Saturday, January 21, 2012

Solving My Foley Family Puzzle

I have shared previously, and most recently in July 2011, about the uncertainty of information about one of my maternal great grandfathers, John Foley. This past week, fellow Canadian genealogy blogger, John Reid of Anglo-Celtic Connections, posted a note on Google Plus that Family Search had added 126,534 Ontario Roman Catholic Church Records to their online databases.

I immediately thought of my Foley ancestors and the puzzlement about verifying John's birth. Census records have provided conflicting information ranging from locations in the United States to Barrie, Simcoe County, Canada West (now Ontario) and birth years ranging from 1860 to 1865.

Fortunately, the Ontario civil registration for John Foley's marriage to Mary Jane Fitzgerald on April 25, 1894 provides the name of the church in Toronto in which they married. My first stop then was the church records for marriages at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in 1894. Unfortunately, the images added by Family Search are not yet indexed so finding the church marriage registration meant 'surfing' through numerous images. The church registrations are in chronological order so using the marriage date, I was able to find the marriage registration information fairly quickly. All of the information contained in the church record was identical to the civil registration record.

When he married in April 1894, John gave his age as 29 years, meaning he was likely born around 1865. John's gravestone in Toronto's Mount Hope Cemetery lists his date of birth as February 16, 1864 but due to the various pieces of conflicting information, I have always been suspicious of the date.

I then proceeded to viewing the church baptismal records for Barrie, Ontario, the location John had maintained was his place of birth. The church record images available through Family Search for Barrie consist of one Roman Catholic church - Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary including two mission, or satellite, locations. The baptismal records cover the period 1858 - 1875 and consist of 218 images in the main church register.

Like scrolling through microfilm images, I went through the baptismal records one image at a time, hunting for the Foley name. Fortunately, this was made easier as the family surnames were printed, not written, in the left hand column of the register book. On image #86, line #706, I found it! The baptismal record for John Foley, although the surname was misspelled as 'Froley.'

The parish priest, Father P. Rey, listed: Froley, John; Date of Birth - 16 Feb. 1863 in Essa (a small town near Barrie); Date of baptism - 21 March 1863; Parents - William Foley, Ireland and Bridget McTigue (misspelling of McTague); Sponsors - Joseph Cain and Elizabeth Hussey.

So, at long last, I know that my great grandfather was born in Essa, part of the Barrie, Ontario area, on February 16, 1863, exactly 125 years before his great great granddaughter, my daughter, Jenna was born! Finally, a puzzle solved.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Touring The New RootsMagic 5 Genealogy Software

First, disclosure. I have not received any free products or remuneration of any kind from RootsMagic for using or commenting on their product. I have a copy of the RootsMagic 5 software that bought with my own money. Now that that is out of the way, I can share with you my opinion of the new RootsMagic 5 software package!

Within minutes of seeing the email from RootsMagic that a new release 5 was available, I paid for and downloaded an upgrade copy. I have been using RootsMagic 4 for quite some time and have written about it in past posts.

Although there are elements of other genealogy database software programs that I have used and like, it was when I knew I had to focus on proper source citations that RootsMagic won me over. Now, no fact is entered into my database without the source being included. It takes a little extra time but it saves a tremendous amount of hassle and effort later. The software has also enabled me to go back and begin the process of quickly adding the (way too many!) source citations I had neglected.

The download and installation of RootsMagic 5 was fast and efficient. I had no problems with the conversion of my RootsMagic 4 file although it did take a few minutes to convert the approximately 1,100 photos and record images that were part of the file. I chose the option of having the RootsMagic 4 program uninstalled as part of the RootsMagic 5 installation process. This did not cause any problems for me.

There are four significant enhancements in the new version that I was most interested in, in order of importance as I saw them: the Timeline view, the Research Manager, the County Check, and the Media Tagging feature. For a couple of days, I `played`around in the new software, checking out the new important to me features.

It was after I viewed the "What's New in RootsMagic 5" webinar that I discovered that I was wrong about the order of the new features I had thought would be most important. To see the webinar, or any of the 30 free webinars, offered by RootsMagic, click here.

Media Tagging

This is by far the most exciting improvement for me. I have always liked the ability to attach an image to a fact in my database. For example, I cite the source for a residency fact and attach a copy of the census record from which the information was obtained. Having the image attached to the fact helps keep my material well organized and saves me the time of 'rooting' around through the electronic file folders on my computer hard drive to find a copy of the supporting documentation.

I love the media-tagging feature. I have found it to be a fast and very efficient method for attaching photos and digital copies of records to several people and the events in the lives that the photos and records (digital media) pertain to. For example, now with a few mouse clicks I can attach a census record to all of the family members from a single dialog box including attaching the record to the facts contained in the census record like residence, birth, occupation, religion, etc. A true time saver!


