Wednesday, September 16, 2020


 I have occasionally wondered if the Crowns living in County Leitrim in the 1830s were originaly from some place outside of Ireland, like maybe England.  But the ethnicity reports from our DNA tests tell the difference between Irish and English.  The Crowns were definitely Irish.

Yet, I'm embarrassed to say that it has been much too easy to think of the Irish as though they were English.  With my Schaefer ancestors, there was no question from the beginning that their German language was not English, and if I wanted to know about those ancestors I had to learn about the language, the written script, the translation of family-related terms, and so on.  Thus, after much stubborn effort, I still can't speak German worth a hoot, but I can read old German church and civil records enough to determine names, dates, places, and relationships.  After that, switching to the Irish ancestors must be a piece of cake because Irish records are written in English, a language officially adopted by America after revolting against the country that colonized them, go figure.  Therefore, American English is the language I think in, and reading Irish records written after 1801 in British English must be a piece of cake.  In Irish, the task would be wee buns.

To be clear, the surviving genealogical records found in Ireland are, for the most part, written in English, but the official language of Ireland is Gaeilge which is known as Irish, Gaelic, or Irish Gaelic in English.  Gaeilge uses 18 letters of the Latin alphabet, omitting the following letters used in English: j, k, q, v, w, x, y, z.  Notice the letter W, which would not have occurred in a Gaeilge surname.  Thus, the surname Crown was certainly a name devised by an English record-keeper whose job it was to collect taxes for the Church of Ireland.  This surname reset might have been a literal translation of the Irish word for Crown, coróin, or it might have been a phonetic translation of a name that sounded like or approximated the sound of Crown, something like Croghan.  I tend to favor the latter possibility.

This moment of enlightenment for me about the Gaeilge language comes on the heels of finding a tenant family in County Leitrim whose surname spelling varied slightly over the course of 64 years of English records.  What started in 1833 as Crown became Croan became Croal became Crowell.  You can read about my research into a possible explanation for this spelling variation here.  

Let me assert that my research insights would be utterly empty without several recent email exchanges with Irish relations.  Such correspondence reinforces my idea that connecting with real people can teach us so much more than the records alone, especially where the records are scarce.  I have read Irish history, which, like so many places, is complicated.  But reading that history in English without realizing there might have been another version of that history if translated from Gaelig probably fooled me a little.  It made me think I understood things that I couldn't because the replacement of the Irish native language obscured my ancestors culture as well as the reality of their lives.  As an English speaker, I feel fairly humbled to be learning this lesson now.

With that said, having better awareness of our ancestors' native language gives so much greater meaning to our Irish legacy.  To share the closing remarks from my Irish correspondent:  Slán go Fóill, (Goodbye for the time-being!).

Friday, August 28, 2020

The McGloin Sisters of Largydonnell

I have one more story to tell this week which stems from DNA matches and subsequent research.  In corresponding with descendants of these matches, I learned about three sisters:
  • Honora "Annie" McGloin, b 1844 Leitrim, m Michael Duggan after emigrating to NY, d 1935 in Bronx, NY
  • Catherine "Kate" McGloin, b 1856 Leitrim, m Terrence McGowan in Ireland, lived in Brooklyn and later Newburgh, NY, d 1963 in Newton, NJ
  • Bridget "Bessie" McGloin, b 1860 Leitrim, m Philip Clarke in NY, lived in Brooklyn, d 1950 Brooklyn, NY
There's a wonderful photo of these sisters in their later years, probably taken in New York in 1930s.

The kicker here is that these sisters were daughters of Francis McGloin and Bridget Crown!  I am making the leap that Bridget is the source of our DNA matches!  But I find no records about Bridget other than her death in 1899 in Ballina, Ireland at the age of 86 (b 1813), and her subsequent probate record.  Her husband, Francis McGloin, can be found in the 1857 Griffith's valuation in Largydonnell, where the family story says that the sisters were born.  Francis died in 1887.

But we have one other piece of evidence provided by Bridget herself.  In 1896, Bridget McGloin was writing letters to her daughter, Annie Duggan, from Glenade.  Bridget was asking her daughter to come visit her because she was feeling weak and feeble.  We don't know if Annie made it back to see Bridget or not, but the letters survived, still in the hands of Duggan descendants.  What a treasure!

