Monday, October 26, 2015

My 5th Blogiversary And The Story That Started It All

"The Royal Charter off Moelfre"
Image used with permission of E. D. Walker

(This post and the anniversary of this shipwreck is the reason I began blogging five years ago.  It's now 156 years since my 3rd great grandfather lost his life in this shipwreck. I've found more cousins since then and sometimes blogging is slow when I'm in school, but the blog and I are hanging in there!)

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

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.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Medical Monday - William Reilly's Death

The Scranton Republican, 04SEP1913, pg16
Last Monday I posted about the death of Margaret Reilly nee Barrett. In that obituary her grandson, William Reilly, was mentioned. He died about a week before she did. What a horrible time for that family.


Young Man Claimed by the Grim Reaper

Death claimed William Reilly, aged seventeen years, son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Reilly, of South Main street, early yesterday morning. He had been ill ten months.

Besides his parents, one sister, Margaret, survives. The funeral will be held Friday morning at 9 o'clock. A mass of requiem will be sung in St. Mary's church.

Burial will be made in St. Mary's cemetery."

The obituary doesn't quite match the death certificate exactly. It had that he was just a few months short of his seventeenth birthday, but it's not a big difference. He was still too young to be taken from his parents.

Excerpt of William Reilly's death certificate
William was born on November 4th 1896 in Avoca, Pennsylvania. He died on September 3rd 1913. Aside from some possible misspellings his cause of death was "valvular disease of heart (mitral)." You could stop there if you chose to. There was something wrong with his heart...but you have to look further and ask yourself why did this teenager die because of his heart?

The secondary/contributory cause of death is "chorea - rheumatism". That's not as in arthritis, but as in rheumatic fever.

I did a little research to confirm that it was rheumatic fever and because I hadn't heard of chorea before. The first thing I though of was cholera, but needless to say that wasn't right.

Chorea is derived from the Greek word meaning to dance, but they were used to describe the irregular, jerky movements that some developed who had acute rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever can develop from complications from strep throat or scarlet fever. Rheumatic fever, aside from the chorea-type movements, can also lead to heart damage/valve problems and heart failure.

So it would seem that William had gotten sick months earlier (as mentioned in the obituary) and this would be the outcome. Strep? Scarlett fever? Doesn't matter much. There were no antibiotics to treat it with and eventually his heart gave out.

It reminds me of Little Women when Beth got scarlet fever. She survived but remained weak for the rest of her short life. How many people this must have happened to. How many it still happens to in areas of the world without easy access to penicillin.

Rest in peace, William. May you be remembered forever.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sunday's Obituary - Charles Reilly

The Scranton Republican, 16MAR1900, pg8
Continuing on with the Reilly connection. Charles Reilly was the father of Nellie/Ellen Devers nee Reilly. I recently posted about Nellie's death. She died in 1903. In a short clipping about her death it mentioned that she was the niece of my Patrick Barrett and a Mrs. John Mulhearn. I don't know who the latter is, but I've been able to discover that her mother's maiden name was Barrett. Sadly, her mother isn't mentioned by name in either of these clippings.

"Mr. Charles Reilly, a highly respected resident of this town, died at 10:45 yesterday morning at his home on Spring street, after seven days' illness of pneumonia. The deceased was in excellent health (sic) until last Thursday morning, when he was stricken in the mine. The family physician was called and administered to his patient, who showed symptoms of pneumonia. Mr. Reilly grew worse rapidly and despite the skill of the physician, he succumbed. Mr. Reilly moved to Avoca with his family from Hazleton fourteen years ago. He filled up the measure of duty as a faithful husband and kind father. Beloved and respected by all his associates in the walks of life, his departure is sincerely mourned. He is survived by his widow and four children, Charles, Edward and Margaret Reilly, and Mrs. John Devers, all of this place. Funeral will be held tomorrow (Saturday) morning at 10 o'clock with a requiem high mass in St. Mary's church. Interment in St. Mary's cemetery."

I can only imagine how miserable working in the mines was as he came down with pneumonia. The 1918 flu pandemic did have many cases of pneumonia that came on suddenly with death following a few hours later, but I doubt this was the case. Charles hung on for about a week. What was the state of his lungs after working in the mines? Did it make him more susceptible to ailments of the lungs like bronchitis and pneumonia? I can only imagine. The second obituary is very similar to the first.

