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,

Kelly

Hazleton, Pennsylvania: My Second Home Tuesday, Jan 28 2014 

I was not born nor raised in the Hazleton area, but I spent so much time there during my childhood that I consider it a home away from home.

It was the place my mother grew up, and her parents and grandparents before her.  In fact, generations of her family called the Hazleton area (or West Hazleton, Sugarloaf, and Conyngham to be specific) home.  Most of my ancestral relatives on this branch of my family tree were coal miners or truck drivers.  They made an honest living out of grueling work that kept them away from their wives and children for long periods of time.  Not only was it time-consuming but dangerous.

My 2nd great-grandfather, Elmer Karchner, died in a coal mining accident at the age of 32.  He left behind a wife and numerous young children.  This was a man who seven years prior listed his occupation as Musician on his marriage license.  What heartbreak!  How many of those young men and boys lost their lives not only on the job but developed illnesses as a result of their treacherous working conditions?  The very notion of such tragedy leaves an imprint on my spirit to know so many suffered so much.

My maternal grandfather died when my mother was just fifteen years of age.  Ten years prior, he suffered an accident on the job.  While fixing an issue on his tractor-trailer, the rear wheels rolled over both of his legs.  As a result, my grandmother went to work to help support the family and a hospital bed placed in the family’s dining room.  My mom tells the story of how a tree was planted in the empty lot near the house, allowing my grandfather to watch from the window as the tree grew. My grandfather eventually regained use of his legs and returned to work, albeit not every day.  He eventually died of a ruptured colon, likely caused by the accident a decade earlier.

Though the employment options were not the safest, it was home.  There were open spaces.  Relatives lived near one another.  You walked down the main street and knew the local shop owners.  One of my great-grand uncle’s even ran a furniture store, employing some of his brothers. Though my parents moved down to Bucks County once married, we frequently returned to Hazleton to visit my grandmother and other relatives in the area.  I recall those times as some of the most vivid and memorable of my childhood.  Here are just some of the memories that have stuck with  me:

  • MOM-MOM’S HOUSE:  My grandmother’s house in Hazleton would not be considered large by standards of the time or now, but it was the perfect size.  This was a home that welcomed family and friends.  She had 3 bedrooms upstairs, ideal for her young grandchildren to spend the night. Downstairs you’d find the living room that melted into the dining area, a place filled with guests during the holidays or celebrations.  The kitchen was small yet adequate.  The backyard included room for a garden and had a sandbox for the kids to play.  I have so many vivid memories of staying at MomMom’s house.  I can visualize my uncle lifting us up to hang on the push-up bar in the kitchen entryway.  I remember playing with my grandmother’s shoes and costume jewelry in her bedroom.  I recall extended family seated around the dining room table during a Thanksgiving meal.  I loved my grandmother, and I adored the house she called home.

My dad loved his mother-in-law's cooking!

  • FAMILY AND FRIENDS:  My mom had the luxury of growing up near so many cousins.  They  were her playmates, her confidantes and friends.  When we went to Hazleton, many of her cousins still remained in town.  As such, their children became our playmates.  I think of them not as my second cousins or first cousins once removed but I simply call them my cousins.  Now that we’ve all grown, I am so very thankful to have had them as part of my childhood.
  • AUNTS AND UNCLES:  Once my grandmother passed, we continued to visit family members in the Hazleton area.  My Uncle Lenny and Aunt Betty had the BEST house I’d ever seen: hidden passageways (storage area), an indoor pool (watch out for the sliding glass door), and a split-level.  My uncle would take us for drive around the yard and quiet street in his golf cart.  I have so many fond memories of not only the house but my time with my aunt, uncle and cousins.Scan-140128-0003

Though times have changed and residents found new places to call home, the Hazleton area will always hold a very special place in the hearts of many!!

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