Sunday, October 31, 2010
Thanks, Thomas and Geneabloggers, for listing me in the new blogs this week and crediting me with "Spooky Sunday"! It's very exciting to be out here blogging with you all. I absolutely love the idea of daily prompts to encourage everyone to get out there and post! I welcome the tips from my veteran bloggers and love being among you all!
I couldn't post my first "Military Monday" and not have my father-in-law as the subject. We just lost dad this past May. As we were driving North to celebrate mom and dad's 50th Wedding Anniversary, we got the worst phone call possible. Only 2-3 hours into a 2 day journey from Killeen, Texas to Green Bay, Wisconsin. It was the longest journey of our lives. We debated trying to get there in one day. We wanted to be there as soon as possible and knew that we could do it, but we'd arrive in the middle of the night. In the end we chose to stop in Missouri and rest for the evening. We didn't want to risk getting into a crash if we got tired, and if mom was actually able to get to sleep, we didn't want to wake her.
Dad passed doing what he loved. He was volunteering at the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon at Lambeau Field when he suffered a massive heart attack. Mom and dad had just reached their 50th wedding anniversary the day before he passed. The party was going to be the following weekend. They had reached 50 years of life and love together. A monument to the rest of the family.
Dad was well-known for his chocolate chip cookies (a recipe from his mother, Laura Laurent), his molasses cookies, snickerdoodles, beef tenderloin, and chicken booyah. "Big Daddy" drove truck for Schneider Transport for more than 30 years and in his retirement loved wintering in Arizona with friends and his beautiful wife, Dolores. He loved having Monday night dinners at the house with his children and grandchildren and cheering on the Green Bay Packers. We were lucky enough to see mom and dad a month before he passed as they stopped by to visit us in Killeen on the way back from Arizona.
Dad belonged to the Teamsters (Local 75), the Knights of Columbus (Ss. Peter & Paul R.C. Church, Green Bay), and the American Legion. He served in the United States Army from 1954-1956, attaining the rank of Specialist.
So I take this Military Monday to remember my father-in-law. One of the sweetest, most caring people I've ever been blessed to have had as a part of my life. Roll on, Big Daddy, we love you!
Friday, October 29, 2010
I am blessed to be in possession of a wonderful album of pictures that include the two above. I got into genealogy while I was stationed in Hawaii and was even more blessed to have my aunt and two uncles retired out there with me. My family and I were staying with my Aunt Cathy and Uncle Jeff as we prepared to leave paradise for good, and I stayed up late into the evening scanning the pictures from this scrapbook. I was hungry for pieces of family history (some things never change!) and when she showed me this album I couldn't not get a copy of it.
Since scanning it (the original is safely tucked away in paradise still!), I have intermittently pelted my mother, aunt and uncle with questions regarding the various people in it. Who were they? No one knew. What we did know was that the album came from the Quirk side of the family and that there was a picture of my grandmother at the end of the book in what appeared to be a high school graduation picture. So the book was tied to her...Mary Ann Quirk.
A few years later I was looking at the pictures with my mom back home in Pennsylvania. She pointed to a man and said that it was her grandfather, Edward Quirk. I suppose the fact that she knew Edward as an adult and the picture was of him as an adult, albeit much younger than she was used to seeing him, made it a pretty solid identification. My aunt and uncle agreed that it did look like their grandpa Quirk. So we got one step closer to identification...
The little girl in the mask above is the common denominator throughout this scrapbook. She appears more often than any other person in the scrapbook, but who was she? Reviewing so many of the other pictures in the book...a convention of the Irish Catholic Benevolent Union in Kingston, men at the shore, men and women in some pretty neat swimsuits....all illustrated what the creator of the book held dear. Events in her life that she wanted to capture, which included gravestones. Gravestones of family and people in mourning clothes...and I recognized the gravestones! I had pictures of them too. My pictures were 80 years later, while theirs were freshly covered. Graves of their parents and their grandparents.
We began going over the pictures again. This time concentrating on the ladies that appeared throughout the scrapbook, almost as frequently as the little girl above. So we asked...could the women in the pictures be Edward Quirk's sisters? Fondly referred to by my mother and her siblings as "The Aunts". They agreed that there was a resemblance, but so much time had passed since the last of "The Aunts" had died that it was hard to tell which aunt was which. More time passed and we finally came to a realization as to who this little girl was. It fit so perfectly that it was incredible we hadn't come to it sooner. The little girl was my grandmother, Mary Ann Quirk.
It all fit. Her graduation picture in the back of the scrapbook. Her being doted on by "The Aunts" throughout the scrapbook. The few appearances of Edward Quirk (her father) made almost solely with this little girl. It felt wonderful to realize that we had made some headway in identifying the pictures, but there was still a feeling of emptiness. I wish I knew what they had been experiencing when the pictures were taken. Pictures were not taken as casually as they are today. There was a deeper significance to them and the expense was greater. These pictures were important to the owner, but what was she trying to say?
There was an appearance of a little baby in the scrapbook about midway through. A baby that I can't identify, but something tells me I know who it is. Edward had 8 siblings. Five made it to adulthood. Only one other married....Bessie. Bessie died days after a c-section performed back in 1918. I can't even imagine a c-section back then! Instinct tells me that this baby in the pictures is her child, but I have no proof. She would be the only other Quirk relative in my line, but we completely lost track of her. Bessie died, and her husband, Dennis Dugan, moved and eventually remarried. The baby girl is found in the 1920 census living with him and his new wife and then never seen again. I don't know if she died or was sent off to live with other relatives. What I do know is that she isn't with her father and step-family in the 1930 census.
