Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Those Primary Sources

Here is my great grandmother, Ellen Benn Tapply with my grandmother Primrose Tapply on her lap. From the age of my grandmother  in this picture I would guess this was taken about 1900 in Newton, Massachusetts.

When documenting a birth in genealogy records, we are told to get as close to the primary source as possible. So here is what I found for my grandmother. First we have the family Bible:
This is generally a somewhat reliable source, but this depends on who did the recording. I notice that the first four entries are all in the same hand. The later ones are not. Plus in another spot in the Bible it says the Bible was "given to her by her mother". I don't know anyone who refers to themselves in the third person. So my guess is that Ellen made those first entries and the later ones were made by one of her daughters. At the bottom you can see the entry for my grandmother : October 24, 1898.

Next I found the register page for the city of Newton where my grandmother was born:

There at the very bottom, entry 679 was recorded in the register on January 16 of 1899. For a long time, I thought that was it. I'd found my primary source. Then Ancestry made a whole new set of Massachusetts birth records available. You see, what I'd completely forgotten was that my grandmother would have been a home birth. All of Ellen's children were. Attended by a doctor perhaps...or not. That was how it was done back then. And in that new set of records I found this:
Now I know by the date at the bottom that this is the source of the information for the register entry. I also see a physician's name on the right side and the place of birth is Eddy Street. So this was the official physician's record of the birth for the city. I don't know if he made notes and transcribed them later, or just filed a card based on information supplied by the parents when he made a home visit, but I would guess this is about as primary as a source could be.
Always keep looking. Never give up.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Foolishness- How Reliable is That Source?

On this April Fools Day, I can't help but think of how wide-eyed and trusting I was when I began this genealogical adventure.  I must confess that although I had had some curiosity for years about the family, it was watching "Who Do You Think You Are?" that inspired me to actually begin this hobby.

I signed up for Ancestry, I began contacting family members and before I knew it I had more information than I could deal with. Totally. Now I did know enough to look closely at the hints on Ancestry that I was getting.  Once I got the tree back far enough for the information to be more obscure I realized why we are cautioned to be so careful. People on Ancestry who have public trees copy and paste and borrow willy-nilly. And mistakes get copied from tree to tree and become someone's version of "fact".  I soon became very wary. (and BTW I consider my online Ancestry tree as more of a "worksheet"- I try to only put things on my computer-based genealogy program that have some documents to back them up)

So let's look at a fairly glaring example of this. My ancestor Joseph Rogers arrived with his father Thomas on the Mayflower. That much we know. We know he lived on the Massachusetts Cape, married, had children and died there. There are records in Barnstable County of his death. His birth, however, is less certain. We know it was probably in England. Here is what I find when I follow the hints on Ancestry.
So first we have this. Right away I'm suspicious because it is from the Family Data Collection. That could be an actual Bible or it could be "family stories" or it could be a written history passed down or it could be "Old Aunt Fanny always said". No knock on family records, I just have learned to be wary.
In this record we have a very confusing birthplace. I'm thinking they meant either Holland or Norhamption, England...but who knows? And the mother's name is different. There has been a lot of chatter online about whether there really was an "Alice Cosford", so this doesn't surprise me.
This one I found for Joseph in someone's tree that was "shared". Now you would think that with four sources that would be pretty solid. But as you follow out those hints, not one of them documents Stratford-on-Avon as his birthplace. They merely confirm his name and a birth in England. In fact, one of the sources was One World Tree. Argh...don't get me started on that topic!

Then you have the Ancestral Files on Family Search. Again, nothing against family research or old family records, but what you see online gives you no idea where this information came from. It was submitted to the records of the Mormon Church, but no citations beyond that appear.

So on this April Fool's Day, don't be foolish or hasty in accepting everything you find-especially online. Do a little digging and a little legwork.  It will pay off in the long run.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

It's All in the Genes


Tapplys about 1900
No download or reproduction without express permission
As I look at family photos, I'm often struck by little characteristics that are passed from generation to generation.  The Tapplys were in two camps. You can see the dark hair and deep-set eyes on the three
oldest sisters in the back: Annie, Daisy and Nell. Mabel, on the far left, Ethel (next to her) and my grandmother (the baby on Ellen's lap were more fair and had rounder features. But I was taken aback to see two somewhat distant cousins who were more than a bit alike.
Mark Tapply                                                      William G Tapply
A few years ago I began reading the mysteries of the late William G Tapply because I knew as a "double p" Tapply we were somehow related and frankly I was curious. I turned over one book in the series to find this picture.  For the curious cousins reading this, I made a simple tree from my further research.

This makes Mark and William G third cousins. When you compare the jacket photo to my cousin Mark I wouldn't say the resemblance is close, but you can definitely tell they are family.

