Thursday, October 2, 2014

Falling Asleep
in the Midst of the Excitement

There are some who are excellently equipped for world travel. I am not one of them.

Our second day in Ireland was reserved for one purpose: sleep. After going well over twenty four hours without any decent sleep, a traveler should deserve a break. And yesterday was just the day for that.

Our daughter, attending class at University College Cork, just happened to have a fully-packed day that very same day, so we thought the schedules aligned nicely.

As it turned out, it hardly mattered, though. Sleep deprivation or not, I awoke with a start after seven hours...and the day began. Sometimes, that internal clock does not pay any attention to reason.

The day turned out to be a day for taking care of the business of daily life. The first two hours were spent over a delightful breakfast at a coffee shop across the street from our hotel--I had a smoked salmon covered serving of scrambled eggs, while my husband opted for the Irish "works" of a sampler of sausages, bacon, and (I think) there were eggs somewhere in the midst of all that meat. We enjoyed our meal, as did our daughter and one of her American friends here.

The coffee shop was called Serendipity, and that is exactly what I have been hoping for, now. I am sorely missing my iPad, and the day was partially devoted to following up on that unfortunate misplacement of my scheduler and external-drive brain.

We got ourselves an Irish cell phone. The original idea was to have our American service provider "unlock" our phones so we could purchase an Irish SIM card and swap out here, but though the Verizon rep assured us that was no longer a requirement--apparently, legislation was recently passed which spoke to that very issue--when we arrived here (sans international plan, I might add), we found out that was not the case. Another Plan B kind of day later, and we had a "burner" phone for our temporary use for the next month. One insurmountable challenge down.

In the meantime, we took the opportunity to walk through a lot of downtown Cork. Well, part of that walk was thanks to our inability to follow directions. We got lost. A lot of walking later, we accidentally stumbled upon our destination. And spent some time shopping.

The next step was to get to the airport to pick up our rental car. Remember how I was concerned about fitting five adults plus luggage into a Toyota Corolla? Well, thanks to several cab rides during afternoon traffic our first day here, my wonderful husband was re-thinking getting that stick-shift rental car. Keeping mindful about not only shifting gears with the opposite hand, while also remembering to keep to the left, even on the roundabouts, was weighing on his mind. On our ride to the airport to get the car, our helpful cab driver suggested switching his watch from his left arm to his right arm. That would be to remind him to Look Right!!!

Duly noted. And heavily insured.

In the meantime, I have noticed that a lot of the Google Maps driving instructions seem to repeat the same sequence: go to next roundabout, take the second exit. Rinse. Repeat.

In the spirit of the adventure, we had not been able, before leaving the States, to secure all the hotel reservations we had needed to line up. Does that strike you as crazy? We seem to be joining the ranks of a good friend of mine, who has always claimed she is the "Queen of Wing." We are learning to "wing it," too.

Thankfully, though we had received no response from our inquiry to the Bed and Breakfast establishment we chose for our weekend in County Tipperary, with our new Irish cell phone, we were able to call the place directly. Reservations are now secured. We will be headed north shortly to begin our exploration of the places where our Tully and Flannery ancestors once walked. The adventure will now begin in earnest.

Above: Yes, this is fried chicken; no, it is not the South. This is Cork, I promise (note the street sign above the business sign). Only someone who spent his boyhood years growing up in Texas would find a place like this in Ireland.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

In Ireland:
Day One

It was to a blanket of clouds over the Atlantic and a blazing sunrise ricocheting off the rim of the nacelle housing the jet engine just outside my window seat that I awoke to Ireland. A serendipitous break in the cottony cover allowed me my first sight of the land where we'll spend our next three weeks: the coastline just off Galway. Not long afterwards, the cloud cover shut back up, tightly, then played hide and seek with me, allowing brief glimpses of the greenery over rural stretches of land under our flight path between the west coast and our Dublin destination.

