOM file.  My family tree is a network of people who have loved and protected their kin forever.  I've been trying to tell their stories in this blog.  And I think they are helping me to continue that work.

But for a little while, I'll need to take a break.  I understand I'm likely to feel worse before I feel better.  I'll be back to tell you how a Moynihan became a Monahan, about Alfred Burrows' WWI service, and many other stories.  When I can.

Til then, some homework for you:
  • Homework Assignment 1: Get caught up on those tests you've been forgetting about.  Check your breasts.  Get that mammogram.  See your doctor.  Tell your sisters, your daughters, your girlfriends, your wives.  Take care of yourself, so you can take care of your family.
  • Homework Assignment 2: I'd love to hear your stories of your ancestors reaching out to help and support you. I may sound a little crazy, but I don't think I'm the only one.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Annual Conference the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO)

I took the day off work today to attend pre-conference workshops for the 17th Annual BIFHSGO Family History Conference in Ottawa.

I missed Lesley Anderson's presentation "I can't find them anywhere -- effective searching, sharing and collaborating with Ancestry."  While I'm sure I could have learned a great deal from Lesley, I wanted to attend Kyla Ubbink's presentation "Storing and Preserving Family Archives and Artifacts."  Kyla is a local conservator with whom I've chatted at previous conferences.  Her talk gave us an excellent overview of the dangers that our archives and artifacts face in our homes as well as practical tips to ensure we store them in a manner that will avoid further degradation.  In addition to suggesting specific products and suppliers for archival storage and conservation, she offered hands-on demonstrations.  Kyla warned us that conservation requires patience, and the hands-on work cannot be done in a bad mood.  Sometimes you need to put the project down for the day; other times you need to take it straight to the professionals.  I can see a certain meditative benefit to cleaning off "old book smell" page by page with a soft brush, but I learned the hard way that removing staples is not my forté.  I must wait for a propitious day before attempting the dental floss technique to remove photographs from the old magnetic albums.

My afternoon session was Linda Reid's "Introduction to English and Welsh Family History Records."  Linda provided an excellent handout which summarized her key points and recommended resources.  Clearly it's time for me to start looking for English parish records for Sweetie's Burrows family.  In her talk, Linda showed how to use several key linking records to fill in a pedigree chart.  It's the same exercise that I took the Bean through earlier this year.  She may only be eight years old, but it's never too early to learn the importance of citing sources for the information on our family tree.

I had a few hours to kill before the evening lecture and spent much of it taking advantage of the resources at Library and Archives Canada (LAC), where the conference is taking place.  In its Canadian Genealogy Centre on the third floor, LAC has some databases prepared by the Société de généalogie de Québec with 20th Century Quebec marriages and deaths.  I was able to find Sweetie's Gita's second marriage as well as his Grandad's second and third marriages.  (Hmm, that may be a worrisome theme?!)   I was also able to confirm Grandad's death, which may now allow us to request his Canadian military records.

The Don Whiteside Memorial Lecture this evening was given by local author and columnist Phil Jenkins.  Phil's presentation, "Thanks for the Memories," was a thought-provoking (and musical) discussion of the potential for ancestral memory or the passing down of ancestral traits.

If you're in or near Ottawa this weekend, you may want to head to LAC, downtown on Wellington Street at Bay.  Walk-in registrations are available.

The conference continues Saturday and Sunday and there will be many interesting topics presented, this year focusing on England and Wales, and particularly on London and the Home Counties. 

If you see me there, come say hello.  And check out the BIFHSGO blogging buzz at Anglo-Celtic Connections, by conference co-chair John Reid, as well as the BIFHSGO Blog, and Elizabeth Lapointe's Genealogy Canada Blog

Before I close, I must extend my thanks to the BIFHSGO volunteers that make the conference a great success each year. 

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Today in Family History: Good Things Happened

Today is September 11th.  It's a day the world will never forget.  So many live were lost that September 11th will always be a day filled with sorrow and tears.  But let those not be our only remembrances of the day.

September 11th is also a day when good things happened.  Babies were born.  People were married.  September 11 has long been a day of tears of joy.  And we shouldn't forget that either.

Happy birthday, Dad.  Happy birthday, Sherri.  Happy anniversary, Wendy.  Love you all.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Today in History: August 26, 1917 Maria Ontaria Bertolo was Born

I'm sure I'm not the only genealogist who didn't always understand who was on her family tree and where.  When I was in elementary school, one day our substitute teacher was Mrs. Plexman.

I remember that Mrs. Plexman had presence in our classroom.  She spoke with precision, calm and dignity.  And she was lovely:  dark, dark hair and a creamy complexion.  What I didn't fully realize is that Mrs. Plexman was my great-aunt, my mom's paternal aunt.  Eventually, Mrs. Plexman became Aunty Rose as I got to know her in my teenage years.

After she died in 1985 1986, Aunty Rose took on yet another identity when her birth certificate came to light.  It turns out, that Rose was her nickname.  She was named Maria Ontaria Bertolo by her parents.  She was the third of Giuseppe Bertolo and Maria Iop's ten children to be born in Ontario.  I guess they liked the place!  Here's her baptismal record, in which Father Belcastro had Latinized her name as Mariam Ontariam:

The family story is that when Nona Maria held the new baby, Maria Ontaria, older sister Helen looked at the baby and declared that she was so beautiful they must call her Rose.

One day when I was about 18, my mom and I ran into Aunty Helen on the street.  My mom mentioned that she always thought I resembled Aunty Rose.  Aunty Helen said, "No, Kathy's much prettier!"  I wish it were true.

Rose Bertolo, at her brother Luigi's wedding, October 1929

But I do see the resemblance.  And I take that as a great compliment.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Today in Family History: August 3, 1971 Maria (Iop) Bertolo Died

Forty years ago today, my great-grandmother, Maria (Iop) Bertolo, passed away in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.  In a March 2011 post, Surname Saturday -- Iop, I told you a bit about Maria's life in Fiume Veneto, in the Friuli region of Italy and her emigration to Canada.

Hers is the first funeral I remember attending as a little girl.

Riposa in pace, Nona Maria.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Thankful Thursday: Finding Grandad's Sister the Sister

Back at the end of May, I wrote about "Looking for Julia Moynihan, Grandad's Sister the Sister."  I think Julia pulled some strings from heaven and now I've found her.

As you may remember, all we really knew was that Julia had become a nun in Boston.  Dad said her religious name was Sister Mary Josephine.  That's it.  We didn't know which order, and there were quite a few of them in Boston at the time.

Since my first post, I was able to find the detailed ship's manifest that showed Julia arriving in Boston in May 1907 to join her widowed aunt Hannah (aka Annie) Harnedy in Andover.  I later found her brother Jeremiah joining her in Andover in 1908.  I couldn't find Julia in the 1910 or later censuses with family, but there was a Julia Moynihan with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur first in Waltham and then Boston, Massachusetts.  There are several Orders called Sisters of Notre Dame around the world.  But the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur seem to be all over the Greater Boston area, including in Andover, just a half-hour north of Boston.

In my previous post, I shared an obituary I had found on RootsWeb:

Lowell Sun Lowell, MA April 3, 1945

Tyngsboro - Rev. Sr. Mary Josephine, stationed for the past twelve years at the Academy of Notre Dame, died yesterday at the academy, aged 60 years, following an illness of one week's duration.

The former Julia Moynihan, Sr. Mary Josephine was a native of Ireland, and had been for 35 years in the order of Notre Dame de Namur. During her years  at the academy she was in  charge of the sacristy.
Tyngsboro is a small town outside Lowell, just west of Andover.  I mentioned in the previous post that I had emailed the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to ask if this was my aunt Julia.  I was told it wasn't.  But the story doesn't end there.  Remember, Julia was helping from heaven.

