Pay Dirt

by Laura

As I continued to work with my DNA matches, building trees and tracking ancestors, I would often hit what’s called “brick walls”: seemingly insurmountable halts in the process; dead-ends; ancestors that had names, and, maybe, a date or two, but not a lot else. You knew they had been there, because…well…here YOU are! But what had happened to them?!?

Catherine Loughran is one of my current brick walls. She is a direct-line descendent in my female line; born in Ireland, married to Felix McMurray, and mother to Catherine McMurray Duffy (for whom I have LOTS of info).  I’m convinced, however, that Catherine, was hatched from under a rock. I have absolutely nothing on her except her name on her daughter’s death certificate. :sigh:

These things bug me to no end. I hate loose ends. I understand, completely, that Irish records from the 18th century could well and truly be lost, given the Troubles and The Great Hunger and all of that. But then there is my maternal Grandfather, John McManus, born in 1900. That’s not that long ago. He died in 1952. And he lived here, in the States. But getting just those two dates, and then confirming them, took me from July until February. You’d think that finding someone from the 20th century would be easy-peasy. Not.

Why was this so important to me? I wanted to understand John and my Grandmother, Ellen’s story. John was a widower. Ellen was a divorcee. How did they meet? when did they marry? I like to learn what I can about life in the “dash”; the life that occurs between birthdate and deathdate, you know, the “-“. And I wanted a picture. Just one. I had John’s immigration information. Ship manifest. First wife’s name. Children’s names. Birthdates, sort of. One child’s spouse had two children I knew of. While I discovered that very, very early dates are fairly easy to discover…if anything is discoverable…much later dates are much harder. Privacy laws and all that.

In February I started to contact people who had John McManus in their family tree. There weren’t too many of those folk. Some of them I was already in contact with; cousins in Ireland, Scotland, Australia. I assumed pretty much anyone I contacted would be someone pretty far removed from the family I was still Facebook stalking. So I scattered my messages abroad. But I only received one reply. From Colin:


My name is Laura Short, and I am searching for information about my Grandfather, John McManus and his family. He was born in Scotland around 1900 and emigrated to the States in 1926. His first wife’s name was Margaret, by whom he had two children, a boy and a girl; his second wife, my Grandmother was Ellen Cassidy. Together, they had Charlotte.

In any case, as I continue to search for my McManus relatives, I keep running into your tree. If you would be so kind as to help me in my search, I would appreciate it. Feel free to contact me at my email: blahblahblah (nb: I would like a LITTLE privacy).

I look forward to hearing from you!

Kindest regards,

I waited with bated breath until the next day, when I received this in reply:

Ok Laura I hope I can help. We have a number of John and Ellen’s descendants living here locally that we see from time to time. It is a little confusing though, because we have to piece a family tree together from a number of different people.

From what Ive gathered John was married to Margaret. I believe their kids names were Ellen and WIlliam. One relative mentioned there was also a Madonna, but that is unconfirmed.

John and Ellen then had Charlotte and WIlliam. Charlotte married Bob ________, and they had Mike, Cathy, and John. It is this branch, the _________, that we keep in touch with.  (all emphasis mine)

It is more likely that they would know more about John than I do. I could try to get a contact for one of them if you like?

Im curious where you lay in this family tree. I might be able to piece it together easier if I know.

I hope this helps, I’ll keep digging.


Ok.  Emphasis mine because he’s talking about my brother and sister. Colin knows these folk.  Here, I thought I was corresponding with another overseas relative…and I’m not. I’m talking with a relative who a) I can’t place on the McManus tree because living people are all marked “Private” and unsearchable on Ancestry and 2) I haven’t researched outside my immediate family, yet. Colin is offering to help. To get in touch with them for me.

And he wants to know where I lay in this family tree…

Um, yeah. That’s a little complicated. So I message Colin back:

Wow! Colin! This is awesome! Thank you so very, very much.

Sounds like the family is a little complicated. LOL!!! Aren’t we all? It might be easier/more efficient to talk over the phone. Are you okay with that? Feel free to call me at (private number) or I am happy to call you! I look forward to hearing from you. Don’t you just love family?!? 🙂


Best regards,

Almost as soon as I sent this, my phone started ringing…