Saturday, September 9, 2023

A Grimm Beauty

 With regard to the three generations of my female Alsace ancestors who were all born to unmarried moms — my g-grandmother Marie Grimm, my gg-grandmother Pauline Grimm, and my ggg-grandmother Salome Grimm — I haven't had much expectation of making any new discoveries that add to their story.  However, I am late in reporting about a rather amazing contact I met in 2021, who did just that, add to the story.  Monsieur Augé is a French citizen living in Strasbourg who collects old photographs from his family history and attempts to identify them.  He has long had one particular old photo showing a young and rather elegant woman, probably in her 30s, probably taken around 1900.  The mat around the photo shows the stamp of Goodman (probably photographer) at 191 Broadway in Brooklyn, and the back has the words "Madame Klein, veuve (widow) Michel."  For many years, M. Augé had no idea who Mme. Klein was until he found a family tree of mine that I had posted in Germany.  Based on information I had posted there, he was finally able to identify the unknown woman in his photograph as Cécile Pauline Grimm, widow of Michel Sebastien Klein.  And then he contacted me to share his discovery!  Unbelievable.

It turns out that M. Augé is related to the Klein family, however, because my g-grandmother, Marie Grimm, was not the daughter of Michael S. Klein who would later marry Pauline (as Cécile was known), I am not Klein-related.  Nevertheless, M. Augé is quite an adept genealogist, and so the two of us spent a couple months exchanging information that each of us could locate in our respective countries.  How wonderful to work with somebody whose research interest and experience lie in the home world of my ancestors!  Nothing could be better.

And now we have this eye-opening new image of a younger Pauline to compare to the one faded photo we have of her when she was older.  She was much more than the poor widowed washer woman I had pictured in my mind.  She was stylish with her lace-trimmed dress, feathered hat, white gloves, and charm bracelet.  One hand to hip, she wore an expression of confidence.  She was beautiful in the eye of this beholder, possessing a physical grace that is hard for us to imagine over 100 years later without this glimpse of her portrait.  Pauline was herself a single mother at the time of this new photo, and we know her life in Brooklyn was certainly not an easy one.  But Pauline stood tall in her appearance, and did not hide who she was.  As was carved into her gravestone in 1921, we also know she was beloved, which was, of course, her real beauty.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

An American Passport

While visiting with Crown relations in Manorhamilton, it was brought to my attention that a record of U.S. citizenship had been passed down among the descendants of John Crown of Manorhamilton.  This was interesting news!  The certificate has since been located, a hand-written document with very faded ink, part of which can still be read:

United States of America
From the Secretary of State on the 6th day of November 1858
'To permit safely and freely to pass John Crown
a Citizen of the United States' etc.
No 10954

It so happens this is not a certificate of John's U.S. naturalization, but rather his passport, for which he applied in the state of New York on 4 Nov 1858.  Unfortunately, the application, which reflects the same passport number, doesn't say much about John, neither where he was living nor where he was traveling.  We only know these details from the application:

The application was certified by a notary public at NYC city hall with this verbiage:

John Crown a naturalized citizen of the United States, about visiting foreign countries, desires a passport, and I do hereby certify that the persons named herein appeared before me and being duly sworn according to law each subscribed to the annexed declaration which I deem sufficient proof of the citizenship of said John Crown.

There is then an abbreviated notation which takes a while to decipher, which I now translate as:

Court of Common Pleas, Balto (Baltimore) 3 Nov 1856

The person who vouched for John on his passport application was named Charles Cooper, and he signed with his mark.  There were a couple men named Charles Cooper found in the 1858 NYC city directory, but no John Crown.  It's hard to say how Mr. Cooper knew John Crown well enough to vouch for him.

So all this is rather amazing to me.  First, living relations in Manorhamilton are in possession of an artifact that is 165 years old — an American passport issued to John Crown.  And the application for that passport still exists in American archives.  Second, I have always thought that it was my ancestor, Patrick Crown, who was the first from our family group to go to America, but that was not so.  Patrick's older brother, John, was there long before, by at least 12 years or so.  