I emailed a number of other orders to see if Julia joined them.  One Order suggested that I check Census records.  I felt a little foolish realizing that I'd assumed the Census records would record only the Sisters' religious names.  That's not necessarily so.  In fact, when I looked for Julia Moynihans in Massachusetts I found a Julia who was a novice with the Notre Dame Training School in 1910 in Waltham and then in Boston in 1920 and 1930 at the Notre Dame Academy there.  While the birth year, arrival year and even parentage varied across these three Julias, they sure seemed like the same woman.  So I got back in touch with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, where unfortunately the Sisters responsible for the records have been ill.  I was told I should be realistic, that there may not be records to prove one way or another where my Aunt Julia went.

This is where things get interesting.  My Sweetie wanted our summer vacation to be in a big city with lots to see.  I wanted to find dead relatives.  Going to Boston and Andover was our compromise.  As it turns out, I have living relatives in Andover and we arranged to meet.  Would you believe that one of my cousins attended high school at the Notre Dame Academy at Tyngsboro?  Over dinner, she mentioned that there was a cemetery on the school grounds, down near the soccer field.  For teenage girls, it was a place to be avoided.  For me, I couldn't resist.

So we drove over to Tyngsboro to the school grounds.  Uh-oh.  "Private Property."  We should have called ahead.  We drove up to the front door and found that the reception had closed for the day.  Darn.  Exiting the property, we saw a fellow working and asked him permission to visit the cemetery.  He agreed and told us where to find it.  Thank you! Thank you!  It was a beautiful spot, nestled among old, old pines.  There, I found a new aspect to the mystery.  There were three Sisters with similar names:
  • Sister Mary Josephina, died April 2, 1945 (the one from the Lowell Sun article);
  • Sister Josephine Marie, died June 18, 1953;
  • Sister Marie Josephine, died November 6, 1964.
I sent photos of the three headstones to my cousins, one of whom asked a family friend in the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur if she could help us with our search.  This morning, Sister Mary wrote me back to confirm that, without a doubt, Sister Mary Josephina was our Julia Moynihan.  The Order's records confirm her birthdate (within a week or two), her parents' names and that she'd joined from Andover.
Sister Mary Josephina entered the convent at Waltham on January 6, 1910.  She entered the Novitiate on June 26, 1910 and made her vows on July 25, 1912 -- almost 99 years ago.  And she died at Tyngsboro on April 2, 1945.
She is buried in the pretty and peaceful cemetery on the grounds of the Notre Dame Academy in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts.  And I was able to pay my respects at her grave.

I am a grateful girl today.  Thanks to Sister Mary and my cousins.  Thanks Aunt Julia for helping us find you.

I'll say another prayer tonight for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, for their work, and for the recovery of the Sisters responsible for their archives.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Comment Problems with Blogger

I and my readers continue to have difficulty posting comments on Blogger.  It's not just my blog, but seems as general as posting a comment on any Blogspot blog from your Google account.  Even anonymous comments have been hit and miss.  Mostly miss.

Today I was successful in posting comments via Firefox, particularly after erasing old cookies earlier in the day.

Friends, the time may have come to abandon Internet Explorer.  I did finally upgrade to IE9 today, but the comment feature still doesn't work.  I think Firefox will be my new browser.

With my holidays starting, I hope to have more time and energy to post after a forced hiatus over the last several weeks.  Talk to you soon.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Apologies, Blogger is Letting Us Down

I've noticed that I haven't received many comments on the blog of late.  Today, after struggling yet a gain to comment on blogs I read, it hit me why.  There seem to be problems with Blogger's comments and followers features.

Apologies to those readers who have been frustrated when they tried to leave comments.  Don't hesitate to contact me directly at:  jimsgirlblog at

I hope this outage doesn't last long.  I'm missing your comments, dear readers.

Monday, 6 June 2011

This is the Face of Genealogy

In his post this morning, "The Face of Genealogy," Thomas MacIntee, of Geneabloggers, suggested we post something today to counteract an unfortunate photo that ran recently on the LA Weekly website.

When I think of the face of genealogy, two photos come to mind.

First, this is the face of genealogy: my grandmother and namesake hiding at her father's elbow.  I'm Jim's Girl; she's Jim's mom. 

And second:  You may not see their faces, but I can't call these the backsides of genealogy, can I?  My research is also for Sweetie and the Bean.  I want the Bean to know where she comes from.

 What's the face of genealogy for you?

Saturday, 4 June 2011

William Moynihan's Other Family -- or not!

A couple of weeks ago, in my post "Sunday Obituary: Jeremiah Francis Moynihan of Ventura, California," I shared the news that my first cousin once-removed, Jerry Moynihan, had passed away.  Jerry's lovely obituary told me a great deal about his branch of the family, and allowed me to conclude that his father, William Moynihan, died when Jerry was quite young, after which his mother remarried.  That got me thinking about William, who is my grandfather's older brother, and it got me searching for records about his life in the United States.

I was puzzled by the first record that I found when searching recently.  It was a record of William arriving in Boston in 1924 with a woman and two children.  I was certain he'd arrived much earlier and single, before World War I.  But the record, as you see, shows that William and his family had been visiting his father Jeremiah at Shountullig.  We know from the Irish Censuses and Aunty Nora's paper that there's only one family at Shountullig (aka Shantullig):  our family.

Have a look at the ship's manifest above.  It certainly looks like William is travelling with his wife Margaret and their children Jeremiah and Margaret.  My great-grandad, Jeremiah, is shown to be Margaret's father-in-law and the children's grandfather.  My father thought he'd heard that William had been married before.  But it seemed strange to me that he would have two sons named Jeremiah:  one by Margaret, and one by Elizabeth O'Connor (that is, Jerry Moynihan of Ventura).  Certainly Irish families reused names, but typically it was when a child died in infancy.  In fact, that's why William had two brothers named Daniel.

So why would William name two sons Jeremiah?  Then I remembered some of the other records I'd seen years ago, researching William:
  • first, his earlier arrival in New York;
  • second, his World War I draft registration.
Many years ago, when the Ellis Island site was still wet behind the years (and me too, for that matter), I found the record of William's arrival in New York in 1915.  He's not easy to find.  He's transcribed as William Moynehan on the Ellis Island site and William Moyuchan on Ancestry.  I've submitted a correction to Ancestry, by the way. 

TIP:   Sometimes, you need to search by first name.

Because of the transcription error, to find William's 1915 ship's manifest on Ancestry via Family Tree Maker in order to merge his data, I was forced to search for all men named William arriving in New York on the Lapland on June 1, 1915.  It wasn't quite as bad as it sounds, but it took a while.

The ship's manifest shows that William was hospitalized on arrival, which would have delayed his arrival at his planned destination, Buffalo, where he was joining his brother Timothy.  Tim's address was given on the manifest as 76 Hamburg Street, Buffalo.  I Googled the address, which today appears to be a rather downtrodden industrial and residential area by the tracks.

So William arrived in mid-1915, single.  But the Jeremiah he travelled from Ireland with in 1924 was born in 1915.  Let's just say that when one considers biology and Catholocism, it seems unlikely this Jeremiah was William's son.

Then there's William's draft registration card, a document that had puzzled me for years.

When I'd first seen this, years ago, I couldn't figure out what sister-in-law he could be responsible for.  As far as I knew, of his brothers:
  • Patrick had already returned to Ireland to have his family and was still alive;
  • James, Daniel and Tim never married;
  • Con and Jeremiah were still alive; and
  • my grandad, John never left Ireland and lived until 1978.

