Monday, August 25, 2014

Mappy Monday: On a map, the fortunes of an ancestor

In order to gain a better understanding about the lives of our ancestors, it is an interesting exercise to map out the homes in which they lived, as well as other places, such as hospitals and cemeteries, which are a part of their history. Such maps not only give you a good picture of the migratory patterns of your ancestors, but may even offer you some idea about how the family fared. Did they remain in Ireland, or did they travel to England or to Continental Europe for work? Did they begin life in a poor part of the town in which they lived, and end it in a wealthy neighbourhood? Did they emigrate away from Ireland to Australia, Canada, or the United States?

All of the family members in this post lived out their lives in Ireland. Some appear to have been given the benefit of good fortune, while others were given, at best, a middling serving of fortune's favour. Still others appear to have suffered, seemingly doomed by the Fates.

View The world of Patrick Geraghty & Margaret Toole Geraghty in a larger map

The lives of my paternal great-grandparents, Patrick Geraghty and Margaret Toole Geraghty, began in the west country of Ireland. Both were born just outside of Westport, County Mayo, in the village of Leckanvy (Lecanvey), near the shores of Clew Bay on the Atlantic Ocean. Following their marriage in March of 1885, and the birth of their first born son Thomas in April of 1886, Patrick and Margaret made their way east to make their life in Dublin. The map of the Geraghty homes in Dublin City very much speaks to Patrick's ambitions and rise in fortune. In 1887, they began their Dublin life in a poor area of the city, living in a tenement on Townsend Street, with Patrick working as a labourer. Between 1887 and 1895, they moved four times.

In 1895, their move to 6.5 Bow Bridge marked a great change in the family's means. Sometime between 1889 and 1895, Patrick's working life changed from that of a labourer to that of a 'car' driver (funeral corteges, hansom cabs, carriages, etc.), and by 1899 he owned his own car proprietorship. Both the family home and the business were housed at the same location. The business was a great success. Among his clientele Patrick counted Mr. Jameson of the famed distillery, as well as the controversial Lord Lieutenant French, Viceroy of Ireland. By the time of Patrick Geraghty's death in 1947, and that of his wife Margaret Toole Geraghty in 1948, they were 'independently wealthy', and had been living in one of the finest areas of Dublin. Patrick, Margaret, and other members of their family are interred in the family vault at Dean's Grange Cemetery in Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, Dublin. (Click on the map above for more detailed information about the sites in which they lived).

View The world of Anne Mary 'Annie' Magee Geraghty 1900-1953 in a larger map

As a member of Cumann na mBan, my paternal grandmother 'Annie' (Anne Mary 'Annie' Magee Geraghty) was working for the freedom of the entire island of Ireland; however, her own world was a relatively small one. Annie began life with her family in one room of a tenement house at 33 Upper Dorset Street, Dublin. The Magee family, which then numbered four, shared the house with four other families, including my great-grandfather Patrick Magee's sister Mary and brother Francis.

When Patrick Magee became a skilled craftsman — working as a scriber at Jameson's Distillery — the family fortunes began to change. Patrick's position enabled him to qualify for a single family artisan's cottage in Stoneybatter. They were given a cottage on Ostman Place, in which the family of four eventually grew to six. It was there that Annie's family was living during the Easter Rising, when her brother Michael fought as a Section Commander, under the leadership of Ned Daly in the Four Courts Battalion. It was from Ostman Place, during the War of Independence, that Annie joined Cumann na mBan, while her brother Michael was 2nd Lieutenant, 'A' Company, 1st Battalion, Dublin Brigade (A.S.U.).

On 21 January 1921, it was at Ostman Place that Annie and her family learned that Michael had been wounded and captured, as British forces showed up at the cottage to ransack and search it. It was from there that Patrick Magee went to George V Hospital (St. Bricin's) that night for news of his son's condition. They learned from other sources that Michael had been mortally wounded; he died 22 January 1921. It was from the little cottage on Ostman Place that Patrick Magee went to the hospital each day to claim his son's body, until the British finally released the remains on the night of 25 January.