I have found evidence of Crown families living in Loughmuirran, which is literally a walk of 1202 yards from Glenade, and a little farther down the road to Largydonnell.  The records on these Crowns are sparse, and it's hard to know if Bridget Crown McGloin was related to them.  Alternatively, the Lurganboy and Poundhill Crowns were just over 6 miles down the road to  Manorhamilton. Perhaps the McGloins traveled to Manorhamilton from time to time, and Francis McGloin might have met the fair young Bridget on one such trip, they married, and she moved to his home land. We don't know, yet.

The DNA matches from McGloin descendants in America tell us that Bridget Crown of Glenade is related to us somehow, but how does she fit in?  Each puzzle piece holds some part of the big picture, which at some point will reveal itself to those of us looking.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Cross-Checking Crowns

Anybody using a computer for their genealogy in this day and age is likely reading information that has been abstracted and transcribed from original records.  Somebody else is reading our ancestors' records and we're taking their word for it.  We're also sparing ourselves the time it takes to read the fading ink of old-time handwritten script which might have been written by a priest who was left-handed and using Latin abbreviations if he was in a hurry. But if the research question matters and/or you might die from curiosity, locating original records becomes important.  At least half the time when I look at a record for myself, I find information that was not included in the abstract and/or a word or phrase that was mistranscribed or mistranslated altogether.  Luckily for us, digital images of many Catholic registers, especially in Ireland, are now available online and for free.  What could be better?

This post is going to give you a quick example of how this methodology made me very happy today:
  • In a previous post, I mentioned the obituary of Michael Crowne who died in 1936 in NJ.  That news clipping mentioned that Michael had a sister, Mrs. Patrick McMurray.  The unfortunate tradition of identifying women solely by their relationship to men doesn't really help genealogical pursuits.  All my searches for any Patrick McMurray in that vicinity as well as in Ireland from 1920-1940 were fruitless.
  • I went back to Michael Crowne's family group to review his siblings. There were two sisters who I couldn't account for, Mary and Bridget.  I started with Mary.  The only information I had about her was that she was baptised at the Killargue Church in County Leitrim in 1877.
  • In reading the actual baptism, I came very close to missing something.  Above the original handwriting was a notation made in a smaller and different handwriting which reads "married to Patrick McMorrow 20.9.1908 in Brooklyn by [can't decipher]."  It took several minutes before I realized that the 1936 newspaper obituary of Michael Crowne had misprinted his sister's married name.  We're looking for McMorrow, not McMurray.
  • I located the New York marriage certificate for Mary Crown and Patrick McMorrow which was acquired a few weeks before the church wedding.  But strangely, I found no other record of them in any U.S. or NY census. Finally, I found a U.S. passport application dated 5 Jul 1924. The applicant was Patrick McMorrow to be accompanied by his wife Mary whom he had married on 20 Sep. 1908 at the St. Thomas Aquinas RC Church in Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY.  Patrick provided much more information about his origins and his occupation in NY, and Mary McMorrow, housewife, attested that she had known Patrick for 20 years.  And then, affixed to the application, are photographs of them both.  Wow.
So there you have it.  I have read that priests in America would often inquire to the home parish overseas about those seeking sacraments.  So the priest in Brooklyn wrote to the priest in Killargue and asked if Mary Crowne had been baptised there.  The priest in Killargue looked her up in the parish register and confirmed.  The priest in Brooklyn then married the couple, and he subsequently notified the home parishes of the marriage.  In our case, the Killargue priest went back to Mary's baptism record and also made note of her marriage.

I can't say much more about whatever happened to Patrick and Mary, or whether they had children.  The passport application said they were going to Ireland "to benefit health" and would return within two years. We know that Mary was still alive in 1936 when her brother, Michael, died in Hoboken, New Jersey.  Whatever Mary Crown McMorrow's fate, it was likely recorded in some Catholic register somewhere.

Irish-American Nurses

In 2019, a number of DNA matches appeared whose Crown ancestors trace back to the County Leitrim townlands of Sweetwood Lower, Sweetwood Little, and Cloonagh.  All of these places are a virtual stone's throw from the other.  Next came a flurry of correspondence between U.S. and Irish contacts, including some story-telling.  Here's one clip:

There were two unmarried brothers Jimmy and Tom Crown living in the little house beside Crown's Bridge in the townland of Cloonagh.