Sometimes some very distinctive features skip a generation. My brother Mark is most certainly a Fitzgerald, but the resemblance between his son Patrick and his grandfather (both at 16 years) is quite remarkable.
Patrick Fitzgerald                                            John J Fitzgerald
No download or reproduction without express permission
The chin, the ears, the brow...the set of their eyes...Wow! 

I've been told I look a lot like my father as well and my mother and my grandmother Katie (dad's mom) and my two times great grandmother Cassandria. And I do look a bit like all of them. But then I looked more closely at a picture taken in 1927 of my great grandmother Ellen.
The photo is pretty grainy, but look at the chin and the jawline, the smile lines of the nose, the lips......and my mother always said my very thick blonde hair came from Ellen. Maybe I'm more Tapply than I thought.

Family photos are just one more way to reach into the past and make that gene-alogical connection.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

♣ A Little Irish Mappy Monday

Considering how little my mother actually knew about her genealogy, she could be quite a snob about her family...of course some of her attitudes came from small-town upbringing and things she heard at home as a child.  So I was gleeful to discover that there was quite a bit of Irish background in her family.
What I present here are the bare facts I've gleaned from the few online records and family histories....hopefully in the future an ambitious genealogist will find the records to back this up.
James Dunn and Martha Long married some time in the mid-1700's in County Down, Ireland. Down is in Northern Ireland right on the Irish Sea. I found this rather cool map at one of the Irish heritage sites. James and Martha had several children in Ireland, including my ancestor Samuel Fowler Dunn. At some point after his birth around 1750, they emigrated to the Colonies and lived in western Virginia. Samuel married Eleanor Brewster and moved to Mercer County, Kentucky. From there the Dunns spread out all over Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Indiana. My direct ancestor, John Dunn, was one of the first settlers in Owen County, Indiana.
Happy St. Patrick's Day, mom!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Irish Eyes

John J Fitzgerald Jr.
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The caption on the back of this picture reads "John J Fitzgerald Jr., Age 7 1/2, June 10, 1925".
Even when I was a girl there was a photographer set up at the edge of the Boston Common taking pictures of children seated on his pony. Judging by the very serious face I would guess that the pony portrait in short pants was wrangled out of my father under duress. But it's a sweet portrait of the most Irish face I know....my dad.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Traces of the Past

Charles River Avenue...possibly about the time my great grandparents lived there
Courtesy Boston Public Library
I have mentioned before that I have very little of the story of my father's family, the Irish immigrants who settled in Boston and Charlestown. One day, noodling through an archive of old Boston photos, I found this (identified as Charles River Avenue). I see a blurry trace of a horse entering the picture on the left, so I know this is pre-1900.  I also see, in the glass above the doorway, a numeral beginning with a "one". This got me very excited because my great grandparents, Andrew and Catherine Fitzgerald lived in this very block for over ten years. I had to dig into old directories and old maps to figure this one out. First I went to the directories
This is the entry for the 1869 Boston City Directory. There is Andrew who at this time would be living with his wife and oldest son at 10 Charles River Avenue. Next came the 1880 Federal Census, just to make sure I had the right Andrew Fitzgerald.
In the left margin you can see where the census taker wrote Charles River Avenue. And there are Andrew, Catherine, Andrew Jr., Robert, Nora and John (my grandfather). Next I looked at the
1886 Directory.
This time it even identifies him as a teamster. The family has moved to 16 Charles River Avenue. I began to be curious about the buildings in the photo, but no amount of PhotoShop made the numbers readable. So I went back to antique maps. And finally I found this with the house numbers along the street.
Numbers 10 and 16 are the two sides of the very large center clapboard building with all the shutters.
The docks and several mill buildings were immediately to the right and out of the picture. They lived right on the waterfront. So even if I don't know much about them personally, I have some small trace of their lives in the geography of Charlestown that has long since disappeared. It is a block that doesn't exist anymore. Once a thriving row of shops and apartments, there is a park and the ramp to a large bridge into Boston and a large hotel complex sitting there now where Route 1 meets Route 93.

Later, Andrew and Catherine moved to Stetson Court, another place long made invisible with parks and freeways and modern backyards replacing the crowded tenements.
All the smaller streets on this old map are long gone from the area around Winthrop Square, but it's still just blocks from St. Mary's Church and a stone's throw from Monument Square where my father grew up. Small discoveries like this can be very satisfying when so little remains of the past.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sweethearts


Primrose Tapply and Harry Rogers
No download or reproduction without express permission
A visit to my grandmother's house was never complete until we went through the box of old photos. These  two photos were from an old album documenting my grandparents courtship. Many years later, my mom had two of them framed and presented them to me for the "family wall" in my house. The house in the background was the Tapply family home on Pearl Hill Road. My grandmother isn't quite a flapper, but still quite fashionable for the time. My grandfather looks like a bit of a scoundrel. (and it turns out he WAS- but more about that later) My grandmother always said that they met while performing in a musical revue. The account of their marriage makes reference to this
Primrose Victoria Tapply married Harry Winslow Rogers on January 30, 1920.