Monday, October 26, 2020

Oh, my gosh! That's Uncle Joe!

"Oh, my gosh! Is that Uncle Joe?" And yes, it was. There he was, front and center on my television set. I was watching Netflix and in particular, the two-part documentary, Sinatra, All or Nothing at All

The dialogue of the film indicates that Joe Bals, the cop in the forefront with his hand spread wide, was protecting Frank Sinatra as he exited the Paramount Theater. According to the dialogue in the film, most nights at 8:45 p.m. in early 1943, Frank Sinatra left the Paramount, and he was swarmed by fans as he tried to get into the vehicle that would take him ten blocks away to the site of his nightly radio broadcast. 

Great-uncle Joseph Bals (1897-1968) was a New York City policeman. He joined the force in 1923 and retired as a lieutenant in 1960. Most of that time he worked in the heart of Manhattan, giving him a unique opportunity to observe the rich, famous, and powerful people of his era. 

Joseph Bals c. 1923.

Joseph Bals, undated.

September 23, 1950, Lt. Joseph Bals escorting the Russian Foreign Minister, Andrei Vishinsky, after Vishinsky took insult to the words of the Governor of New York, Mr. Thomas Dewey, and abruptly left a United Nations dinner.

© 2020, Cathy H Paris

Friday, October 16, 2020

Greaney, Greany, Graney ... from the Dingle Peninsula

Called Betsy by those who knew her, her formal given name was Elizabeth. She passed into the mysterious beyond one hundred twenty-four years ago on 29 October—my great-great-grandmother Betsy Fitzgerald nee Graney. 

No picture of her, tintype or otherwise, has been discovered. Was she an itsy-bitsy Betsy or a strong, big-boned farmer's wife? Was she brusque and self-absorbed or gentle and kind? In their later years, after they sold their farm to their son, why was she living in Concord, New Hampshire when her husband was living in Manchester? Did she leave her husband, or did he leave her? So many unanswered questions...

Betsy's children: Lizzy Spead c. 1870, James E. Fitzgerald c. 1880. 

Perhaps her visage is reflected in the faces of her children. She bore ten of them, five in Ireland during the Great Hunger and five in Andover, New Hampshire in the decade before the Civil War. Even though I never met Betsy, and despite the fact that we never co-existed on this planet, Betsy bequeathed to me bits and pieces of herself that can be measured and described in my DNA. How those bits and pieces have shaped me, I shall never know, but their presence is indisputable.

Those centimorgans of DNA from Betsy have disclosed that she and her cousin Michael Graney, who owned a neighboring farm in New Hampshire, were not the only members of the Graney family who left the Dingle Peninsula or thereabouts for a refuge in America. 

About 1847, when he was a young man in his twenties, cousin Jerry, officially known as Jeremiah Greaney, left Ireland. Jerry settled in Northfield, Vermont, where he and his wife, Margaret Duggan, raised their seven children. 

Betsy left Ireland in 1850 or 1851 and joined her husband, James Fitzgerald, in New Hampshire. In the same time period, two men by the name of John Graney immigrated to Upstate New York. One was a few years older than Betsy, and the other was a few years younger than Betsy. One was perhaps her older brother or her uncle. His son Martin settled in Geneva, New York. The other was perhaps her younger brother or nephew. He lived in Aurelius, New York, eventually moving to Auburn, New York. 

Rather than being a brother, uncle, or nephew, the older John, the younger John, or both Johns could be Betsy's cousins. To date, I have insufficient data on which to make a strong hypothesis. All I know is that I share about 30 cMs of DNA with a great-great-grandchild of the older John and about 27cMs of DNA with each of two great-great-grandchildren of the younger John. Now you know what I know.

© 2020, Cathy H Paris

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Missing Tithe Applotment records for Kilgobban, Kerry, Ireland

The National Archives of Ireland is a wonderful resource for exploring your Irish family history, and it is an invaluable place to explore the Tithe Applotment Books*. Unfortunately, if your ancestors lived in the civil parish of Kilgobban [sometimes spelled Kilgobbin] in the county of Kerry, Ireland, you will NOT find them in the Tithe Applotment Books at the National Archives of Ireland.  Fortunately for me, at least seven years ago, I downloaded a copy of the now missing pages. Since then, I have been unable to find the website from which I downloaded these pages. Therefore, for the benefit of others seeking to find traces of their ancestors in Kerry, I am writing this post to provide a link to images of the twenty missing pages.

The pages for Kilgobban from the TIthe Applotment Books include the townlands of Killelton, Knockglass Beg, West Knockglass Beg, Knockglass More, Bonnaw, Curraduff, Glandine, Curracullenagh, Beheenagh, Upper Kilteenbane, Lower Kilteenbane, Cool, Camp, Ballinknockane, Ballygarret, Cunnigeroe, Knuckanavacuish, Cappaclogh East, Cappaclogh West, Scrallaghbeg, Foilatrisnig, Doonore North, Doonore South, Glannagalt, Glanmore, West Cappaclough Mountain, East Cappaclough Mountain, and part of Doonore South.