But there are still a number of questions about John's travel:

  • Why did John go to America?  Was it to start a new life or was it to help other Crowns who were in NYC? (see my article A Study of Intersecting Crown Families from the Manorhamilton Region in New York City).  
  • Whatever the reason for making the voyage to America, John intended to stay because he went through all steps required to become an American citizen.  But why was he in Baltimore when naturalized?  
  • A bigger question is why did John want a passport?  In the mid-19th century, passports in the United States were primarily used for diplomatic purposes and were issued to government officials and individuals traveling on official business. They were not widely required for ordinary citizens traveling abroad for personal reasons.
  • And finally, why did John go back to Ireland?  I'm sure his aging parents had much to do with it.  But perhaps the looming Civil War, which erupted in 1861, might also have been a deciding factor.  Maybe John Crown did not see himself as a soldier.

All of this narrative now becomes a new chapter of the Crown story which we have not previously known.  John Crown came home and married, and maybe because of things he had seen and learned in America, he decided to become a proprietor in the town of Manorhamilton.  Though Crown's Bar in Manorhamilton is no longer in the Crown family, their name has been etched in the window of the building which still stands on Castle Street.  We just never knew how far John Crown had traveled before returning to his Leitrim roots and forging ahead into his future.

Sadly, John Crown died in 1882 at the relatively young age of 57.  His gravestone in the Crown plot at Killasnet Graveyard must have been vandalized for it was found pushed over and broken.  But when the base stone was rolled over, we found the clear inscription for John Crown and all his family members.  RIP, John Crown of Manorhamilton, an Irish and American citizen.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Turf — Then and Now and Then

According to the Valuation Office records, in 1861 Richard Crown and seven other Pollboy tenants banded together to pay tax on 73 acres of land that was assessed as bog.  One sixth of Ireland's terrain is classified as bog, more than any other country in Europe except Finland.  Click here to learn about the two types of bogs:  blanket bogs, which we saw on our driving tour of the Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin, and raised bogs, which would be the kind found in central Ireland, including County Leitrim.

In Ireland, the word "turf" refers to peat, which is the decayed, compressed organic matter found in bogs.  It was the primary source of heating fuel in Ireland for thousands of years.  In 1861, 162 years ago, rural Irish families like that of Richard Crown in Pollboy worked like crazy to bring in crops of turf, which literally had as much or even more significance than bringing in their agricultural crops.  Here is a visual overview, but this 6+ minute video gives an even better perspective.  The collective effort to harvest turf in order to survive each winter was enormous.

Ironically, turf is today considered a dirty fuel, even more so than coal.  And now, the cutting of turf by machine has begun to threaten what is essentially a unique and rare habitat.  And so, the subject of turf-cutting is now an issue of hot debate in Ireland, and I wonder what Richard Crown would have to say.  I would tell him, Look, you can relax now, and then show him my mini-split heat pump powered by electric from my solar panels, which, yes Richard, do still work on cloudy and rainy days.  He'd probably reply, See how you know nothing of Irish culture and identity, that the sweet smoky aroma of a turf fire is not only distinctive, ancient oaks and moss, but its nostalgia is a certain gateway into the long rural traditions of our ancient peoples.  And then I would say, Tell me more.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

A Namesake Crown

While being introduced to Manorhamilton last week, I was able to visit with a local researcher, Margaret, who also happens to be married to a descendant of John Crown and Mary Rooney.  During our short visit together, I received a copy of one sheet of Margaret's notes about John Crown, and his wife and children.  Among the children listed was Mary Anne Crown, and Margaret's notes about her say this:

Mary Anne born 11-08-1864 (Killasnet Church Records) and died 1891 (Mary Ellen Connolly's notes).  Mary Anne went to America and married there.  She was then Mrs. Reilly.  She died in childbirth and her daughter, Kate, was brought home to Ireland by aunt, Kate, and reared in Castle Street until she was of age to return to her father in the states.

