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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Second Grader's Ancestry Project - Part 2

The second grader's ancestry project is complete.  The written report took her about three to four hours to complete.  It involved filling in a few questionnaires and interviewing a family member.  The kicker with the written report was that everything had to be written neat, with proper punctuation, and in complete sentences.  For a second grader, that can be a challenge over the course of eleven pages plus a few other pages that required marking locations on a map and coloring in the family tree.  At least this portion is adequately complete.  Hind sight is that this project is better handled by maybe a fourth or fifth grader.

As for the presentation poster, that turned out very nice.........


My second grader drew and colored the tree, cut everything out, colored the flags, and wrote all of the labels and names on this board.  It is a big help to have so many photos on hand.

The next step of this project is to continue practicing the presentation that she must complete in front of her class.  I must admit that I probably did not have to present in front of a group until I was in sixth grade.  Now, they start them in Kindergarten.  This will be my daughter's 8th presentation in elementary school.  I do think it is a good thing but it is hard for a shy kid.

In mid-March, the class with get together for an ancestry dinner with each student's parent in attendance and some food to share from their country of origin.  It should be a fun evening.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Second Grader's Ancestry Project - Part 1

Last month my second grader came home talking about her ancestry report.  I knew of the project that her school does in second grade.  Many second graders all over the United States do something with their family tree as part of a social studies lesson.

Well, at my daughter's school, the project is pretty elaborate.  At first, I did express excitement about the assignment.  Then, I had to remind myself that this is her homework, her presentation, and must reflect that in the end product or it just does not work.  She must be vested in the project.  After all, she has to get up in front of her class and talk about her ancestors when I am not there.

One of the biggest challenges that I've found with this project is the plethora of information that I have.  I have family trees for my various lines, even for my husband, along with photos, source documents, letters, anecdotal information, and some other random type items.  It is almost too much information.  Again, it is not my project or assignment, yet I am the source for the information.

The parts of this project include drawing a real family tree, investigating the students given name, putting an "X" that marks the spot on map from which your ancestors originate, interviewing a living ancestor, and interviewing your own family about where they live and how they ended up in their current location.  Additionally, the student must put together a poster for their presentation.  They are welcome to bring a family artifact into to school.

The project culminates with an ancestor dinner on a given evening in March.  Each family attends the dinner with their child. Grandparents and relatives are welcome.  The families are to bring with them food from their country of origin.  Group photos will be taken of each family.  It's a bit of a potluck with set tables in the multi-purpose room of the school.  Yours truly will take the majority of the photos assisted by my husband.

It should be fun but first comes getting the almost eight year old to draw, write, create, memorize, and feel comfortable with her family history.  So far, she has a tree drawn................


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Food, Memories, and Ancestors

Christmas Eve in Napa, California found my family gracing the house of my great grandparents (Mary and Herb Borchers).  They lived up in Alta Heights on Willow Avenue in a house that had been built by Mary's brother, J.H. Vienop.  We'd show up there just after dinner at my grandparents' (Dick and Dorothy Flanagan) house.

Dessert in the form of cookies awaited us.  Mary spent many hours baking traditional German cookies that I'm sure her own mother, other family members, and church friends handed down over the years.  While they lived in the United States and Mary had been born in Missouri, they kept a tight knit community with their other German immigrant friends.

We all have our food memories, one of mine stands out in the form of these lovingly crafted cookies and pastries.  The smell, taste, and texture of a Springerle can place me right back in the dining room of my great grandparents' home.  Food has this extraordinary ability of bringing back memories that don't just involve eating but people, at setting, and family.  It truly triggers memories, feelings and emotions from my childhood.

I found the following quote online:  "Over time, food abundance has become a vehicle for memory enhancement at the cultural level. Feasts serve not only an abundance of food but an abundance of memories." -- John S. Allen.  This is so true.

While I am mostly of Irish decent (about 70%), it is my German family that I spent my time with growing up. In fact, it is all of their food (which from my standpoint was always delicious as can be) that I ate.  It is my German heritage that lives on strong in me because of the food that I grew up with.  Sorry to my Irish heritage but most of the food just pales in comparison and there is not much variety.  I do have a pretty great Irish soda bread recipe though.

