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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Following Your Blood Line, or The Whole Family

Believe it or not, "choice" comes up time and time again with regards to my family tree.  I am continually presented with a new branch of my tree.  Do I follow the new branch or continue to head up the main branch to the top of my tree?  That tree, by the way, continues to grow and get "taller", if you will, as I creep back in time.

I have come across people who are growing their tree taller and fuller, wider, or overgrown as maybe my tree appears to be.  Yes, there are massive family trees out there on and on other sites online that represent hours and hours of research and "trailing off" as I call it.  Trailing off on a branch of your family tree can be quite rewarding, complicated, and distracting at times.

There are those that just grow their tree "taller" and have few branches.  It is a different choice than my own.  Many people out there choose to follow only their direct blood line.  They refrain from "trailing off" on other branches of the tree.  Sticking with this method can keep one's family tree research simple and easy to source.  It can also be a rather limiting.

If you limit yourself to just your direct blood line, you might miss out on learning about communities and finding stories of how your ancestors lived with the others around them.  When the concept of community and collaboration are added to one's family tree research, the discoveries become endless.  The complexity of this approach can turn some people off, however.  The more complex a family tree, the harder it becomes to share it with others and keep their attention.
So will you lose people if you do choose a more complex approach to your tree?  Probably.  But, can you give up all of the possibilities that come with the "complex" tree?  The possibilities include, and are not limited to, finding relatives with shared research interests, finding research has already been completed, and discovering stories about a family line.

I seek stories about people.  Whether the stories are lengthy or anecdotal, I love the stories.  You never know when you might find 193 letters that were written as correspondence between family members from the U.S. to those who remained in the old country.  You never know if you might find photos of your great great grandfather that were saved by the second cousin that you've never met.  You never know what you might find, so why limit yourself.

In the 1990s, I sought my direct blood line.  That was interesting and all that I had time for, or made time for, back then.  Now, I seek the clusters of people.  It's the way that I have found my female family members but also the stories of the people and the communities in which they lived.  From the Irish Settlement in Newport, New York to my Flanagan's of Termonfechin, discoveries abound from my complex family tree.

From my perspective, seeking the whole family is the way to go.  I have found relatives who have what I refer to as living memories of those who came before us, those whom they knew.  Limiting myself is not in the game plan when it comes to my family tree.  I'll continue to allow my family tree to lead me up or down different branches as they present themselves and offer an interesting story.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Someone's Ancestor Sunday - Tulocay Cemetery, Napa, CA - Part 3

Someone's Ancestor Sunday relating to Tulocay Cemetery is becoming somewhat of a habit for me.  Rather than hold information hostage, or in oblivion for that matter, I've decided to post what I've run across.

The following headstones are located near my Flanagan's who have unmarked graves.  That would be why I photographed these headstones.  They are in my collection so that I can find my Flanagan's again.

Louella Kropin:

Willam J., son of E&B Harris:

Thomas Harris:

Joseph A. Keller:

 Are any of these people your relatives who are buried in Tulocay Cemetery, Napa, CA?  They are someone's ancestors.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Who Am I looking for? - Genealogy 2011 Project Part 1

Am I looking for my Vienop's and Borchers' Family lines?  The answer is yes and no.  I have an uncle who is actively working on these lines.  I have just started at the tip of the iceberg to explore my German roots.  I figure this journey will be a lengthy one.

Even as I work on my Vienop and Borchers Family Tree, I find that I have so much information in the hands of my own mother and myself.  I have photos, documents, and even a diary that is a few pages long written by my great grandfather, Herbert Borchers, Sr.  I knew him well.  He passed away before I turned eight so my memories of him are foggy but there.

As for my Vienop's, I recall my great grandmother with absolute clarity.  I can still hear Mary Borchers' (Maria Luise Katharine Vienop) "joyful, yippy" laugh, oh so pleasantly stuck in my head even today.  She was an amazing, wonderful, loving, patient, cute, little lady of whom many probably wished was their grandma, and she was mine.  I was the oldest great grandchild, my mom was the oldest grandchild and my grandma was the oldest child. 

While I do have Mary Borchers' death certificate (which is quite interesting if you'r going to look at one that reflects someone at age 96), the memories of my personal experience with her are neverending. 

So as I begin to explore my Vienop and Borchers Family Tree, I find myself exploring a very personal side to my family history.  I find joy, sadness, and wonderful memories of people that I held and hold so dear to me.  This process maybe slow going because of the emotional response it generates since I knew and loved so many people on this side of my family.

Below is a photo of me with my great grandparents:

July 1973, Kettering, Ohio
Herbert Borchers, Sr.; Kristin McGuire Elser; Mary Borchers (Maria Luise Katharine Vienop)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Marrying A Cousin

As I plug away at my family tree, I can't help but come across people, places, and communities.   Because these people "stuck together", it is probably inevitable that first cousins married, first cousins.  I have come across this more than once and also found a half aunt marrying her half nephew.  So is this a sign of "back woods" thinking?  No, not exactly.