When we landed at the Dublin airport, despite the clouds, it was sunny. With tail winds chasing us, up to one hundred forty miles per hour at times, we had completed our flight half an hour early, cleared the obligatory political formalities in much less time than anticipated, and were on the bus to the city center way ahead of schedule. Too early: almost two and a half hours early.

Exhausted from the long journey, and eager to get on with our train ride to Cork, where our daughter currently is a student, we opted to change our reservations and snagged the 1:00 run with only minutes to spare. Satisfied with this move to gain ourselves two additional hours to visit with our daughter, we settled back into our seats and grabbed our respective communications devices to tap into the complementary wifi service. Gleeful at our fast turnaround, I messaged our daughter to let her know our new arrival time in Cork.

What happened when we received her reply can only be compared to the bittersweet O. Henry Christmas story, The Gift of the Magi. Her cryptic reply:
Great. I'm in Dublin.

Astounded, I emailed her back for confirmation: "Where are you?"

Her terse reply named the exact seat next to the one which would have been mine, had we stuck to our original plans. She had decided to ditch class and surprise us. What a delightful two and a half hour train ride that would have been.

If only...

By the time we arrived at the Kent Station in Cork, we were faced with a choice: stay at the train station until her arrival in another two hours, or take a cab to our hotel and check in, then return. We sprung for the more expensive, though as we assured ourselves, reasonable choice of checking in. Which meant a return cab ride back to the train station, where we would reverse roles and greet her upon her arrival.

There was a reason for this choice: while we may be "on holiday," she is not. Still a student with classes to show up for and meetings to attend, from the time of her--and, supposedly, our--arrival back in Cork, she had to immediately run off for an appointment. This would be followed by another day full of classes, so we would essentially not see her until Thursday. There was a reason for this surprise rendezvous on the train from Dublin to Cork.

And so, at the peak of rush hour in Cork, we were back in a taxi, headed back to Kent Station for a surprise meeting with the daughter who had just gone to Dublin to surprise us. From there, we would ride back into town on the bus with her, taking every chance to spend some time together before her schedule intervened.

This is where the evening degenerated. Perhaps it was the time squeeze, or the fact that the bus she needed to catch wasn't at the stop where she expected it to be, but those few minutes that slipped by made it clear she was not going to make it to her meeting on time.

What to do? Why, take another cab back into town again, of course.

There was only one taxi still available at the station by this point, as all others on the incoming train had already claimed their rides and were long gone. By this time, we felt like experts at riding the cab in Cork, so we noticed a few things. First, unlike the other cabbies who were very obviously Irish in every sense of the manner one would expect, this driver was a foreigner. While the other drivers had engaged us in lively chatter the whole distance of the ride, this one said nothing--though admittedly, we filled the air with our own excited chatter at being reunited after nearly two months apart.

The other detail we noticed--afterwards, ruefully--was that, upon payment of the fare, the driver did not provide us with the customary receipt. Other than the obligatory license prominently displayed by the dashboard of his vehicle and the logo-like insignia posted on the front doors of every such transportation vehicle for hire, there was no way to trace him or contact him.

And contact him was what we desperately needed to do, just after he drove off from the front door of our hotel.

You see, when I am on research trips, I always bring my iPad--the one specially engraved by my husband with reminders of how much faith he has in me and all the crazy research and writing projects I have jumped into, over the years. I take it everywhere in its soft, padded case with the unique design which my daughter gifted me with, years ago. For this trip, I had prepared by loading it with all the details, special notes and references I knew I would need, come the third week of our trip when I'd be researching family details back in Dublin. It was packed with everything I thought I might even just possibly need to achieve my research goals for this trip.

Ah, yes, I did think to print up paper backup of the bare essentials of data that could be called upon, should my memory fail me. But nothing like what could be accessed online for everything I needed to know about everyone for this research trip. My iPad was my contingency plan for stumbling upon the serendipitous unknown.

