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Location: Arizona, United States

My name is Colleen and I find dead people.

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27 November, 2005

Pictures DO speak a Thousand Words!

When I began this research, I merely wanted to know the names of my ancestors and how they fit in my family tree. It did not take long before I decided that names and dates weren't enough to quench my "thirst". I now want to know about my ancestors as people. Who were they? What were they like? What did they like to do? What personality traits have lived on in current generations?

So now, as I struggle with the road blocks to research I've encountered, I'm working on finding out some of these answers for some of my ancestors. I've developed a small questionnaire aimed at getting some of my relatives' memories of those passed on in written form. My dad agreed to fill several out on as many ancestors as he can. His cousins get together every December, so I'm going to send some packets to them, as well. Perhaps as they gather and reminisce they'll complete some, too. I'm also sending them pictures of the ancestors that I have along with the research I have to date.

As I wait to see if I get any response to my request for information, I've been going through some family photos and have been able to gather some characteristics through them. Like the people in the photos above. By looking at the pictures I can obviously glean that they enjoyed music, and that they took the time to learn to play an instrument (or at least to fantasize about playing an instrument!).

Now, if only I knew who these ladies were! Stay tuned to upcoming posts to find out how I'm going to go about determining the identities of these bopping beauties!

19 November, 2005

A Chain Reaction

The above 1930 Census Image is an example of how genealogy can lead to multiple findings. I found this image as a result of a simple search at a genealogy site. I plugged in the name "John Doyle" and "Pittston PA" in the location field and found this image. It shows my maternal great-grandfather John J. Doyle with his wife Jane and children Joseph and Anna. The information provided on this record for John shows, among other things, that: He did not live on a farm, he was 64 years old at the time of this census, he's been married since the age of 24, he was born in England and his parents in "Irish Free State", he immigrated to the U.S. in 1869 and he was a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Plugging in that one name and location into a genealogy wbsite's search fields provided me with some insight into my great-grandparents as people. I didn't know before, for example, that my great-grandparents were married at ages 24 and 20, or that my great grandfather immigrated to the US at about age 5.

But that one search also helped me find new ancestral connections. For example, I know from oral family history that my mom's mother's sister married a Raymond Williams and that they had several children (one of which was Jane, whom I've noted a few times on this blog). The 1930 census record shows this Williams family living with the Doyle's at 623 N. Main Street in Pittston, PA. So now I have the names of Margaret Doyle-Williams' children. This same census record also shows another possible lead. There is a listing, a few lines above my great-grandparents, for a John and Marie Jordan family. This is important for me because my grandmother Regina Doyle married into the James O'Rourke family, and one of my grandfather O'Rourke's sisters married a Jordan.

On this same name and location search, I found other census records for John J. Doyle and family. Between 1900 and 1930, my Tighe line and my O'Rourke line also lived at the same Main Street, Pittston address as my Doyle line. During those other census years I'd also found collaterals living next to the Doyles, such as the McCarthys, and the Horans, and including my 2nd great grandparents, William and Mary Doyle. So on my one search for John J. Doyle, I found multiple generations of Doyles, the Williams, the O'Rourkes, the Tighes, the McCarthys, the Horans, and possibly the Jordans. That's a heck of a chain reaction!

13 November, 2005

In Loving Memory

Regina (Jean) Ann O'Rourke McHugh
January 18, 1938 - November 13, 1988

12 November, 2005

My Favorite Picture

When I took back the old family photographs from my niece a year and a half ago so I could organize, label, and attempt to preserve them, it was an added bonus that I was able to scan them so that my oldest brother and I could have copies of them as well. That "added bonus" turned out to be a very special gift, as I have abundant pleasure at having all of them. Alas, there is always a favorite picture, it seems, and the above is mine. This is Marianne McHugh, born in 1930 in Nanticoke, Luzerne County, PA. Marianne was the oldest surviving child of my father's mother and was born with Down Syndrome. The story is told that the baby doll she is holding was given to her on the day she was born and was laid to rest with her when she died in 1978 in Niagara Falls, NY. She lived to a ripe old age for a person with Down Syndrome born in the 1930's. My mother also had an aunt, Anna Doyle, who was born with Down Syndrome in 1909.

I will always have a special place in my heart for people with Down Syndrome. I believe they are among the most loving, affectionate, good-hearted people ever created. They can be a very simplistic people, and, while we spend so much time and energy trying to teach them to succeed in a complex world, it is truly "us" who have much to learn from them.

06 November, 2005

More Bricks to Add?