The following list are the cookies and pastries of my Christmas past and present:

-Lebkuchen
-Thumbprint Cookies
-Ice Box Cookies
-Pfeffernusse
-Springerle Cookies
-Stollen
-Sugar Cookies
-Persimmon Pudding
-Persimmon Bread
-Persimmon Cookies
-Fudge
-Rocky Road
-Mincemeat Cookies

Many of these are German in origin.  Of course, Lebkuchen, Pfeffernusse, Springerle, and Stollen are cookies and pastries made even today in Germany during the holiday season.  What surprised me was when I looked up Thumbprint and Ice Box cookies.  I found they too are German in origin.  Now, the persimmon seems to be more of a North American fruit that originated in the orient. 

Given that my ancestors made their way to California, specifically Napa, makes me think they came upon persimmon recipes when they migrated West.  Napa, California and many places in California are riddled with persimmon trees.  These trees reap a harvest in late Fall when the trees are bare of leaves and rather stark looking, yet have orange ornaments of almost ripe fruit still hanging from the branches.

Yet another surprise was the sugar cookie recipe.  I know that sugar cookie recipes are a dime a dozen.  Some are easy to make while others require quite a bit of work.  My family's sugar cookie recipe includes lard and soured cream.  When I found this recipe online, the title was indicated as the "Heirloom Sugar Cookie Recipe" and stated it was an old German cookie recipe.  My suspicions on that cookie were founded.  For years, I have wondered if my great grandma's sugar cookies were German in origin.  It would appear they are but also known in other countries, too.

My grandma's fudge recipe is probably over 50 years and is indicated as "See's Fudge".  When I looked up rocky road candy, I found that it originated with a Russian immigrant to the United States.  As for mincemeat cookies, those appear to be English in origin.

Whatever the treat, and probably especially the treat if you have a bit of sweet tooth, memories abound.  Not only are our eyes, noses, and tongues attached to our appetites (our stomachs), they are also attached to our memories (our minds and hearts).

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hoping for More - O'Brien's in Ireland

If you want to find something or someone bad enough, you can.   At times, my methods of finding my ancestors may be a bit far fetched, yet I do have a method.  I take any scrap of information that I can find about my ancestors and apply what I know to a map.  I'm getting better at the geography of Ireland, especially in County Clare.

It is no big secret that if you are looking for O'Brien's in Ireland that you'd probably try your search in County Clare and/or County Limerick.  That seems logical to me.  O'Brien's bridge extends over the River Shannon in a village called O'Briensbridge.  You might find that to be pretty obvious and a great place to start.  It can be, provided your Irish ancestors did not move to a completely different part of Ireland.  That happened sometimes.

My other clue in search of my O'Brien's, is Kate's place of birth/baptism that she provided to her family.  Kate was born Catherine Mary O'Brien to Edmund O'Brien and Anne Gleeson of County Clare, Ireland.....or was it County Limerick, Ireland?  Kate's origins revolve around her birth in Castleconnell.   Actually, she was probably baptized in Castleconnell.  She indicated that Castleconnell was in County Clare but it isn't on today's maps.  It is literally a couple of thousand feet away from the border of Clare in County Limerick.  Did the Griffith's Valuation change the border of Clare along Limerick which is also very close to County Tipperary in this area?  It seems possible and I've found other border shifts for County Clare.

When I Google County Clare, the County Clare Library pops up online as a search result.  I can do a quick search of O'Brien's for Clare in a Griffith Valuation.  The result produces hundreds of results.  The transcribed chart that I've looked at indicates the year 1855.  I've thought to myself that my O'Brien's left Ireland in 1853 for Australia so why would I think they'd be found in the records?  Well, they still might have been indicated and any remaining family would have been.  The issue that I'm having is the frequency of the O'Brien name.

In certain parts of Ireland, certain surnames are quite common.  Even today, surnames such as Hickey, O'Brien, McMahon, and McNamara seem to crop up all over Counties Clare and Limerick.  This makes it tough to trace one's own family line.

I do hope to someday find my great great grandmother, Kate O'Brien, true origins.  I actually need to call it "proof".  I would like to prove her existence via true source documents other than in the United States.  Someday............

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Irish Royalty - Part 4 - Maguire Kings and My Maguire Roots

It is rather interesting to look at the spelling of the Maguire name of the 9th century.  It is indicated as MacGuire.  One might think it to be Scottish and I have been asked many times if I am Scottish.  I used to always say "no" to that question.  Now, I can't say no to it in general as there could be some Scottish back there in my line but it is looking like my McGuire side is not Scottish and I can probably say that going back about a thousand or so years.  They are, in pretty decent fact and company, Irish.

The name does originate as MacUidhir meaning son of Uidhir from County Westmeath, Ireland circa 956 A.D.  It means son of pale one.   Once again, there I go quoting the "write-ups" that accompany most heraldry information for an additional free.  That description of Uidhir about sums up my appearance except for the color I get from spending too much time out in the California sun.  I am pretty pale.