I don't know what it was. Perhaps it was the fact that, other than fitfully dozing for brief snatches of the flight, I hadn't had sleep in over twenty four hours. Perhaps it was that little detail of not eating much, once we left the plane, because we were running to make time. Perhaps it was the joy of seeing our daughter again, and being caught up in all her stories of how things are going for her in these very new college surroundings.

Whatever it was, "it" was what parted me from that unique case that held my research "brain." Other than hope and pray that this silent cab driver will happen to notice my missing iPad before his next passenger does, there is apparently no agency which can provide any help in reuniting me with the tool that would most help me complete my journey here in Ireland successfully.

The beginning of our Ireland adventure: "adventure" means a journey with an unknown outcome, right?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

It’s All About the Dash

By the time you read this, I likely will have landed in Dublin. While I have had many ideas about what should be ahead of us on this trip—I have, after all, worked on the corresponding research for this event for nearly a year—they have all been thoughts about the doing of the days, the content of the occasions, the requisite itinerary. Settling in to let the event just wash over me as passive passenger, I now start to see everything from the perspective of process rather than as the search for content that has riveted my attention with its incessant demands.

This is only the second time I’ve been to Europe: the first time on the eve of welcoming our daughter into the world, the second on the cusp of launching her back out into that world. And so it becomes that such travel indelibly imprints on my mind as coupled with life’s pivotal phases. Perhaps, among such shifts in attention, I stumble upon the philosophical as I review what’s been accomplished already in the face of what is yet to achieve.

The curse of content-gathering is that we focus on the doing of our project: all the deadlines that cry for completion, all the demands, all the details. To find our ancestors in Ireland, we need to construct that eternal chain of events, the litany of his-father-who-was-son-of, and marry it with obligatory names, dates, and life events. Duly documented. We take up the chain only to forge another link. When will we be satisfied? Just one more. Just one more.

At some point, back through the ages, the paper will crumble. There will be no more documentation. Not, at least, for those lowly tenant farmers who owed everybody something but could claim nothing of their own. Yet those are the very people whose ages-old life details we seek. We will at some point encounter disappointment.

As I shift to the process of traveling there—there being that dream destination once called home by those generations far removed from our lifetime—there is nothing more that can be done about gathering such details. Other than one glorious week at the national repositories of Irish history and documents, what we will glean at this point in our journey will be the sense of being where these ancestors once walked. It will no longer be a time in which I, the researcher, am in control, but a time in which we must sit back and take it all in: the sights, the sounds, the signs of history. We no longer go to the books to extract its proof; the details will ooze from the ambience of the places where we’ve chosen to visit. “It” must come to us—whatever that unanticipated “it” might be.

This is a type of process for which we cannot make plans. It only comes packaged with serendipity. There may be a Tully or a Falvey or a Flanagan at the village market who knows just what we are seeking but could never find in a book. Or not. How can you plan to rendezvous with the answer to a mystery? You can only keep your eyes open, your ears perked, and be astute about connecting the dots. Any lead can become a viable clue.

You cannot command process. You can prepare for it solely by gathering the content to fill out all the requisite forms. But the answers we really seek only unfold. You cannot command an unknown to “fetch.”

As we enter into this unexplored research territory, it becomes all the more obvious that we need the permission to slack off those demands of content and free ourselves to go with the flow of the process. We may have once planned to travel to obtain long-sought-after content, but it’s the process of the journey alone which can immerse us in a fuller understanding of the lives these ancestors lived. John Tully, 1842 – 1907: it’s the dash, not the dates we pursue now.

Above: "The Red Houses," a 1912 oil on canvas by County Limerick native, Norman Garstin; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Monday, September 29, 2014

On Our Way to Ireland

While madly dashing about—despite best-laid plans—with last minute preparations for our imminent departure for the homeland of my husband’s forebears, I couldn’t help but dwell on one thought: the difference between our trip across the Atlantic and that of our ancestors.

Granted, times have changed. Much. Today, we will board a jetliner, while they boarded the evolutionary precursor to the ocean liner. Today, our belongings will fit into two suitcases—and the obligatory carry-on bags, without which I couldn’t possibly travel—and, though temporarily, we’ll leave the vast majority of our personal belongings behind. Our ancestors likely could fit all their life’s belongings into the same baggage over which I gripe about such things as fifty pound weight limits.

