Monday, January 30, 2012

Introducing Christopher McNally

It's been a busy week, genealogically speaking. The RootsWeb Blair County mailing list had its annual "Roll Call" and listing of surnames and I spent a few hours corresponding with distant cousins I didn't know existed about ancestors we share.  The folks on the Blair County list are some of the nicest people you would ever want to meet and its a real pleasure making connections with them.  And, as an added bonus, for the first time ever, someone actually responded about my McNally surname. 

Of all my ancestors, I've invested the most time and effort in researching Christopher McNally and his descendants. He is my McNally immigrant ancestor, my great x 3 grandfather and the patriarch of the initial line I started researching all those many years ago.  Over the years, I have corresponded with a few other researchers about Christopher, most of whom I met as the result of queries placed on various genealogical message boards. Every once in a while, I get an e-mail from someone who is just seeing the posts for the first time, asking me what I know about Christopher.

First a picture:

Deb Pfeiffer provided me with this photograph (actually a group photo that I cropped this from), and a few others.  She's one of the nice people I've shared information with as a result of the message board queries. 

Christoper McNally's obituary in the 26 September 1902 Bedford Gazette lists his date of birth as 25 December 1819 and his place of birth as Dublin, Ireland.  The place of birth is consistent with his Delcaration from his naturalization papers.  His date of birth, however, varies between 1818 and 1822 depending on which document you look at (census records and the naturaliztion records, as well as his obituary).  The 25 December 1819 date was also repeated in the article "McNally Family Active In Cove Iron Industry", the details of which seemed to be repeated from his obituary.  Absent finding a birth record from Ireland, at best I think the 1818-1822 range is best that can be said about his date of birth. (The Cove mentioned in the article is Morrison's Cove, a region of south-central Pennsylvania that straddles the Blair County/Bedford County border)

What is not in question, however, is when Christopher arrived in the United States.  His Declaration and Petition for Naturalization both state that he arrived in the United States on 23 September 1844 at the port of New York. Neither document lists the name of the ship on which he sailed, only that it originated in Liverpool.  I have personally reviewed the microfilm avaialable at the National Archives for the entire month of September of 1844 for ships arriving at the port of New York and could not locate any entry that might remotly correspond to Christopher. I do know that prior to 1850, there is not a complete record of arrivals and some passenger lists have been lost, so it is likely that the ship he arrived on might never be known.   His obituary states that he arrived in the United States in 1848, but I believ that to be an error, as his Declaration for naturalization was filed on 28 August 1849 and gives the 1844 arrival date.

He became an American citizen with the completion of the naturalization process on 29 September 1851.   His father and brother-in-law Edward and William Pearson both signed the petition as his character witnesses.  Also of interest from his naturalization documents is that Christopher McNally, as least in 1851, could not write as he signed with a mark.

He married Rosanna Pearson (1831-1896), daugther of Edward Perason, on 6 February 1851, at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Newry, Blair County, Pennsylvania.  Rosanna converted to the Catholic Church and was baptised on that same day.  The Blair County Genealogical Society  has transcribed the records of St. Patrick's Church for the time period 1828-1907 and has made those records available in two volumes.  I have not seen the original church records, only the BCGS transcriptions.

Christopher and Rosanna had six children -
  1. Thomas Christopher McNally (1852-1912) m. Anna Martha Myers
  2. Edward McNally (1853-1932) m. Atalanda Martha Hainsey
  3. Margaret McNally (1859 - ?) m. Herman Goettleman
  4. Mary Lavina McNally (1860-1942) m. John Kennedy
  5. Richard McNally (1860 - 1934) m. Emma Hengst
  6. James McNally (1866 - ?) m. Alice Sullivan
Details about various of Christopher and Rosanna's children will likely be the subjects of future blog posts.
Rosanna Pearson died on 25 March 1896 after being struck by an ore train operated by the Duncan Mines in Bedford County, Pennsylvania.  She was hard of hearing and likely did not hear the train coming from around a bend in the line.  She was buried at the Catholic cemetery at St. Patrick's Church in Newry.
Christopher's daughter Mary Lavina and her familiy came to live with Christopher after Rosanna's death, and lived with him until his death on 17 September 1902.  It is said in his obituary that he left work at the mines on 11 September 1902, complaining of not feeling well and passed a few days later.

His obituary states "He was every man's friend and had a kind word for all he met, no matter when or where.  He was always cheerful, generous and obliging."  Admirable traits, and I hope that people speak that nicely of me.

There are a few open issues with regard to Christopher-

First - I know nothing about his parents.  I've ran across no documents that name or even hint at his parents, and all I know about his origin is that he was born in Dublin County, Ireland.  From what I understand about Irish research, you really need to know the parish to make reasonable progress.  The wholesale destruction of the Irish censuses prior to 1900 don't make finding this information any easier.

Second - In a document I received from the above-mentioned Deb Pfeiffer (that was compiled by an unnamed great-grandchild of Christopher McNally through Edward McNally), it states that Christopher has a known sister by the name of Mary with some kind of tie to California.  It also states she immigrated with him.  This document is the only place I have ever seen this sister mentioned.  I would love to see additional documentation of this sister.

