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Christmas Genealogy

Christmas is often said to be a time for family but I say it’s a time for family history. Getting the family together often leads to great discussions and stories about people now gone, or maybe it’s time to get a DNA sample?

Why not buy someone in your family the gift of a voucher for research or to take my next beginner’s course, which starts again at the end of January in Malahide Community School on Tuesday nights.

 

Some people want to know their family history and others want to research it themselves. Either way, I can help you!

 

 

William George Kent 1888-1915

William George Kent is, to the best of my knowledge, the only member of my extended family to die in World War I, though many others, closer to me, fought and lived. He was my first cousin three times removed, or to put it another way, he was my maternal great-grandfather, Frederick Walters’ first cousin.

William was the third child of Harriet Ure and Richard Kent. Harriet was my great-great grandmother’s sister. Though both his parents came from Dublin, William was born in Belfast on 21/09/1888.

Richard Kent was a prison warden and he worked variously in Dublin, Derry and Belfast throughout his career.  His elder siblings  were Richard and Elizabeth. 3 further sisters: Mary, Margaret and Elsie did not survive childhood, and his final sibling, Jonathan, was born in 1897. The family was Church of Ireland.

By the time of the 1901 Census, the family was living at 26 Bennett St in Londonderry. In 1911, the family had moved to Abercorn Road and taken in some lodgers. However, William had already moved out and joined the army. He was in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was stationed for a time in India with the 1st Battalion before the regiment was recalled at the beginning of the war in 1914.

The 1st Battalion was part of the force which landed at Helles in Turkey in April 1915. Private William Kent was killed in action at Gallipoli on 22/05/1915.  He was 26 years old.

William was survived by his parents and siblings, who received a war gratuity in 1919 along with his pension.

He is buried in Twelve Copse Cemetery in Helles in Turkey. His entry in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is here.

William is also remembered in St Columb’s Cathedral in Derry, where he sang in the choir and on the city’s Diamond War Memorial.

We remember him with honour.

 

DNA Testing & how to get the best from it

DNA tests are the hot topic for family historians these days. The area can be bewildering and often it can be difficult to decipher the results. What’s a centimorgan? How do you triangulate results? How should you approach contacts? Are ethnicity results nonsense (hint: mostly!)? Should you use Gedmatch? I can answer all these questions and more.

I can help you to understand your autosomal DNA results. Having taken tests with both Ancestry and Family Tree DNA myself, I also manage a number of other people’s kits and have successfully solved a couple of longstanding genealogical brick walls with the help of DNA tests.  See my article in Irish Roots.

If you are considering taking a DNA test, I can also advise the best route for what you hope to achieve.

Remembering the RMS Leinster

RMS Leinster

The story of the sinking of the RMS Leinster on 10th October 1918 is one that always loomed large in my family because my great-great grandfather, Michael Joyce MP, was aboard when it happened. He survived the disaster but more than 550 people lost their lives. The figures are not exact because travel between Ireland and Britain was unregulated.

 

In this centenary week, several commemorative events and talks are taking place. Although it is Ireland’s worst maritime disaster, public memory often remembers the Titanic and the Lusitania over the Leinster. While I have no wish to reduce the memory of these other tragedies, far more Irish people died on the Leinster. Its memory was perhaps forgotten with the whirlwind of the coming War of Independence and the Civil War. In the early year of the Free State, events that happened under British rule were often brushed aside in a wave of new nationalism. Similarly, many men who fought in Word War I did not speak of their experiences.

For a very moving eye witness account of the sinking, see the Irish Times Saturday 6/10/2018 for Hilda Dudgeon’s experience, recounted in a letter to her husband, then serving at the front in France. Her story mentions Michael Joyce in passing.

Michael’s own account was given in the Freeman’s Journal on 11th October 1918. Click on the thumbnail below to open in a larger page. Some quotes from the article:

“I knew at once that the ship had been struck by a torpedo. I put on a lifebelt and went to deck.” 

“After a while, we found that there were people in the water, some of them quite close to us, but we found it impossible to get them aboard. Some were within an ear’s distance of us but they were washed out of our reach. It was heartbreaking to be in such a helpless position, but absolutely helpless we were in the circumstances. Eventually, we succeeded in getting three people aboard…”

“I cannot speak with anything like certainty, the rescue ships arrived in about an hour and half or two hours….I cannot speak in terms too highly appreciative of the officers and men who did all that was possible to make us comfortable.”