It didn't take long to identify that this reference applies to Martin Crown, shoemaker of Cloonagh, and his wife, Sarah Waters.  The baptism records tell us this couple had the following children:  John, Mary, Michael, Bridget, James, Ellen/Helen, Catherine, Thomas, and Sarah.  As of the 1911 census, James and Thomas (aka Jimmy and Tom) were living at home in Cloonagh with their elderly widowed mother.

I then tried a reverse search in U.S. records in hopes of catching any family members who might have emigrated:  were there any U.S. Crowns with parents Martin Crown and Sarah Waters?  There was one match to that query for a Michael Crown who arrived in the U.S. in 1903 on his way to his brother John.  The names of both Michael and John appear in the family group of the Cloonagh Crowns.  The passenger list, however, curiously included a reference to a state hospital.  Wonder what that means?

I subsequently fell across a family tree with a Crown relation who supposedly worked at a state hospital on Long Island, citing this wonderful book as a source.  What?  Now that I look, there were three Crown women who lived out on Long Island in communities where state hospitals were:  Helen Crown Moran, Catherine Crown Johnston, and Sarah Crown McHugh.  Hmmm, these are all names of girls in the family group of Martin Crown and Sarah Waters.  Interesting, but this evidence isn't quite enough to say there is a connection between Long Island Crowns and Cloonagh Crowns.

So turning back to Michael Crown who arrived in NY in 1903.  He apparently married in NY and had one child there who died as an infant.  Michael subsequently moved across the river to work in a pencil factory in Hoboken.  He had six children there before he was killed in 1936 when struck by a car while crossing the street.  His obituary mentioned three surviving sisters:  Mrs. Harry Johnston (Catherine), Mrs. O. McHugh (Sarah), and Mrs. Patrick McMurray (Mary).  Two of these would be our Long Island Crown nurses.

Because of the increasing DNA matches, we know that Crowns from the Drumlease civil parish were somehow related to my ancestor, Richard Crown of Pollboy, but the exact connection still eludes us, for now.  And yet thanks to correspondence with Philadelphia relations, descendants of Malachy Travers and Brigid Crown, we know that two g-granddaughters of our Richard Crown were also nurses at Friends Hospital in Philadelphia,  Elizabeth "Babbie" Travers Doherty and Tressa Travers Lynch.  This photo was so kindly shared by James Doherty, an enthusiastic family historian who corresponded with me before his passing in 2018:

Elizabeth Ann Travers Doherty, top step left. and Tressa Travers Lynch, far right

Does nursing just run in the Crown family?  Hardly.  It's interesting to learn that single Irish women outnumbered Irish men among the immigrants arriving at Ellis Island after 1892.  These women were intelligent and independent, wanting to take charge of their own lives, and nursing was a career that welcomed them. Many left the profession after marriage, but their skills, spirit, and compassion have carried on to present day.  As luck would have it, another DNA match has recently joined our growing ranks of Crown descendants, a retired psychiatric nurse who now lives in Australia.  She clearly follows other Crown descendants who found purpose in the care and treatment of mental health patients, those especially struggling through bleak times in their lives. The character of such women emphasizes, then and now, that helping each other is a heritage that belongs to us all.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Remembering Crown Women

Late in 2014, a Crown descendant shared a Crown family tree that his father had drawn. That drawing clearly depicted our ggg-grandparents Richard Crown and Sarah Meehan as the parents of five children:  John, Patrick, Richard, Cormac, and Bridget, outlined in one of my previous posts.  As we know, things really took off from there as we have located descendants from each branch, and further confirmed with DNA matching.  What a miracle that family tree has been to all of us.

And yet, I've learned alot from my own experiences with genealogy over the past many years, not the least of which is that secondary sources (such as a hand-drawn family trees) need to be combined with primary sources and considered altogether in order to draw valid conclusions. The truth is that we have been unable to find any baptism records for the people mentioned here, the marriage records, where they exist, rarely identify the relationship of witnesses, and death records may or may not identify relationships depending on the informant.