Our non-stop journey will cost us a good night’s sleep but after ten hours' travel time, will deposit us at our destination in only slightly bedraggled condition. Theirs? Apparently the weeks it took to navigate the Atlantic Ocean were only the beginning of their travel woes.

I ran across an informative essay on the many aspects of emigration from Ireland, thanks to a file in one of those Facebook genealogy groups I told you about. A member had provided the link to this website in a document—“Useful Genealogy Websites"—posted on the Tipperary Genealogy Facebook group. If you have a few minutes to absorb the content, it is well worth the read.

The value of the composition is in its accounting of the many steps prerequisite to the actual emigration journey. Though sympathetic to the plight of those having to leave their homeland and face the hazards of trans-Atlantic crossing, I had never realized how exhausted these people had to have been at the start of their journey. Yes, there was the impact of the deplorable famine weakening many—plus the ravages by the diseases which often accompany such deprivation. But in addition to that, it was apparently a marathon these emigrants endured, just in the processes required of them merely to leave their homeland.

From travel beginning in their rural townlands to the Irish port from which they would connect to England, to the obstacles they faced in trying to secure passage on the ocean-going vessel itself, let alone the hardships of third or fourth class passage (hint: the class where cattle are given preference over human passengers) across the Atlantic, the challenges seemed insurmountable. Our Irish ancestors who made it across—I ruefully note the “poorer emigrants” heading not to New York but to destinations in Canada—were indeed Olympians at their endurance trials, world class travelers of a very different sort.

As for me and my traveling companion, all we will have to complain about will be the lack of one night’s sleep. A small price to pay in comparison.

By the time you join me here tomorrow, I’ll likely be grabbing my bags at the luggage carousel in Dublin. If all goes well despite the unpredictable rendezvous with wifi services coupled with time zone disparities, the following days will bring you brief posts—including photos of a rather amateurish sort—of our travel and research progress.

Above: "An emigrant ship, Dublin bay, sunset," 1853 oil on canvas by Dublin resident Edwin Hayes; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mapping Out a
Hundred Fifty Five Year Old Meeting

The very few details still available today—from the 1859 marriage of John Kelly and Johanna Falvey through the 1860s births of their children in County Kerry—give a mixed message as to the specific location of this family’s home. Yet, in little over a week, we will be in the vicinity of Killarney, hoping to uncover the very paths once walked by our ancestors. How to determine that location, when each document seems to report a different place?

The problem is this:

  • One record gives the marriage location of John and Johanna as Kilcummin.
  • That record lists John’s residence as Knockancore.
  • A baptismal record for 1864 comes from a parish called Killeentierna.
  • That 1864 document shows the Kelly address as Currow.
  • Another baptismal record, in 1867, shows the same parish, but address in Barnfield.
  • The Griffith’s Valuation shows John Kelly in civil parish Molahiffe, in the townland of Lisheenacannina.

Question: Where are all these places? More to the point, is it feasible for the same family to have been in each of these locations from the time of their courtship through the course of their early married life?

Obviously, the answer to these questions would be easily had if I could produce a map of the area including all these details—including those of any towns that might no longer be in existence.

However, that obvious solution did not occur to me. It took a tip, kindly offered by a denizen of the Facebook genealogy groups I’ve already mentioned, to knock some research sense into me. A member of the County Kerry group suggested, basically, that I take a map and check out the distances between each of the places named on these various family records.

Working on the assumption that, back in that era, a person would either travel by foot or with a horse and cart, this researcher figured a person could cover somewhere between ten to twenty miles in a day, one way, to travel to market. The possibility that said person could meet—and eventually fall in love with—a person traveling a like distance from the opposite direction means the two parties, though now in a relationship, might have originated from places which were up to forty miles apart.