Sometime after Michael's death, and before Annie's 1928 marriage to John Geraghty, the family moved to a larger home on Murtagh Road. Annie's marriage first brought her to a house on Manor Street, just a few blocks away from her family's home. Later, Annie and John moved further away to a house on Leix Road in Cabra, Dublin. The last house in which Annie lived was on Kildare Road in Crumlin, Dublin. Annie is interred with her mother, father and elder brother Michael in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. Her husband John Geraghty is interred with his parents and other family members in the family vault at Dean's Grange Cemetery. (Click on the map above for more detailed information about the sites in which Annie lived).

View The world of Jane Early Ball 1852 - 1914 in a larger map

The map of the homes of my maternal great-grandmother, Jane Early Ball, speaks to the waves of change in fortune which affected her life. Jane spent her childhood living with her family in various homes in the Liberties area of Dublin, an area notorious in the 19th century for its poverty. The baptismal records of Jane and some of her fourteen siblings show that though the Early family stayed in generally the same area of Dublin, they moved many times. (For more details about Jane's life, see Jane & Teresa...A brief history of two sisters)

Marriage to a successful carpenter in the person of Francis Ball brought Jane to a life in a better area of Dublin, only a stone's throw away from the beautiful parkland of St. Stephen's Green. Fortune's wheel then brought major negative changes to her family life, with the death of two of her children and her husband's encroaching dementia. The family lost their home on Montague Street and moved into a tenement on Merchant's Quay — living with Jane's sister Teresa and her family — and then on to another tenement on Fishamble Street.

No longer able to cope with her husband's declining health, in 1909 Jane committed Francis to the Infirmary at the South Dublin Union Workhouse. At the end of her life in 1914, Jane Early Ball was living with her eldest surviving son in rooms on Mountjoy Street. Jane is interred in an unmarked grave at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. (Click on the map above for more detailed information about the sites in which Jane and her family lived.)

Have you mapped out the lives of your ancestors?

(Sections of this post originally appeared in 2012).

Monday, July 28, 2014

'The big guns are coughing...': Commemorating Irish lost in World War One

"I am calm and happy, but desperately anxious to live. The big guns are coughing and smacking their shells, which sound for all the world like overhead express trains...Somewhere the Choosers of the Slain, as in our Norse story, are touching with invisible wands those who are to die."

                                                                                                                  —Thomas Michael Kettle, 
                                                                                                                   in the field 8 September 1916.

These words of poet Thomas Michael Kettle, a first cousin in my maternal line, were written in a letter to his elder brother Laurence the night before Tom was killed. Tom's words speak to the experience of many like him who found themselves on the battlefields of Europe during World War One. They are words that emphasize the madness of war, the random nature of death in the field, and the sense that little was within the control of the soldiers as they languished in the trenches or moved through No Man's Land. As we mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War One, there is more than ever before an emphasis on commemorating the loss of those individuals who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of Europe.

Since 2010, I have written a number of articles about the Irish and World War One, including those about members of my family who made the ultimate sacrifice during the war. As a part of the first Geneabloggers World War One Challenge, I have chosen seven blog posts and listed the URLs below. I hope you will revisit these stories — just click on the blue titles — along with the stories of the family members of many other bloggers, a listing of which appears on Bill West's blog West In New England.

This call for volunteers appears in
The Daily News and Leader newspaper,
London, England, 1 September 1914.
The war was just weeks old and already
the number of recruits was climbing toward
what would eventually be in the millions. 
1. ’On a celtic cross, a young man in a photograph: World War One’

2. ‘It all began with a bronze plaque: Remembering William Dunne 1880-1914’

3. 'A portrait trimmed in black crepe': William Francis Pell: 1891-1915

4. ‘William Dunne & William Pell: Following the road of my two Williams’

5. ‘Too many names upon these walls’: World War One Commemoration

6. ‘A very special journey with a remarkable book of poetry’

7. ‘Commemoration in the landscape: The Irish National War Memorial Gardens’


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sepia Saturday #237: 'Tripping the light fantastic' in the ballrooms of Dublin

Mary Ball and Michael Geraghty on the right with friends on their way to a night of dancing.
My mom Mary is holding a box of chocolate given to her by my dad Michael.
Mom recalled this photo as taken early in 1952, a couple of months before her 21st birthday.
She was 20 years old, and they had recently become engaged.
For a while I have been away, in England and in Ireland conducting research for my history work and attending an Irish Studies conference, but now I am home and ready to step back into the swing of things with Sepia Saturday. There could not be a better subject than dancers and chiffon because it reminds me of the stories my dad and mom used to tell me about their dancing days back in Dublin.