All of which brings me to a recent discovery that made me question the aforementioned handed-down family tree. In reviewing early Crown marriages in County Leitrim, I was reminded of the marriage banns between Malachy Travers and Bridget Crown in 1852.  But this time I noticed another marriage bann just three years previous between Michael McMorrow and Mary Crown in 1849.  Both the Crown women in these banns were of Drumlease.  After a long pause, it started to dawn on me.  Mary Crown could be another daughter of Richard Crown and Sarah Meehan, one that was not included in the hand-drawn family tree.  I suddenly feel ridiculous that all this time has gone by, and I have never once considered whether Richard and Sarah had more than one daughter.  Of course they must have, daughters who were forgotten and subsequently unknown to the later generations who were recording our history.

So allow me to briefly introduce Mary Crown.  She was born about 1829, and she and Michael McMorrow had at least 7 children:  Catherine, Patrick, Bridget, Michael, John, Mary, and Sarah.  They lived in Kilroosk.  Mary died in 1878 at the age of 49, and Michael died in 1904, so he can be found in the 1901 census living with his youngest daughter.  We might wonder together how we could associate Mary as a daughter of Richard and Sarah. Certainly the proximity of Kilroosk to Pollboy is notable, but better yet, Richard Crown was a sponsor at the baptism of Mary's son, Patrick, in 1854.  As of this writing, we know about only one Richard Crown who was alive and old enough at that time:  Richard Crown of Pollboy. Richard might have been some relation other than Mary's father, so I'm trying to temper my sense of excitement.  Wish me luck with that.

I have since located a couple DNA matches between me and other known Crown testers and descendants of Mary Crown McMorrow.  Those matches aren't enough to confirm relationships that long ago, but I've been learning how to use triangulation to help confirm a common ancestor.  Until then, Richard could have been Mary's father, or possibly her uncle (maybe daughter of Arthur, see previous post). Even if neither of those speculations can be proved, we know now about Mary - she existed - and I suspect she had sisters as well as brothers, aunts as well as uncles, a mother and maybe grandmothers who helped her with childbirth and mourned her passing at a relatively young age.  Mary Crown had a part in our story.

Finally, let me also acknowledge that 100 years ago today, the United States permitted women to vote, two years after that right was given to Irish women.  Mary Crown McMorrow didn't live to see that time, but her daughters might have, and her granddaughters most certainly did.  I think all our female Crown ancestors would be proud to know that their lives are remembered in our own voices and choices moving forward.

Ghost of Arthur Crown

Until recently, I haven't fully realized just how much history I was going to learn as a result of studying DNA matches. This time, I've spotted two matches to a Crown family who lived in the area of Meshoppen, PA starting in early 1830s, which predates the Great Famine.  So why did this Crown family leave Ireland to settle in a forested region 160 miles from NY or Philadelphia, which were the likeliest ports of arrival?

The answer is almost certainly Jobs. From 1828-1856, the North Branch Canal was built along the Susquehanna River for 169 miles between southern New York and north central Pennsylvania. But work was paused for about 10 years around 1840, and the workers, many if not most of them Irish, had to make a home.  So a handful of Irish settlers acquired land in/around what is today called Stowell, and which would become known as the Irish Settlement.

Although the Crowns are not listed among the early settlers of the Irish Settlement, Richard Crown and his wife Jane Gallagher lived in Meshoppen, 12 miles distant.  They had at least five children up through 1880. One of those children, Arthur Joseph Crown, 1837-1919, had descendants whose DNA is matching me as well as several other testers in my Crown family group.  I think it's fair to say these Meshoppen Crowns fit into our family tree some how, and maybe the very name of Arthur can give us a clue.

The earliest Irish record set I have found that applies to our Crowns is the Ireland Tithe Applotment Books.  There, in 1833 and 1835, an Arthur Crown was tithed in the Killasnet civil parish. One of the townlands where he was tithed, Killymeehin, is only 2 miles from where Richard Crown lived in Pollboy.  However, by the time of the 1857 Griffith's Valuation, there was no trace of any Arthur Crown, nor is that name found again in subsequent record searches of that area of Ireland. Poof, gone. Who was Arthur Crown?

