What a difference 9 years makes! Tuesday, Sep 25 2012 

I know I am supposed to be alternating between my maternal and paternal heritage but a recent discovery just won’t let me go!

From a very young age I knew music existed within me.  There was no doubt.  As though the rhythm, melodies and lyrics blended into my very spirit.  I don’t know at what age I started singing but I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t.

As much as I consider myself a writer I am equally a singer.  The passion I have comes from the warmth that radiates in my core, travels up my chest, tingles in my throat and reverberates on my lips.  I feel the music in every single fiber of my being and every cell in my body.  I am a writer.  I am a singer.  I am an artist.  And apparently so was my great, great-grandfather Elmer.

If you haven’t already read my post about Elmer’s coal mining accident in 1902 then a) why not and b) here’s a brief synopsis…he was killed in a tragic accident at the Cranberry mine at the age of 32.  I wasn’t surprised to learn that he was a coal miner.  My mother’s relatives come from upstate Pennsylvania, where coal miners and farmers are a-plenty.  But I was floored up on reading his 1893 marriage record.  His occupation was listed as…just wait…MUSICIAN!

I know!  How amazing is that? I gaped at my computer screen, blinked the clouds from my eyes and felt the chills course through my arms.  As stunned as I was I also started wondering more about his life.  What instrument did he play?  Did he sing?  Did he perform locally with friends or family members?  How did his life change so significantly within a short period of time?  Marriage and children – having to provide for his family was the most reasonable answer I came up with.  Most likely being a musician couldn’t sustain them.  Couldn’t pay bills.  Couldn’t keep food on the table.  What was the inner struggle over giving up a passion?  Were there extenuating circumstances?  An emotional or mental breakdown?  Or was he a pragmatic man who acknowledged the reality of his situation and simply moved forward?

In all my research, I’ve learned about intriguing individuals on both branches of my family tree.  But my connection to Elmer is deeply rooted by more than bloodlines!

to be continued…

My Irish Ancestors are Stubborn Wednesday, Aug 15 2012 

A shocking statement, I know!  But no less true.  Stubbornness is often attributed to the Irish culture though why one group of people would get that label over others I never really understood.

As a rather stubborn individual myself I used to joke that I was both a Taurus and Irish which meant I was doubly stubborn!  But in all my family history research I’ve started to re-examine my perspective on many fronts.  The Irish people have very good reason to be stubborn and the after-effects still linger in many ways.  I don’t presume to know what it was like to live there during “the troubles” or the famine.  But I can ascertain that the pain, sorrow, anger and frustration could very well still linger if not addressed within each individual.

My great, great-grandfather (Thomas Deeny) emigrated from Ireland to the United States in the late 1800s and spent the last years of his young life in Philadelphia.  Try as I have to find out exactly what port he arrived in I’ve been unsuccessful.  I did find his naturalization records but that didn’t tell me whether he came in through Boston, New York or Philadelphia.  The assumption would be Philly, since that’s where he last resided.  But…the stories passed down from my grandfather and his siblings told of the Deenys (our immediate branch) coming in through Boston.

That could very well be the case but I have not found him in any of the immigration records I’ve searched through.  Nor have I found his wife, Elizabeth.  Thomas and Elizabeth’s first child, my great-grandfather, was born in 1886 and they were already in Philadelphia by that point.  So, were they married before they left Ireland or after?  Because I haven’t found marriage records from either country yet.  Plus, to make matters even more challenging, I had no clue what Elizabeth’s maiden name was for the first two years of my research.

I had found the cemetery listing for Elizabeth, Thomas, and some of their children about a year ago.  That was my first cemetery finding and I was ec…stat…ic!  I drove to Philadelphia, found the area on the cemetery map and lo and behold, no gravestones!  Ugh.  I literally sank to my knees, cried a little then started laughing.  I made a promise right then and there that one of the first things I’d do once I published my novel would be to buy them grave markers.  There’s at least 5 people in that one plot and not one has a headstone.  As I sat on the ground looking up to the branches that swayed above me I asked Elizabeth for help.  And eventually she came thru!

I now know her maiden name was Burke and I found her parents information based off of Elizabeth’s sister’s birth record. But trying to find an Elizabeth Burke is almost just as challenging as trying to find a Deeny!

I’m still looking for birth and marriage records for Thomas, Elizabeth and their children.  Some research days are more frustrating than others but finding their history, paths and stories is a goal I highly intend on fulfilling.

I leave you with an excerpt from a letter that Elizabeth Deen(e)y wrote to tell her mother-in-law of Thomas’ death in 1899.

It is with a sad heart that I have to let you know of the death of your son.  He died on the 8th of this month and was buried on the 13th Nov.  As you were aware he has been sick this long time but we all thought he would get over it if doctors & the best of care could do anything for him.  We did not think he would die so soon but at last had to realize that it was only a matter of time…We done all that lay in our power for him but to no avail as we were told that he had cancer of the stomach and there is no cure in this world for that.

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