I'm a history geek, so that kind of thing is fascinating to me. I tried a quick, free subscription on Ancestry.com today--it's rainy, so it's perfect to look up Irish relatives, don't ya think?--to see what I could find. Here are some facts that I already knew about my family :
- The Athys are from Belfast, Northern Ireland. The McManuses (my paternal grandmother's family) are from the West, like County Mayo.
- Both sides settled in the Bronx. Hence, we are Yankee fans.
- My first ancestors to set foot in the U.S. were Edward and Ann Talbot, the parents of Annie Talbot McManus, my great-grandmother.
- Annie Talbot was the first of my ancestors born in the U.S. She was sent back to Ireland as a child, then came back in 1912 (almost getting on the Titanic in the process).
- I was nearly named Winifred, after my other paternal great-grandmother, on the Athy side.
I found the great-grandmother who made bathtub gin (Annie Talbot) in a 1900 Census, listed as age 6, living in Newark with her father and an older brother. I knew her parents died and that was why she was sent back to Ireland. Her father, Edward, is already listed as a widower in 1900. So when did her mother, Ann(e) Cassidy Talbot, die? I don't know. Couldn't find a viable record on her. I'm not even sure when she and Edward married, though the 1900 census says that he came to America in 1890.
I found a ship manifest listing Annie Talbot coming into New York in 1912--on the Oceanic, a ship owned by the White Star Line.
I found a few conflicting records on Winifred Skelly Athy. The 1920 Census says she was 29, single (my grandpa was born in 1921), living in Manhattan, working as a servant, and that she came to this country in 1904. Another record lists Minnie Skelly coming into Boston, 1912, from a town in County Roscommon, where I believe Winifred may have been from. So, really, I don't know which is which.
I don't expect to find royalty or even a minor lord in my family tree. We're farmers, laborers, alcoholics. But I want to know what my family was doing during the Famine. Why didn't we leave? I guess being near an Irish holiday makes me think of the possible stories that I don't know about.