The Wilkes-Barre Record, 16MAR1900, pg9
"The death of Charles Reilley (sic), which occurred yesterday morning, was a great surprise to his acquaintances, as it was not generally known that he was ill.  Last week he returned from work complaining of a severe cold, but paid little attention to it previous to that time. It developed into pneumonia on both lungs and his symptoms were of such a character as to occasion alarm among the members of the family and they at once had him fortified with the rites of the Church. Mr. Reilley (sic) was a pleasant, agreeable citizen, always interested in the welfare of his associates and ever anxious to minister to the comforts and pleasures of his family. He removed his family to Avoca from Hazleton about twelve years ago and during that time he made many friends but few enemies. Besides his wife, he is survived by two sons - Charles, a member of the council, and Edward of the school board; also two daughters, Mrs John Devers and Miss Margaret, at home. The funeral will take place on Saturday morning at 9:30 o'clock. Interment will be in St. Mary's Cemetery."

While the obituaries are similar the second one answers at least one of the questions I had. He had apparently been plagued by a cold which he ignored until it took a rather severe turn. Hardly surprising that he would feel the necessity to continue working when sick. Perhaps if he had taken it easy initially he may have never gotten pneumonia. Not really an option at that time. It was also a time without antibiotics.

No point in dwelling on what could have been. What is interesting to read were the bits about his sons. Charles Jr. is listed as a member of "the council"...whatever that was...government? Church? Apparently it was noteworthy. Edward was a member of the school board. With those bits of information I may be able to dig up some of information on them on Naturally, not much was said about his daughters. Disappointing, but not surprising.

While I do wish they had stated how old Charles Sr. was it isn't overly significant in my research. Perhaps I'll come across it in future research. Charles has a memorial on FindAGrave, but no tombstone picture yet.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Amanuensis Monday - Margaret Reilly nee Barrett

The Scranton Republican, 09SEP1913, pg16
Still delving into that Reilly/Barrett/Devers connection with my Barretts. From what I can figure Margaret (Mrs. Charles Reilly) is a sister to my Patrick Barrett. Her obituary here is frustrating to say the least. Her name isn't mentioned. I only know it's her from previous resources.

I'll admit to getting a little exited when I saw that the obituary mentioned her being born in Ireland. I figured that if they were going to go that far, they'd give a little more information, but no. Hopes dashed. They didn't even mention that she had originally resided in Cranberry, Pennsylvania...a small residential area near Hazleton. There's also no mention of her daughter, Nellie/Ellen Devers nee Reilly, who died 10 years before.

When searching I saw the death notice for William Reilly. The grandson mentioned in the post. I didn't think much about it because I was focused on Margaret. When I came across her obituary and it mentioned William's death shortly before I made sure I clipped that article too. After all...they all belong to me even if I don't have the solid connection yet. I'll get there.

"Prominent Woman Goes to Her Final Reward

AVOCA, ept. 8.

The death of Mrs. Charles Reilly, one of Avoca's oldest and most esteemed residents, occurred at the home of her son, Charles Reilly, on South Main street, Sunday night.

A grandson, William Reilly, died last week and his demise is believed to have weakened her condition, which was weakened owing to her advanced age.

Mrs. Reilly was born in Ireland and resided in Avoca for the last thirty years. She is survived by two sons, Charles and Edward, of Avoca, and one daughter, Margaret, of Scranton.

The funeral takes place Wednesday morning at 9:30 o'clock. Services at St. Mary's church and interment in St. Mary's cemetery."

Margaret is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery in Avoca. She has a FindAGrave memorial I created after finding this clipping.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sunday's Obituary - Nellie Dever nee Riley

The Plain Speaker, 22AUG1903, pg 1
Remember when I posted about my mysterious Lees in Pittsburgh? I knew they were related, but I hadn't been able to figure out how they were related. Well, I still don't know, but now I have another mystery. This time in my Barrett line.

Patrick Barrett is as far back as I can go in my Barrett line. Sort of. Patrick died in 1908 and his death certificate listed his parents, but there's no guarantee that it's right. Perhaps knowing that his parents are listed as Edward Barrett and Mary Merrick (a name I've never heard in regards to my family tree...ever) may help me with this new mystery in the future. Who knows?

I know the Barrett in this clipping is my Patrick Barrett. The 1900 census shows my Patrick and his wife, Bridget, living in their home on East Diamond Avenue. I have three Mulhearns in my family tree, and one of them is a John, but I don't have much information on him. Perhaps this obituary that I found on will be able to shed some light on that.

"Death of Former Cranberry Lady.

Mrs. John Dever, of Avoca, a niece of Patrick Barrett, of East Diamond Avenue, and Mrs. John Mulhearn, of South Pine street, died last night. Mrs. Dever was formerly Miss Nellie Riley, of Cranberry. The funeral will take place at Avoca on Monday morning."

After finding this link I jumped back on to to try to find other articles about this mysterious woman from the Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre papers. I found some that may or may not be right, but then I discovered another on my Nellie and it shed a little light on how she died and where she's buried, but nothing on how she connects with my family.