In certain parts of the world, marriage to first and second cousins takes place today and is even encouraged.  It is part of cultural acceptance in certain parts of the world.  Centuries have passed since royalty actively required that marriages be between other royals.  There were probably a lot of generations of kings, queens, princes, princesses, dukes, ladies, etc. related to each other through cousin marriage.

Typically in the West, it is frowned upon socially, culturally, legally, and genetically.  It should be noted here, though, that prior to the Civil War in the United States, cousin marriages were not illegal.  By the 1880s, territories and states had banned marriages to first and second cousins.  The man who wrote about the advantages of marriage between unrelated persons was Lewis Henry Morgan.  He was, in fact, married to his first cousin (1851).

Most of the laws banning cousin marriage are rooted in religious practice.  Medically, there are some disadvantages to cousin marriage.  Recessive traits are much more likely to be shared, some of which could be family birth defects.

Some famous U.S. cousin marriages include Edgar Allen Poe, Albert Einstein, and President FDR.  Also, Charles Darwin was married to his first cousin. 

Our species did have to originate somewhere.  With a small number of humans to start with, cousins had to have gotten together, otherwise, we wouldn't be here today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In A Perfect Genealogical World

In my former career, accuracy was a must.  It was so important, not as a life or death situation, but because it impacted the bottomline.....That being MONEY.  I can't tell you how often that topic came up.  In the world of insurance, numbers, facts, figures, and the bottomline is what it is all about.  The numbers, facts, and figures led to logical conclusions and sometimes a final decision.  

What I do recall though is the part about decision making with your gut or even with the "heart".  Conscience business decisions were made all of the time which may have seemed somewhat contrary to the numbers/facts/figures but still in support of the "bottomline".  Those decisions that were seemingly rather contrary were, in fact, judgment calls using that gut feeling or the "the heart".  How logical was all of this decision making?  Well, there were reasons that justified the means to the end.  Then, there is also "jumping out of the box" for some creativity.

The logic part of this world carries over to many other things in life including genealogy.  While, I don't have a "bottomline" that is profit driven related to my family tree, I do have people, dates, locations, and other facts associated with the logical side of "treeing", as I call it.  My own trees may not be perfect as I progress and learn the process but there is a means to an end.  I could certainly go on for days and days fixing minor typos and nuances on my four major tree lines but then how much fun would that be?

Sometimes, I find that genealogy carries me in different directions out of curiosity driven by the elation of discovery.  With a network of other researchers out there online, you never know what you might find if you trail off a bit down a family line that may be a little distant in relation.  There are communities of people in the past and their stories can live on if they are discovered.

I am interested in the communities of people in locations like the ever so popular Havana, Township of Aurora, Steele County, Minnesota.  Popular, you may ask?  I am not sure what it is really like there.  I would imagine it is cold in the wintertime.  What I have found is a bit of a mecca of German immigrants circa late 1800s.

Yet again, I've stumbled upon a few locations where people and communities gathered to build their lives.  They were neighbors, friends, and even married each other.  From Borchers', Jackel's, Fett's, Wuertz', and a few others, you can find the families "sticking together" to form and continue their commuity, culture, and religion.  I love those connections.  Figuring them out can be a fun hobby too!

So is my family tree perfect?  Not exactly.  I do continue to edit, proofread, and clean things up as I find time.  It would appear that rather tedious job can be spread out over weeks and months.  I do want my final product to be accurate.  For now, it is a work in progress.   As I've said before about the 34 page document of the Descendants of Thomas McLaughlin, let's not let perfection be the enemy of all that is good in pursuit of excellence.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Someone's Ancestor Sunday - Tulocay Cemetery, Napa, CA - Part 2

Once again it is Sunday.  It's that time again!  Time to post a headstone from Tulocay Cemetery for someone who is buried near my Flanagan's and may have known them.

This time, I picked a good solid Irish name - Sullivan.  Were the Sullivan's Irish immigrants to Napa like my Flanagan's?  Maybe someone out there knows.

Below is the headstone for John V. Sullivan and his wife Bridget M.  They are buried in block 82 near my Flanagan's.  

Happy Ancestor Sunday!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Borrowing From Trees on

Beg, borrow, and steal.....Ok, steal is a bit too forward.  Beg....I'm not opposed to asking for family tree information from those who have the research done and I know are of my family line.  I suppose that it is not really begging as I am more than willing to share in return.  As for borrowing from a tree off, that leaves something to be desired.  My uncle warned me just about a year ago...."Buyer Beware!".  Not everyone on checks their facts and sources their tree.

If you post your family tree as a public tree on, you'd have to expect that eventually someone will try and borrow information from it.  How else would a college professor or other relatives have found me (or I found them)?  Well, they are the real deal in looking for my specific Flanagan Family line.   They do, in fact, "get it" and have the line with the associated history and stories of this family.

I had someone select Michael Flanagan (1839-1904) from my tree as a direct line ancestor for their tree last summer.  Given that Michael never married or had children, made it rather impossible for that person to be one of Uncle Mike's great grandchildren.  I sent them a quick message to let them know.  Once they had linked into Michael, they had "sucked in" all of my information in the past up to my original Patrick Flanagan ancestor.  Oops!  That's a lot of people to "back off" of one's tree.  Mistakes happen but this is why it is so important to check what you've pulled over to your own tree online.

