Sunday 26 August 2018

Genealogy blogging - a win-win-win!

Our ancestors regularly swapped photographs with family and friends, and the descendants of those relatives often still have the pictures in their possession today. Genealogy blogging creates a unique opportunity to reconnect with the current custodians of these family photos, which is especially rewarding when few mementos have survived in our direct line.

This was true for me earlier this month, as mentioned here, when, not only was I able to identify Barney O'Connor, the subject of one of our 'orphan' photos, but, much to her delight, I was able to return it to his daughter. A win-win outcome! But, that's not the end of the story. Marie, my granduncle's step-granddaughter, also had some of our family photographs in her collection.

We had the first picture, on the left, below. It once belonged to my paternal grandmother, Lena O'Neill. Lena never recorded the names on the back of her photographs. She merely wrote 'snapped by L. O'Neill', which is lovely, though not always particularly helpful. But, we know this picture is of Lena's sister Joanna (Joan) O'Neill, with Joan's husband Jack Lockhead, and their new-born daughter, Mary Agnes (May) Lockhead. May was born in Liverpool, England, on 12 August 1926, confirming, with reasonable accuracy, when and where this picture was taken. It also places my Granny in Liverpool at that time.

And, Marie sent me the second picture, on the right. Both photographs were obviously taken on the same day. Joan is wearing the same clothes and holding the baby in the same pose, and both pictures are taken in front of the same house. Except, Marie's picture also includes my Granny Lena (far right). The back of the photograph, which Marie originally received from Joan and Lena's niece, reads 'Lena & Joanna, in Liverpool, with neighbours'.

Jack, Joan and May Lockhead, 
Liverpool, 1926
Joan & May Lockhead, Lena O’Neill, 
with neighbours in Liverpool, 1926

Hardly any pictures of my Granny Lena have been passed down in our family. This one possibly represents the years she spent working in England, before her marriage. It's wonderful to have it. Thank you again, Marie.

So, isn't that just a win-win-win! 

Saturday 18 August 2018

Colour clustering

Last week, one of the genealogy bloggers I follow wrote about a new way of sorting her Ancestry DNA matches. She calls it the 'Color Cluster Method'. It certainly produces colourful results and it's quick and easy to follow, so I thought I'd try it. All going well, it should divide our matches into four clusters, with one to represent each set of great-grandparents.

The first step is to list the second and third cousin DNA matches at Unfortunately, however, I only have four such matches in total at this level, barely enough to create a single good cluster, never mind four, so I had to move the goalposts. Though not recommended, I added the fourth cousins deems high confidence matches to the mix. Some of them are known third cousins anyway and it gave me twenty-six matches to play with.

It sort of worked. I got nine groupings, but among them, four distinct clusters are obvious. And, while not specific to any particular set of great-grandparents, three of my grandparents are definitely separately represented by the first three clusters, as depicted below. 

On my mother's side, the yellow cluster, in column 1, contains known cousins on her paternal Wynne line, all being descendants of my great-great-grandparents John Wynne and Bridget Hynes.  The orange cluster, in column 3, includes two cousins on her maternal Byrne line. They are descendants of my third-great-grandparents, Myles McGrane and Margaret Doyle, but the other matches in this group have not yet been proven. And, on Dad's side, the blue cluster, in column 2, includes five identified cousins on his paternal Byrne line, all descendants of my third-great-grandparents, Andrew Byrne and Anne Clynch.  

So, does the green cluster, in column 4, represent my other grandmother, Dad's maternal O'Neill line?  That's the big question. It would make for an interesting conclusion, as currently we have no known DNA matches on the O'Neill side. 

None of the matches in the green cluster have been identified yet, but as there is no overlap between any of these four clusters, i.e. no match has been allocated more than one colour, the chances are the green group represents a different lineage - maybe the O'Neills. 

The next step is to ascertain surnames common to different members of each group, so as to gather clues to the identity of our as yet undiscovered ancestors. Luckily, four matches in the green cluster have an online family tree, though only two include the surnames of their great-great-grandparents. (Note: if you are following the method as it was intended, and originally included only second and third cousin matches, you need only list the surnames of great-grandparents here). 

Regrettably, there are no surnames in common among any of the matches in the green cluster, bar one. Two matches, including the one with no online tree, share the surname Donvan, an unusual distortion of the Irish name, Donovan. And, Donovan is a known surname in my O'Neill lineage. But, I've already investigated this match, without success; their Donovans seemingly go back to Co. Cork, whereas ours were well established in Dublin city, by the early nineteenth century. 

The remaining five clusters presumably represent earlier generations still. Their lineage may even be indicated by the second colour some matches share with members of a main cluster. 

So, food for thought... 

Perhaps my cousins might like to try out this method? Aileen, Phyllis, Holly - you all have lots of cousins at second and third cousin level. Give it a go! & let me know how you get on. 

See Dana Leeds' easy to follow instructions on The Enthusiastic Genealogist blog at NEW METHOD: DNA Quick Sort and Color Clustering: Identifying Common Surnames and Color Clustering: Working with "4th Cousins" and Color Clustering: Top 25 Fourth Cousins.

Sunday 5 August 2018

One more mystery solved

Bernard (Barney) O'Connor Dublin and Kiltimagh
Bernard (Barney) O'Connor
Do you remember this chap? 

A few months ago, I published this little photograph and asked 'Who's in the picture?' His was an 'orphan' photo, from 'Black Raven', our house in Malahide, Co. Dublin. 

Well, somewhat to my surprise, a lady found my post and contacted me this week, saying:

Hello Dara, I am so excited by the photograph of Who's in the picture as the photograph is of my Father Bernard (Barney) O'Connor.  Barney was the son of Bartholomew and Winifred O'Connor (nee Earley) from Irishtown, Dublin.

Isn't that wonderful! 

I now know exactly who he was.

Barney O'Connor was Arthur O'Neill's step-son. Arthur was my granduncle, my Granny Lena's brother. Lena obviously received a copy of this picture and kept it, which is how it came to be at 'Black Raven'.

Barney's father, Bartholomew O'Connor, died in a tragic accident at work, in January 1913. He worked for Dublin Corporation, in the City's main sewage works, which was situated at the Pigeon House Fort. When his colleague was rendered unconscious, eleven feet under, in a culvert at the pump house, Bartholomew immediately went to his rescue. However, he too was overcome by the fumes. The first man died at the scene and Bartholomew died two days later in hospital. He was only about twenty-nine years old. 

The Royal Humane Society posthumously awarded him a medal for his bravery. His son Barney kept the medal in a silver box, and treasured it all his life. But, at the time, Winifred was left alone with four young children - Barney was five years old, Ellen was three, Winnie was nearly two, and Bart was born eight months after his father's passing. According to her granddaughter, when Bartholomew's died, Winifred earned her living by running the shop and Post Office at Bath Street, in Irishtown. 

And, it was there she met Arthur. He came into the shop one Sunday morning to buy a packet of cigarettes, on his way to watch a band playing in Sandymount. They obviously hit it off. They were married on 1 December 1917, in the Star of the Sea Church in Sandymount. 

In 1925, Arthur answered a newspaper advertisement seeking a hairdresser in Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo. The job supposedly came with a three bedroom detached house with lots of space. By then, Arthur and Winifred had four children of their own, to add to Winifred's four. Arthur got the job, and the whole family moved West. Barney trained as a hairdresser with Arthur, in Mayo. 

And, they all lived happily ever after, or so the story goes. 

Thank you so much to Arthur's step-granddaughter for all the information she has provided about my O'Neill family. I do hope you enjoy the photograph of your father, which is making it's way to you in the post.