Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Breaking through on the Holmes family

Spent more time than I expected today at the National Archives. I wanted to look up some wills that I had seen in the index at the National Library, but when I got there they told me that many of those had been lost in a fire. So I looked through the old-fashioned card file (half a wall of small drawers) and found that they didn't have the names I'd written down, but they had some others that I decided to look up just based on date.

Most of the research in Dublin has been a learning process; sometimes you ask for an old book, sometimes microfilms, sometimes a manuscript that's in another building. This time they brought me an envelope with two old notepads in it. The pads contained the tight scribbles of some previous genealogist who had written excerpts of the wills he had found - wills that may no longer exist.

The notes contained Peter Holmes, who had a daughter named Mary, and other family members. The hopeful clues are that her brother-in-law mentioned her as unmarried in 1717; my Mary wed about 1721. Then, her uncle had children that included Richard and Isabell; my Mary had a Richard and Isabell Holmes at her wedding!

I'll have to examine the years and relationships when I get home, but it looks like Mary, who married Joshua English and came to colonial South Carolina, may have parents named Peter and Briget! And I would never have known except for browsing the name at the Archives in Dublin.

Not to mention some unknown, kindred genealogical soul from perhaps the 1940s. Could my notebooks, my little scribbles be so useful to somebody, someday?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Barking up the wrong street

My primary mission on this trip is to fill in the details of my family story, including sisters and their families, of whom I didn't take much notice last time. However, like any obsessed genealogist, I'm always looking to fill in the family tree; as in finding someone's parents and going back another generation. Today I ran into the Holmes family, in Limerick or Dublin I think, because they had a daughter named Mary. Mary Holmes is my ancestor and I don't know her parents' names. But then I saw the list of deaths, and this Mary died young. As a matter of fact, several of the children died, and then their mother. There's no mention of the father's death in these records. I suspect that after so much tragedy he must have moved away.

Trinity College Library

They closed off the city centre Monday for a marathon and the bank holiday. I feel like I did a mini-marathon, walking at least 10 miles to circumvent the holiday bus schedule and get my own little workout.

Did the tourist thing Monday, including the Writers' museum and Trinity College. The long room at Trinity College, the old library - well, imagine more than 60 metres long, two stories high, all old books. Aaaaahhh...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Quaker meeting - 21st century

I went to one of the Dublin Quaker meetings this morning. I believe they are all unprogrammed, which means about an hour of silent worship, much like my ancestors did in the 17th century (although probably less time).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saturday in Dublin

I'm glad I got a little time in at the National Library manuscripts collection today (short hours on Saturday), because they will be closed for bank holiday on Monday. Every vacation I've taken to U.K. or Ireland has had a bank holiday. Now I'll have to figure out what to do both Sunday and Monday, when libraries and most attractions are closed.

Had a nice meeting with some Dublin nanowrimo members, including the MLs (local organizers) and a new writer. We met up at the Library Bar, a lovely lounge in the Grand Hotel that has good decor, bookshelves, chandeliers and beat-up wooden floors, plus a good salad and a pint. Who could ask for more?

The English brothers

One of my goals on this trip is to figure out what happened to Joshua's surviving brothers, John and Abraham. I'm also hoping to find out anything about his mother or his childhood.

Another great tidbit in the Quaker Historical Library this week: Now I know why I don't know much about them. Joshua's mother Mary and his elder brother John were disowned. Unlike many other records, they don't say what the two did, but it was so bad that they were immediately disowned instead of the usual attempts at reconciliation. Ah, more mysteries! What did they do? In other records, people got in trouble for excessive drinking and frequenting alehouses, running up their debts or dealing unfairly with people, marrying outsiders, joining the army, and unmarried folks living together. What could have been worse?

Friday, October 23, 2009

One amazing answer = many more little questions

Now I remember why I wanted to spend so much time in Dublin - the Quaker library. Today I found the request with Joshua planning to leave for America, no real details.

* Spoiler Alert!* (don't read this if my book is out and you haven't read it yet)
A while back I wrote about a Character Conundrum, thinking I'll never find out why Elizabeth English never married. She came to S.C. at age 18, during colonial times, and lived late into her 60s. Today the answer fell into my lap, in the Moate minutes. The truth was that she did marry, at an early age, apparently running off with a non-quaker and getting married by a priest! They don't mention the man's name, just that it had been done without her father's permission. So apparently, maybe a year later, the family whisked her away to colonial America - without the husband. Very sad in real life, but very exciting for my book. In the South Carolina histories, Elizabeth English never married, living as an old maid, because she already WAS married. Wow.