The Wilkes-Barre Record, 25AUG1903, pg 12

Mrs. John Devers died on Saturday morning at the home of her mother on Spring street. Deceased was well known and highly respected by all who knew her. Her husband, mother, two brothers, one sister and four children survive, the youngest being 3 days old. The funeral will occur this morning with a requiem mass at St. Mary's Church; interment in St. Mary's Cemetery."

So the surname has an "s" in this article. Nothing to get all worked up about. So I went on FindAGrave to see if I could find St. Mary's Cemetery and discovered there was one in Avoca. I also discovered that there was a memorial for Nellie also showing her maiden name as Reilly (Riley). It has her birth as being in Hazleton in December 1864 and it has her linked to a memorial for her husband passing on March 3, 1906. How sad! Those kids were so young! Under her bio was a transcription of the clipping from the Wilkes-Barre Record and a statement by the author saying that she was the daughter of Charles and Margaret Barrett Reilly.

The Wilkes-Barre Record, 27AUG1903, pg 12

The funeral of Mrs. John Devers, whose death occurred on Friday morning under very sad circumstances, took place on Monday morning from her late home on Spring street. The remains encased in a handsome casket, were viewed by a great many sorrowing friends. A requiem mass was celebrated in St. Mary's Church by Rev. J. Lynch. The pall bearers were John Flannely, John Sheridan, James Walsh, John Gallagher, James Lavin, Edward Dunleavy."

All of this is very exciting, but it isn't proof. It is information that could possibly lead me to sources that will help me confirm or refute the information. I can also contact the FindAGrave contributor that posted the information and we can hopefully collaborate to figure this all out. I have no siblings for Patrick Barrett. Just the possibility of Edward Barrett and Mary Merrick being his parents. Now I have a potential sister in Margaret and possibilities of finding others, one of which may lead me to their parents!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mystery Monday - I Need a Clear Set of Eyes for This

1880 US Federal Census Patrick Barrett household

I need a sanity check. A pretty big one too. The above is from the 1880 U.S. Federal Census. It's my Patrick and Bridget Barrett nee Farley with three of their six children. They were living in Cranberry, Luzerne county, Pennsylvania. In 1900 they would be living on East Diamond Avenue (with all six kids) in Hazleton, Luzerne county. Hazleton and Cranberry are close to each other so this change in address isn't such a stretch. This clipping also helps connect them if there was any doubt...

The Plain Speaker, 22AUG1903, pg 1
I was supposed to share this clipping in a post published yesterday, but I apparently left it in "Draft" mode so it never went out. It will go out for next Sunday. I've got school-brain right now! Anyway in that upcoming post I have this clipping and deduced that this Miss Nellie Riley (Reilly) was most likely the daughter of Charles and Margaret Reilly nee Barrett. I've confirmed the Charles part, but Margaret is always referred to as "Mrs. Charles Reilly." Women's lib came to late too help me with that.

So I'm trying to connect Nellie with Patrick. She's his niece so if Margaret Reilly nee Barrett is her correct name, then I've pretty much got it down that Margaret is Patrick's sister. So I went looking for Charles, Margaret, and Nellie in the 1880 census. I found a Charles, Margaret, and Ellen (her FindAGrave memorial lists her as Ellen Devers nee Reilly) and they live right by Patrick and Bridget. Only one family separates the two...

1880 US Federal Census Tidley/Reilly household pg 25A
...but it just couldn't be easy because Charles and Margaret are listed as having the surname "Tidley" and the kids are listed as Ellen, Charles, Magie, Mary, and Edward. Also next to Ellen it has her relationship as "S. Daughter" which I would assume to be step-daughter, but she is listed as his daughter in his obituary and all those other kiddos are listed as well except for Mary. Perhaps she had passed away by then.

The above is at the bottom of the census page and the family continues over onto the next census page where Patrick is also listed...

1880 US Federal Census Tidley/Reilly/Mirick household pg 26B

So here we have a "S. Son" (guessing step-son) by the name of Martin Casina (ish). Below that is Charles' mother-in-law, Mary Mirick. Confused?

OK so on Patrick Barrett's death certificate his parents are listed as Edward Barrett and Mary Merrick. I hadn't heard the name Merrick before, but then I found Margaret Reilly's death certificate and her parents are listed as Charles Reilly and Mary Merrick. Her daughter, Margaret, supplied the information for the death certificate and as we know Charles Reilly was her husband not her father.