Working with the team at the National Maritime Museum in Dun Laoghaire, I’ve helped write some biographies of people who were aboard the RMS Leinster.  This page from the 1918 death registers of Dublin North shows the following people who drowned in the disaster. Their families were perhaps lucky to recover their bodies; many were never found. RIP.

 

Mary Anne Johnson
Patrick Gilligan
Martha Bridge
Lydia Maria Webb
Arthur Adshead
Edwin George Farber
Leslie B. Milkin

A descendant of a woman who should have travelled aboard the Leinster (but did not) told me of his grandfather searching the bodies on the pier in Dun Laoghaire before he knew his wife was safe. What an awful experience to have, and the relief he must have felt when he discovered she was ok.

For further reading on the RMS Leinster, I recommend Philip Lecane’s excellent book Torpedoed! Several of Michael Joyce’s (many many) descendants will attend the commemoration on Wednesday in Dun Laoghaire.

The anchor of the RMS Leinster in Dun Laoghaire

New Autumn Term in Malahide Community School

Booking is now open for the new term of my beginner’s genealogy class in Malahide Community School. Walk-in enrollment will take place on 17th September. Classes will start on Tuesday 2nd October and run for 10 weeks.

Lots of people will have gotten DNA tests over the summer why not learn how to make the most of the results? I’ll be devoting a whole class to this growth area.

Researching your family tree is a growing hobby.  This class teaches you where to begin with Irish sources like the census, birth, death and marriage certificates, then progresses to parish registers, newspapers, wills, land records and the military. No prior knowledge is required but ability to use a computer & the internet is essential, as many genealogy records are now online.

Perseverance is worth it!

One of the common problems for the family historian exploring the new world of DNA testing is people not replying to your messages.

I tested my great-aunt (now 92 & going strong) in the summer of 2015 with Family Tree DNA. As one of only two remaining in my grandparents’ generation, I thought it was important to capture her autosomal DNA. As a nonagenarian, her matches are often of a lower quality reflecting the average age of testers being middle-aged. However,  I was very interested in a match that appeared in April 2017. I have removed the people’s names in this article to protect their privacy.

As you can see, it’s a good strong match of 301 centimorgans and FTDNA estimated a 1st-3rd cousin match. When I reviewed the shared matches, it didn’t really add to my knowledge – apart from close family, I didn’t recognise any of them. So I sent an email. And got no response. This is unfortunately a very typical problem. People are doing DNA tests at the drop of a hat these days and they may have only a casual interest in the results. Add to this the possibility that they’ve changed email or may have even died, and it’s pot luck whether you get a response. I followed up with another email 6 months later and also got no reply.

Last month, a new match appeared for my great-aunt and this person also shared DNA with the first match. They were estimated as a 2nd-3rd cousin with 188 centimorgans in common. Luckily, this person was interested and replied quickly. We soon established a very good contender. We both had someone called Mary Jane Mahony on our trees – their direct ancestor, and a sister to my great-great grandmother, Annie Mahony. A key factor was a surname in common between both these matches. 
Working together, we soon had a good tree for this woman, who died in 1891, but left many children. After a couple of days intensive trawling the records, I had found a second connection between our 2 families and was ready to confirm the second match as a 2nd cousin twice removed of my great-aunt. However, 2 of the lady’s sons were unaccounted for. Based on the census, it was possible one had died young but I wondered about emigration. I decided to send one final email to the first match. This time I asked directly if they might be descended from either of the sons. Bingo! I finally got a reply which confirmed the match was the youngest child of the younger boy, who had gone to England between the 1901 & 1911 censuses. I was able to add almost 100 people to the family tree!

Tips:

  • I’ve started to add in DNA kit numbers to people I have confirmed the link to on my family tree and I’m marking them in a different colour so I can find them easily.
  • Make notes in the DNA database if you have suspicions of how you connect or if you’ve tried to make contact & what success you’ve had.

Tracing your Malahide Ancestors

 

A flower, fruit, vegetable, and industries show, under the auspices of the Fingal Horticultural Society, of which the Right Hon Lord Talbot de Malahide is the president, was opened on Saturday in the St James’ Square Grounds, Malahide. The society, whose object is stated to be “to encourage the culture of flowers, fruit and vegetables, and to promote home industries generally in the district of Fingal,” was formed last year; and Saturday’s show was the first promoted by it. The exhibits were displayed in a substantially erected marquee in the grounds. Freeman’s Journal, 15 July, 1901
The elderly gent with the beard stepping off the grass is thought to be Nathaniel Hone

I’ll be giving a talk to the Malahide Historical Society on Wednesday 11th April 2018 in the Presbyterian church hall in Malahide at 8pm. Non-members are welcome.