When my mom and dad, Mary and Michael, were 'courting' they often went ballroom dancing with a large group of friends. Dad used to call it 'tripping the light fantastic', a phrase popular in the 1940s, which means graceful dancing to musical accompaniment, and in the case of my parents, dancing in an especially graceful manner. According to one of Mom's sisters, they were a stunning couple on the dance floor, moving beautifully and attracting more than their fair share of attention. Their usual haunt was the Olympia Ballroom in Dublin, but they also danced at the Hotel Metropole and the famed Gresham Hotel.

When I was a child, I used to daydream about Mom and Dad going dancing, and imagined her dress swirling as they waltzed around the dance floor, so journey back in time with me, to those evenings when Michael brought his girl Mary out to trip the light fantastic on the dance floors in the ballrooms of Dublin City.

Mary loved to get dressed up. It took her out of the everyday world of duty and discipline that she knew at home. Mary said Michael never looked so fine as he did in his evening clothes. Everything about him was beautifully pressed and finely presented, from the top of his mass of wavy blond hair to the tip of his perfectly polished shoes. More often than not, the beautiful evening wraps and fur stoles Mary wore were borrowed from older relations. The little jewelled evening bags Mary carried were typically the result of months of saving the money she earned at various jobs.

When Michael arrived at her home to pick up his girl Mary, he usually brought with him a small bouquet of flowers, or a corsage Mary would wear at her waistline or décolletage, along with a beautiful assortment of Butler's chocolates in a box wrapped with a lovely ribbon. Before he was allowed to escort her out for an evening of dancing, Michael was required to come into the Ball home at 7 pm, to pray the rosary with Mary and her family, as it was their practice to do this every evening. Stern warnings about proper behaviour followed, given to them by Aunt Alice, and then they were off to enjoy themselves.

Unfortunately, I am unable to identify everyone in the image, but here are the names of those I do know:
Seated on floor: all unknown
Seated in chairs, left to right: Mary 'Mollie' Magee Halpin, Mary Ball, Mary 'May' Halpin Daly Barnwell, unknown
Standing, left to right: unknown, Michael Geraghty, William 'Willie' Halpin, Richard Barnwell, Seamus Barnwell.
One of Mary's favourite events was a charity ball, a dinner/dance, at the Gresham Hotel. Everyone in their group of friends pitched in as much money as they could, and they hired a car to take them to the hotel. Mary said she felt like royalty as the car pulled up in front of the Gresham. The driver opened the car door and gently took her hand to help draw her out of the car. She giggled to herself over all of the people watching them, knowing full well that she, her beau Michael, and their friends had spent their last ten pence to pay for the tickets to that dance and to hire that car. She loved feeling as though, for just a few minutes, their group of friends was the centre of attention that night.

After my parents and brother emigrated to Canada, and I came along, there were fewer evening soirées. There was no ballroom in the city in which they settled, and their days of tripping the light fantastic were fewer and far between. Nevertheless, anytime Mom and Dad had the opportunity to go dancing, they looked forward to it with delight. When they did go to dances, in the early evening while Mom was getting ready, Dad would sweep me up into his arms and dance me around the room happily proclaiming, "We're off tonight, we'll be tripping the light fantastic".

My mom used to say that my dad had 'a terrible habit' of tucking her up under his arm so that she looked
as though she was tipping sideways. Mom didn't much care for this photo, but I love it.
It is 1949, Dad is 20 years old and Mom is 18. Dad looks thrilled (and maybe a little nervous) to have her on his arm.
Mom made the evening gloves she is wearing.

My mom described this dress and wrap as having very fine lace trim
 and little pearl beadwork over the floral fabric on the bodice.
My mom had cut-out the photo to make it look like a fashion doll.
I have loved this photograph of my mother ever since I was a young child.
Be sure to stop by the Sepia Saturday Blog to see how others have interpreted today's inspiration image, and perhaps you'll be inspired too.

Images in this post originally appeared  in 2012.
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