I still have to make up a lot of details, questions racing around my head. Who was the husband? young or old, Catholic or Church of Ireland, Romeo or wicked scoundrel taking advantage of a young girl? How did the family or community convince them to separate?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Back in the City

I'm thinking, why did I plan so much of my trip in Dublin? That's just the stress talking, from driving all day in the land of no-right-turns. My new B&B has no parking; I had to crawl up on the sidewalk; it's a tiny car, was still too big for the spot. I'm trying to decide whether to stay at that B&B or check out asap and go back to the first one. But I'll only have the car another day, and I might feel better about this busy part of town when I'm a pedestrian.

Finally found a laundry - almost extinct in Ireland. Life is looking better as I sit in a cafe next to it, with chicken curry soup and wi-fi.

I did find the Quaker cemetery in Rosenallis, today. It's a very nice, peaceful place by the side of the road near a small town. Oh, I miss the beautiful countryside already! But (I remind myself), back to the Quaker library tomorrow, to maybe solve some mysteries, and that's why I came!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Characters, characters ...

One of my goals here in Moate is to find an Irish character to add a little balance to my novel. I certainly found some interesting people! One is Colonel Grace of Athlone. When the English asked him to surrender, he shot at the messenger and said that was his answer. He was also kind to a Quaker preacher who's already in my story. On the other hand, because of English atrocities that weren't mentioned in the book, he stripped all the Protestants stark naked and kicked them out of town. Hmm.

Another possibility is a priest - I don't remember if he was Catholic or Church of England - but he got in trouble for preaching too enthusiastically about the gospel.

Lots of great stories that don't have anything to do with my book. Last night I heard about an Irish woman whose husband was killed by the English. Without an heir, all her lands would have gone to the government. So she married an English soldier, who got the land. Then, after she had a son, she pushed the husband off the ramparts.

So many stories, so little time...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Farmstays and backroads

The B&B I stayed in in Northern Ireland was the most georgeous place I could imagine. It's an 1800s restored farmhouse that overlooks rolling, lush green hills with cows and sheep. The owners are amazingly friendly and do everything they can to make one's stay pleasant. I made friends with a working sheepdog and met a brand new baby cow.

I haven't had much internet, and this current connection is Windows whereas I've been journaling on my Mac, so I might catch up more later. Friday I went to a still-working, 18th century library in Armagh and got some leads for next week when I'm back in Dublin. An unexpected discovery was the ordinance survey map of County Westmeath. For the first time I saw Toorfelim (sometimes Tuarphelim, etc.) on a map, where Thomas English lived. It was not a town, but a region - maybe that's why it's been hard to find!

Saturday was the Ulster-American Folk Park, which is a living history, outdoor museum. I learned that the weavers were men, and each one, usually a tenant farmer, would have several women spinning (in their own homes) to supply him with yarn.

Today I drove, forever, along winding backroads to get to Co. Westmeath. Before settling into the B&B off in the countryside, I drove around Moate. It's grown some since 2006. Most things were closed for Sunday, but I can't wait to get back to my research tomorrow, in Moate and Athlone.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Quaker House, part 1

Had a good day at the Friends Historical Library in Dublin. They had me sign a copy of my book, which I brought them, and they seemed to enjoy the articles about my last trip. (See Part I and Part II.) I have so many questions, mysteries to solve, but I decided to take the methodical approach, especially since the meeting minutes are not indexed (we talked about that as a future project). I made it through the first section, about 125 pages.

Fiction writing gurus are always saying to add conflict to your story. To keep my novel flowing, I added a conflict between Ann English and her future husband's family - totally fiction. As a matter of fact, I haven't yet figured out how they work through that problem and end up married. Well, today I found out that the real-life Ann English and Benjamin Parvin got a letter of condemnation from the meeting for starting their marriage proceedings without the consent of his parents!

One mystery still unsolved: whatever happened to John English's widow, Elinor? In my novel (subject to change) I have the Clibborns take his children in, their niece and nephew. Today we looked on a new database and could not find any record of Elinor (the children's stepmother) remarrying, or even of her death. So far, she has simply disappeared.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A rough start, a good ending

The flight from New York was good: a nice Irish man as seatmate, good dinner with chicken and veggies and wine, and even a few hours of sleep. But I got off kilter with my meals and had a headache by the time we arrived. The car hire was excruciatingly slow, and I was quite sick by the time I got the car.
To shorten the story, I drove on the left and survived - praise the Lord! - a kind neighbor took me in and gave me some tea, then I slept until afternoon at the B&B.
Feeling much better, I caught the bus to the National Library and went straight to get the microfilm I had looked at in 2006. I wanted to fill in some more of the Parvin family. It's always hard to know how much to print (at 50 cents a page) and how much to come back later and write notes by hand.
I enjoyed a veggie crepe and coffee for supper, walked around Dublin centre a little and then caught the bus home.