Each time I flip through the pages of this scrapbook, I remember that I need to ensure my pictures are labeled. It needs to be done as soon as they are developed or transferred from the camera to the computer. We think that we'll always remember the events and the people in these pictures. I'm 38 years old and I am already getting hazy about many of the details in old pictures. Someday I'll be gone, and my children and grandchildren will inherit my pictures. No doubt they will want to know the story my pictures tell. The events that are commemorated in them. Who is family in them. If we don't keep up on this task of labeling our pictures, we are destined to pass on many albums like the one I scanned from my aunt, and the images within become nothing more than ghosts from the past. Nameless. Not remembered...and to a genealogist THAT's a scary thought!
Monday, October 25, 2010
"The Royal Charter off Moelfre"
Image used with permission of E. D. Walker
October 26, 2010 is the 151st anniversary of my great-great-great grandfather, Manus Maurice Boyle's, death in the shipwreck of the Royal Charter. He worked in the coal mines of northeastern Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Alice Monaghan, were both Irish immigrants and longed for a better life for their two daughters, Bridget Mary and Anna. He left Pennsylvania in September 1856 to go to Australia to mine for gold in hopes of a better future for his family. He was returning to his family from Australia in the autumn of 1859. The Royal Charter would have taken him back to Britain. No one knows what ship he was to board to return to America. No one knows what fortunes, if any, he was returning from Australia with. During the last leg of his journey to Liverpool a hurricane struck. There was no advanced warning. None existed prior to that date.
The winds that raged over 100 mph changed from East to North/Northeast and the bay (Moelfre Bay) which Captain Taylor had hoped would shelter them became the instrument of their demise. The anchors that had been weighed, snaped in the first hours of the morning of October 26th and the ship was repeatedly thrown against the rocks until it split and sank. Of more than 480 passengers and crew only 41 survived. No women or children were saved.
The valiant efforts of one of the crew, Joe Rogers, and the inhabitants of the Moelfre coast were what enabled even those 41 to be saved. The storm had caused damage to one of the Moelfre homes and as residents were repairing the roof in the early hours of the morning they saw the ship in peril. They woke the town and 28 local men made a human chain in the violent waters of the bay to attempt to rescue those aboard. Joe Rogers took a line from the ship and swam to shore, being turned back in the violent waves of the storm at least 3 times before reaching the men on shore. The rope was used in an attempt to bring those from the vessel ashore.
Sadly, many of the passengers on the ship jumped or were thrown overboard. The bulkiness of the clothes of the time coupled with the fact that many had money belts and pockets filled with gold inhibited their efforts to the deadliest of degrees. Had they abandoned their garments and treasure many more may have survived.
There was over 322,000 pounds (British monetary unit) of gold aboard the ship. This was the amount insured back in 1859 and does not include the gold the passengers kept on their persons. I do not know the equivalent in today's currency the gold would be valued at, but it would obviously be substantially higher. The large amount of money combined with the rumors of "good fortune" that surrounded the town after the wreck led to the shipwreck being called the Golden Wreck.
The village church of Saint Gallgo became the collection point for the bodies. The Reverends Stephen Roose Hughes and his brother Reverend Hugh Robert Hughes paid the local inhabitants to bring the bodies to the church, a difficult trek up the rocky shores to the church made monetary remuneration the only way to persuade the locals to take on the grim task. They saw to the burial of those killed and personally answered over 1000 letters they received begging a response regarding loved ones. The stress from this caused the Reverend Stephen Hughes' life to be cut short. He died a few years later.
The church at Saint Gallgo still exists today and each year remembers those lost in this tragedy. Monuments stand to remember those lost. A distant cousin of mine Debbie Fay Buch and her husband, Josh Buch, placed a memorial stone at Saint Gallgo Church in August 2004. It reads:
Manus Maurice Boyle
Never Recovered from the Royal Charter
Placed by the Fay Family
Hazleton, PA USA 2004
Never Recovered from the Royal Charter
Placed by the Fay Family
Hazleton, PA USA 2004
I don't sit around depressed over the fact that this is the anniversary of my ancestor's death. What would have happened had he come home with gold from Australia? My 2nd great grandmother, Anna Boyle, may never have met her husband, Martin Blanchfield, and I would never have been born. Sometimes good can come from tragedy. People's fortunes can improve or worsen causing them to make decisions that determine the outcome of their history and sometimes other people's histories. It does sadden me to know that Manus was never to hold his youngest daughter, Anna. She was born 2 months after he left for Australia. It saddens me to know that his last thoughts were most likely of a family that he would not see again in this world. Or perhaps his last thoughts were of a determination to survive and get back to them. A determination that was matched by the ferocity of the circumstances in which he found himself. It saddens me knowing that he did not die the "peaceful" death of drowning for the majority of those lost were broken on the rocks of the bay. The passengers and crew of the Royal Charter died so close to shore that even today the wreck can be seen below the surface of the waters from the bay's shoreline. Still there, resting peacefully below the water.
It is not everyone that can say their ancestor's demise was written about in books. I have read two that write of the Royal Charter. One by Alexander McKee, "The Golden Wreck: The Tragedy of the Royal Charter" is out of print, but it tells of the voyage from Australia to it's wreck, the recovery of the remains of the victims and the trial of the crew that survived. I have read the account of the shipwreck written by the great Charles Dickens (yes, I said Charles Dickens wrote about this tragedy!) in his book "The Uncommercial Traveller" (only about the first 20 or so pages of the book are dedicated to this wreck. It's a series of 34 books and this is in volume 24. The entire series tells of Dickens' travels as he IS the Uncommercial Traveller).
I take this time today to remember a man I never knew, but love nevertheless. As a genealogist it can be hard to convey to those that do not research their ancestry that while we may never have met these names that appear in our family trees, we feel a closeness that defies explanation.
Rest in Peace, Grandpa. You will be remembered by your many descendants.