11 July 2015

Reclaiming Lost Relatives Gravesites

As I begin to wind down my projects at Albany Rural Cemetery with rehabbing my ancestors gravesites that have fallen into disrepair; today I had ambitions of reclaiming 5 gravestones of my ancestors in Section 100. Today, my father and I retrieved 2 out of 5 stones. My relatives and their accompanying gravestones were previously located in the old Gibbonsville Cemetery in Watervliet on what is now property of the Watervliet arsenal. In 1918, the cemetery property was sold to the United States government. The cemetery was overgrown and not taken care of and at the same time the arsenal wished to expand its grounds. It would appear to be a win - win situation for the city of Watervliet and for the arsenal. After the cemetery property was sold, the interments and gravestones were removed to a section of Albany Rural Cemetery for re-burial. Over the past 97 years gravity has worked its wonders and the gravestones have sunken into the ground upwards of almost 10 inches.

Below are a series of photos of the work in progress. The first stone that I recovered was of Amanda Hitchcock, daughter of Capt. John Hitchcock and Harriet Palmer. John was an older brother of Samuel Hitchcock, my gggggg grandfather. The photo of Amanda's stone was after the project was completed.

Amanda Hitchcock 



The next few photos are from the recovering efforts of Louisa Martel Hitchcock's gravestone. Louisa was an adopted daughter of Alexander Hitchcock and Abigail Irena Hanks. Alexander was a younger brother to my gggg grandfather, Aistroppe Robinson Hitchcock.


Below is a photo of excavating the stone. It was almost 10 inches deep.



The next two photos are of my father cleaning the mud off the stones after they were removed from the ground.




The ground, refilled, tamped down, and leveled; awaiting placement of the gravestone in the exact spot where it was previously located; only now raised to the surface.




Louisa's gravestone placed, leveled, and surrounding area re-graded.





Project done! Three more gravestones to reclaim.

Irish Parish Records Online

The hottest topic on the genealogical circuit today is about Irish parish records going online for free. Yes, the National Library of Ireland has digitized almost 400K images from its Catholic parish records holdings. The dates of their Catholic parish registers are from 1740-1880s and cover almost 1100 parishes. This is a very significant event. The registers have been available for viewing since the 1970s; but you had to visit the library in Dublin. Now they are available for free and searchable anytime. To get to the registers directly, they are online at http://registers.nli.ie/

Before using the site be prepared by knowing your ancestors parish. Without that information you will trudge through thousands of images and still possibly not find your ancestor. I have used the site with limited success. As of today, my search for a particular gg grandmother has turned up empty but I did find one of her brother's marriage records and another brother's baptism record.

Some of the images are very grainy and some very very faded making for an extremely difficult translation of the records. All images in this collection are not created equal, some are pristine while others are un-readable. Check them out and good luck hunting!

Below are images of a marriage record for my gg granduncle, Thomas Cummins and a baptism record for his brother, Martin Cummins. The records were found in the pages for the parish of Aughrim in County Roscommon.

Thomas Cummins & Anna Cox marriage record


Martin Cummins baptism record

27 June 2015

Old Homestead

A lot of us talk about what it was like going to grandma or grandpa's house when we were kids. But how many people can say they know the house that their great grandparents or earlier lived in. I have a small collection of photos of the home's of my ancestors when they lived in Albany. Most of the photos are recent. 

A decision was made to check out the ancestral homes of my relatives after viewing city directories for years and documenting where they lived. Then I thought, lets see if these houses are still standing and what it looks like today. I have found that some are in great shape and others, well, not in as great shape.

Further below are a couple of photos of the former home of my ggg grandfather, Thomas O'Donnell. He was a longtime resident at 31 Van Zandt Street in Albany. Thomas was born in County Tipperary, Ireland in 1827. Thomas immigrated in 1844; perhaps to Canada for a cheaper fare to North America. He may have come through Grosse Île, Quebec’s former immigrant quarantine station. Canada's Ellis Island. This might be feasible because he married Catherine McCarthy in 1845 in Montreal and their oldest child Mary Anne was born in Canada the following year. Children of Thomas and Catherine:
  • Mary Anne (1846-1895) married James A. Burns
  • Johanna (1853-1912) married Henry Joseph Bailey
  • William (1856-1888)
  • John James (1858-1892) married Rose M. Clair
By 1853 the family was living in Albany where the rest of the children were born. Thomas was a laborer, served in the Civil War, and died on 25 September 1869. He was originally buried in St. John's Cemetery on Delaware Avenue in Albany. After all of the interments were removed, there is no trace of him being re-buried in St. Agnes' Cemetery where his wife is buried.

Below; two angles of 31 Van Zandt Street, Albany, New York.