Monday, October 12, 2009

All aboard!

The suitcase is packed, the backpack is not. It's late, I'm sleepy, and I still need to find addresses and phone numbers to take with me. But most everything is ready for the big day - tomorrow! Hard to believe my trip to Ireland is just hours away!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Mt. Pleasant Cemetery

I was looking for a web address to put in the paper, and stumbled across a just-posted transcription of Mt. Pleasant (used to be United Methodist) cemetery in Trinity, N.C.! Trent Briles posted it; he includes scanned photos of the tombstones - and it's free!

Of course, I'm excited because some of my family, including the Copple, Briles (wait a minute, could we be cousins?) and Kindley lines are buried there.

Mr. Trent must have worked on this list a long time, because I noticed that some of the names do not have a corresponding photo. Unfortunately, vandals hit the graveyard sometime in the past decade and many stones are missing. But - fortunately, I was there in the early 90s and took a few pictures myself, including a few stones that are no longer there!

When I get back from my trip, I plan to show my appreciation for all this shared work by finding and contributing my old photos.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Wine and Words

I'm not much for poetry readings, but I love books and had always wanted to visit Shakespeare and Co. bookshop in Kernersville, so I drove up to see what was going on at the Press 53 Wine and Words fest.

The questions in my mind - shallow though they seem - were: Is this store as great as it sounds, with rooms and rooms of old books and nooks to get lost in? Is the wine free? Do I have to stay the whole 3 hours or can I graciously slip out?

The answers: Shakespeare was pretty neat, but not what I expected. It's all NEW books - a regular bookstore - and only a couple of rooms of the huge warehouse that is becoming a funky, great courtyard, not-very-accessible kinda mall. The wine was not free, but I still enjoyed it. The disadvantage to drinking wine is that you can't take it with you, so I ended up staying and being tempted by more books! And no, I didn't have to stay the whole time, but I was having fun so I did anyway.

I bought a mystery with a great first sentence, and the Press 53 anthology - less than a week off the press. I had some of the winners sign it. One young man smiled sheepishly and said this was the first book he'd ever signed - how cool is that! I never seem to get around to reading anthologies, but I devoured one of the stories before the show got started. And the poetry readings were very good.

I thought I was done spending money when another book called out to me during the break, "Last Child in the Woods." I've long had a theory, with no hard evidence, that electronic media is a major cause of attention deficit disorders. In other words, have you ever met a child with ADD or ADHD that never had T.V., like in the Amish communities? Well, this author had researched the media, as well as indoors-all-the-time factors. It called to me.

Looking at that book was like communing with the author, while the room full of living, breathing literati faded into smoke. The exception was the lady who sat next to me. She is just as obsessed with history as I am. She's writing about the history of the land on which she lives and I am writing about my ancestors. She was very encouraging - what are the odds of us sitting together!

Who was on the Hitchcock?

One of the English family puzzles, that affects the last chapter of my book, is whether or not Joshua brought all his children with him from Ireland to S.C. in 1753.

Most secondary sources draw the conclusion that the family came from Whitehaven on the ship Hitchcock. Nobody I know of has found a manifest, or any record of the ship leaving Whitehaven. But I think it's a good conclusion because the arrival of a ship of Irish settlers was noted in the Charleston news in July, and Joshua was among other Irish Quakers who applied for land in Charleston that August.

The puzzle is that Joshua only got enough land for himself, his wife and the two oldest children. He came back to Charleston the next January to get land for the four younger ones. In my draft book, I assumed that they all came over together, but Joshua sent the young'uns ahead with other families to Fredericksburg whilst he and a few stayed in Charleston to wait for court to be in session. But knowing how long and risky ship travel could be, perhaps he did leave the younger children back in Ireland, to come over with very trusted friends?

With no manifest, I haven't yet accepted defeat in finding the facts. During my trip I plan to look through the meeting (church) minutes to see if they mention this immigration.

Thanks to Genea-Bloggers and We Tree for prompting this post with their weekly challenge.

Friday, October 02, 2009


I just got my airline tickets and hotel vouchers for Ireland today! People ask me if I'm excited - yes! They also ask me, as a joke probably, if I'm packed. I look at them like they're crazy. Unless somebody has a complete spare wardrobe that they can keep in a suitcase while they wear something else all week, I don't see how people can pack ahead of time. But I guess I need to start, because I've got these tickets and need to put them somewhere where I won't lose them!

I'm also still trying to figure out each night's stop and how much driving I want to do after researching all day. It's a good stress, I tell myself.