Sunday, March 25, 2012

Christopher McNally, Part III

A number of years ago, on 7 April 2008 to be exact, I posted a query on the McNally message board at Rootsweb. (link here) Here's the content of the post

Looking for informatin concerning Christopher McNally.
Birth: 25 Dec 1819, Dublin, Ireland
Death: 1903, Bedford County, PA
Married: 1851 - Rosanna Pearson, Blair County, PA

According to his naturalization papers, Christopher arrived in the U.S. in September 1844. The date of birth is from his obituary and is not confirmed by any other source at this time. I've got him well documented once he is in the U.S., but lack any info about his parents, actual date of birth, etc. Possible names for his parenst would be Thomas or his father and Mary or Lavin for his mother (These names are inferred from tradfitional Irish naming patterns - the second son and first daugter match the pattern of being named for wifes parents, and i have no reason to believe that they would have deviated for the first son and the second daughter). Any help or insight would be appreciated. Thanks.

That post might well represent the most important genealogical action I have ever taken, as it allowed me to connect with quite a few other of Christopher's descendants,  many of whom I regularly correspond with to this day.   Besides the odd typo, still present in the post, I made at least one mistake with my query.  Quite simply, I feel like I didn't make clear in a strong enough fashion that with respect to the names of Christopher's parents, my comments were pure and utter speculation, designed to facilitate a potential line of research and not intended to be taken as fact.

Fast forward to last week.   I recently reactivated my membership, and was taking a look at some of the user generated content, when I came upon Christopher McNally in a tree, listed with "Thomas" as his father and "Mary or Lavina" as his mother.  Five minutes investigation revealed five or six trees, all containing similar information.  I contacted the various tree owners to see if any of them had documentation confirming Christopher's parentage.  A few wrote back, saying that they had taken the information from one of the other trees, some didn't respond, so I couldn't determine the originator or originators of the information, but I have a pretty good idea how it started. 

That said, and my feelings about user trees on Ancestry aside (there are some really great, sourced public trees, and there are also quite a few that are rubbish), last week I came upon some information that I thought might be of interest to Christopher McNally researchers. 

One of the podcasts I listen to mentioned that the Irish National Archives was actively digitizing and posting Irish church records (both Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland) at  the Irish Genealogy web site.  I surfed over to the site, and just for fun, put in Christopher McNally into the search box.  There was one result in particular that I found interesting - an 1816 Roman Catholic baptismal for a "Christopherium McNally" in the St. Andrew Parish of Dublin, baptised in 1816 with parents listed as "Lavi McNally" for the father and "Mara" as the mother.  There was just an abstract, no image or transcription, no further granularity in the date, listing Christopher, his parents and his sponsors (Pat McNally and Joanna McNally). 

This piqued my curiosity, and I performed some more searches. I started with McNally as the surname with "Lavi" as the father with no results.  I switched to "Mara" as the mother and an additional record fell out, an 1826 baptismal (Roman Catholic, St. Andrew parish, Dublin) for a "Mariam McNally", parents listed as "Laurentii McNally", mother as "Mara Dillon", with "Thoma McNally" and "Rosa Dillon" the sponsors. I feel pretty strongly that the Christopher and Mariam listed are siblings - I think that Laurentii McNally and Lavi McNally are one in the same.  These records are in Latin, and in Latin "u" and "v" are represented by the same character ("v"), so it is likely that "Lavi" is really "Laui" - that particular priests Latinized abbreviation for Laurence (the marriage record for Laurence and Mara is for "Laurentium McNally").  

So what I have is a Christopher McNally, Catholic from Dublin Ireland, born in approximately the right time frame with a sister Mary, which matches the note in one background document about Christopher that he emigrated with a sister named Mary who ended up in California.  I could not locate either marriage or burial record for either Christopher or Mary in the database, but that doesn't mean they don't exist, only that no such record has been abstracted.  That gives me a few pieces of circumstantial evidence in support of the possibility that the Christopher I found might be my ancestor.

This circumstantial evidence does not, by any stretch of the imagination, constitute proof that the two individuals are the same, so please don't quote me on this.  I have no evidence linking my Christopher in Bedford County, Pennsylvania to the Christopher McNally in Dublin, Ireland.  At best, I have a new avenue of research to follow to confirm or refute this conjecture. 

I'm going to hold on to these records, keep checking the Irish Genealogy database and gather more information - see if I can unearth any other siblings (another son with an unbroken line of McNally son's would be ideal, as Y-Chromosome testing could be used to confirm or refute a common ancestor).  And I'll continue to dig on this side of the Atlantic to see what I can uncover. Because, ultimately, that's what's important - the act of seeking.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tech Tuesday - Dropbox, or How the Cloud Saved My Netbook from Obsolesence

A while back, I was listening to a back episode of Geneabloggers Blog Talk Radio and Thomas MacEntee mentioned this Cloud Computing service he uses called Dropbox for sharing data amongst his various computing devices.  I remembered reading an article in a genealogy magazine that mentioned it, so I surfed over to the website, and gave it a look.  I reviewed the site, saw I could use it to share data between my laptop and my Apple devices (iPad and iPhone) more conveniently than iCloud (which is great for sharing among Apple devices but not so much with my Windows PC), so I installed it on my PC and i-devices and it worked as advertised.  It didn't hurt that 2GB of storage is free - I'm not sure I would have paid for the service at the time.

Shortly after getting my iPad back in December, I purchased the Families app, designed to work with Legacy Family Tree genealogy software.  It was nice to be able to share my family tree data from my PC to my iPad and iPhone, but if I made any edits to the data, it was a pain in the rear to sync the data back up so all of my devices were working with the same data.  Plus, data entry in Families is something of a chore and not nearly as robust as in Legacy.  The iPad is a wonderful device, with many incredible applications, but it was coming up short in one way I wanted to use it - as an extension of my laptop for genealogy.

Fast forward a few weeks.  I had just recently completed the first phase of reorganizing my laptop - cleaning up the desktop, rearranging and organizing files on the hard drive, getting rid of unneeded applications and so on.  It's a worthwhile endeavour if you are anything like I am and basically did no maintenance or organization in the three or so years since I originally bought the laptop.

Then, inspiration struck.  I looked at my poor, lonely netbook, nearly forgotten in the wake of my new devices.  The netbook was slow and underpowered, used primarily for travel and when I rode the train when I lived in D.C.  I'd even thought about selling it to get a little value back out.  I fired it up and started the process of cleaning it up, jettisoning all sorts of unnecessary and unneeded programs and data, dumping pretty much everything except OpenOffice and a few games.  I downloaded Legacy and DropBox, then moved my Legacy files to Dropbox.  Now, I had a light-weight device with great battery life that could seamlessly share by genealogy database with my laptop.  And after getting rid of the various toolbars that had accumulated on my browser, I could actually surf the web at a reasonable speed.  Although the iPad is nice for web browsing, the netbook is better for both HeritageQuest and FamilySearch, both crucial stops on your average genealogical quest.

There's a lot of great technology out there that can make life easier for the genealogist.  The Cloud, through Dropbox, has certainly improved mine.