Photos from the New Mount Ida Clean-Up

About two weeks ago I helped out on a tombstone cleaning and restoration project at the New Mount Ida Cemetery on Pinewoods Avenue in Troy. About a dozen people came out to help. One from the Troy Irish Genealogy Society, a few from the Sons of Union Civil War Veterans, Willard Camp #154, some RPI fraternity brothers chipped in, and a few of us who are interested in cemetery preservation.

We cleaned the stones and leveled their bases and then Joe Ferraninni from Grave Stone Matters worked his magic on patching the broken stones back together. The project was a two day affair. Saturday, when I was there was brutally hot and the sun unrelenting when you were not in the shade. I am told that the organizers were there until late Sunday afternoon finishing up. It was rewarding to everyone who helped because we knew that we were doing good. Although an enormous tree fell in the cemetery the night before during a quick moving summer thunderstorm, the cemetery is greatly improving due to the dedication of those who "adopted" the cemetery and are investing their time and efforts to restoring it back to a place of beauty.

Below are photos from the restoration project.













22 June 2015

Tombstone Cleaning Follow-Up

Earlier this morning, I went to Albany Rural Cemetery to place a flag on the grave of a man, George H. Swartwout, who married into my family. Recently I discovered that he was also a veteran of the Civil War. But unfortunately he died very shortly after he was mustered out of service.

George H. Swartwout


While at his plot I noticed a stone that I used to demonstrate how to clean a tombstone with D2 biological solution. The 10 minute video can be found on YouTube by clicking on this link. In September 2014 a blog post was created on this process. However today I was very surprised. I have known for a long time that all tombstones are not created equal. Some stones cleanup better than others. But this stone really whitened and brightened over the fall through the early summer.  The photos below will speak for themselves.


The above photo was taken before cleaning with D2.





The above photo was taken about one month after cleaning with D2.



The above photo was taken this morning; 8 months after cleaning.

16 June 2015

Old Mount Ida Cemetery Clean-Up

Calling all Volunteers! For a great cause, coming up this Saturday and Sunday, June 20th & 21st, there will be another cemetery clean-up, at the Old Mount Ida Cemetery in Troy; not to be confused with the New Mount Ida Cemetery (which isn't really new anyways).

The Old Mount Ida Cemetery is located on lower Pawling Avenue just up from the intersection at Congress Street. This clean-up day is organized by the Troy Irish Genealogy Society. Details about the day are cut and pasted below from their Facebook page.

Old Mount Ida Cemetery cleanup

Our first cleanup work date will be this coming Saturday-Sunday (6/20-6/21) at the Old Mount Ida and adjacent Old Catholic cemeteries on Pawling Avenue. We'll be starting about 9am, but come any time.

There are many damaged and overgrown headstones in this cemetery including a number of veteran's stones. Work on Saturday will include cleaning overgrowth around and dirt and moss on headstones and identifying stones for future (probably August) repair date. Tools and D/2 cleaner will be provided. Work gloves advisable.




29 May 2015

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 13; Patrick J. Cummins

This week's ancestral bio is on one of my great great granduncles, Patrick J. Cummins. He was an older brother to my great great grandmother Anne Cummins; who married Michael J. Gannon. Very little is known about him. He was born in County Roscommon, Ireland around 1850 and immigrated to America in 1865 according to the 1900 Federal Census. He was listed as a laborer in census records.

Patrick was son of Bernard Cummins and Catherine Dockey. Another brother was

  • Frank, married Maria Cox

Bernard was later married to Bessie Lenehan and had the following children:

  • Thomas Joseph, (1859-1943) married Anne M. Cox
  • Catherine, (1864-1931) married Michael J. Gannon
  • Martin Joseph, (1865-1954) married Ann Mary Gill
  • Anne M., (1866-1927) married Michael J. Gannon
Patrick J. Cummins

At some point after immigrating to the states, the name Cummins had a "g" added to it. I have no clue whether Patrick did it himself or possibly custom officials. After coming to America, Patrick lived in Bennington, Vermont and was married to Bridget Casey (1843-1877). Patrick and Bridget had the following children. All born in Vermont.
  • Bernard, (1868-1961) married Anna Hickey
  • James, (1870-1872)
  • Mary E., (1872-1939)
  • Francis J. (1874-1967) married Mary J. Maher
It is believed that both, wife Bridget and son James are buried in Bennington, Vermont. Soon after Bridget's death, Patrick married Ellen Barry on 29 October 1877 in Bennington. By 1882, the family was now living in Catskill, New York.  Patrick and Ellen had the following children; all born in Catskill.
  • George H., (1882-1939)
  • Patrick A., (1884-1932)
  • Ida Winifred, (1886-1979) married Floyd Shultz
  • Helen Elizabeth, (1890-1977) married Abraham Patrick Frank Shiel
  • Julia A., (1892-1991) married Franklin A. Banks

Patrick and Ellen are buried in St. Patrick's Cemetery in the Jefferson Heights section of Catskill.

Patrick & Ellen Cummings grave stone