Crossing the Pond

by Laura

Once I had my birth certificate, it didn’t take long to discover that the vast majority of my family were fairly new to the United States. Whilst my Husband was doing his genealogy (it’s contagious…be warned!), and discovering his forebears were here as early settlers, my family was much more recent. My Grandfather, John McManus, had emigrated in the 1920s. My Grandmother, Ellen, had been brought over with her family as a pre-teen in 1912. So it was inevitable that I started looking for databases “over there”.

I first found RootsIreland. But my Irish family had pretty much left Ireland during The Great Hunger (Irish Potato Famine) during the 1840s and 50s, when something like 25% of the Irish population was decimated either by emigration or starvation. Since they were from what is now known as Northern Ireland, and were Catholics (mostly…but that’s another story), it wasn’t that hard to work backward from John and Ellen, and find some of these folk. So I was able to get names, and some dates; but it was finding family documents that really interested me.

Enter ScotlandsPeople. Yes, this is a pay-as-you-go site, unlike other sites with free information. But they have fantastic records online of birth certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates which offered a LOT of info: parents’ names, including maiden surnames; addresses; cause of death; time of birth; where married (Roman Catholic or Church of Scotland)…this was a motherlode of information and I eagerly researched everything I found.

At the same time I was tracing my maternal side, my paternal side was proving more difficult. It seemed that this family had been here longer, which made the initial inquiries pretty easy. But when I got to the immigration records, sometime in the early-to-mid 1800s, the records weren’t as detailed. Names were harder to correlate, and it wasn’t long before I realised that Ireland’s records weren’t as easy as Scotland’s. Now I was reading crabbed writing, in Latin, as I looked through ancient Parish Records to find anything…any glimmer of a name, a date, a relative…to trace these folk. I had a third cousin and a fourth cousin to work with here on the DNA side. That meant I was looking for a common Great-Great Grandparent as well as a Great-Great-Great Grandparent. No small task.

But I found one.  Catherine Wright, with the two Husbands. For months I traced her and her life until, one day, I was given another fourth cousin who shared my DNA and had not just Catherine in her tree, but all her brothers and sisters. More names!

And after hours and hours; months of building trees, I discovered Catherine wasn’t my 3rd GreatGrandmother.  She was my 3rd Great Aunt.

Catherine had six siblings that I could discover. One of these was my 3rd Great Grandfather. But which one?