* Tithe Applotment Books. From 1823 until 1828, regardless of your religious beliefs or affiliation, if you owned or leased more than an acre of farmland, you were required by law to pay a tithe to the Church of Ireland, the prevailing Protestant religious organization. The Tithe Applotment Books were compiled during this period to record the head of households who owed monies, describing their land holdings and the payments due.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Who Is That Man With Great-Grandpa?

My family is very fortunate that we have two tintypes of Great-grandfather. My guess is that one was taken about 1870 and the other about 1875. Although he lived for about forty years after the tintypes were made, I have yet to find any other picture of him.  That is perplexing, but what is most puzzling is who is that man with him in the tintype from about 1870? 

If you have any suggestions as to the identity of the man standing next to my great-grandfather, please send me a message at

My great-grandfather is Gilbert Samuel Merrill, and he was born to an older couple on 24 June 1846 in the town of Cumberland, Maine. His parents, Samuel Merrill and Hannah True Warren, were fifty years and thirty-eight years old when they married in nearby Pownal, Hannah's hometown. Twenty-five months after the wedding, Gilbert was born. Hannah became pregnant again in 1849, and tragically Samuel died of sunstroke before the birth of their daughter, Almyra. A few years later, Hannah remarried, this time to James B. Merrill, a widower and distant cousin of her late husband. James was from the town of Gray, but the couple decided to live in Cumberland. James's only child headed west to the gold fields of California, never returning home. James and Hanna raised Gilbert and Almyra. In childhood, Almyra suffered an injury that left her crippled. Family lore is that Gilbert was sent to North Yarmouth Academy, a private school which is still operational.

Hoping to find a clue to the identity of the man with Great-grandpa, I googled "Cumberland, Maine Black History." I found an article written by Sally A. Merrill, a distant cousin and one of the most memorable woman whom I have met. Her article published in 2017, Cumberland and the Slavery Issue, clearly exposes the conflicting views held by the people surrounding Gilbert when he was a boy. As in our world today, perceived economic self-interest and humanitarian concerns were driving people to vote for diametrically opposite candidates. And then too, some of the people in the pulpit were influenced by power and greed.

© 2020, Cathy H Paris

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Seeing Grandma with New Eyes

Helen Elizabeth Nimmo, c.1908

I got caught in a time warp when I enhanced and colorized photographs of my grandmother taken when she was a child. Seeing the pain revealed on Grandma's face  makes my heart reach for her in a way that it never did when she was alive. We spent a great deal of time together when I was young, mostly playing card games. Despite her physical proximity, there was always an emotional distance. Now I can feel her pain. If I only had understood then...

College graduation, Spring 1967

Above is the last photograph taken of Grandma and me.

© 2020, Cathy H Paris

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Last Pandemic: Mary Elizabeth Merrill (1886-1918)

Commonly called the Spanish Flu, although it is now widely believed to have originated in the state of Kansas, the last pandemic had an irrevocable impact on our family.
Mary Elizabeth Merrill,

On Thursday, 3 October 1918, our grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Merrill of 413 Lincoln Avenue in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, died from the Spanish Flu. Her death certificate attributes her cause of death to La Grippe. She had been sick for two weeks. During her last four days, she suffered from pneumonia. Family legend is that she was pregnant with her fifth child. Mary was only thirty-two years old.

Dot (Dorothy), Gil (Gilbert),  Lib (Elizabeth Mary), and Fred  (Frederic) Merrill, c. 1917

The whole family was stricken by the virus, and a nurse was brought to their home to care for the family. Mary’s four children recovered without any lasting physical effects. My dad, Gil, was five years old at the time. Dad told me that his earliest memory was awakening in his bed and being told by Grammie Fitzgerald, Mary’s mom, that his mother had died. Evidently, he coped with his grief by forgetting the years with his mother. His brother, my Uncle Fred, was only three years old, and he told me that he had no recollection of those terrible days.

Pup, the name we called our grandfather, was the Deputy Collector for the Internal Revenue Service’s office in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Frederic Carroll Merrill aka Pup, c. 1917
Overwhelmed by the death of his wife, Pup sent two of the children to live with relatives. Only three years old, Fred went to live in the nearby town of New Castle with Grammy Merrill and Aunt Bud, Pup’s mother and sister. Aunt Lib was sent sixty miles away to live with Pup’s brother and sister-in-law, Harry and Alice, in Nashua, New Hampshire. Uncle Harry and Aunt Alice had four children of their own: Cliff, fifteen; Ruth, thirteen; Florence, twelve; Louise. ten years old. The oldest child, eleven-year-old Dot, remained at home and looked after her brother Gil.