Third - The St. Patrick's baptismal records show a baptism for a "Georgius Guielmus McAnally" with no listed date of birth and a baptism date of 28 July 1875, with Cristopher and Rosanna listed as the parents and Thomas as the sponsor.   Is this a seventh child, one who perhaps died young and did not live long enough to be reflected in a census, or a delayed baptism for one of Edward or James?  My belief is that this is likely James's baptism and not a seventh child, as there is no burial record for an additional child and Christopher's obituary states that Rosanna bore him six children, all still alive at the time of Christopher's death.

Note - a less narrative version of this account, along with additional citations and such will show up in the near future as a separate page. 

Anyone have anything to add or can shed any light on the open issues?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Confessions (of a Genealogical Nature)

Many of my ancestors were members of a religious organization that believes that confession is not only good for the soul, but is, in fact, required. In that spirit, I'd like to offer up a few genealogical confessions, to lighten the load on my genealogical spirit.

First, I will admit that I haven't always been the best correspondant.  I've let e-mail languish for embarssingly long periods of time before dashing off a sheepish reply, full of apologies and promises of better behavior in the future, along with at least some information that had been requested.  Most of my correspondents have been understanding, but I'm sure there are a few potential relationships that I have dealt near-irreparable damage by this behavior. I've gotten better with age, and strive to respond to e-mails, letters and the like in a reasonable amount of time.

Second, over the past fifteen years I've made virtually every mistake that an amateur genealogist can make, in terms of research and recording. I don't think I cited any sources for the first five years, I've made photocopies out of books without noting the source. I've found records in courthouses without noting any of the citation data, including, for a few documents floating around my files, the courthouse where found. If there's a mistake that can be made, I've made it. I'd like to believe I've learned something from all my miscues.  Heck, someday I might even be able to figure out where I found a particulary vexing photocopy that includes a marriage for one of my ancestors with a cryptic cross-reference to the original. 

Finally, and related in part to my first confession, I haven't really done my part to be a good member of the genealogial community and shared the work I have done (as good as some of it is and as suspect as some other parts).  But that's where this blog comes in, to help in the sharing.  I've already shared some surnames and locality information, and my next post is going to be all about sharing, as I am planning on talking about my immigrant McNally ancestor, Christopher McNally.  That's all for now.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Some Actual Genealogical Content

To add a little genealogy to this blog, I have created a page where I list all of the surnames I am currently working.  Appropriately enough, it is called Surnames and you can get to it through the link in this entry or from the sidebar link.  That page will grow as surnames get added, and eventually the names will turn into links leading to pages for the individual names.  But it's just the names for now.  Feel free to contact me if any of the names and locations mean anything to you.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A brief note

Please don't be alarmed if the look and feel of the blog changes over the next few weeks or if the placement of page elements changes.  I'm new to blogging and am still sorting out the technical part of the process.  Thanks.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

First Post, or How I Got Here

I've been doing genealogy for quite some time - at least 15 years, maybe more. I started with my paternal line. At the time, my mother was activly researching her roots, so there was no urgent need for me to do so; no need to duplicate the research, and I didn't have the same fire in my belly to learn about her side of the family.

If I had to hazard a guess as to the roots of my apathy, I'd have to say that my relative familiarity with my maternal family was the cause. My grandparents lived nearby (still do, to tell the truth), and I was close with my cousins on this side.  We even went to family reunions for both my grandfather's and grandmother's families most summers.  The Farleys, Currys, Queens and Napiers that populate the landscape of my maternal line just felt well known.

Not so my paternal lines. My father's family lived far enough away that we didn't see them very often. We might see them every few years, enough to maintain family ties but not much more. Also, I never had the opportunity to meet my paternal grandmother, as she died nearly a decade before I was born.

These McNally's were the unknown, a mystery, and I decided that like all mysteries, they needed unravelling.

By this time, my grandfather had also passed away, and the only of my great-aunts that I knew at all was in poor health, mentally as well as physically. Fortunately, a few years earlier, my sister had contemplated doing this research and had sent my great-aunt a letter requesting some basic genealogical information. My great-aunt's response ended up with my mother, who passed it on to me, along with a pedigree chart compiled by my mother from the information in that letter and anything else she happened to know. From there I was hooked.

And that was some 15-odd years ago. Since then, I've had my fair share of life changes - I met a wonderful young lady who also got interested in genealogy, and, who for reasons I might never understand, agreed to marry me. We lived in wedded bliss for nearly a decade, then almost a year ago, were blessed with the birth of our first child, my son.

This single momentous event forced me to reflect on why I participated in this curious pastime known as genealogy, what I hoped to gain from the pursuit of this knowledge about my roots. I knew in that moment that limiting my research to my paternal lines going forward would be insufficient. I took possession of my mother's files (which had sat dormant for some time) and asked my wife if she minded if I took over her files as well (she didn't). Like that, I went from one line (the German-Irish McNally/Miller/Wentz/Myers of my father's family, to four (my father's, plus my mother's Farleys and Queens, the Bones and Pruetts of my wife's father and the Kinders and Reegs of my wife's mother). Four times the work, but oh so worth it so my son would know where he comes from.

Then a few months ago, we found out that my son will be getting a brother or sister later this year.....

That's enough about how I got here, writing this blog. I hope to use this as a platform for sharing my research into the various lines I'm working on, as well as sharing stories and items of interest about those families.  I'll also be creating static pages for sharing more traditional information such as pedigrees, family sheets and biographies of various personages of note.  I'll probably also have a page dedicated to listing all of the surnames for each line. 

Welcome to my genealogical world.