Given that scenario, diagramming the possibilities on a map by encircling each town using a twenty mile radius would reveal any overlaps indicating likely pairings of origin. If the place names I’ve already encountered—Kilcummin, Knockancore, Killeentierna, Currow, Barnfield, Lisheenacannina—fall within those realms of possibility, then I likely have the same person moving from place to place.

Or, I might just be dealing with two different John Kelly families, both having a wife’s maiden name as Falvey.

Whichever result turns out to be the more likely scenario, I’m still keen on a visit to Lisheenacannina. If nothing else, it’s just fun to say it.  

 Above: Painting of a Ringed Plover by Irish artist and naturalist, Mary Battersby; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Changing Face of Genealogy Networks

Face it: genealogy researchers like to share what they’ve found almost as much as they liked the finding of it. And that means they’ve always needed a way to connect.

Remember queries, those hopeful letters sent to society newsletters and genealogical publications, probably by the thousands? I remember sitting in our local library, with stacks of pertinent society publications—plus Everton’s Genealogical Helper—poring over the listings in the back of each issue, hoping to find a match.

It’s been a long time since I tried that routine.

How about the listserv? Have you ever played that game? I remember one electronic mailing list I subscribed to, hosted at the University of Pennsylvania. I think I was on others through the University of Virginia. Whoever the administrators were, they became the middlemen enabling each of us to pass along genealogical information to hordes of desperate researchers.

Once online forums made their debut, they became the logical next step in assuaging that ever-increasing hunger for more genealogical information. I played my part in the early days of both Rootsweb and GenForum, both now greatly fallen from use—and GenForum about to become a read-only archive. They, too, served their purpose in their own time as the means with which genealogy researchers connected to compare notes.

With the advent of social media, it only made sense that we would once again congregate and do what we’ve always done: share and compare notes. The #genealogy hashtag is alive and well at Twitter. I’m sure Google+ has its own set of genealogical communities. There is even an APG chapter which virtually meets at Second Life.

And then there is Facebook.

While I’ve been on Facebook for a number of years, I hesitated to dive in to the genealogy scene there. I dunno…maybe because I always saw Facebook as a place to share more privately with people I really knew, face to face. I’ve always had that need to have a secluded space to call my own, even in the midst of all the public hubbub. So I resisted the urge to even go exploring.

Now, Facebook has experienced widespread use by genealogical organizations. Many societies boast their own Facebook page. And many Facebook “groups” have been set up—whether sponsored by a society or through other means—to facilitate communication between long-distance researchers who want to know more about a specific area.

That’s where Facebook started calling me back for a second look. I’ve been desperately seeking some local input on where to find resources on site in each of the Irish counties we’ll be visiting in the next few weeks. While I’ll spend a solid week poring over books, microfilms and records in Dublin, I have two additional weeks for leisurely journeys to the counties from which some of my husband’s ancestors emigrated. I want to get some suggestions from locals on where to go and what to see—not of a tourist nature, but regarding the local history and local resources.

For those kinds of questions, Facebook became my sole answer. I started entering the name of each county in the search bar at Facebook, and found at least one group for each destination. Granted, each was a “closed” group, but it involved the simple matter of requesting permission to join. One group even turned out to have, as its administrator, an American-based genealogist I’ve already met online: Terri O’Connell, co-founder of The In-Depth Genealogist.

In the few days I’ve been a member of each of these Facebook groups, I’ve gleaned several great suggestions and been directed to some worthwhile resources. One gentleman in a Tipperary group opened my eyes to the fact that our Denis Tully family came from a townland—Tountinna—which was (contrary to my assumption) high up in the mountains. Another member shared his work on maps, graphically demonstrating the surname distribution of his Carroll surnames; while this is not a surname I’m pursuing for this trip, it was enlightening to read about his work.

No matter which way we’ve done it—electronic email lists, online forums, or social media—it’s always been great to have a way to pose a question and see its answer come back at us almost instantaneously. On the eve of our trip to Ireland, I know it’s been a gratifying experience for me. Right now, I certainly can use the last-minute advice!