My Aunt Lib was seven years old when her mother died and she was sent away. No stories have reached me as to how she coped with her grief. If I had just lost my mother and then had been separated from the rest of my family, I think I would have been traumatized by feelings of loneliness and abandonment. Did Aunt Lib feel that way? I don’t know.

Grammie (Jenny Fitzgerald), Maurice, possibly Uncle Charles Merrill, Francis, Gil, and Pup, c. 1918

Mary was survived by her mother, Jennie (McCormick) Fitzgerald of Andover, New Hampshire and two brothers, Francis and Maurice Fitzgerald. During normal times, Francis and Maurice lived and worked on the family’s farm in Andover. World War I was raging in Europe. Francis, aged twenty-four, and Maurice, aged nineteen, were contributing to the war effort by working at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Their draft registration cards indicate that they were living in Fred and Mary Merrill’s home at or about the time of Mary’s death.

The Spanish Flu originated in Kansas in March of 1918, and it was spread around the globe by American troops joining the war effort. In the Fall of 1918, the virus came back to this country on board Naval ships returning to places such as the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard where Frances and Maurice worked. Whether one of Mary’s brothers brought the virus into their home on Lincoln Avenue or whether Mary became infected by community spread, we will never know.

Within about a year of the death of Mary, Fred arranged for a live-in housekeeper, and Lib and little Fred returned to the household. Over the ensuing years, the children developed a close bond with one another and with their father. My cousins and I never heard any of them say a harsh word about their father or their siblings. Dot, six years older than the next oldest child, felt a strong sense of responsibility for the well being of her father and her brothers and sister.

Pup, Dot, Lib, Fred, and Gil, Brooklyn, New York, c. 1927

Pup’s job in Portsmouth was a political appointment, and by 1924 he lost his position in federal service. He moved to Nashua, New Hampshire and joined his brothers, Harry and Charles, in the ice box business. The job led to his relocation with the family to Brooklyn, New York in 1927. At some point around the time of the Great Depression, Pup was earning less and less money, and the family became dependent on the money which his daughter Dot was earning as a typist for an insurance company. Dot’s fiancé wanted to get married and move away from Brooklyn. Dot felt she needed to stay in Brooklyn to help her father and siblings. Her fiancé left without her.

Aunt Lib broke the norm for our family by starting her own family when she was just seventeen years old. Her family grew to six children, forty-two grandchildren, and over one hundred great-grandchildren.  Aunt Lib always seemed happy. During their thirty-seven years together, Aunt Lib made every effort to spend as much time as possible with her husband, Wilbur Munson.

Wilbur and Lib aka Mary Munson, 1940

As my cousin Donna said: “Aunt Dot was really the saving grace. She was saint like in generosity and patience, and she was so intelligent that she effortlessly encouraged growth.”

Charles Hanna (Uncle Chuck) and Dot, 12 October 1940

Over the decade of the 1930s, Aunt Dot was the principal provider for the family. Fortunately, she met Uncle Chuck. In 1940, at age thirty-two, Dot married Charles Hanna [Uncle Chuck]. Uncle Chuck was a man with a generous spirit and was willing to share in the support of Pup for Pup’s remaining years.

A couple of years later, Gil married Dorothy Bals, and Fred married Betty Gormley.

Dorothy and Gil Merrill, 8 November 1942

Betty and Fred Merrill, 7 February 1943

The two brothers had homes just blocks apart in Valley Stream, New York. Their sisters lived in Brooklyn, a short drive from Valley Stream. The cousins gathered for family celebrations and some made weekly visits–when Pup would give each visiting grandchild a dime, then something of value.

Pub with Lib's family, 10 January 1955

Pup with Dot and Gil's families, c. 1955

Pup at a family gathering, c. 1961

Pup lived until he was eighty years old, passing in 1965. Fred and Mary Merrill founded a rich family–close, thoughtful, creative, and loving. Although our grandmother died over a hundred years ago, and even though we never knew her, she is still missed.

by Cathy H Paris, edited by Donna Feary, 7 April 2020
© 2020, Cathy H Paris

Friday, April 5, 2019

Pioneers of Vanderveer Park on Kindle

After months of struggling to publish an eBook version of Pioneers of Vanderveer Park, I am happy to report that you can now download the book to your Kindle or the Kindle app on your iPad or mobile phone.

For those of you who have already acquired the printed book or the PDF version, I have greatly appreciated your personal feedback, and I hope you will translate that to a positive online review.

As most of you may already know, I have written this and my other books as non-profit ventures. The price charged at Kindle is the minimum price which Kindle would allow me to set. My reward is your reading and enjoying the book.

Why did it take months of struggling to turn Pioneers of Vanderveer Park into an eBook? Like many first time efforts, the biggest part of getting it done was learning how to do it. Now when I create books, the process of turning them into eBooks will be relatively easy.

© 2019, Cathy H Paris