Sunday 21 February 2021

Creating a Virtual Graveyard

Genealogists always want to know where their ancestors are buried. It’s not just to see what they might learn from their gravesites. It’s more than that. It’s a need to connect with them, to know they’re ‘at peace’. I realise maybe not everyone feels this way. Maybe even most people don’t. My husband doesn't. He said I was ‘morbid’ when I said I was creating a 'virtual graveyard' linking all my ancestors' graves. But we should honour their memory. Without them, there'd be no us. Plus, I’ve spent many countless hours seeking out their final resting places – I don’t want them forgotten again.

Here’s my first memorial – for my great-great-grandfather, Maurice Carroll. He was buried at St Colmcille's RC Graveyard, in Swords, Co. Dublin.

Maurice Carroll
Birth: c. 1838
Co. Tipperary, Ireland
Death:6 January 1906 (aged abt. 68 years)
RDF Asylum, Dublin, Ireland
Burial: 9 January 1906
St Colmcille's RC Graveyard

Chapel Lane, Swords, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Link to: Memorial at Find A Grave

Headstone of Maurice and Anne Carroll, St Colmcille's, Swords

This was the gravesite in the summer of 2011. It was in a sorry state, obviously no longer being cared for. The inscription was more or less illegible then too.

Headstone inscription:
"Of our charity pray for the repose of the souls of Maurice Carroll who died 6th Jan. 1906. And his beloved wife Anne who died 23rd Dec. 1918."
Luckily, in 1989, the Fingal Heritage Group transcribed the gravestones in St Colmcille's Graveyard, capturing this inscription before it succumbed to the weather.

Funeral announcement:
Freeman's Journal, 8 January 1906, p. 1

Links to memorials of immediate family members:
Spouse 1: Mary Anne (Frazer) Carroll (c. 1828-1868, m. 1859)
Spouse 2: Anne (Radcliffe) Carroll (1849-1918, m. 1869)
Son: Robert Carroll (1860-1942)Son: James Carroll (1865-1943)
Daughter: Mary Carroll (1871-1941Daughter: Anne (Carroll) Singleton (1875-1926)
Son: John Carroll (1878-1941)Daughter: Teresa (Carroll) Wynne (1888-1958)
Father: David CarrollMother: Catherine Cummins
Brother: Thomas O'Carroll (c. 1837-1918) Sister: Mary Carroll (b. 1841)
Brother: David Carroll (b. 1847)

These links are to each family member's memorial at Find A Grave, an online collection of gravesites and memorials from around the world. They will be replaced with a link to their memorial in the Virtual Graveyard at Black Raven Genealogy, when one has been created. It's my intention to also create a memorial for them at Find A Grave too, whenever possible, and to update the links here, as I go.

I’d been wondering how to preserve this information and how to present it here at Black Raven Genealogy. Then recently, Marian at Climbing My Family Tree wrote  about her intention to create a 'virtual cemetery' for her ancestors, using the tools at Find A Grave. I've already created some memorials at Find A Grave, but I wanted to create an independent collection too. Marian's post gave me this idea.

The aim is to create a memorial for each of my direct ancestors. In addition to what is set out above, I'd like to include their photograph, a photograph of the graveyard, if they have no headstone, and maybe a picture of their Memorial Card, if I have one. I'll also include a copy of the burial register and the plot number of their physical gravesite, where available. There'll be an index too, of sorts, showing how we're related. Please say, if you can think of anything else to make the memorials better.

I've created a category 'Theme: Virtual Graveyard', as seen on the right. This will act as the cemetery gate. Clicking on this, you will enter my graveyard. You'll be able to visit each of the graves, irrespective of where in the world they are physically located. Maybe you'd like to leave some flowers - virtually speaking - in the comments?
                πŸŽ•πŸŽ•πŸŽ•πŸŽ•πŸŽ•πŸŽ• (You could copy and paste these, if you like).πŸ˜‰

There's an 'A to Z Blogging Challenge' held in April that involves writing 26 blog posts, in 26 days, with 26 (or as many as I can manage) letters of the alphabet, and one post dedicated to each letter. The goal is to create a memorial for one ancestor on each day of the challenge. So, if I start preparing now, maybe I'll accomplish it.

Sunday 14 February 2021

Valentine’s Day Vignette – a guest post by my cousin Aileen

Wedding photo, Nora Barton and George Meehan, 1943

This is a guest post written by my first cousin Aileen, who started her genealogical journey some years ago, back in the day when finding someone in the census meant a time-consuming and often frustrating line-by-line search of the records in the National Archives. Aileen created and manages the Wynnes of Ireland website about the Wynne surname in Ireland. Today she is writing about the Meehans, the other side of her family, her mother's side, the one we don't share.

Granny Meehan loved to tell us that she and her husband shared their birthday. She said, they were both born on Valentine’s Day, 14 February, he in 1904 and she in 1906.

