Friday, January 30, 2009

Hats Off To You Girls

The 10th Edition of Smile For The Camera is Costume so with that in mind I thought this photo might be appropriate. The photo is of the sisters of my Great Great Grandmother, Harriet Purdue. The girls were all milliners, that is to say they made hats for a living. They also were accomplished seamstresses and made their own clothing. The photo was taken in St.Marys Ontario around 1895~1900.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Denver County Inheritance Tax Records 1909 -1912 Colorado Archives

The Denver County Inheritance Tax Records 1909 -1912 at the Colorado Archives are online. I did not know about this neet little database until today so I have added a link to it on my Colorado death records page. Colorado Death Records It is not a large database but if you have Denver County ancestors you might want to take a quick peek.

1911: Workmen Dig Up Coffin with Coffin Plate in Philadelphia

July 1911 Philadelphia

Workmen digging foundations for 11th Street Opera House unearthed a small coffin with a brass plate. The inscription on the coffin plate read

Samuel Ford
died February 8 1826
age 6 years 5 months 6 days

The Opera House site was formerly a church and cemetery. In 1850 the bodies were moved but sadly it seems little Samuel was left behind.

See for more coffin plates, funeral cards and death records

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Man pawns wife's coffin plate in 1882

Dec 23, 1882 Altoona Pennsylvania

Philip Gabriel tries to pawn the coffin plate from his wife's coffin.

Her coffin plate inscription:

Mrs. Philip Gabriel
died Nov. 29, 1882
Age 50 years 9 months 3 days

Mr. Gabriel was said to ask 25 cents for the silver coffin plate so that he could purchase whiskey.

To see if your ancestor's coffin plate is online visit the largest collection of coffin plates online (over 500!) at

A Hairy Situation

This rather strange photo came to me in a box of family photos. I unfortunately don't know the name of this person but the other photos in the box are all my Elgie and Facey relatives so this person probably is as well. The Elgie and Facey families lived in Ontario, just south of a place called St.Marys. I would think it has to be some kind of gag photo as no one in my family has had hair like that (not even in the 70s). I think the photo was taken about 1900.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

'Walking In A Winter Wonderland" A Cold Day For A Wedding

This is the only photo taken of my Massey Grandparents on their wedding day, Dec 31st 1939. The wedding was a small affair as it was the depression and they did not have a lot of money. My Grandfather was employed a delivery man for a bake shop at the time and my Grandmother was a bar maid in a local hotel. I don't know how much money they were making but I am sure it was not much.
They had only been married a few minutes when my Grandmothers father suggested that they should get a picture. And as cameras did not have a built in flash back in the days of yore, you had no choice but to go out side no mater how cold it was. And as it happened it was a typical freezing cold Canadian Winter day. My grandmother not having a coat on hand grabbed a old ratty sweater off the back of the door and out they went. I think the sweater actually belonged to my Great Grandfather.

So that is the story of my Grandparents only wedding photo. They may not have had a lot of money but the marriage lasted 50 years so I guess they had what matters.

Friday, January 09, 2009

John Becker 1871 ~ 1898 and John Becker 1827 ~ 1902

The coffin plates of John Becker 1871 ~ 1898 and John Becker 1827 ~ 1902 are now on my coffin plate index on I cant say for sure but I think they may be a father and son or perhaps a Grandfather and Grandson.

Coffin plates are an overlooked free genealogical resource. They often contain the Birth Record and Death Record and can be used as a substitute for vital records.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Now You Can Ask Olive Tree Genealogy a Question

Do you need help finding an ancestor? Now you can ask Lorine of the Olive Tree Genealogy web site. Lorine has started a new Blog, Ask Olive Tree. Send your query about your ancestors to Lorine. Every day she will choose one question to answer.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Search For My Irish Roots, Part 5

The kindness of strangers.

The quest to find my Masseys would not have been possible without the kindness of strangers. Jenny had done all the work of getting me the records from Delgany and it should be remembered that this info was of no value to her, she is not a Massey, she did it for no return. And now Annie would do something equally nice. She got her fathers D.N.A. tested for me. I say she got it tested for me because there was little she could learn from the test. You have to rember that Annie already new her lines were from Delgany. If her father and I were a match it would only tell her she had a few more distant cousins out there, that’s it. But for me it had the potential to finally prove once and for all the question that I had been working on for so many years.

I am a Delgany Massey

So as you may have guessed Annie and I are a D.N.A. match. Not a perfect match as I had hoped but close enough to prove what I had suspected all these years - that Annie and I are related and that my William Massey was almost certainly born in the Parish of Delgany. As you can imagine I was ecstatic. To finally have the answer to a question that had plagued me for so long was a great feeling. I was so happy. For about 10 minutes. Then like a true genealogist I started to think about what I still did not know, and I realized my search will never be over. Because for me it is not just about the answer, it’s about the search itself.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Search For My Irish Roots, Part 4

Sometimes you don’t find the next clue, it finds you.

I was contacted by a man who was researching the family of William Massey’s wife Ellen. I had never been able to find anything on Ellen, I did not even know her last name. As it turns out I probably would never have found her as I was looking in the wrong country. Anyway he had found a letter that Ellen’s father William had written to his brother Thomas in Etobicoke about 1860. The letter is now in a museum. The letter states among other things that William Massey was from a place just a few miles south of Dublin Ireland. And what is just a few miles south of Dublin. You guessed it, Delgany.

