Deenys: So close, yet so far Thursday, Feb 13 2014 

A ride through Killarney

A ride through Killarney

When I found out my paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Smith, I laughed and prepared for an uphill challenge in this ancestry detective work.  A 3rd great-grandfather named John Smith, that threw me for a loop but only momentarily.  I got on that genealogy “train” and headed straight for Michigan, in computer land that is.  However, I never expected to find so many of my own surname living in close proximity.

Growing up, the only people I knew with the surname of Deeny were related to me.  In all my schooling I never once met anyone else with the same last name.  I felt unique and special in knowing that my name was different.  Not that it was easy to spell or pronounce apparently.  We frequently got “Denny” or “Deeney”, so I picked up the habit of spelling it out for the ease of both parties.  Since starting along the family history path, I’ve since learned that the Deeny name has had many spelling origins.  My great-great-grandfather, Thomas, spelled it “Deeney” – and he was the one who immigrated from Ireland sometime prior to 1886.  However, turns out the Deeny/Deeney name traces much, much further back in Ireland.  From research done by distant cousins a few generations older than me, I learned that Deeny is linked back to Dhuibhne.  I am in the midst of learning more about that connection and added Northern Ireland to my list of must-visit places.

Turns out there were many Deenys and Deeneys living in Philadelphia around the same time that my 2nd great-grandparents called Philly home.  However, connecting those Deenys with MY Deenys has proved unsuccessful.  Whether they were cousins or of no relation, I just don’t know.  In doing further research of present day Deenys, there are many of us not only in the States but a great number back across the ocean, in Ireland and England.  Thanks to the wonders of social media, I’ve found some international Deeny relations and hope one day to return back to the land my ancestors emigrated from so many years ago.

In the meantime, I’m busy tracing the lines and connecting the dots of just which Deenys are branches or leaves on my family tree!

Happy searching,


Family Vacation: Take Two Monday, Jan 6 2014 

My parents had a motor home when their four girls were young.  We went to Disney World numerous times, drove out to Texas to visit family (I even got to see the South Fork Ranch), and went up to New Hampshire to visit family friends.  I loved traveling in the motor home.  It was fun.  Sleeping on the top bunk, turning the dining room table into a bed at night, and watching my sisters argue.  Such fun memories!  Well, for most of us.

Sisterly Love

You guessed it…my parents didn’t find it as enjoyable of an experience as we did.  There was the time my sister rolled off the top bunk while sleeping and nearly fell on my grandmother.  Or, the time my older sister and I walked through the Disney campground and nearly got run over by another motor home driver who wasn’t paying attention.  Close quarters with four high-spirited and unique girls can rile anyone’s nerves so once we got a little older, my mom gave us a choice: get an above-ground pool in the backyard or keep the motor home.  We chose the pool, and I’m sure they got some relief.

That's more like it

Twenty some years later, my mom and I are discussing a family trip to visit some of the places I’ve been researching in my genealogy detective work.  Taking the entire family would be quite interesting and difficult to schedule since two of my sisters are married with families of their own.  I can just picture it – traveling through Czechoslovakia with 4 kids under the age of 10.  Though, it would definitely bring us full circle.  Then again, maybe we’d be better suited to go somewhere kid friendly, instead.

In the meantime, I continue with my research, jotting down the locations of interest and organizing them in order of visiting priority.  Austrian, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Canada, Michigan, Trenton…okay, maybe not the last one.

Foor-Score and Many Years Ago Monday, Oct 28 2013 

While I knew my paternal relatives lived in Philadelphia and her suburbs, I thought only my mother’s side of the family had roots in upstate PA.  Turns out, my paternal third great-grandfather was born in Bedford County, PA.  Who knew? Not me!

Apparently, the Foor’s have a rich history in Bedford – and many still call it home.  Noah Foor was no exception.  Sometime between 1860 and 1870, Noah’s family moved from Bedford County, Pennsylvania to Lenawee County, Michigan and that’s where my lineage knowledge strengthens.  Michigan became home for Noah’s daughter, Nina, her daughter, Margaret and ultimately my grandmother.  Then off to Bucks County, PA my grandmother went, returning to her hometown at different points throughout her life.