The timeline view provides a quick visual timeline chart showing the events in an individual's life including the events in his/her family. It allows a quick overview of someone's life events that can be helpful in pointing out areas that you may want or need to consider doing more research. It helps me see 'what's missing.'

County Check

I have experienced an emotional roller-coaster with this new feature as each time you save a fact, RootsMagic checks the accuracy of the location that you included. Many of us have experienced boundary or name changes associated with the locations in which our ancestors lived. When I first started using RootsMagic 5, the County Check feature would point out a problem with the usually historical accuracy of the way I entered a location detail and offered suggested changes. This became annoying but now, after spending time with the software, I find it to be the helpful assistant I am certain it was intended to be.

Research Log

My research has not always followed some carefully planned out pattern. I tended to go where intuitively my interests at the time took me. As I prepare for retirement and look forward to having more available time for research, this tool will come in handy. The Research Log builds into your software, in a neat orderly manner, all of the research bits of information that, if are like me, is written down somewhere on a piece of paper or in a notebook in no particular order. And, if you use RootsMagic-On-The-Go on a USB stick or drive, your research goals and notes are always with you, whether to check something or add to it as you gather leads.

I'm giving RootsMagic 5 "two thumbs up."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Seeing My Great-Great Grandmother For The First Time

One of the motivations for my family history journey was the wondering about the family left behind when my ancestors left Scotland and Ireland. I have written about this previously. What happened to them and then their descendants? Where are they all now?

I have been lucky that through the marvels of technology, a.k.a. the Internet, I have been able to begin the process the making some of those re-connections with my long lost cousins from all parts of the globe, much to my amazement.

My most recent cousin connection has been with a cousin, Helen, who lives in New York City and her sister, Marie, who lives in my home province of Ontario, Canada! Both Helen and Marie had spotted a couple of my blog posts about our mutual ancestor, Agnes Sweeney who married William Mitchell and then Joseph Branchfield.

I have always been proud of the adversity that my ancestors faced and overcame. Agnes was certainly no exception. She was born in a Paisley, Renfrewshire poorhouse in 1870 and was only 15 years old when she married my second great grandfather William Mitchell. She became a mother for the first time when she only 16. Sometime following the birth of their fifth child, William disappeared. What happened to him is still not known. Did he abandon the family? Or, was there something else like an imprisonment or an institutional confinement? I may never really know.

Agnes married Joseph Branchfield in 1905. Joseph had been a boarder in Agnes' house which was located near the docks in Greenock, Scotland where Joseph worked. It appears that Agnes may have finally enjoyed some stability in her home life until her death in 1928.

And now, thanks to cousin Helen, I have a photo of Agnes who is pictured with Joseph and five of their children. I can certainly see some resemblance to my paternal grandmother who was Agnes' granddaughter.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Review of 2011 And a 2012 Forecast

It's that time of the year again. A time to review accomplishments from the previous year and set some goals for the upcoming year.

Last year, 2011, was affected by my ongoing recovery from Guillain Barre Syndrome, which hospitalized me from October through to mid-December 2010. In February 2011, I returned to work, and yes, I now admit it that was too soon. My recovery and the lingering mobility challenges I face meant that we could not travel as we might have wanted. The impact was no conference attendance! But still, some research work did get successfully completed.

I was able to find and trace the sensational Vermilyea murder that occurred in Belleville, Ontario in 1934 and is connected to my wife's Faulkner family branch. I recounted in a series of posts some of the Irish immigration experience that my family would have experienced in their 19th century immigration to North America.

I was able to scan the four volumes of diaries left by my wife's great grandfather Louis Henry Wagner documenting his experiences from December 1872 through to November 1891, from the time he was in his teen years through his education, his first marriage, the birth of my wife's grandfather, the death of his first wife and eventually through to his second marriage. They provide a fascinating glimpse into life in 19th century rural Ontario, Canada, seen through the experiences of a young man trying to establish himself.

I obtained the court records concerning the trial of my third great grandmother, Rosannah Mitchell (nee Dowds) that lead to a series of posts about the calibre of the evidence used to convict her and send her to prison for eight years.

Most importantly, I was able to connect with a number of 'new' cousins whom I had not had the pleasure of knowing, which then lead to sharing family information and photos. These connections are invaluable to me!

So what beckons in 2012? Well, more recovery and on a personal note, and especially important, is retirement and, with that, the ability to dedicate more quality time to genealogy - attending society meetings my work schedule didn't permit, attending at least one conference, furthering my genealogy education that I have only been able to dabble in.

Most importantly, in 2012, as a retired person, I will be able to spend time doing what I like to do best - hanging out with my wife and sharing all the experiences that life brings us! It should be a great year!