Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wedding Wednesday: 2 August 1954, Mary and Michael ever after

There has been a lot of loss in my family of late, and sometimes losing the ones we love can be so overwhelming that it is easy to forget the times of joy they knew in their lives. Although it is not the anniversary of my parents' wedding until the second day of August, today I am posting these photographs in celebration of the love and the life they had together. I am so very grateful to my mom for saving these precious photographs, leaving them to me, and thus granting me the privilege of being their future caretaker.

On the day my parents married, my mom Mary Jane Teresa Ball was aged 23 years, and my father Michael Francis Geraghty was 25 years old. Their future was all about possibility, and these photographs reflect the happiness they felt as they embarked on their new life together. The first image posted here is so very special to me. It features my maternal grandfather, Patrick Ball, whom I never had the opportunity to meet. He is escorting his second born daughter, and seventh born child, Mary Jane Teresa into Ringsend Roman Catholic Church, Dublin. This is one of the very few images I have of my grandfather.

If you have experienced loss in your family, take out the old photographs you have, and remember happy times. Even if you have not lost someone, take the opportunity now to look at old photographs with family members, to share their stories, to tell them that you love them.

On her father's arm, the stroll into the church.
The marriage ceremony as viewed from the choir loft of Ringsend Church.
Now husband and wife - Michael and Mary Geraghty
From left to right:
John Geraghty (Dad's brother), Michael Geraghty (my dad), Mary Ball (my mom), Kate Ball (Mary's sister).
After the church wedding, the very serious business of civil registration.

It's time to celebrate.
At the wedding breakfast, the cutting of the cake.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday's Tips: Sources you may have overlooked: Irish Manuscripts

It is likely that most of us can name our favourite sources for Irish family history research. Like everyone else, I long for only primary source documents with as much detail as possible. Just like those obsessed with Irish family history, I dream about 15th century records of birth, fantasize about 16th century marriage documents, and pine for pre-20th century census records. However, as Mick Jagger sings in the song of the same title, "You can't always get what you want".

Since we can't always get what we want, we have to want what we can get. To that end, on today's Tuesday's Tips, I am recommending a source which you may have overlooked when it comes to your Irish family history/genealogy research. The source is the Irish Manuscripts Collections which can be accessed online through the website of  The Irish Manuscripts Commission.

The mandate of the Irish Manuscripts Commission is "to promote access to and dissemination of primary sources for Irish history and culture". The commission is actively engaged in a programme of digitization of their back list of publications, many of which are now out of print. Those records which have been digitized are now available on their website.

The manuscripts in this collection are of major genealogical import, because they not only include information about individuals of rank, but also information about dealings with people of all ranks, even the lowest of the tenancy. I have included images just to give you a taste of the kind of information you can find in these manuscripts. Perhaps information about one of your ancestors is included within.

Simply click on the link above to view the index of the entire collection. All of the volumes highlighted in blue on the site are currently available for viewing, and include the following:

The Inchiquin Manuscripts

This volume holds papers calendared from the estate and family of the O’Briens, who were Earls of Inchiquin, Earls of Thomond and (from 1855) Barons Inchiquin, and covers the period from the 16th century through to the 19th century. Of particular interest to Irish family history researchers may be the leases & other deeds, wills & administrations, marriage settlements, and rentals & accounts. Some of the deeds are transcribed in the original Latin.

Click on this link to access this manuscript volume.

The Kenmare Manuscripts

These manuscripts comprise the family papers and manuscripts of the Earl of Kenmare. Of particular interest to the Irish family history researcher may be the rental ledgers and estate account books. Also included in the transcription are a number of leases, conveyances, and letters which may be of interest. For example, a series of letters dating to 1730/31 from Daniel Cronin, an agent for the Kenmare Estate in the period, describes the condition of the estate, and makes mention of many local residents. Unfortunately, the editor of this volume, Edward MacLysaght, sometimes describes the content of various letters rather than simply transcribing them.

Some of the entries included from the Viscount Kenmare's Book of Observations make for an interesting read because he offers opinions about his tenants. Of one of his tenants in Clounteens, County Limerick, the Viscount observes, "The tenant, Derby Cronin, [is] very backward in paying his rent, and very low in his circumstances in great measure by his own default and mismanagement".

Click on this link to access this manuscript volume

A snippet from a transcribed rental ledger, dated May 1705 - May 1706.
The Calendar of Ormond Deeds

The full title of this manuscript is 'The Calendar of Ormond Deeds: Being the Mediaeval Documents Preserved at Kilkenny Castle'. The manuscripts transcribed in these volumes date from the 12th century to the 17th century, specifically from about 1170 to 1605, and comprise the largest collection of extant Irish Mediaeval records.

From 1932 to 1943, Edmund Curtis, Professor of Modern History at Trinity College, Dublin, chose to focus his attention on the transcription and publication of the deeds and documents portion of this collection. Included are transcriptions of such documents as wills, letters patent, indentures, and even lists of tenants. Each volume includes an extensive table of contents entitled 'The List of Deeds' which gives a brief synopsis of each individual transcription found within.

Click on this link to access a list of volumes which comprise this collection.

A snippet of a list of tenants, dated 1595-96.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Those Places Thursday: 'Tripping the light fantastic' in the ballrooms of Dublin

Mary and Michael 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 were recently engaged.
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.

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. The beautiful evening wraps and fur stoles Mary wore were sometimes borrowed from older relations. The little jewelled evening bags Mary carried were usually 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 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.

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 dime 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".

Mom used to say that 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.

Mom described this dress and wrap as having very fine lace trim
 and little pearl beadwork over the floral fabric on the bodice.
The photo is actually a cut-out made to look like a fashion doll.
I have loved this photograph of Mom ever since I was a young child.


Monday, May 21, 2012

The last birthday card

When I was a child, my mother always stressed the importance of remembering birthdays. There was, she said, nothing more delightful than an acknowledgement of the day on which you were born. It was a celebration meant only for the individual in question, not a shared holiday, such as Christmas or Easter. While she enjoyed receiving gifts which had been thoughtfully chosen, above all, Mom loved receiving birthday cards. Mom said as far as she was concerned you could do away with the presents; it was the cards which were so very important to her.

On a Friday, I bought the last birthday card I will ever give to my mom. Her birthday and Mother's Day fell on the same date this year, Sunday, 13 May. After a very brief illness, Mom died on the evening of the very next day, surrounded by the family she loved.

On that Sunday, we were all there to see Mom open the cards which would mark her 81st birthday, as well as the cards for Mother's Day. Mom was wearing an oxygen mask which was helping her breathe, so she could not put on her eyeglasses. Mom was too weak to read out the verses and personal messages written inside, so I stood by the side of her bed and read them aloud to her. Tears welled up in her eyes, as I opened each card, and her lips moved in whispers as I recited the verse. She took the cards in hand, and ran her fingers over the surface of them. Some of the cards had colourful flocking or little sparkles, others had scalloped edges or ribbon. Each one delighted her in its own way.

After I read out the cards, we placed them on her window sill next to her bed, and there they stood until Mom was gone, and we had to leave the hospital, on Monday night. No more will Mom gaze upon them. She will never again read out the verses, or run her hand over the cards' crafted edges. Never again will she display them across the top of her piano, and then pack them away with all of her other birthday cards, in the small blue case Mom kept under her bed.

Never again will I go to the card shop to buy a birthday card to give to Mom, a card with a pretty cover, and a poetic verse. Never again will I see the smile come over her lips, as she reads the words of love meant only for her.

It was the last birthday card.

Mary Jane Teresa Ball Geraghty
13 May 1931 - 14 May 2012

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