So Mary Merrick pops up on both Patrick Barrett's and Mary Reilly nee Barrett's death certificates. When I found the 1880 census records aside from the step-daughter and step-son thing I was convinced I had found them. Then I started thinking about Mary Merrick. Wouldn't her name be Barrett? Why would they have her down by her maiden name in the census? I would say that perhaps she remarried, but why wold Merrick be listed as her maiden name on her death certificate? Am I trying to fit a square peg into a round hole? It's certainly not conclusive, but there are too many coincidences in all of this.

Thoughts? Because right now my mind is a bit muddled.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Sunday's Obituary - Mary Frances Villers...nee Villers

Clipping from family
Yes...Villers nee Villers, but I'm not going there completely right now. I'm ramping up to it just stay with me.

"Mrs. Louis Villers Dies Suddenly Friday

Mrs. Louis Villers, 76, 1470 E. Mason St., died suddenly at her home Friday afternoon. She was a lifelong Green Bay resident and a member of the Cathedral St. Ann and Mission Societies and the Daughers of Isabella, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Circle.

Besides her husband, survivors include a daughter, Mrs. Edward Van Benadeno (sic), one granddaughter and five great grandchildren; a brother, Joseph; and a sister, Mrs. William Wendricks,* Green Bay.

The body will be at the Schauer and Schumacher Funeral Home at 2 o'clock Sunday afternoon. The Daughters of Isabella will say the rosary at 4 o'clock Sunday afternoon. The St. Ann and Mission groups will say the rosary at 7:30 in the evening. The Rev. John Gehl will say the rosary at 8 o'clock Monday evening, and will offer the solemn requiem mass at 9:30 Tuesday morning in the Cathedral. Burial will be in Allouez Cem-"

This clipping is from a family scrapbook that was passed on to me from my in-laws. The obituary cuts off there. I imagine that not much followed except "-etery" or whoever did the clipping would have thought to paste it on there.

Clipping from family
Her funeral notice was scarce with the ancestral information as well noting only a brother, Joseph Villers, and sister, Mrs. William Wendricks.*

"Villers' Rites To Be Held Tuesday  Morning

Funeral services for Mrs. Louis Villers, 76, 1470 E. Mason St., who died Friday, will be held at 9:30 Tuesday morning in the Cathedral. The Rev. John Gehl will offer the requiem mass and burial will be in Allouez Cemetery. The body is at the Schauer and Schumacher Funeral Home where Father Gehl will say the rosary at 8 o'clock this evening. Mrs. Villers is survived by her husband; a daughter, Mrs. Edward VnBenaden (sic); one grandchild; a brother, Joseph Villers, and a sister, Mrs. William Wendricks,* Green Bay."

So her brother's name is Joseph Villers. That's not really proof that her maiden name is Villers. Obituaries/Death Notices in the past weren't always clear with siblings. I've seen notices that say "brother" or "sister" when they meant "brother-in-law" or "sister-in-law." In this case Joseph Villers is her actual brother.

As in the short and not-so-sweet Funeral Notice posted for her husband, Louis, I mentioned that the statement "lifelong Green Bay resident" isn't accurate. Neither of them were born in Green Bay. They may have lived there for a good chunk of their lives, but not before their marriage in 1896. A marriage that isn't mentioned in their obituaries. Their parents aren't mentioned either. No worries. I know who they are and I have a copy of their marriage certificate.

Excerpt of the marriage record for
Louis Villers and Frances Villers
Louis Joseph Villers and Mary Francis Villers were married on March 26th 1896 in Lincoln, Kewaunee County, Wisconsin. Louis was the son of Martin Joseph and Octavia Villers nee Waguener. Mary Frances was the daughter of Pierre Louis and Emerence Villers nee Jadean. The parents of Martin Joseph and Pierre Louis were Eugene and Mary Teresa (maiden name unknown). So their parents were siblings making them first cousins. They weren't married in the church, but by a justice of the peace.

Louis and Frances had one child, a daughter. She is only referred to as "Mrs Edward Van Benaden" in the obituaries, but her name was Eva. Eva was born on December 28th 1896 and died on May 3rd 1974.

Finding cousins that married each other happens in genealogy. It certainly makes us question our research when we reach that conclusion because we assume it doesn't happen much. We make that assumption because it's looked at today as being wrong. I don't know how it was viewed in the late 19th century. Was it frowned upon then as well? Was this why the wedding wasn't performed in the Catholic Church? The reasons don't really matter nor should we view it as scandalous. Royalty had been doing it for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

When you think you have a marriage in your family tree that involves someone that's already in your tree, don't panic. Just carefully review your research and confirm your suspicions. Your genealogy program will permit you to add someone that's already in there because genealogists know this happens. I have a great uncle whose surname is Brown and his wife was also a Brown. I just haven't discovered if they were related yet and if so how.

Just verify your research and breathe.

*Wendricks should actually be Hendricks.