Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Getting Back to the Source

Sometimes, it is easy to get so entangled in the little details of the search that we lose sight of the bigger picture.

In trying to figure out the identity and details on the main people featured in a photo album I found at an antique store, it was easy to stick with what resources we had at hand. After all, not only did our Penrose Hawkes migrate to New York in his teen years, but at least two of his uncles had done likewise in the previous generation. We had the luxury of many resources here in the States to inform us about Penrose, his life's work and personal concerns. Of course we were going to gobble up all the resources we could find in that setting.

But in trying to determine just who Alice was—the "Self" of the couple who signed their names on that 1936 Christmas album as "Harry and Alice"—we could search those United States resources forever and not come up with the answer we needed. Why? This Alice was likely still living back in Ireland.

How could we have forgotten that? Tunnel vision. It's easy to get so focused on one route of discovery that we fail to stand back and get the bigger picture. Of course Penrose's family would still have some people who remained back in Ireland.

For those who have an international subscription to services such as Ancestry.com, or go direct to the source by subscribing to FindMyPast.ie, the next step would be quite easy: just look up the Hawkes family in County Cork for the 1901 and 1911 census enumerations. After all, Penrose didn't leave home until he was about sixteen, so both those documents would help us determine the family constellation.

Of course, we are still lacking some information on the full family. We know Penrose was named after his father, and that his full name—same as his dad's—was actually John Pim Penrose Hawkes. But we know very little about the rest of the family, other than that, according to the 1940 U.S. Census, Penrose was born in Ireland around 1900.

Almost immediately, using my international Ancestry.com account, I located Penrose's family in the 1901 census. That discovery informs us that Penrose's mother was named Sara. And it also provides us with the details about his only sibling. You will be relieved to learn that that sibling was indeed a sister—she was an older sister by about one year—and that her name was...ta da...Alice.

It wasn't simply Alice Hawkes, though. What would you expect from a family who named their son John Pim Penrose Hawkes? The two year old daughter is listed in the 1901 census as Alice Ruby—now giving us an early hint as to where Alice's daughter Ruby's name may have come from.

Just to double check, I looked up the family in the next census. There in Grange in County Cork was the same family. Well, almost. The names are mostly the same, except the now-twelve year old daughter is called Alice Bridget. I suspect that is simply a matter of Alice receiving three given names, just as her brother had done. For now, we'll use the name as Alice Ruby Bridget—and adjust accordingly, as we find other documentation.

So, without any fanfare, there in two simple—albeit international for us—documents, we resolve the issue of just who "Self" might have been. After all, if "Self's" mother, "Grannie," is the woman known as Mrs. Penrose Hawkes of the 1930s kennel club shows, it stands to reason that Self and Penrose are siblings. And here is the listing for Penrose's sister's name. Perfect.

That discovery, however, leads us to Alice's maiden name—not her married name. But once we focus on records in the Hawkes' homeland, it will likely once again be an easy matter to discover who she married, and whether she had two daughters named Ruby and Iris. We'll take a look at what we can find on that account, tomorrow.

Above: Excerpt of image of John Pim Penrose Hawkes' household entry for the 1901 census, courtesy National Archives of Ireland.


  1. Way to go, Jacqi! I wonder if Iris was a family name too.

    1. Well, Ruby certainly was, so that is a possibility to check out for Iris.

  2. Replies
    1. Exciting, isn't it?! And I'm sure you know that feeling, multiplied times over, Far Side!

  3. Finally a light at the end of the tunnel!


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