TIP:  Periodically go over old conclusions in light of new information.

Then I remembered that I'd recently seen a marriage record for James.  He'd married in Boston, which had surprised me, as I thought he stayed in the Buffalo area after arriving in the States.  But Family Search had the image of the marriage registry and it convinced me I had the right James Moynihan as his parent's names were given correctly.  Guess the name of his bride?

Margaret.  Did you see that coming?

So William's brother James Moynihan married Margaret Daley in Boston on June 18, 1913.  The children that visited their grandfather Jeremiah in Ireland in 1924 were born in 1915 and 1917.  It makes sense that they're James' children.

It appears that James died in late 1916 or 1917, after young Margaret was conceived.  I wonder if he lived to see his little girl.  William and Tim's WWI draft registration cards, which appear to have been completed in 1917, indicate they were living together at 118 Walter St. in Buffalo and both single but responsible for a sister/sister-in-law.  And in the 1920 U.S. Census, we find a widowed Margaret "Mimahan" living at 434 South Division St. with her children Jeremiah and Margaret, her brothers-in-law Timothy and William, and several boarders.

By the 1930 U.S. Census, of course, William had married Elizabeth O'Connor and was living with Jerry (of Ventura) and Michael at 17 Woodside Ave., Buffalo.   Tim was still living with Margaret, the kids and boarders, by this time at #2-17 Mariemont St.

Did you notice how I wrote that above?  "It makes sense that" and "it appears that."  To really be sure of the connections I've just laid out, I would need to see the birth certificates of Margaret's children Jeremiah and Margaret to be sure my great-uncle James is their father.  And I'd need to see James' death certificate.  I don't think any of these records are accessible to a relative as distant as I am.

Perhaps one of the descendants of Jeremiah Moynihan, born 1915, and Margaret Moynihan, born 1917, will stumble upon this blog one day soon and get in touch.  Hello, Buffalo cousins!  You've got relatives close by in Ontario, Canada.  Please get in touch:  jimsgirlblog at

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Looking for Julia Moynihan, Grandad's Sister the Sister

In my usual scattered, "let's see who I can find today" approach -- which I really don't recommend -- I recently became interested in finding out more about my grandfather's older sister Julia Moynihan.  All my dad knew was that she became a Nun in Boston, Massachusetts.  I'd been working on the assumption that because Nun's take a religious name, I'd never be able to track Julia Moynihan, but that may not be true.

Can anyone help me find my grandaunt Julia Moynihan, the Sister?

Here's what I know (or in some cases am pretty sure about):
  • 1883 (Dec. 29):  Julia was born in Shountullig, Cork, Ireland to Jeremiah Moynihan and Hanora Harnedy (Source: baptismal record)
  • 1901 (Mar. 31):  Julia was 17, literate, living at home with her parents and a "general servant". (Source: 1901 Census of Ireland)  [1911 (Apr. 2):  Julia was not in Ireland.  She was not with her family and no other Julia Moynihan in the Census matches her.]
  • 1907 (May 23):  A Julia Moynihan, aged 23, arrives in Boston on the Ivernia.  (Source:  Book Indexes to Boston Passenger Lists.)  Note:  Given the absence of detail on this Book Index, compared to a full ship's manifest, I don't know this is my Julia. I think it is her given that the age is right and it's the same ship her brother and cousins took the following year.
  • 1908 (May 14):  Julia lived at 71 Bartlett Street, in Andover, Massachusetts, just north of Boston. (Source:  ships manifest for the Ivernia arriving in Boston with her brother Jeremiah and her cousins John and Maggie Sullivan)
  • 1908 and 1913:  Julia lived at 92 North Main Street in Andover, the same address and Annie (aka Hannah) Harnedy, her aunt.  (Source: 1908 and 1913 Andover City Directories)  Note:  Julia does not appear in the previous city directory in 1904, nor in an alternate 1913 directory nor later Andover directories.
I cannot find any further record that I even suspect is my Julia Moynihan after 1913.  There are some Julias in the censuses, including with the Notre-Dame Academy, however they age is a bit off.  Regarding the Sisters of Notre-Dame, I found the following at :
Lowell Sun Lowell, MA April 3, 1945

Tyngsboro - Rev. Sr. Mary Josephine, stationed for the past twelve years at the Academy of Notre Dame, died yesterday at the academy, aged 60 years, following an illness of one week's duration.

The former Julia Moynihan, Sr. Mary Josephine was a native of Ireland, and had been for 35 years in the order of Notre Dame de Namur. During her years at the academy she was in charge of the sacristy.

I sent an inquiry through the order of Notre Dame de Namur website, they confirmed that this Sister Mary Josephine was actually a Cronin. They had no Julia Moynihan matching mine.

The Poor Clares of Boston have also indicated she wasn't a member of their order.

I have messages in now with the Carmelites and the Sisters of St. Joseph.  I have a list of other convents in the Boston area and I will check with each one.  I must mention that I was surprised how quickly both the Poor Clare and the Notre-Dame sisters responded by email.  I am lucky to live in a time when I can make these long-shot inquiries by email and receive such quick replies.

Is there anyone out there who knows more about my grandad's sister the Sister?  Who knew Julia Moynihan?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Wordless Wednesday: The Leahy Place at Gortnamona, County Cork

I took this photo during my trip to Ireland in 1989.  This is the entrance to my grandmother's family home in the Gortnamona township in County Cork.

I know you can't see the house (which I think was abandoned when I visited), but I can look at this photo all day.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Sunday Obituary: Jeremiah Francis Moynihan of Ventura, California

I've mentioned in a previous post that I sometimes Google my relatives.  I've come to expect few useful results and the occasional gem.  The other night, I Googled "Jerry Moynihan" and found sad news.  My dad's cousin Jerry Moynihan of Ventura, California passed away in April of this year.  Here is a link to the lovely obituary for Jerry which appeared in the Ventura County Star.

I didn't know Jerry; he was a name on the family tree.  But after reading the obituary, I feel like I know him a little.  And I wish I had met him.

Jerry was born in 1928 in Buffalo, New York, the eldest of three sons of William Moynihan and Elizabeth O'Connor.  William died young and Elizabeth remarried and had two more boys.

According to the obituary: Jeremiah (Jerry) Francis Moynihan passed away on April 17, 2011 after a long and courageous battle with a bone marrow disorder.

Jerry lived most of his life in Ventura, California, most of those as a teacher and school principal. Judging by the comments in the online memorial book, Jerry was not only respected but loved by family, friends and the students and teachers with whom he worked.
Jerry was predeceased by his parents and his brothers, Mike Moynihan and Jack Daly. He is survived by his best friend and wife of 60 years, Lois Chatham Moynihan; daughters, Cathy Mason (Terry), Karen Haggerty; granddaughters, Kerry Haggerty Thomas (Tim), Tara Mason, Erin Haggerty, and Laura Mason; great-grandson, Joshua Jeremiah Thomas; brothers, Martin Daly (Frances), William Moynihan (Dorothy); sister-in-law, Helen Chatham; niece, Linda Etter (Larry); "Little Brother" David Hart Gandolfo (Rhonda); niece, Stephanie Daly D'Andrea and her children, Matt, Joey and Grace.
The sympathies of the Canadian branch of the Shountullig Moynihans go out to Lois, Cathy, Karen and the rest of the family.  They have lost a good man.