Noah R. Foor was never a name I heard growing up, but it’s one that greatly intrigues me now.  I still don’t have much information on Noah, other than residence and census data.  I know the name of his wife, Estella Emma Craft/Kraft, and his children.  I know that he was a farmer as of 1900 then a teamster in 1910 and 1920 and only a hint of what industry he specialized in.  The 1920 census record lists Noah as head of household and 8 lodgers living in his home, all laborers for a cement company.  That detail leads me to assume that Noah worked in the cement industry or involved in the railroad system, but I’ve learned not to assume anything when researching my lineage.

What happened between 1900 and 1910 that took Noah from being a farmer to skilled labor?  Why did he move his family?  Was it a positive achievement or could he no longer afford to sustain a livelihood on the farm?  So many questions that I don’t know will/can ever be truly answered.  However, that doesn’t hinder my desire to ask.  If anything, my interest is piqued all the more!

The Cost of Ancestry Research Sunday, Sep 15 2013 

I consider myself a family history detective, finding enjoyment and excitement by piecing together the puzzles in my genealogy.  Sometimes it’s highly frustrating hitting a roadblock but most times I’m challenged to keep digging.  Recently, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the cost of ancestry research.

MONEY:  There is absolutely a financial cost associated with genealogy research.  There are plenty of helpful family history sites online that do not charge you to search their collection of records.  One I find extremely beneficial is  The range of records available includes marriage, birth, and census documents.  I have found a great many marriage records that helped connect the branches of my tree, especially when those records include the mother and father’s names.  I found half-siblings of my great-father that I never knew about and was able to verify the connection through other sources, on other ancestry search sites.  The other sites I primarily use in my search charge a fee.  However, the value outweighs the cut to my budget.

TIME:  I spend A LOT of time researching my family tree, more than I anticipated I would when I started.  It’s so easy to sit down at the computer and find one hint that leads you to another and another…before you know it, 3 hours have gone by and you’re so close to putting the piece in place!  As much fulfillment as I get from genealogy research, I  have a twinge of guilt when I think about the other projects I have in the works – my Young Adult fantasy novel, for instance.  Why am I not spending all of my free time to get my book done and published?!  That’s where my focus should be.  Shouldn’t it?  Do I spend a few hours learning about those who lived before me or use that time to write about an entirely fictional character?

SCANDAL:  Am I being selfish by asking the questions that makes family members uneasy to talk about?  What is the point of pushing for questions when the truth may reveal a path that you never intended to walk down?  Scandal, mysteries, long-buried truths – you’re likely to find any of the above if you go back far enough.  The question is…What do you do with the information once you have it?  Do you stuff it down until the subjects of said scandal have passed on?  Do you approach them with the knowledge and gently ask for their recollection of the events?  What is it that you seek to gain from prodding for the ‘truth’?  I haven’t encountered any jaw-dropping secrets so far in my search; that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  Perhaps, some of what I found out (like remarriages and half-siblings) were considered significant drama and scandal to those who lived it at the time period.

One of my goals with this ancestry journey is to actually take a journey.  To visit the key places in my lineage and write about them.  Document what it means to me to be present in a place that once held meaning to my ancestors.  For a brief time, to stand where they stood.  Of course, in order to take that trip I need both time and money. Who knows what kind of scandal I might find!

Hollywood Ancestry Sunday, Apr 7 2013 

My ancestors grew up in Hollywood.  No, not that one!  The one in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.  Never heard of it? Neither had I until I delved into my family history.

A lack of information exists about the small PA village known as Hollywood.  From what I’ve learned, Hollywood was a coal mining town (shocking for that area, I know) and according to family members who grew up near there or still reside in the neighboring Hazleton, Hollywood consisted of a small patch of houses off of Route 309.

My mom can recall that Hollywood was at the top of Hazleton Mountain and Angela Park was located at the bottom.  She distinctly remembers school field trips to the park; an amusement park of sorts that had games, rides and even a mini train.  The park has since closed down but it’s got me intrigued to write more about it in a future post.

If you’ve happened by my entertainment blog then you  know that I have a deep appreciation for all things film, television and theatre related.  So, you can imagine my delight upon learning I have relatives that called Hollywood home.  Okay, maybe it’s not THAT entertainment mecca but it made me smile nonetheless.