It was years ago now that somebody forwarded to me an old photo found on Facebook (which I don't use) posted by the Manorhamilton and District Historical Society.  The caption on that photo of three women standing in front of a building says "Crown's Bar, Castle Street 1910.  Katie Reily, Mary Crown, Kate Crown."

It so happens that in the 1901 Ireland census, there was a Kate O'Reilly, age 10, living in Mary Crown's household in Manorhamilton.  For years I have wondered who Kate was, and could only think she was somebody from the Rooney side of the family.  Until now.  Now with insights from Margaret's notes, I can search for corroborating evidence in the U.S.:

  • I found a Mary Ann Crown, age 18, a spinster from Ireland arriving in NY in 1883 on her way to Philadelphia.  Could that have been her?  And if so, what was taking her to Philadelphia?
  • I found a marriage record between Mary Crown (transcribed as Cronn) and John J Riley in Philadelphia in March 1889.  He was a steel polisher and she was a hat finisher, and her birth was recorded as 2 June 1865 in Ireland.  That date doesn't match the birth date recorded on the Irish civil registration record of Mary Anne's birth in Leitrim, so this record is unsure.
  • Finding no clearly identifiable death record for our Mary or Mary Ann Riley (and spelling variations, very common name), I started searching for her daughter, Kate, who supposedly returned to the U.S.  I found a marriage record in 1916 between John McElhatten and Katherine Reilly, born 2 Jul 1892 in Philadelphia.  Katherine's parents were listed as John Reilly and Mary Crown, both deceased.  Bingo.
  • I wasn't able to locate Kate's birth record.  Her U.S. records all show slightly different birth years:  her marriage record said her birth was 2 Jul 1892, the social security death index said her birth was 2 Jul 1889, and finally her death certificate said her birth was 2 Jul 1894.  Of the three records, the marriage record would have the date reported by Kate herself.
  • Circling back again to look for Mary Anne's death record based on Kate's approximate birth, I found one Mary Riley, married, age 30, who had lived at 1644 Afton and who died of Phthsis (consumption, tuberculosis).  She died 30 Jun 1892 and was buried at Old Cathedral Cemetery on 2 Jul 1892.  Checking the Philadelphia city directories for that year, there was a John J Riley who lived at 1644 Afton, occupation was polisher.
  • Moving forward from Kate's marriage in 1916, we find that she and John had one daughter, Hannah Marie McElhatten, and Hannah had two husbands and several children.  And yes, one of those descendants has taken the DNA test and is matching me and one other Crown tester.

So now we know much more about the short life of Mary Anne Crown, daughter of John Crown and Mary Rooney of Manorhamilton.  She was 18 when she left home and family, she was a hat finisher, and she died young of tuberculosis, a disease like COVID passed through the air when someone who is sick with TB disease coughs, laughs, sings, or sneezes.  Mary Anne's daughter, Kate, was apparently born between 1889 and 1892, and we know that she consistently used her mother's burial date as her own birth date.  Kate was likely in her 70s when she died in 1963.

I find myself wondering if any stories about the Crown Bar in Manorhamilton got passed down along the line of Mary Anne Crown.  Maybe a few.  Kate Reilly never knew her mother, Mary Anne, but she grew up with her grandmother and her aunts and uncles at the Crown Bar, all of them forging ahead to support themselves.  I imagine them working all the day but maybe pausing here and there to share a meal, chat with a neighbor, give a kind word in moments of heavy heart.  Maybe more than DNA was going down the line from John and Mary Crown to Mary Anne to Kate Reilly.  Maybe a collective memory of Leitrim lingered in their senses and carries on with us still.

Monday, June 5, 2023

Evidence of Honor

When looking at my current family group of Richard Crown Sr. and Sarah Meehan, I have these children:  John, Mary, Cormac, Bridget, Patrick, and Richard. But I have one more possible child of Richard Sr. and Sarah penciled in, a daughter named Honor Crown.  In 1875, a person named Honor Crown was a witness at the marriage of Martin Eams of Pollboy and Mary Quin of Morerah.  Pollboy and Morerah are Crown Central, at least in my branch of the family, and if Honor Crown was around 20 years old in 1875, making her birth around 1855 or before, then I believe Honor is a candidate as a daughter of Richard Sr. and Sarah, probably their youngest child.