Stay tuned for a future post about Jerry's dad William and another Jeremiah Moynihan.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Mattioli Family in Fano

Back Row:  Lina Mattioli, Onofrio Giacomini, Maria Mattioli in Giacomini (that's Italian for Maria Giacomini, née Mattioli)
Front Row:  Filomena Barboni in Mattioli, Luisa Mattioli

This photo was taken before Filomena, Luisa and Lina left Fano (in the Marche region of Italy) in late January 1929 to join Filomena's husband Augusto Mattioli in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.

Maria and Onofrio stayed in Italy for several more years, through the war, before joining the family in Ontario.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Sunday Dinner, Sault Ste. Marie Style, Where Italians Don't Eat Spaghetti

I have a confession to make:  I never ate spaghetti until I moved away from home.  Well, maybe in a restaurant somewhere earlier, but the first memory I have of spaghetti was my dear friend Brad's.  Brad's from the Sault, but doesn't have a drop of Italian blood in him.  As you know, I'm half Italian.  My friends experimented with all sorts of things in university; I tried spaghetti.  It didn't become a habit.

You see, in the Sault, we ate "pasta."  That's pronounced "pah-stah," not "pass-ta."  Some of the pasta we made by hand, some we got from Primo Foods.  We made long, thin, fairly wide, flat pasta that we called "tagliolin'" plus lasagna and stuffed pastas like cappelletti.  Our cappelletti was usually small, square and suffed with meat, like ravioli. But sometimes they were shaped more like tortellini.  The bought pasta was usually penne rigate.  The "rigate" part is important.  That means the penne have lines along the outside that hold the sauce.  I once bought penne lisce, which is smooth.  It didn't taste very good.  You need your pasta to hold onto the sauce!

Since moving away from the Sault, I've discovered that my experiences eating out in the Sault are different from what is found in other cities, even in Italian establishments in other Canadian locations.  In addition to the serving of pasta in shapes other than spaghetti, a key difference about dinners in the Sault is that they are served family-style.  Platters of food are brought to the table and people serve themselves. If you want seconds, you can take more food from the platter and after that ask for another platter if you're still hungry.  No one hesitated to ask for more.

If you're from the Sault, right now you're nodding your head.  If you're not from the Sault, you're looking at the screen like I have three heads.  Believe me, when we were planning our wedding reception in Ottawa, a few caterers looked at me very strange.  We chose an Italian cater who at least had the savvy to say, "ah yes, you're from the Sault.  We don't to it that way here, but if people want seconds, we will bring them another plate."  Well, I suppose that would do in a pinch.

Here's your standard menu for a special dinner out in the Sault, a wedding reception or a big anniversary or birthday celebration.
  • Cappelletti Soup in Chicken Broth
  • Penne with Meatballs
  • Roasted Chicken, Roasted Potatoes, Green Beans
  • Green Salad -- usually iceberg lettuce (but in the old days that's all you could buy), with peeled cucumber and tomato and a plain oil and vinegar dressing.
  • Dessert?
Okay, I'm sure there was dessert, but I can't for the life of me remember what was usually served.  Cake?  It wouldn't have been Tiramisu, which as far as any North American can tell was "invented" in the late 1980s.

We ate essentially the same meal any time the family got together.  Though at Christmas the roast chicken was replaced by turkey.  At home, the dessert was usually Cherry Cheesecake (the no-bake type) and whatever pies my grandmother made.  Lemon meringue was my favourite.

If you're from the Sault, where was your favourite place to eat?  Minelli's, the Marconi Club or your nonna's?  What was your favourite part of the meal?  Who remembers "Peaches" for dessert?  Will you admit you still love iceberg lettuce?  How long has it been since you had Cappelletti Soup?

Tell me about your Sunday dinner memories.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Canada's Census 2011 -- Just say Yes!

Well, I've submitted my census questionnaire for 2011.  To all my Canadian readers:  please, please say "yes" to the question at the end requesting permission to share your census information in 92 years.

For those of you who have been researching your family history for some time, you know how useful census information can be for tracking our relations. 

I thank the censuses of Canada, the United States, England, Ireland and Wales for telling me:
  • That Mino Bertolo came to Canada in1903 and was naturalized in 1907.
  • That the uncle Patrick Moynihan went to Andover to live with was his mother's brother, William Harnedy.
  • That my great-grandmother Margaret Leahy (neé Regan) had 12 children, not 11.  So there's one more baptismal record to look for.
  • That Margaret's father-in-law Patrick Leahy was still alive in 1901 and was blind but still fluent in Irish.
  • That Jno Lawrence is John Lawrence.  Who knew John needed a short-form?!
  • That our Burrows family lived primarily in and around Bampton, Devon. 
I want to help future researchers, so I said "yes" to the StatsCan question.  I'll share my census information with future generations.

Will you?

Monday, 2 May 2011

Reflections on the A to Z Challenge

I want to start by thanking Kim at the Lunch Box, on whose blog I first saw the A to Z Challenge badge, and Lee at Tossing it Out, the force behind the challenge, as well as the other challenge hosts.

As some of you know, I started the Jim's Girl Family History Blog in mid-March 2011 for the purpose of sharing family history and genealogy research among my cousins.  I knew nothing of blog challenges, memes, awards or much of anything in blogging culture.  Then I saw the challenge badge and decided to find out what it was about.  I liked the mental challenge of coming up with genealogy-related stories for each of the 26 letters of the alphabet.  I also saw the challenge as a push, "into the deep end" if you will, to post frequently.

I may have underestimated the effort it would take to post 26 times in one month.  Whew!  I also underestimated how many other A to Z challengers would read my posts and make comments.  Remember, my intended audience was just cousins (albeit in some cases fourth cousins once removed, by marriage).

I tried to visit other blogs in the challenge, but a full time job, travel, Easter and the ever-present pressure to write more blog posts limited the number I could read.  Nonetheless, the A to Z challenge introduced me to a several interesting blogs I will follow in the future, blogs I'd never have found without the challenge.  It also brought me some new followers.

It's true I didn't enjoy the pressure to research and compose on a strict deadline.  In the future, you can expect more thoroughly researched, though less frequent posts interspersed with short blurbs on this and that; probably a few posts per week.  I hope my cousins will stay with me into the future.  And I hope some of the A to Z challengers will continue to follow my posts as well.  Who knows, maybe we are cousins after all.

Before I go...thanks to Cousin Sam and my mom for fine-tuning some recipes, to  Aunty Anna for the picture of her gorgeous genetti cookies, and to my Sweetie and the Bean for their patience.  And, Arlee Bird, how can I thank you enough?!

Check out the reflections of other challengers via Tossing it Out.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Could the Sources Possibly be Wrong?

You betcha!  Haven't I mentioned that before?

I enjoyed Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings post of yesterday titled Hank Jones - "When the Sources Are Wrong."  I encourage you to check it out for Hank Jones' excellent reminders that, sadly, even original records can be wrong.

I Survived the A to Z Challenge

Thanks to Elizabeth Mueller for creating this award for all of us that have completed the 2011 A to Z blogging challenge.

Z is for Zucchini Fritti

Today marks the end of the A to Z Challenge of April 2011. As soon as I started thinking about whether I could find a topic for each letter of the alphabet, my daughter the Bean jumped in with an idea for Z: Nona’s fried zucchini.
My mom’s been making these for years, and for the last while, I’ve been helping her. Mine aren’t yet as delicious as hers. I don’t know why, but my mom’s specialties always taste better than my versions. Here’s the recipe for you.
Zucchini Fritti
  •  1-2 medium zucchini, approximately 2-3” diameter is a good size  (oops, original post somehow skipped the zucchini, a key ingredient
  • Salt
  • Flour
  • Beaten eggs
  • Bread crumbs, seasoned if you like
  • Vegetable Oil
Slice the zucchini in coins about a ¼" thick. Salt both sides and spread them in a colander. Leave them a half an hour to an hour to drain excess water.
Pour oil into a skillet, at least ½ deep. Heat the oil to medium heat.