Above: "Rock of Cashel" in County Tipperary, mid-1850s drawing by geological surveyor and Dublin-born artist of Huguenot descent, George Victor Du Noyer; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.  

Friday, September 26, 2014

If You Need an Attorney to Do It,
It Can’t Be Fun Anymore

Gah. This latest development couldn’t have come at a worse moment. I really didn’t have time for fine print. And yet, that is exactly what I found myself muddling over last night.

It all happened in an innocuous way. It was on the cool-down period after one solitary meltdown over realizing I leave for Ireland in three days, and I am way not prepared to go. I thought, I’ll just cool my heels for a while and wander around some of my favorite blogs. After all, I’ve been so busy lately, I haven’t had time to stop by and read what’s been going on with my blogging friends.

I made it all the way to the Es—and no, I do not generally read my subscriptions in alphabetical order; it just happened that way—when I realized this might not have been a good idea.

It was E for Ellie’s Ancestors that broke the news to me: that online genealogy resource I’ve already written a rant about has decided to change their policy on charges, from pay-as-you-go to subscription.

Oh? This could be an improvement.

Or not.

It wasn’t lost on me that I had already laid money down on the books. What was to become of that?

As it turned out, the company had a handy dandy device with which to convert one’s current balance to the new balance. But not so fast—this was the same nickel-and-dime-you company over which I had already been frustrated. I decided to take my time and—groan—read through their updated terms of service. After all, “buyer beware” and all that. This is the type of late night reading that cannot possibly be termed as fun. And, of course, a little surge of ye olde blood pressure ensued upon stumbling upon that rock of offense that reminded me
Online or other republication of content is prohibited except as unique data elements that are part of a unique family history or genealogy.

What is that supposed to mean? That I am bound and gagged and prevented from mentioning anything I find about my family? What is the use of looking, if you can’t share what you find? It’s a reward of the chase to be able to gloat over fresh discoveries, isn’t it?

And how can one have a “unique family history”? Even an only child could not boast of such a thing. After all, it takes two to tango.

This is where I started realizing that only through the professional guidance of my unique personal attorney could I safely navigate this mined field of words. And if it takes an attorney to make it safely to the other side of my genealogical research quest, it isn’t a fun journey anymore.

Yes, I know everyone needs to look out for number one. What better way to do so than to hire a passel of attorneys to insure your every right is thoroughly protected? But if I have to hire an attorney so that my attorney can talk to your attorney, I stop wanting to play this game.

I had once read that none other than John Grenham had labeled the site “clunky” or “byzantine” or another such term. Though I failed to locate that comment via a Google search, I was nonetheless rewarded for my efforts with two other Grenham commentaries on the site’s past charging policies which I found here and here. Click through and see what you think. Apparently, I am not alone in my longstanding frustration.

There is, however, another way. When I think about this current distress, my mind flies immediately to another company’s terms of service, the spirit of which I vastly prefer. A while back, I took up an offer to subscribe to findmypast Ireland. While the company’s genealogical documentation didn’t meet my needs at the time, I wish it had—not just because of the disappointment of those still-elusive records, but on account of how the company conducted its business.

Take their terms of service. I was almost positive I saw phrases in their terms directing the customer to “kindly” do certain things. Their genial demeanor shone through their straightforward and fair wording on their terms of service. How can one not help but like a company that makes statements like
These Terms & Conditions are made under Irish law and any arguments about them (heaven forbid) will only be heard in Irish courts.

At the outset, findmypast Ireland stated in their terms,
We hate jargon as much as you do, so our Terms & Conditions are written in plain English.

And they kept their promise. Kindly.

Why can’t everyone conduct business like this? Especially in Ireland. After all, the Emerald Isle has a reputation to uphold. We customers of Irish descent always heard it was that way back in the Old Country. And we’re not ready to be disappointed.

Above: County Limerick native Norman Garstin, "Autumn," 1882 oil on canvas; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain. 

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