Online there is a whole lot of information about Maguire/McGuire surname.  There are DNA projects out there some of which only want males to participate.  I find the information to be rather disjointed and again does not get me to my own personal family tree.  Oh but wait, I was writing about Irish kings.  I can at least do that for grins.

The "first" Maguire king, Donn Carrach Maguire, died in 1302.  The Maguire's are indicated as the rulers in County Fermanagh (or what is Fermanagh in Northern Ireland today).  How and when they migrated from County Westmeath to Fermanagh is not something that I have on hand.  That is probably okay because it would be more detail that what I looking for at this point in time.

When I look up some factual history about the Maguire's of Fermanagh, I find that they were referred to as chieftains rather than kings.  There was a Hugh the Hospitable and several other chieftains of various names.  I came across another Hugh - Aodh Mag Uidhir (Hugh) - who died in 1600.  What strikes me to be most interesting about Hugh Maguire, Lord of Fermanagh, was that he was the leader during the reign of Elizabeth I of England.  He died fighting the crown during the Nine Years War.

Reading biographical information about those considered to be "royalty" of Ireland does give you an insight into Irish history.  It also makes you realize that the Annuals of the Four Masters are probably your best bet in understanding the "possible" ancestors of your own Irish line.  At least, it is interesting!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Irish Royalty - Part 3 - Maguire Kings and My Maguire Roots

As usual when I've tried to trace my McGuire line, I seem to come up somewhat empty handed.  I can find Charles and Sarah (McGrath) McGuire living in New York City in 1870 right where I expect them to be.  They are in Greenwich Village.  That's the best I can offer on my McGuire side right now except that I think I found Charles in 1850 New York City too.  The only other clue that I have about locating the origins of Charles McGuire, my great great grandfather, is that my own grandfather, Frank McGuire, indicated that he was from County Fermanagh.

In my quest to find my McGuire's, I have found that County Fermanagh is known as Maguire's Country and is a fairly common name of origin for the area.  So, to say that your family name is from a certain part of Ireland can still be pretty meaningless if you haven't actually pinpointed your exact family line.  Besides, it would appear that McGuire and Maguire a interchangeable.  I have not been able to find any information about the different spellings of this surname except that there are at least two and they are pretty much all descendant from the same line.

It might be helpful to prove McGuire or Maguire ancestry via DNA.  I have considered this.  How confusing would it be though when I tell the DNA researchers that I'm a Maguire too.   On my father's side, I am a McGuire from New York City and County Fermanagh.  On my mother's side, I am a Maguire from Termonfeckin, Louth, Ireland going back to the 1600s.  "What?"  You might ask?  I thought the Maguire's were from Maguire's Country in County Fermanagh.  Well, they were but it was so long ago that no one can really trace it.  DNA is probably the best bet. My results would probably be confusing as I stated before.  Let me not forget to mention that the Maguire's of Termonfeckin also wrote their surname as McGuire for a while.

I have asked the question in various forums and message boards whether anyone has research about the two most common variations of the Maguire (McGuire) name but no one really has a good answer.  My own family tree muddies the research for sure.  I'm either the best candidate for McGuire/Maguire DNA testing or the worst.  Who really knows what they are looking for when it comes to DNA research.  I question if the researchers truly know what they are in search of too.

Pinpointing my McGuire's has proven challenging.  Finding my Maguire's in Ireland has proven to be rather coincidentally easy since the descendants live next door to another of my family line even today.  While my other Termonfeckin family tree is very well traced and complete, the best I've gotten out of my Maguire side are just a few key points.   The Maguire's went by McGuire for a time and they were definitely in the Temonfeckin area before my other family line, the Flanagan's, placing them there in the 1600s.  My best bet at proving this is still to come.  In the meantime, I might just need to see about those Maguire's (McGuire's) in Fermanagh.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Irish Royalty - Part 2 - Brian Boru

When I was a kid, my Dad would always say "We're Irish."  He'd also add that he was named after a King Brian of Ireland.  At the time, I had no idea what he really meant by that.  I do recall asking one time if there was a King Brian McGuire of Ireland but he laughed and said that "McGuire's" first name was Hugh.  My Dad had just his own passing knowledge of Irish History that his own parents and grandparents had handed down to him plus he'd probably read the book "How The Irish Saved Civilization".  That's a book that I've never read at this point and might pick up just for grins.