Dredge a piece of zucchini first in flour, then dip it in eggs, followed by bread crumbs, then lay in the hot oil. Fill the pan with the battered zucchini, but don't overcrowd them.

Once the zucchni pieces have turned golden-brown on the bottom, flip them over. Continue to cook until the zucchini pieces are golden-brown on both sides and a fork goes easily into the zucchini.  If the oil gets low, add some between batches.  It's probably best to let the added oil heat before adding more zucchni to the pan.

Remove the cooked zucchini from the pan and lay on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Serve warm.

I'd like to thank all the readers who've stopped by during the A to Z Challenge to read and comment.  It's been a pleasure to "meet" you.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Y is for Yeo

In 1912, Florence Burrows, daughter of James and Lucy Jane Burrows, married James Yeo in the Crediton District of Devon, England.  She was about 24 years of age.  Not long afterwards, Florence and James moved to Australia and her brother Alfred joined them before the outbreak of World War I. 

I would love to tell you more about their life in Australia and any family there, but there is little that I know, other than that they had a sheep farm on which Alfred worked before he enlisted in the Australian Expeditionary Force. 

I can tell you that Yeo is a common Devon name.  It derives from an old word for stream or small river.  Many Yeo families moved to Australia.

If you are researching the Yeo name, I suggest you check out the work of Mrs. Sheila Yeo of Devon at:
She has links to a number of helpful databases and sites, including information on a Yeo DNA Study, Yeo excerpts from civil records, short biographies of Yeo branches in Australia, even lists of Yeos killed in the wars.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

X is for X Marks the Spot

Where eXactly was Martha Burrows born?

Let's start with an easier question:  who was Martha Burrows?  She was my sweetie's great-great-grandmother.  We think that she was Martha Perry before marrying James Burrows.  She was born around 1825 and had at least seven children:  Alfred, Samuel, Mary, Emma, James, Ellen and Ann.  She died in 1907.

But where did she come from?  All I can confidently say is that she was born in Somerset, England.  Here's what the census records tell us that she was born:
  • about 1824 in Bathaelton, Somerset, according to the 1851 and 1861 Censuses of England, when the information was presumably given by her husband James as head of the household.
  • about 1826 in Milverton, Somerset, according to the 1871 Census of England, when she would have given the information as head of the household (she was widowed by then).
  • about 1825 in Hurstone, Somerset, according to the 1881 Census of England, information again from herself.
  • about 1825 in Wiviliscombe, Somerset, according to the 1891 Census of England, where this time the information as likely given by her son-in-law Henry Cottrell.
  • and finally about 1825 in Ashbrittle, Somerset, according to the 1901 Census of England, where the information would likely have been provided by her widowed daughter Emma Parsons.
That's five different birthplaces in six census returns.  When I first started tracing her, I wasn't even sure all these Martha Burrows were one woman, but I believe that they are.

Eventually, I looked at a map.  Hurstone was tough to find.  It doesn't appear to be a village or hamlet but a house or school near Waterrow, not far from town of Wiviliscombe.  The rest are villages and civil parishes forming a crescent moon shape in the far east of Somerset county, England very close to Devon.  All are now part of the Taunton Deane District but were formerly in the Wellington Rural District of Somerset.

I've noticed my West Cork relatives giving a variety of places of birth.  Having been born on a farm in a small townland, they gave the name of a nearby town when asked their birthplace.  I know to expect Bantry, Durrus, Schull and Ballydehob from the Moynihans.  I can imagine that if Martha was born in the country she may have done something similar, giving the name of any of the neighbouring villages.

It is frustrating to know that I may never track down where exactly she was born.  It was before civil records.  I did once find a possible Martha Perry on an index of Wellington District baptismal records.  I'll have to track that down, once I am more certain Perry was her maiden name.

TIP:  Consider the source.

I should take this opportunity to note that genealogists are frequently faced with conflicting information.  When a birthplace is given in a census record, it is considered a primary source when the information is provided by someone who would have first hand knowledge of the individual's birth, such as the person's parents.  Otherwise, it is generally a secondary source.  A spouse, child, in-law or employer may or may not know the correct information about an individual's birth.  Even the individual herself may not know her own birthplace if her family moved when she was very young.  Looking at Martha's six census records, I would tend to put the most weight on the information given when Martha herself was the head of household.  Yet Hurstone (near Waterrow) and Milverton are as far apart as any of her reported birthplaces get.

So, I must confess, X does not mark the spot.  I've spent hours researching and don't yet know eXactly where Martha was born.

Do you know?

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

W is for the Night of the Big Wind

In Irish, it's called "Oídhche na Gaoithe Móire." The Night of the Big Wind took place at Epiphany in 1839. My great-great-grandparents had been married less than a year and I believe they were living at Shantullig North in West Cork at this time. Epiphany is the feast of the three kings bringing gifts to the Baby Jesus. But in Ireland in 1839, Epiphany was about loss.

From the reports I have read, the severity of this particular storm was due to the convergence of different weather systems. First, the country experience heavy snowfall on January 5th. The next morning, on the Feast of the Epiphany, an Atlantic warm front came in. Temperatures rose and dense cloud covered the nation. The snow of the previous day began to melt. Later that day, an Atlantic depression brought a cold front. When it hit the warm air, severe rain and wind were the result. The winds were hurricane force. Imagine what the countryside looked like after such a storm, with its flooding and wind. Many were left homeless. Roofs were blown off, chimneys collapsed, fires broke out. Up to 300 souls were lost. Many animals died and crops set aside for the winter were scattered and destroyed. The impact on tenant farmer with a subsistence living must have been tremendous.

The Night of the Big Wind was such a momentous event in Irish history, that when the British established a state pension in 1909 and many Irish could not prove their age, for lack of birth or baptismal registration, people were asked if they remembered the Night of the Big Wind. If they did, they were old enough for the pension.

My family remembered the Night of the Big Wind. Stories about it were passed down through the generations. Here's how my dad tells the story of the Night of the Big Wind:
Blowing snow buried houses and people and cattle froze in the drifts. People had to dig their way out from upstairs windows or through the thatched roofs to get out.  I remember my father tell the story of a traveler on horseback lost in the storm, who rode his horse across the Clais na-Broine, that is the high field, westward to the field of the house. The wind having piled the snow level across the trench and then froze over so that the rider never realized what he had done when he came knocking at Granda's door.
I would point out that in West Cork is as far south as you can get in Ireland. The Gulf Stream comes right up along that coast, keeping the weather quite mild year round. It is so mild, in fact, that in West Cork, you will see many gardens with small palm trees. At Shantullig North, they don't get snow every winter, and they never get much at one time. The Night of the Big Wind was certainly an exception.

To learn more about the Night of the Big Wind, you can read more on the following sites:

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

V is for Vanda

Vanda is an uncommon first name. Except perhaps in my family.  My goodness, you should have been at that family wedding where there was a Vanda, a Fonda and a Wanda in the same room!

My mom was Christened "Vanda Maria."  I was always surprised by that.  Surely Vanda isn't a Saint's name?  Well apparently, there was a Saint Vando, also known as Wando von Fontenelle, who was a Benedictine Abbot in France in the 8th Century.  Would you believe there was also a Blessed Vanna?  Short for Giovanna.  I never thought of Vanna being a nickname for Giovanna.  She's also known as Blessed Joan of Orivieto.  Anyway...
Vanda is also a type of orchid.  This picture is courtesy of Keattikorn.  You'll see on Fotosearch that Vandas come in a variety of colours and shapes.  Check out the blog Another Yard in Fort Pierce to see more beautiful Vandas.