I’m on a mission to know more about this town.  What it looked like in 1894 when my 2nd great-grandparents married there or thirty years later when their daughter married my great-grandfather.  I have marriage records for both of the aforementioned parties, showing Hollywood, PA as their residence – so I know it existed and that they lived in that particular location.  I just need to see for myself what the environment looked like.  There will be visit in the near future so that I can see for myself what it looks like now.

I don’t expect it to be a vision of beauty or elegance like its namesake.  It’s likely it was given such a  name out of a witty sense of humor or a “this is real life” statement.  The reasoning behind the name choice interests me as does having a visual representation of the homes and locations that my ancestors spent their lives.

Being able to imagine them in their own habitat, whatever it may have looked like, provides a window into understanding their choices.  What did they struggle with?  What was a typical day like for them?  Did they have a strong desire to leave Hollywood and venture into the big cities of Hazleton or Wilkes-Barre?  When so many left their small towns to move to Hollywood, CA how many dreamed of leaving the one in PA?

My great-grandparents, after marrying, did call Hazleton home as did the generations that followed.  Did my great-grandmother visit her Hollywood family often?  Was there any type of class/social issues that arose between those in Hollywood and family that moved to Hazleton?  These are the types of questions that peak this writer’s interest and I’m itching to know more.

I will follow-up on this post in the coming months, after I make a visit up to Hollywood.  In the meantime, I can simply imagine!

A small world indeed Sunday, Oct 21 2012 

That’s how the world seems to me when researching genealogy information.  With ancestors on both sides who immigrated I often wonder if they viewed the world the same.

I live in a suburb of Philadelphia; an area that most wouldn’t know of unless they’re from this vicinity.  So when telling people where I’m from it’s easiest simply to say “Philadelphia”.  But every time those words cross my lips I feel inclined to clarify.  As though I’m doing a dis-service to not only those who actually reside within Philly but to the town in which I live.

Along that same vein, I grew up proud to be Irish and Polish even though I was born and bred right here – in Bucks County, PA.  I’m not Irish; I’m American.  And I’m proud to have been born here.  But I also have a European connection deep down.  One that I have yet to fully comprehend.

I love to travel and have purposefully made it a goal to visit these places I’ve longed to see.  Yet, I find it rather interesting that I have this longing to one day call Europe my home.  And that doesn’t make me any less proud to be American.  It just means that there’s a very strong part of me that wants to know more about the places my ancestors once called home.

My reasons for wanting to go across the ocean may differ greatly from that of my ancestors.  Whether it was a need to escape oppression, poverty, sickness or a desire to pursue their dreams, they had to make the choice to leave their homeland.  They left all that they knew – and started anew.  Sometimes they found success, other times situations as dire as the ones they left behind.

Though they came to embrace the country in which they now resided did they ever let go of the home they once loved so?  And if they did not, then the same holds true the other way; no matter what part of the world I may reside, I’ll still be proud of the American spirit within me.

Elora Valley Friday, Aug 31 2012 

My foray into ancestry research coincided with the writing of my premiere novel – a Young Adult story that’s part fantasy, part coming of age and part spiritual in theme.  The importance of family connections is one of the main components of the book.  How we relate to one another.  How we identify ourselves as individuals and as relations?  Can you truly prosper by running away from your complex family situation or must you confront the issues before becoming an full-fledged member of society?  But most of all, can you move forward without looking back?

My protagonist, Gracie, ultimately finds strength in her own abilities by listening to the wisdom and advice of family members that have long since passed.  Being an artistic soul, I intentionally infused creative outlets throughout the story;  as a vital element of the progression of each character.  In coming up with a name for the fictional world in which Gracie would reside, I struggled.  I started with “Aurora” partly because I’m a big fan of animated princess movies.  Then the name “Alora Valley” came to me while writing one day.  Perfect!  That fit.

Years later, while researching my father’s side of the family, I learned that my relatives came from a town in Canada called Elora!  Wow…just wow. 🙂  I couldn’t make that stuff up.  Well, actually I probably could, but I didn’t!  To top off this wonderful round of synchronicity is the fact that Elora is a village infused with the creative arts.  It just keeps getting better.

I am making plans to head north for a visit to my ancestors hometown, before they moved to Michigan.  After just a brief search I’ve found so many interesting bed and breakfasts to stay in, events/festivals coming  up and scenic spots to photograph.  Visiting Elora has now become my next stop on my Ancestry Travel bucket list!

To learn more about Elora visit their website…

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