Now after my recent visit to the Valuation Office in Dublin, I discovered that somebody named Anne Crown occupied some of the family property in Morerah.  I have no idea who that might have been, but then I remembered there are at least two examples in Crown genealogy where the same woman was referred to both by Honor and Anne, the second name being something of a nickname.  What if the Anne Crown seen in valuations of Morerah was the same person as Honor Crown, witness at a Eams-Quin marriage?  And given that the chain of occupiers on a property were next of kin of the original occupier, maybe we are looking at another daughter of Richard and Sarah Crown.

The evidence is now on the table to consider.  Click here to read more details about the Morerah valuations.  Because I can find no other record of an Anne Crown in Ireland, one who fits the time and place, I am imagining that she too might have emigrated, perhaps to America where other members of the family had gone.  Regardless, now we know to watch more for the trail of Anne Crown aka Honor.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

An Irish Homecoming

I am just returned from my first visit to Ireland!  By all accounts, we were blessed with two weeks of nearly no rain in the areas we visited, so that made the journey all the more pleasant.

After so many years of researching the Crown and related families from afar, the time to meet many of my long-time correspondents had finally arrived.  We were greeted at the airport and later the train station, and then treated to a couple of family gatherings where I finally got to meet the kind people I've been corresponding with.  It's one thing doing genealogy research through a computer screen.  I've learned more than my father or even my grandmother ever dreamed of knowing about our Irish origins.  But meeting these Crown-related people now, seeing their faces and expressions, hearing their voices and tones and accents, feeling their memories come alive with the telling — these things shall never be conveyed by computer screen, and no AI can ever shake my hand knowing that the history of my connection to these people matters in deeper ways.

Because this was my first trip to the Emerald Isle and because time has its limits, I didn't want to get buried with research work.  Thus I bypassed places I might some day still visit, like the National Archives and the National Library.  However, I did make an appointment at the Valuation Office in Dublin because I knew there was information there not currently online.  And so I was able to spend an hour or so with two small books pertaining to properties in the Lurganboy district of County Leitrim.  I am still analyzing the information I gleaned from those books, but regarding the original Crown farm in Pollboy, I was able to see where the farm ownership passed down the line of Richard Sr. to Richard Crown II and III, and was finally sold out of the family to a man in his 90s who still lives on the property.  Amazing.

After Dublin, I was escorted to "Lovely Leitrim" by Paddy Travers, who was our personal guide throughout our days there.  We walked the rolling countryside, saw places off the beaten path where Crown and Travers relations lived, visited hard-to-find grave yards, and shared in the local Irish culture with music and pints.  Quite remarkably, Paddy also connected us to a McMorrow family who had made contact with the current owner of the original Crown farm to seek permission to walk on the property, which we did.  To step foot on that land would have been enough for me in itself, but then there were the ruins of the original Crown farm house.  I had hoped for but not expected this, and I was deeply moved to be standing on the property where our Crown family had lived for over 165 years.

But then there was more.  The McMorrows had located the Crown family plot at the Killasnet grave yard, and there they had found and unearthed the original gravestone of Richard Crown and his wife, Sarah Meehan.  This discovery was emotional.  All the years of research from afar had somehow lead me to this field where our original progenitors were laid to rest.  The origins of my Brooklyn Crown family are not just names and dates, the remnants of their lives in Leitrim are still tangible.

Click here to access the travelogue and photos of this very special journey.  

Friday, February 24, 2023

Native Language

 I wonder how many of us could recognize what this says:

This is the signature of an Irish girl whose English name was Bridget Crowne.  I find it stunning and beautiful to behold.  For descendants of Crown(e) family groups from County Leitrim, Ireland, we can now recognize our ancestors' surname written in the language they spoke long before the English colonized their land.  To learn more about this signature, click here.