One year, I bought my mother a Vanda orchid for her birthday.  I was pretty proud of that idea.  Unfortunately, the orchid probably needed a specialized environment.  I don't think it ever flowered.  Bummer.
 Agatha Christie had characters named Vanda in two of her books.  Vanda Polonska appeared in "N or M?"  That's one of the Tommy and Tuppence books, which I love.  There is also a Vanda Chevenix in "Dead Man's Mirror" or at least in the Poirot episode.

By coincidence, there is also a murder mystery writer from New Zealand named Vanda Symon.  I haven't read any of her books yet, but I noticed this blog post of hers which reviews the book "The Poisonous Pen of Agatha Christie" by Michael C. Gerald.  I went on an Agatha Christie tear a couple of years ago and read every one of her books and short stories that I could get my hands on.  I still have to read one last one, "The Clocks."  Our library didn't have it in print form.

One last thing about Vanda: Vandas are great cooks.  In our house, when a dish has been particularly well-prepared, we say it's been "vandalized."

Monday, 25 April 2011

U is for Udine

As far as I knew when I was growing up, my grandfather and his Bertolo family were from the Udine.  That's how they said it, "the Udine."  Udine, is in the Friuli region in the north of Italy. (I started to write Ireland there; clearly my coffee hasn't woken me up yet!)

I also knew they were from a village called Bannia.  Eventually, I started to pursue genealogy and needed a better sense of where they came from.  That was in the early days of the Internet.  Ancestry didn't exist back then.  but I was searching out people named Bertolo from around the world.  The one I found in Sudbury, Ontario was a cousin.  The lovely fellow in the Friuli I couldn't connect to our tree.

It was time to look at a map. 

This is the Friuli.  You see Udine right in the middle.  On a detailed map you'll find Bannia just south-east of the City of Pordenone.  Bannia is a "frazione," remember.  It is a village forming part of a smallish town.  You need a detailed map to see it, and I couldn't find a royalty-free one.

So why is it so far away from Udine?  Well, Italy is divided into regions (e.g. the Friuli) and each region is further divided into provinces.  Back in 1913, when my grandfather came to Canada, Bannia was in the province of Udine.  Wikipedia says that the province of Pordenone was created out of part of the province of Udine in 1968.  Long after my folks left.

It's a bit odd to blog about the province my family isn't from (or isn't from anymore), but that's the sort of thing that happens when you're following and A to Z challenge and have to blog on U. Come back later in the week and see what we can make of X, Y and Z.  I'll give you a hint, Z is delicious.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

T is for Treasure

When I was a little girl, maybe even younger than the Bean is now, my grandmother (we called her Ma) gave me treasure.  I remember sitting at the big table in the kitchen with Ma, studying it.

Ma gave me a single gold earring and three religious medals.  One was of the Virgin Mary and child, with a light blue background.  I think Catholics around the world recognize the colour "Virgin Mary blue."  On the other side of the first medal is a male saint holding a cross, with a head or maybe a skull on the table beside him.  I had a heck of a time figuring out which saint he was but after an hour or so of Googling, I'm pretty sure he was St. Gerard Majella.  I'm embarrassed that I didn't recognize him, having attended St. Gerard Majella parish for at least a decade in Sault Ste. Marie.

The other two medals are identical.  In the picture above you can see the two sides of the medal:  on one side is Pope Pius X and on the other is the Virgin Mary's assumption into Heaven.

As a little girl, I'll admit, the medals didn't mean a lot to me.  But I was pretty excited to have a gold earring.  Still, I was needed to know it really was gold.  So, I bit it.  See the marks?

I have treated this much better since the day I received and bit it.  I usually bring it and my rosary with me when I travel.  To keep it safe or to keep me safe?  I'm not sure.

This is a treasure,one of many treasures from my grandmother, not the least of which was my time with Ma.

Friday, 22 April 2011

S is for the Skibbereen Heritage Centre

When I was in Ireland in 2008, my West Cork cousins were kind enough to take me to into Skibbereen town to visit the Skibbereen Heritage Centre

The Centre has a Great Famine Commemoration Exhibition.  As you probably know, the Irish famine in the 1840s, known as the Great Hunger, hit West Cork particularly hard.  To quote the Centre's website:
From newspaper accounts of the time, Skibbereen was depicted as being symbolic of the destitution and hardship caused by the failure of the potato crop. Between 8,000 and 10,000 unidentified souls are buried in the Famine graveyard at Abbeystrewery near Skibbereen.
In addition to helping to teach people how our West Cork ancestors lived and died, the Centre provides assistance with genealogical studies.  When I visited, a lovely lady found and copied the Griffith's Valuation and 1901 Irish Census forms for my Moynihan and Leahy ancestors.  Today we're lucky to be able to access them free online.  The Centre also holds parish registers for a number of West Cork Roman Catholic parishes, alas not Schull, and will do lookups.

The Skibbereen Heritage Centre website provides a variety of information, including the following searchable databases:  Loan Fund Database, Graveyard Database, and Townland Database.  There are also links to resources, genealogical or not.

I would encourage you to visit the Heritage Centre if you're in West Cork.  If you're not, and have West Cork heritage, check out the Centre's website.

Before I go, let me share with you what made me do a double-take on leaving the Skibbereen Heritage Centre.

OK, I realise that seeing a blue Honda Civic isn't surprising, even one this old.  Look at the sticker on the hatch, above the lights on the left:
Barrie Honda.  Now Barry is a common Irish name.  Barry's Tea is very popular.  But "Barrie" isn't in Ireland.  It is in Ontario.  I recognised the sticker, because I'd seen it on Hondas owned by my family members, in Ontario, not West Cork.  I still wasn't sure that this car was from Barrie, Ontario till I looked more closely at the steering wheel.  Look.  Left hand drive as opposed to the cars on either side.

Why on earth there was a car from Barrie Honda in the parking lot of the Skibbereen Heritage Centre in West Cork!  Any guesses?

Thursday, 21 April 2011

R is for Rosa Bacchiochi AKA Rosone

My great-grandfather Augusto Mattioli’s mother was Rosa Bacchiochi. She was known as Rosone, which means Big Rosa.

The story goes that Rosa would go to the neighbourhood bar and order some bread and wine. Usually, she would finish the bread before she finished the wine, so she would order more bread. But then she’d finish the wine and still have bread. So, she would order more wine. This could go on for some time. I suspect she had to be carried home.

No wonder she was Big Rosa.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Q is for Quotations, Familial Quotations

You’ve heard of Familiar Quotations. Here are some Familial Quotations.

Marital Advice
James Moynihan, to his daughter on her wedding day, "Now that you’re married, you’ve got to make the best of it." Initially I found that sad, but after twelve years of marriage I see it as wise. I only want one marriage. I picked the right guy. Now let’s make the best of it. If you look at the Bean, you’ll see we’re on track.

Luisa Bertolo, to one granddaughter on her marriage, "Feed your chickens in your own yard so they don't go pecking in the neighbours yard!"  She told a great-granddaughter to never let a man have all the money and to not let them drink or play cards. She told another granddaughter never to marry a drunk or a loud mouth.

Cooking Advice
Helen Kazuke, when asked how much of an ingredient to use in a dish, "enough."

Lina and Luisa Bertolo, "eat, eat!"