The disappearance of one Arthur Crown from Killymeehin in 1835, and the appearance of one Richard Crown in Pennsylvania about the same time could be a coincidence. But then subsequently, what are the odds that Richard Crown living in Pennsylvania would name a son Arthur?  What are the odds that DNA from descendants of Arthur Crown born in Pennsylvania would match descendants of Richard Crown and Sarah Meehan of Pollboy?  Odds are not my thing.  And DNA-matching, which happily lead us to this post, can be crazy-making when we consider the random nature of which and how much DNA is passed to each tester.  But history has a pliable framework in time and space, which, even for all the missing records, echoes.  To the listening ear, it facilitates imagining all the answers to our questions about the past. Perhaps Arthur Crown Sr. and Richard Crown, my ancestor, were brothers. Perhaps Arthur Sr. died in Ireland shortly after being tithed there, and his son, Richard, named for my ancestor, left Ireland for America. Perhaps once in America, Richard named his son for his father, Arthur. This could be one explanation for the evidence we have so far, but it is hardly the only possible explanation and we are light years away from any genealogical proof. But something tells me that the ghost of Arthur Crown who was tithed in Killymeehin in 1835 is following this story now.

Friday, August 14, 2020

The Journey

I am recently learning a great deal about early German culture in the Rheinland thanks to extremely informative articles posted by blogger Kathi Gosz.  I am also reading Kathi's book, House of Johann, which is a novel incorporating facts Kathi has discovered about her Rheinland ancestors and their lives.  I recommend these sources highly, and you will see me pointing to links of Kathi's work more than once.

With that said, I turn to the 1866 emigration application that was recently discovered.  Peter Schaefer was noted as Schreinergeselle, Schreiner indicating a joiner, and geselle indicating a journeyman.  Kathi's article provides an excellent introduction of Gesellen on der Walz.  We learn that the journey meant leaving the home village for three years and a day, and not being allowed to be within 30 miles of the home village during that time.  The journey meant wearing a uniform of sorts in order for the journeyman to be recognizable as such.  The color of his clothing and even the number of buttons on his vest and coat conveyed information about his trade and his available work days/hours.  He had no money, and so walked from place to place with his carved cane (Stenz), a small pack of work clothes, and a satchel of his tools.  He worked for free room and board wherever he went, and he was not allowed to be in any one place more than a few days.

What's most fascinating to me is that the journeyman also carried a Wanderbuch.  The book gave instructions for a journeyman's conduct, and served as a sort of passport, containing a description of the journeyman to help identify him to local police who had to be sure the stranger was not a beggar and was free of disease.  The Wanderbuch also served as a diary which recorded the dates and places of the journeyman's apprentice labor, and any comments from a master about quality of work.

So now let us imagine our Peter Schaefer.  He likely started to learn the trade when he was 14 years old, about 1857.  Who did Peter learn his trade from?  I have a feeling it was from somebody on his mother's side of the family.  I say this because the civil marriage record between Johann Schäfer and Margarethe Gipp in 1824 told us that Margarethe's father, Ludwig Gipp, who had died in 1805, had been a master carpenter.

Peter's initial trade training would have lasted 3-5 years. So let's say he started his trade journey in 1861 when he was 18 years old. But what about Peter's military obligation? Thanks to the Krümpersystem which was developed by the Prussians during the Napoleonic Wars, compulsory service was reduced to three years, and recruits were quickly trained and then sent to the reserves so more recruits could be trained.  Perhaps Peter received his military training, and then being in the reserves, embarked on his trade journey.  Perhaps the trade journey was interrupted by the Second Schleswig War in 1864, and most certainly by the Austro-Prussian War in 1866.  Perhaps, as with Kathi Gosz's ancestor, Peter determined that prospects for becoming a master joiner in Prussia were not promising. Peter's father, Johann, was apparently not a landowner, and so inheritance was likely not a factor to be considered in Peter's future. All these variables probably led Peter to extend his journey to North America.

Which leaves me with the unanswerable question:  Did Peter leave his Wanderbuch behind in Prussia, or did he bring it with him to America?  He would have had no use for it in America except perhaps as a resume and recommendation of his work.  If he brought it with him to America, what became of it?  If ever found, what more would it tell us about Peter Schaefer's incredible journey?