Granny Meehan also loved to tell us she should have been called Valentine. When she was born, her neighbour was instructed to christen her with the unusual name. The neighbour couldn’t remember what the planned name for the child was when she got to the church, so she named her Norah. She liked the name Norah. The priest gave her the middle name of Valentine, in honour of the saint's day.

When I started my genealogical adventures, I didn’t think to question these things any more than I questioned where I’d been born or what year I became an elder sister – These were facts.

Or were they? When Nora (with no h at the end, as she became later in life) Meehan (neΓ© Barton) died in 1999, I was gifted with her wooden boxes, which contained both church and civil certificates for members of the family. It was only when I was looking at these that I discovered discrepancies in the stories I knew as facts.

My Grandfather George Meehan
My grandfather, George Meehan, was born on the 13 February 1904 at 2:30 AM according to his birth certificate, an hour before his twin sister Kathleen. The births were registered on 21 April 1904, by Margaret Gilligan, who had been 'present at birth'.

George was baptised 'George Alfrid Meehan’ on 15 February 1904, in the local parish church, now the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul, in Ennis, Co. Clare. The sponsors at the christening were Frank Meehan and Mary Meehan.

Interestingly, 'Kathleen' was baptized ‘Rita Kathleen' and went by the name Rita most of her life. When I mentioned her name was Kathleen on her birth certificate, my mother told me I had the wrong person. But, the fact that her parent’s names, location of the birth and the person registering the births were the same as her twin indicated I was looking at the right child.

As a side, Rita was often known as Sally, apparently, as she used to sing a beautiful version of “The Sally Gardens” when she was little - and indeed it was always her favourite song - so one of the neighbours started calling her Sally and it stuck.

Anyway, given that George was born on the 13 February and baptised on the 15 February – celebrating his birthday on the 14th was a reasonable stretch.

My Grandmother, Nora Meehan (neΓ© Barton)
According to her birth certificate, Norah (with a h) was born on the 20 February 1906. Her birth was registered on the 15 March 1906 by her father Pat Barton. According to her baptismal record, Norah was born on the 17 February 1906 and baptised the next day, on the 18 February. The sponsors were Michael Crowe and Catherine O’Keeffe. I suspect Michael Crowe was her mother's eldest brother. Her mother had a sister Norah, born in 1863, and I have also heard she was named after this aunt. Granny Meehan never mentioned her aunts and uncles to me, so I can't say much more on that.

There was no indication of a middle name for Norah (with a h) Barton on her marriage certificate, when she married George Alfred Meehan in 1943.

I asked my mother and her brothers what they remembered about Valentine's Day when they were younger. Were there any birthday celebrations or anything else? One said he thought his mother used to claim her birthday was Valentine's Day, but he was sure that it wasn’t. The other brothers remembered nothing special about Valentine's Day when they were growing up – telling me stories of when they first discovered its (Hallmark) meaning.

My uncles also told me a couple of new stories about my great-grandmother, as initially they thought of their grandmother when I mentioned “Granny”. Some of my cousins remembered that Granny Meehan's birthday was on the 14 February. My mother said we were told both our grandparent's shared a birthday on 14 February, as St. Valentine's Day was a good day, between their birthdays, to have a joint celebration.

I think Granny Meehan felt it was a nice story, and an excuse for us to have a celebration on Valentine's Day, when she had her grandchildren around. There’s no evidence her name should have been Valentine, or that she was given the wrong name. Her stories are very sweet, though.

Take aways:
  • Take away 1. Check everything – sometimes what you know as fact may just be a supposition, or even a story, embellished by the storyteller.
  • Take away 2. Spellings can change over time (Alfrid/Alfred, Norah/Nora) – and many Irish people went by their baptismal name (‘Rita’ Kathleen Meehan) - or even a nickname that bears no resemblance to their real name.
  • Take away 3. Civil and church dates may differ – usually the church date is nearer the actual birth and is more likely to be correct.

  1. Ireland, Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs - Civil Records'''] database with images, accessed: 7 October 2018 > image, birth registration of Norah Barton; 1906, citing Group Registration ID 332158; County: Clare; Registration District: Bridgetown; Union: Limerick; Entry no. 477.
  2. Ireland, Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs - Civil Records'''] database with images, accessed: 7 October 2018 > image, birth registration of George Meehan (and Kathleen Meehan); 1904, citing Group Registration ID 4673912; County: Clare; Registration District: Ennis; Union: Ennis; Entry no. 61 (and 62).
  3. Ireland, Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs - Civil Records'''] database with images, accessed: 7 October 2018 > image, marriage registration of George Meehan and Norah Barton; 1943, citing Group Registration ID 1092651; County: Clare; Registration District: Ennis; Parish: Ennis; Entry no. 115.