Familiar Sayings
Luigi Bertolo, whenever we arrived at his house, "What’d you bring me?" When his brother Frank died years later, I could see him being met by Louie at the Pearly Gates with the same question.

Floyd Freamon, almost any day, but especially during an energetic game of Pass the Ace, "great gobs of rat shit!"  And a favourite of one granddaughter, "bless your pea pickin' li'l heart."

Mary Freamon, "well, shit."

Gordon Burrows, after a sneeze, "God bless my pointy little head." Or when confronted by something sticky, "that sticks like shit to a woolly blanket." During a long, detailed reminiscence, "but he’s dead now."

Luisa Bertolo, "mamma mia!" and "eh, what you goin' to do?"  Then there is "mannaggia!" and my personal favourite, "accidenti!" both of which are roughly the Italian equivalents of "darn it."

The Unexpected
Vanda Moynihan, after a couple of weeks in Italy, thinking back on buying a bunch of gifts in Loreto, "Kathy, I think we got hosed on the rosaries."

James Moynihan, after I confessed to kicking a hole in the wall (aiming at my brother), "well, that’s a fine kettle of fish."

Kevin Moynihan, in response to his father’s suggestions for repairing a fan on a wonky stand, "I do NOT need a screw!"

Gordon Burrows, a man known for long stories and corny jokes: "We were so poor, my parents had to cut a hole in the front of my pants to give me something to play with." That’s a nice one to use on your son’s new girlfriend. Lucky for me, I’m not easily frightened.

Last words
Lina Bertolo, from her hospital bed, days before her death, "Kathy, I’m finished."

Gordon Burrows, as the priest finished praying over him, "Amen," which means "so be it."

And here is one final bit of advice from Ma, Luisa Bertolo:  "go to church."  You can start this Sunday.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

P is for Podcasts

I don’t know about you, but I’m new to podcasts. Have you tried them yet? After attending a BIFHSGO meeting a few months back on podcasts, I took the plunge.

A podcast is like an on-demand radio show. Podcast producers typically have a weekly or monthly schedule and, on their websites, they publish program notes and a downloadable sound file of the show. Most shows last about 45 minutes to one hour. Often, they include interviews. You can listen to the show from your computer or copy it onto your MP3 player. You can also subscribe to a favourite podcast to receive it automatically.  And they're generally free.

I'll be honest with you, it took me a while to figure out how to subscribe and how to access what I'd subscribed to. There are some options. I'll just tell you how I got it to work.

I loaded iTunes on my computer. From the iTunes Store, I searched the available podcasts by keyword (try genealogy and family history). Then I selected the ones to which I wanted to subscribe. Now, each time I open iTunes, it automatically downloads the newest podcasts onto my computer. iTunes also shows me past podcasts from a particular series and I can click the "Get" button to manually download ones of interest.  That was the straightforward part.  I had trouble figuring out where iTunes was putting my podcasts. Eventually, I found them saved in My Libraries\Music\iTunes\iTunesMedia\Podcasts. From there I could easily copy them to the MP3 player. I found this article on Ancestry that provides information on podcasts, including how to listen to them and how to make them.

There are several worthwhile genealogy podcasts to consider. You can find genealogy podcasts on Cyndi's List or simply by Googling "genealogy podcast." Here's a little bit about the podcasts I enjoy:

The Genealogy Guys Podcast is generally posted once or twice a month  Drew and George report on newly available genealogical collections and genealogy news.

Family Tree Magazine's Podcast is a monthly podcast hosted by Lisa Louise Cooke which "takes you behind the scenes to learn more about the topics covered in the magazine.  Lisa has two other podcasts.  Genealogy Gems episodes are available twice a month and cover a variety of topics such as new sources of information and new technologies.  She no longer appears to be producing Family History: Genealogy made Easy, which was targeted to new genealogists, but the old episodes, up to the Fall of 2009 are available from iTunes.

I would also recommend you check out the Irish Roots Café, which has several podcast series offered through its Hedge Row School.  I like the "Hello Fada" series of short introductions to the Irish language. If you want three ways to say how are you as well as how to answer, Hello Fada is for you. The podcast "Counting up" reminded me of my dad teaching me to count to 10 in Irish when I was a kid.  The Hedge Row School also offers podcasts on "Irish Family History."  Each episode features particular surnames and locations.  This one is offered in two versions:  plain audio and photo enhanced.  You can also find "Irish Songs and Recitation," "Irish in America" and "Irish History."

I hope you'll try some of these out.  They are fantastic resources both for the beginner and experienced genealogists.  Some days, I wish my bus ride was longer, so I could listen to more of them!

Monday, 18 April 2011

O is for Oro alla Patria

After my grandmother, Luisa Bertolo (née Mattioli), died in 2009, I helped my family clean out the seniors apartment she had been living in for over twenty years. It was a compact little apartment, but Ma (as we all called her) kept a lot in there. With her increasing dementia, she had been hiding valuables for some time. We were all told to check every pocket, every box, even the sugar bowl, in case she may have hidden something there.

In the end, one of the treasures we found wasn’t hidden away at all. It was lying on the floor and could easily have been discarded.

This is the story of Oro alla Patria.
Once we had removed almost everything from the apartment, we started cleaning. Dad was vacuuming near the kitchen when he heard the vacuum knock something metallic. He bent over and picked up what seemed to be some sort of steel band. He put it on the stove and continued vacuuming. I came by a while later and saw this thing on the stove. I picked it up and gave it a good “what the heck is this” look. Hmm. It appeared to be made of steel. It was two centimetres in diameter and a half-centimetre thick. It was rounded over, like a ring for your finger. I looked inside and was surprised to see engraving: ORO ALLA PATRIA 18.11.35.XIV.[another digit or three I can't make out].

What the heck?!? Oro alla Patria?!?

That evening, I showed the ring to Aunty Mary. She said that Ma had been wearing that ring for a few months before she died, but Aunty Mary hadn’t seen the ring before that.

When I googled Oro alla Patria at Aunty Mary’s, I found that back in the mid-1930s, Italy was suffering from the economic recession and and Mussolini asked Italians to give their gold to the government. The campaign was called “Oro alla patria” or gold for the fatherland. Apparently his wife donated her wedding rings and Marconi gave his Senatorial medal.  In return, some people were given steel armbands or rings engraved Oro alla Patria.

How had this ring come to be in Ma's home? Mom remembered a story about Ma’s mother having given up her wedding band.  But Nona Filomena had come to Canada in 1929, with Ma and Aunty Lina. Her husband Augusto had been here for over fifteen years at that point.

But, in 1938, Nona Filomena returned to Italy to sell the house there before the Second World War – good thing, because when Mom and I were in Fano in 2000, the house could no longer be found. (One day I’ll try to find out if it was bombed in the war or the city just decided to tear it down.)  It could be that she decided, while she was in Italy, to give up her wedding ring and received the steel ring in its place.

Why would she give up the ring? Was she so loyal to Mussolini, even after a decade in Canada? Was she pressured to give it up while she was there, perhaps to facilitate the sale of the house? Or did it reflect her feelings about her marriage?  In another post, I’ll tell you more about Augusto, but in short, he doesn’t appear to have been an ideal husband.

We don’t even know for sure that it was Nona who received the steel ring or what she gave up for it. I may be able to get a record from Italian archives to confirm if it was Nona. Even so, we would never know why she would have given up her ring.

I imagine that Nona’s gold wedding band would have greater monetary value than this steel ring. But money isn’t everything.

What do you have from your grandmother or greatgrandmother? Does it have monetary value or sentimental

Saturday, 16 April 2011

N is for Nora's School Paper

I mentioned in the “H is for Hanora” post that I stumbled upon a piece of my Aunty Nora’s homework once when I Googled “Hanora Moynihan.” Let me tell you more about that.