While I'm not exactly sure how the Irish saved civilization, I do know that there were a number of kings in the way back machine in Irish history.  My Dad was truly named after King Brian of Ireland.  The king's name was Brian Boru.

Waterford, Ireland c2004 zelsersk
My first experience with "Brian Boru" was on our 2004 trip to Ireland.  On our tour, my husband and I ended up in Waterford, Ireland.  The group that we were with was assigned to a walking tour with an expert guide of the area.  We met in a hotel meeting room where the guide requested a few participants for his mock role playing of Brian Boru and his story in Waterford.  The role play included Brian, his enemy (a Viking), and the love of his life (or more likely his son's love).  I got to play that lady in this role play.  It was fun, entertaining, and a light anecdotal lead into our walking tour of Waterford that included a lot about the Viking invaders.  My favorite quote from the visit was "Waterford was a city before there was crystal!"

Sometimes it takes me a while to fully put together connections on my family tree.  I recently looked up the full story of Brian Boru and found out that his descendants are O'Brien's.  Also, Brian Boru's brother's name was Mahon (McMahon).  When I look over my family tree, I have O'Brien's on my mother's side from Limerick/Clare and McMahon's from from father's side from County Clare.

I often wonder how many thousands of people are descendant of these rather historically important people in Irish history.  Brian Boru lived from c. 941 to 23 April 1014.  Considering how long ago that was, it would be pretty difficult to trace my line back to the king himself.  I am betting that records don't exist in Ireland.

So what was Brian Boru's story anyway?  He was from what is now the southern part of County Clare, Ireland.  Brian's brother Mahon was initially a prince because he had defeated the Vikings (Norsemen).  When Mahon was murdered by the Vikings, Brian became king of Munster and took up the fight with the Vikings in Limerick and Waterford.  By 1000 C.E., Brian had defeated the Vikings in Dublin.  He let the Vikings stay but levied a hefty tribute against them.

During Brian Boru's twelve year rule of Ireland, the country prospered.  The Vikings did not exactly give up though.  Between the King of Leinster and Brian's son quarreling, Brian was back in a fight.  He was killed in 1014 by and apparent Norseman (Viking) mercenary.  Despite Brian's death, it marked the end of Viking aggression in Ireland.  

So whether an O'Brien or McMahon, there's a little bit of 11th century Irish history out there for you.  If for no other reason, likely descendants of this line can very much visit places like Waterford, Dublin, and Limerick to experience the history of their origins.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Irish Royalty - Part 1

Generally speaking, when I think of Ireland, I don't think of royalty and proving my family line to be connected to any as such.  Being of Irish and German decent plus being an American makes the thought of royalty and royals literally a foreign concept.  Every so often, those considered royalty in other countries make the news but no country more than England.  I guess I should refer to them as the royalty of Great Britain to be accurate.  I generally watch the news segments about the royals and move on with my day.

While I don't mean to completely poke fun at the rather perplexing concept of royalty, the "royalty" that I consider as such here in America would include the likes of the Kennedy's and Disney.  Oh wait, they are all Irish descendants.  I didn't actually mean to pick them because of their national origins.  It is no secret that the Kennedy's are nicknamed as American royalty.   I throw in Disney because of all the princesses that have resulted from his animated creations and legacy.  If you ask my daughters who royalty are, they will indicate the full list of Disney Princesses:  Cinderella, Mulan, Jasmine, Tiana, Aurora, Aerial, Snow White, Belle, etc.  I missed a few but they would know full list and consider them "royalty".

So why bring up royalty now when I don't really put a lot of stock in today's concept of "her majesty".  Well, it is a bit romanticized by today's media and entertainment outlets making the topic of great interest to many.  My husband also turned to me after tracing his Scottish roots back to the 1500s or thereabouts and indicated that his Ross line owned a castle.  I told him that he'd need to sit down and really "prove it".  That is something that he has not had time to do.  Just as many of us Irish descendants (my husband included in that bunch too), we don't necessarily have a way to prove our connection to past royalty except by way of the surnames on our family tree.

In the past, I have researched the heraldry information about my various family surnames and come up with some rather lack luster information.  The "write-ups" about the various surnames are interesting at the surface, especially if that's all you've got, but it is a very generic way of looking at your family history.   That is a history that you probably share with thousands of people.

So in my next posts, I will attempt to write about a few important people in Irish history who were considered royalty at the time.  I am initially picking based off my own Irish surnames.  My plan is to avoid a lot of he "heraldry" write-ups out there in favor of a more individual connections to my research and individuals that really put a mark on Irish history as "Kings".  We'll see what I come up with!