I’ve researched a local Malahide family using the census, births, deaths & marriage registers and church & grave records.

Photos used by kind permission of the Malahide Historical Society.

 

Spring Term in Malahide Community School

Booking is now open for the new term of my beginner’s genealogy class in Malahide Community School. Enrolling on Monday 22nd January, where I will also be available to talk to prospective students. Classes will start on Tuesday 30th January and run for 10 weeks.

Lots of people will have gotten DNA tests for Christmas: why not learn how to make the most of the results?

Researching your family tree is a growing hobby.  This class teaches you where to begin with Irish sources like the census, birth, death and marriage certificates, then progresses to parish registers, newspapers, wills, land records and the military. No prior knowledge is required but ability to use a computer & the internet is essential, as many genealogy records are now online.

The stranger in the grave

Glasnevin cemetery claims to have 2 million people buried within its walls, and a substantial portion of my Dublin ancestors are there.

John Long

I got the full details of a grave for a family of Longs, who were related to my great-grandmother, Mary Agnes Long. John Long, a butcher, his wife, Mary Teresa Long née Waters and their son, David Long were all known to me and members of her immediate family. David Long was an electrician and he never married, which explains why he was buried in a grave with his parents. However, it was the fourth person who intrigued me. Mary Anne Long, aged 44 died in 1915. She was a butcher’s wife living at 36 Bride St. I have research my own Long family extensively and her name was not familiar to me. She was chronologically the first person in the grave too. I found her death record on Civil Registers

Unfortunately, she died in the Richmond Hospital and they registered her death, so there’s no helpful family member name but the 1911 Census came to the rescue. This showed her husband was a Myles Long, a butcher, and they were the parents of a large family of then 8 but later 9 children before her untimely death in 1915. Her birth name was Mary Anne Moran.

Myles’ father was also a Myles and he had a brother called Mathew. These brothers were butchers, living on Patrick St. Their families used the same church as mine, St Nicholas de Myra, on Francis St. I suspect that Myles Long, Mary Anne’s husband, was a cousin of John Long.
However, a definitive link, beyond the fact that Mary Anne was buried in their grave, eludes me. John Long’s father, David, does not appear as a godparent or witness in the other family. There’s no death record for him, and only 2 confirmed children – perhaps he died young. John Long does appear as witness and godparent, but it’s a common name.

None of these 3 couples, who are roughly contemporary, all butchers, called Long, living in or around Patrick St, have their parents’ names recorded on their marriages.

I spoke to Lynn Brady, the excellent resident genealogist in Glasnevin and confirmed that John Long purchased the grave in 1908 for the princely sum of £3. There was also a relationship policy in Glasnevin. People buried in the same plot had to be spouses, children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren. Mary Anne Long was listed as John Long’s wife! However, my John Long was married in 1868 and pre-deceased his wife, who is also buried with him. It seems more likely that he fudged the relationship to get Mary Anne buried, especially given the alternative: a bigamous marriage with a woman 30 years his junior, who had 9 children with another man! The fact that this happened underlines the connection between the two families.  One branch was older, more financially secure and prepared for the future.  Mary Anne died unexpectedly and her husband was perhaps in a more precarious position.  Sadly, Myles Long died himself only 5 years after his wife. I don’t know what happened to their children when they lost both parents so young.

Further research produced a tree of some 80 people related to Myles Long, which I’ve now put up on Ancestry in the hopes of making contact with some descendants of this family. There are some partial trees created by people working on this family and I’ve sent messages to all of them. If one or more of them has taken a DNA test, we might be able to prove my hypothesis.

DNA helps solve a family mystery

My ancestor Thomas Henry Guerins had a younger brother called Joseph Francis. Here is the family on the 1911 census in Limerick city. He disappeared at some stage in the late 1910s and was never seen again.

Using a combination of traditional genealogical research methods and DNA testing, I’m thrilled to say that I found out what happened to him. My research is detailed in an article in this months Irish Roots magazine, which is now available in all good newsagents or you can buy a digital edition on their website.