So I was now convinced that my Masseys were from Delgany but I of course had no real proof of this and I had run out of places that I could think of to look. Then again out of the blue another piece of the very circumstantial puzzle fell from the sky and landed in my lap. I made contact with a man by the name of Ron Mahone who was researching a Massey family that lived just a few miles from my Massey family in St. Marys Ontario back in the 1860s. The story handed down in Ron's family was that they were from a place called Redford or Redfoord. So I did a little diging and was able to confirm that they were indeed from Redfoord. And where is Redfoord? You guessed right again, Delgany. Now I had no proof that this new Massey family was connected in any way to mine but there were not a lot of Irish Massey’s in Ontario in the 1860s and knowing that the Irish would often settle in family groups I felt this was yet another small arrow pointing me to Delgany.

Then last year Jenny Selfe came to my aid again, albeit in a round about kind of way. She had received a letter from an Annie Massey about the Massey family. Jenny had put all the Delgany Massey data that she had on her website. Not having any more info than what was on her website she put Annie in touch with me. Now for Annie their was no question that she was a Delgany Massey. She had her lines well documented, for her there was no doubt about it. And with a little digging she was able to prove that she was related to the Massey family that had lived just a few miles from my Massey family in St. Marys Ontario. So everything kept pointing me to Delgany, it was like the place was calling me but I could not get that last little piece of the puzzle. The proof was always just out of reach. What to do?

The kindness of strangers.

To be continued.......

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Search For My Irish Roots, Part 3

Then I got lucky

Meanwhile back in Canada I had searched for many years with out finding that magic little record that would tell me what Irish County my William Massey was from. Then one day in a most unexpected place, I found it. In a Cemetery record of all places. I had seen my William's tombstone many times and had searched for an obit to no avail, but then at the Archives of Ontario I found the interment records of the cemetery on microfilm and there it was. Wicklow Ireland. The strangest part was that my William was not even originally buried in that cemetery. His body had been moved after the original cemetery he was buried in was closed. So it was just blind luck that someone had recorded his place of birth.

Now you would think I would be happy with this new found info, lots of people never find this much, and I was happy, for about 10 minutes. Then like most genealogists I started thinking about what I still did not know. Where in County Wicklow was he from? Did they mean the town of Wicklow? How will I know where to start looking? So it was at this point that my one name study of Irish Masseys started to pay off. For one of those little pockets of Masseys was located in County Wicklow. In a little place called Delgany Parish.

Now I know what you are thinking, that it is hardly proof that my William Massey was from Delgany. And you are right, it was totally circumstantial. But I just had a feeling that I was on the right track. So I made a big leap of faith and started to concentrate my efforts on Delgany.
So I started to learn everything I could on Delgany. What records were available, the history of the parish, the geography. I read everything. I even spent hours looking at the place on Google Earth. It was during this search to learn everything I could about Delgany that I came across a lady by the name of Jenny Self. Jenny was an Australian living in England, who had done some research on her own lines in Delgany. Now Jenny and I are not related so she had no Massey info, but I found her work so interesting that I dropped her a quick email just to thank her for taking the time to put all her hard work online. Well to make a long story short this led to a correspondence and Jenny offered to do some looking in the Delgany Parish records on her next trip to Ireland.

I was very excited at the prospect of Jenny taking a look in the Parish Records as these records are only available in Ireland. But you can imagine how happy I was when a few months later Jenny sent me all the Massey Births, Marriages, Deaths and Burials for over 200 years. It was a fantastic windfall and I am still grateful for the hours of work that she put in to help someone who was basically a stranger. But to my disappointment William was not there. Of course at this point some people would have moved on but I still felt that Delgany was the place. And I would soon find more evidence to keep me looking in Delgany.

Sometimes you don’t find the next clue, it finds you.

To be continued.......

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Search For My Irish Roots, Part 2

We're Irish???

Now don't get me wrong, there is no anti-Irish sentiment in my family that I am aware of but some how this little tidbit of information had gotten lost or perhaps hidden somewhere along the way. My grandfather had told me we were English. There was no talk of Ireland in the family stories, no Irish names, no tombstones in the local cemetery with the words, Native Of County Blah Blah Ireland, Nothing. Thus began my quest for my new found Irish roots.

Now what???

I quickly learned that to do any meaningful genealogy in Ireland you need to have some idea of what County your Irish ancestors came from. Without this you are just flailing around in the dark.

The 1861 census had told me my GGG Grandfather William Massey was a native of Ireland. Where in Ireland I had no idea. So I did what any new genealogist would do, I started flailing around. However in my case my flailing around would one day pay off. It would just take about 30 years.

Fortunately for me Massey is not a common name in Ireland (this makes hunting a little easer) so I began to collect even the smallest mention of the Massey name anywhere in Ireland. Sort of like a one name study of Irish Masseys. At the same time I continued to research my Masseys in North America in the more conventional organized way, working on my direct lines. It was these 2 styles of research that would one day give me some of the answers I was looking for.
My somewhat haphazard one name study of Irish Massey’s soon began to paint an interesting picture. It told me that almost all the Masseys in Ireland are descended from a few men, most likely just 3 of 4 who came to Ireland in the 1600s. It also told me that the descendants of these men tended to stay in the same locations as their original immigrant ancestor. This has the effect of producing little pockets of Masseys located at a few different places in Ireland. This info was interesting but of course it did not tell me what little pocket of Masseys I belonged to.

Then I got lucky......