Google took me to the Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive and the "Schools' Manuscript Collection - My Home District / Bailiuchan na Scol - Mo Cheantar Féin" from 1936-37." The collection description says, "this sub-collection consists of a series of selected essays by schoolchildren from participating counties in Munster and Connacht entitled 'My Home District', a topographical description of their own locality which they were encouraged to write."

The children were encouraged to consult their parents and elders in the community and write up some of the history of their areas. I’ve looked at a few in the collection – and unfortunately, unlike what we’ve gotten used to with some other digitized collections like on Ancestry, you cannot browse this collection. You can however search in two useful ways. If you search by family name, you will get results either for the child who was the author of the paper, or sometimes for the adult who provided the information. You can also type in the name of a townland of interest and see if a paper was done on it. It is hit and miss. It would appear that a few children per school were selected, so not all townlands in Munster (Counties Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, Clare and Waterford) and Connacht (Counties Galway, Mayo. Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon) were covered. I did however find a full list of the papers included in the collection here.

My Aunt Nora’s paper, titled “My Home District,” lists the families resident at Shountullig, allowing us to compare the information to the previous censuses (which I will do in a future post on Shountullig). She was 12 when she prepared the paper. Here is the text:
“The name of my townland is Shountullig. It is in the parish of Schull and in the West Division of West Carbery. There is a population of about forty-six people in it. There is one Cullinane family, one Sullivan family, three Levis families, one Donovan family, one Moynihan family, one Hayes family, one Hodnett family and one Copithorne family and one Hegarty man in the townland. There are four Protestant families and seven Catholic families in it. There is but one person over seventy living there. She is eighty-three years of age. Her name is Mrs. Moynihan.
Houses were more numerous in former times. The old ruins were knocked down and drawn away. Some people sold their farms and went to live in America or Australia and other countries.

Nora Moynihan,




Obtained from my father, John Moynihan, 40 years”
Perhaps you didn’t realize that in the Republic of Ireland there were so many Protestant families, over forty percent in this townland. In West Cork, the Catholic and Protestant families lived and worked closely together. It was only a year or so ago, when I was studying the 1901 and 1911 Censuses, that I realized that the Levis family that my dad had spoken of with such regard was a Protestant family.

Aunty Nora’s paper leaves us with one mystery.

Who is the eighty-three year old Mrs. Moynihan? There was only one Moynihan family in the townland, my dad’s. Their grandmother, who would have been a Mrs. Moynihan, had died in 1933. Who was this Mrs. Moynihan? Perhaps she was a mother-in-law living with one of the other families? We haven’t figured it out yet. Dad very young in 1936 and doesn’t remember. He called Aunty Nora in Ireland and she couldn’t recall either. Would you remember the details of homework you did seventy-five years ago?

P.S. Wasn’t her handwriting lovely?

Friday, 15 April 2011

M is for Munster

Ireland is divided into four provinces:  Munster, Ulster, Connacht, and Leinster. Munster makes up the south-west corner of Ireland and includes the following counties:  Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford.

My dad is a Munster man.  He was born in Munster.  And his surname, Moynihan, means "Munsterman."  I was going to tell you all about the name Moynihan today, but I will have to save that for another day.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

L is a Limerick

There once was a girl named Kate,
who had a discouraging trait:
no matter what makeup
or perfume or hairdo,
she couldn't find someone to date.
By Katherine Moynihan
(who, as you know, managed eventually to find someone great to date)

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

K is for Katie Leahy

This is Katie Leahy, my grandmother, with her father Dick Leahy.  The photo was taken in the early 1900s, likely at their home in Gortnamona, in West Cork

The other day, I mentioned Irish naming patterns.  I was named after Katie because I'm the first-born daughter in my family.  I have three cousins named Catherine for the same reason (though one is the second-born girl -- one day I have to ask about that).

Katie died in 1959, shortly after my dad came to Canada... years before I was born.  She had had a series of strokes that had weakened her before her death.  That's about all I know about her.  Recently, dad mentioned the his mom used to crochet -- baby clothes and things.

My girl, the Bean, is also named after her paternal grandmother, who also died years before she was born.  Her Baba was Helen Kazuke.  We don't have a lot of pictures of Baba, but there are two in the family room, where they should be.  And we tell the Bean lots of stories about her Baba.

I think a girl should know who her grandmother is.  My grandmother and the Bean's both crocheted.  So do the Bean and I. 

What do you have in common with your grandmother?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

J is for Jeremiah

It is fitting that my grandparents were Hanora and Jeremiah.  Both names are somewhat peculiar to West Cork and both have a few variations.

The Jeremiahs in my family have been known as Jerh or Jerry.  You will occasionally find Jer.  And when I was in Ireland in 1989, I met a colourful fellow known by the short form Miah. 

I like the idea of naming a girl Jeremiah and calling her Miah for short.  Wouldn't that be cool?  My Sweetie didn't think so.

Did you know that Dermot is a form of Jeremiah?  From what I've read, there was a period of time when the Catholic Church operating in Ireland tried to Latinize names.  You'll see this also in some old Sault Ste. Marie Catholic records where the Italian Marys I know were baptized Maria.  It's less obvious to Latinize Irish Gaelic names. Apparently, Con and Connor became Cornelius.  And Dermot and Diarmaid became Jeremiah.  Another form of Dermot, and hence Jeremiah, is Darby.  We refer to our original Moynihan ancestor (as far back as we have been able to take the tree) as Big Darby Mynehane.  You'll find him called Jeremiah Mynehane on some Ancestry trees online.

One last thing.  In case you don't yet have the song running through your head, let me share what inspired this post:  "Jeremiah was a Bullfrog."

No he wasn't, he was my ancestor.

Monday, 11 April 2011

I is for Irish Censuses

In a number of previous posts, I have mentioned the Irish Census of 1901 and 1911.  Wondering why I haven't mentioned earlier censuses?  Censuses were taken in Ireland every ten years starting in 1821, but very little of them survive.  This page from the Irish National Archives tells you which counties have some (I repeat "some") remaining early censuses.

Because so little is available, many Irish family historians rely on census substitutes such as the Griffith's Valuation which list the heads of households of virtually all the households in Ireland.  The information in the Griffith's Valuation is certainly helpful but it does not give you a full list of inhabitants nor any indication of dates of birth.

As such, for those of us whose ancestors left Ireland late, the 1901 and 1911 Irish Censuses offer a gold mine of information.  The data varies somewhat between the two censuses, but I've found wonderful information such as:
  • Occupations -- My people were mostly farmers, but I learned that between 1901 and 1911, cousin Patrick Moynihan in Caherolickane became a shopkeeper as well as farmer.
  • Who could speak Irish -- My great-grandfather Jeremiah Moynihan could, so could my great-great-grandfather Patrick Leahy.
  • Who was blind -- Patrick knew Irish but could no longer read it, as he was blind at age 80.
  • At what age my grandparents' generation learned to read -- My grandparents were four and five in the 1901 census.  They couldn't read yet but their siblings over age 7 could.
  • How many children a woman had -- The 1911 Census tells me that my great-grandmother Hanora (Harnedy) Moynihan had ten children but only 9 were still living.
Perhaps the best thing about the Irish Censuses is that they are available free online.  The Irish Archives partnered with Library and Archives Canada to digitize the 1901 and 1911 Censuses.  I love this line from the Irish Archives site:   "As a fellow national archival institution,  Library and Archives Canada share our values in relation to preservation of, and access to, our documented heritage."

Yay Canada!