Quote of the Week

Well, quote of my week, anyway …

On the Troy Irish Genealogy Society email list, a post from David O’Brien laments the evil fate that made him the descendant of ancestors with names like John O’Brien and Michael O’Neil:

They shouldn’t have let people with two of most common names in Ireland
marry.  And if it were permitted, they should have at least barred them
from naming their kids John and Michael.  I don’t see how our ancestors
could have been so inconsiderate to future genealogists

As a person who married a Lynch — I feel your pain!


Links 6.21.10

I see that somebody on Facebook declared a National Backup Day in 2008 (they picked Aug. 26). Good idea; ought to revisit it. This week is beginning with the apparent demise of our family’s oldest Mac laptop, an iBook G4 that is already on its second hard drive. The Archaeologist’s clever husband revived it briefly using some advice from an Apple user forum plus a strategically placed handful of outdated business cards (don’t ask). But this was only a temporary fix. Fortunately, it bought us time for one more quick backup. How long since your last backup? If you can’t remember, please do one!

Now on to the links.

Another apparent demise: Dick Eastman writes a thought-provoking essay about the decline of the desktop computer. Will computer use be completely portable in just a few years? Will everyone have a permanent squint from teeny-tiny monitor displays? As a matter of fact, will a new generation of mothers have a new warning: “Plug that thing into the external monitor, do you want to go BLIND”? Only time will tell, but according to Dick, the statistics are pretty clear that desktop use is fading.

Missing fathers: I see I wasn’t the only one with missing fathers on the brain this past weekend. Martin Rigby of the Liverpool Echo was thinking about them too, and the problems they pose in Victorian records of illegitimate births. A very useful overview.

More Irish records: First the 1901 census, now this; the Irish have been busy. The Irish Times reports that Ireland’s Minister for Culture has unveiled a new website containing more than 2 million records for Kerry, Cork, Dublin and Carlow. Many of the records are Church of Ireland, but there are also Roman Catholic records for Kerry as well as south and west Cork. Happy hunting.

Faster, but not fun: Springfield (Mass.) family historian John O’Connor writes an engaging account of the genealogy field trip that first hooked him onto family history research. He asks whether the explosion of online data has gained us speed but lost us the fun factor. In my usual rock-solid, decisive way, I find myself saying … yes and no. See what you think. And enjoy the week.

Links 06.07.10

This week we’ve got a lot of grave tidings and record achievements. Cliche watchers, take note.

Cemetery records suit: A Virginia genealogy society was unsuccessful in proving ownership of a collection of cemetery records being offered for sale in CD and book form by a local museum. The U.S. District Court ruling means that the Bedford (Va.) Museum and Genealogical Library can continue to offer the items for sale. The case was more about procedure than genealogy. It hinged on whether, in voting to incorporate last year, the society was really the true successor to the parent group, an unincorporated volunteer group organized as an affiliate of the museum. The court held that the entire membership should have been notified of the vote in order for it to be valid. An interesting case to consider for volunteer genealogy societies amassing record collections.

Irish census of 1901: Meanwhile, across the pond, excitement reigns over the release of the 1901 Irish census, the earliest complete Irish population count available. The records took five years and 4 million euros to digitize, and join the 1911 census online for Irish researchers. (Many 19th-century Irish records were lost in a 1922 fire at the Public Records Office, during the Irish civil war.) The BBC’s website summarizes the news angles nicely, including examples of famous folks and their census forms.

Also in Ireland: This news item popped up, containing an intriguing reference to a proposed merger of the Irish National Archives, the Irish Manuscripts Commission and the National Library of Ireland into a new national library/archive. The legislation is to be introduced by the end of this year, said Fianna Fáil leader Brian Cowen.

“Uncle” is correct: I love genealogy stories that bring distant history close to living generations, and this one is a classic. An Ohio man recently succeeded in replacing the official grave marker for his uncle, who served in the Civil War. Yes, you read that right. Sid Sines, a WWII veteran himself,  belongs to what must be a small group of living Americans with a biological uncle who fought in the Civil War. Sines’ father Martin (born 1868) was the product of Simon Sines’ second marriage. The Civil War soldier, James (born 1844), was an elder child of Simon’s first marriage. Martin waited until he was 52 to marry, and Sid was born in 1922. A perfect storm of genealogy circumstance! Congratulations to Sid on replacing his uncle’s marker — the original was vandalized 30 years ago.

Links 6.1.10

Sorry about the Monday-links-on-Tuesday thing. I was intending to post them as usual, but what started out as a brief intro about Memorial Day ran away with me and became a post of its own.

Well, here are the links to help you ease back into Real Life after the long weekend.

The Great Hunger: You might have seen the hullabaloo about the proposed auction of a collection of letters written by Irish landowners during the years of the great famine. After much concern that a private collector would snap them up, an archive bought the letters and it looks as if they will stay in Ireland.  In the aftermath, one columnist had an interesting answer to the question posed by many letter writers to the Irish Times: “Why don’t we have a famine museum?” Apparently there is one, but people don’t know it exists.

A fab genealogy job: I feel very stupid, but until this week, I did not know there was such a thing as a professional probate genealogist. Now I do. The title is now stuck in my head as part of an imaginary detective yarn: “Lynch here; professional probate genealogist. I understand there’s been a discrepancy in a birthdate.”