Well, I decided to take the plunge and call the person in PA that I am hoping is my dad's first cousin. Alas, the phone number was apparently changed to a non-published number so it wound up a fruitless idea anyway. But one never knows unless one tries. I may send an introductory letter to the address instead. I just have to figure out how to word it without giving too much information about me, since I really have no idea if this is going to a complete stranger with possible familial connections or just a complete stranger who may be unscrupulous. Hopefully it won't be a combination of both!

In the meantime, research must go on. Or so they say. I am going to have to cave in and start ordering copies of birth, marriage, and/or death certificates in order to get any further with my McHugh research. In fact, I'm pretty much in the same boat on all my lines -- it's time to jump the big pond and start looking in Ireland, Bohemia and Hungary. With the exception of my O'Rourke line. I still do not have any information beyond my mother's grandfather (her dad's father). I have his wife's lines (the KEARNS and DONAHUE/OE lines), but not his. Below is a picture of my great-grandfather James O'ROURKE and his wife, Mary KEARNS, along with 3 of their children. This is the same picture that is shown on an ealier post. Standing up are (l-r) Nelly (Margaret) O'ROURKE-McCARTHY, James O'ROURKE (my gr-gf), and Mary (KEARNS) O'ROURKE (my gr-gm). Sitting are (l-r) Elizabeth/Betty O'ROURKE-ROCHE and Mae (Mary) O'ROURKE-JORDAN. Missing from this photograph are my grandfather James O'ROURKE (1902-1963) and the youngest daughter, Lucille O'ROURKE.

02 November, 2005

A Brick Wall

One of the ladies in this picture is Annie McHugh, my father's aunt. When I began this family research, I thought the easiest line to trace would be the McHugh line, since my dad is still with us and able to help me out. Plus, I'd found my grandfather Joseph McHugh's family very early on in my searches of the Census records. Unfortunately, I haven't found a thing on them since.

Dennis Joseph McHugh was born either in 1854 or 1845 (I suspect 1854 since his wife, Mary Griffin, was born in 1867) in Ireland (probably County Cork). Dennis and Mary had 8 children that we've found: Patrick (b. 1887), John (1889), Anthony(1893), Annie (1896), Michael(1898), Francis(1900), Joseph(1902) and Edward(1906). I have the above picture of Annie, and one with Anthony in a WWI army uniform (below; I believe he is the one in the middle). Several years ago, long before I had a computer, let alone began researching my family, I received a letter from a first cousin of my father (from my dad's mother's line, the Hodick family). In this letter this cousin talked about my dad's first cousin from the McHugh line. This letter included a newspaper clipping and photo about this McHugh cousin, and this man looks just like my grandfather Joseph McHugh, leaving no room for doubt of a connection. This cousin was born in 1925 and living in Luzerne County PA. I have reason to believe he is still alive and have a likely phone number and address for him. I also believe I found his parents (his father would have been Francis McHugh [1900]) and his siblings in the 1930 Census Records. The big dilemma is that my dad thinks his Uncle Francis had only girls, and the Census lists only boys. All the other information on the census record is consistent with what we know of this McHugh line, and its possible Francis had daughters after 1930, and that my dad never knew the sons.

The question I pose here is this: Should I venture a phone call or a letter to this man? He'd be 80 years old this year, I have no reason to believe he knows my family even exists, and I don't have a go-between to pave the way (the Hodick cousin that had some contact with him has since passed away). I'd found some listings for McHughs in the Nanticoke, PA and Wilkes-Barre PA area, where our McHughs were known to live, and I'd contacted a few of them who'd had emails listed. There were no connections made. I'd even emailed a pastor at a Catholic church in the area whose name was McHugh, asking how I'd go about seeking church records for my ancestors if they attended that church. In this email I included the names I was searching in hopes he'd know to whom I was referring. I didn't receive a response.

Just how far should we go when searching for living relatives? I'd contacted a few people earlier this year when trying to locate my uncle, and none of them were upset about my call and they even wished me luck in finding him (I did). I just haven't formulated an opinion on if, when, and how to contact people who may have no connection to my family whatsoever. But I also fear that I'll miss out on connecting with people who do have connections with my family and would love to have some level of communication.

01 November, 2005


Those who have passed away are never really gone as long as loved ones rememberthem. Therefore, I am taking a loan on the Mexican tradition of celebrating the Day of the Dead and am dedicating this entry to the most influential women of my life.

Mary Hodick McHugh, 1/22/1906 - 2-1-1976 My father's mother.

Regina "Jean" Doyle O'Rourke
11/1905 - 5/29/1979. My mother's mother.

Regina "Jean" O'Rourke McHugh, 1/18/1938 - 11/13/1988. My mother.

Jane Williams Johnson. 1927-1996. My mother's cousin, whom I always considered "Aunt Jane".

Noreen McHugh Scibilia Rozanski. 1934-5/16/1996. My dad's sister.

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