Finding graves: Did you see the current 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy challenge on exploring Find-A-Grave? Get fired up with this interesting profile of an active Find-A-Grave volunteer — how she got started and what it’s really like chasing down headstones.

Military matters: Memorial Day reminiscing can be an on-ramp to the genealogy highway. If this past weekend got you curious about a military ancestor, here are some good places to start: the military section of Cyndi’s List; a nice primer at Olive Tree Genealogy; and of course, the military records section at the National Archives.

Summer is here, people. You can wear your white shoes now. Go get ’em!

Naming Traditions, Irish-Style

Every so often on listserves or genealogy forums the topic of Irish (and Scottish) naming conventions comes up. This is the tradition by which children in a family are named after a specifically ordered sequence of ancestors.

When you have blank spots in your family tree, as I still do with my paternal great-grandmother, talk of the Irish naming tradition can be only a tantalizing clue to shadowy identities. Still, it’s fun to know about. And when it comes to my father’s family, I think it might possibly be a factor behind his quirky first-name story.

Recently I compiled one of my primitive but useful charts, comparing what tradition dictated to what my father and his siblings were actually named. Note that some sources say the tradition didn’t really apply after the third son or daughter — subsequent names were the parents’ choice. But let’s go for the whole enchilada, shall we?

Naming Tradition Should Have Been (if known) Child Actually Named
1st son  after father’s father Joseph Raymond
2nd son after mother’s father Peter Francis
3rd son after father Raymond Joseph
4th son after father’s oldest brother Joseph Peter
5th son after mother’s oldest brother (sometimes father’s 2nd oldest brother) Francis

(father’s 2nd brother: Leo)


So we see that by the first quarter of the 20th century, when these babies started arriving, my grandparents weren’t following hallowed Celtic tradition. Still, at the time my father, Peter, came along, his parents had already named sons after the father and the father’s father. And that was supposed to be that, because according to one of my aunts, my grandmother had no intention of naming a child after her own father. (Nothing personal; she just didn’t care for the name.) However, her mother-in-law absolutely insisted the new baby be named Peter.

Until I heard about the naming tradition, I could think of no reason (other than bizarre obstinacy) that my paternal great-grandmother would be so worked up about a maternal-side name. But perhaps she felt that the ancient ways must be served. Or perhaps she was just really stubborn. Anyway, my dad was named Peter, and his mother called him by his middle name, Jerome, for the rest of her life. Ah, tradition!

Now, let’s check out the situation with the daughters:

Naming Tradition Should Have Been (if known) Child Actually Named
1st daughter after mother’s mother (or father’s mother) Catherine (Kate) Catherine
2nd daughter after father’s mother (or mother’s mother) Catherine Virginia
3rd daughter after mother Margaret Dorothy
4th daughter after mother’s oldest sister Catherine (Yes, we like this name in my family) Bernadette
5th daughter after father’s oldest sister (sometimes mother’s 2nd oldest sister) Gertrude Margaret
6th daughter after mother’s 2nd sister (possibly) Not known Joan

This is a good time to wonder out loud what was supposed to happen with the naming tradition if several ancestors in the sequence shared a name. In this case, both grandmothers, along with my grandmother’s half-sister, were named Catherine. (There’s a similar problem in my boys’ chart, with two Josephs.) If you know, do not be afraid to be a smarty-pants in the comments.

I don’t mean to pooh-pooh tradition with my chart-making. As I dig deeper into the family’s Irish ancestry, the naming traditions may have stronger meaning. For many researchers of Irish ancestors, the tradition has been important in piecing together family relationships.

But it does seem that my grandparents, if they were aware of the Irish naming tradition, didn’t feel honor-bound to uphold it. They went their own way – which is, really, a typical American story.

Ancestral Dish: Soda Bread 101

Top of the morning to you!  Now, kindly put down that cellophane-wrapped loaf of soda bread.

Why is Irish soda bread on a supermarket shelf, anyway? It does not have a shelf life. Heck, it barely has a plate life. It tastes great – but it does not keep. Fortunately, soda bread is ridiculously easy to make, so when it gets dry and crumbly (and it will, it will), you can always freshen things up.

In Irish houses, it was the everyday, cheap bread baked and eaten daily. As Irish cooking expert Rory O’Connell tells Epicurious, it’s the epitome of a daily staple: not pretty, but easy and tasty.

Plain soda bread tends to go fast, which is a good thing, believe me.

In her charming Recipes for a Perfect Marriage, novelist Morag Prunty sums up Irish soda bread nicely: “Every woman found her own way of doing it, and the ingredients were certainly never measured except in the cook’s eye for what looked right. You might be feeling generous the odd morning, and add a handful of fruit or a spoonful of cooking fat if you had it on hand. After a while, you learned how much flour would suit you and how much buttermilk would wet it.”

There are many, many soda bread recipes out there, but the one that made the most sense to me first appeared in 2005 on the foodie site 101 Cookbooks. It’s a good solid blueprint recipe, and at this point, I can say I have a system down. But as Prunty writes, the cook is always free to use her imagination. I expect this bread to continue evolving.

The recipe’s on the jump, if you want to have a go at it. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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