What I noticed the other day, is someone else borrowing from the distant past of my Flanagan Tree.  They were borrowing Patrick Flanagan (The Grandfather) and Judith Kirwan along with Richard Flanagan and Alice Bellew.  I think that the person found a decent match and picked Patrick and Judith.  This person's John Flanagan of Cavan was married to a Barbara Maguire.  Apparently, his line continues with an Elizabeth Flanagan.  The "John" matches, right?   Not really.

Are there other Flanagan's from County Louth, specifically, in the Termonfechin Area?  You bet there are a few.  I am just not all the familiar with those lines and much of the information does run cold into the more current generations.  Going back 300 years, they were probably all related to one another.  
So John is a common name.  John Flanagan is probably pretty common too.  What do you think I did next to my Flanagan comrade?  I emailed him, of course.  I peeked at his tree and let him know where he got off track.  Frankly, I just don't want people thinking that their line is one way when it is not.  Let's face it, I like accuracy, insasmuch as that is possible on a family tree.

How sourced is my Flanagan Family Tree on  Not very.  It's hard to attach 240 years of written history to include letters, farm account books, and a PowerPoint Presentation on a DVD.  At this point, I have to consider making my Flanagan Family Tree on a private tree.  I am not setting a very good example by not sourcing it online while making it public.  As is probably obvious, it will be hard to fix the online tree given the way I maintain the sourcing.

I guess for now, the tree will be private.  Those who have been invited to it will still be able to see it via their invited guest status.  Everyone else would need to contact me and discuss their connection to this line.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Compelling Storytelling

What makes a story unique and compelling?  I am almost certain that my high school English teacher would say something like "a story, no matter the length, that pulls people in....draws their attention....peeks their interest......has a draw, a catch, and cleverness about it....something unique or novel......"  The originality of a story or the ability to tell a story in quite a "first time", "can't stop reading or put it down manner" is the goal.   Did I succeed at this in my freshman year of private high school?  Well, not exactly.  I was the star Math student if you can believe that.
When it comes to writing, I am again practicing.  I am praciticing on anyone who reads this blog.  I can only imagine the thoughts of my seventh grade teacher reading this and continually critiquing the grammer.  If only I had her to proofread my writing, I'd be in a grand place.   Back in the 1980s, I'd hear my teachers say that most people write at a "seventh grade level".  I believe that they now write at a "TEXT" level.  That's the result of phones and technology.
Back to compelling storytelling.....When it comes to your own family history, anyone or any story can make you feel proud.  I find that any shred of information that tells me what someone was like interests me when the person is my relative.   I even find other people's family trees interesting.  Does everyone find this information interesting when the people are not apart of their own family tree?  The answer is no. 

What I have grown to realize though is that many, many people do find the story of the discovery process of one's family tree interesting.  To watch someone find their family roots and see the excitment and gratification that it gives them, is entertaining.  This is why the show, "Who Do You Think You Are?", is so popular.  The discovery process and the elation (or sometimes disappointment) that follow is interesting.

Are there any compelling stories in my family history that await me or have I already found some?   I hope to someday find out more about the people on my tree including something about their character, personality, and motivations.  Have I already found at least one compelling story?  Why, yes, I think that I have.  Putting the story together in written form to share with anyone who wants to read it is another thing.

Below is an excerpt from an essay about storytelling.........

Perceiving The Foundation of Storytelling
by Bill Johnson
Revised 12/27/98

A storyteller should to be able to perceive what a story is about at its deepest level, and how to move that to a resolution that offers fulfillment to a story's audience. Understand what about the movement of a story engages the interest, the needs of an audience. Such a writer can better perceive how characters, plot devices and POV work to create a dramatic movement of a story toward its fulfillment. How every element of a story works together in its characters, plot, environment and ideas to make vivid and potent a story's world.

That's why I say that at its heart, a story must have an issue at stake that is of consequence to the story's audience. Something the members of the audience will desire to experience in a state of resolution and fulfillment. Love. Courage. Redemption. Renewal. Some issue that revolves around the aching need of humans to feel they matter, that they have a place in the world.

Now, I think that I have a story.  Can I make it compelling?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Walking In The Footsteps of your Ancestors

The first time that I visited Ireland, I felt a connection to that place.  Maybe the connection is that I have blood relatives there who picked us up at the Dublin Airport and welcomed us with open arms.  Maybe the welcome feeling was as a result of the fact that so many of my ancestors are from Ireland.  Or maybe, just maybe, that connected feeling is because of the people who live there now.  I'd like to think that it is all of the above.

Walking in the footsteps of my ancestors was awesome in Termonfechin, Louth, Ireland, in 2004.  It was also rather lost on me looking back now.   I did not know who all of  my Flanagan's were then.  While drinking some "Mountain Dew" (not the soda pop that we have here in America...not even close) in Termonfechin,  I looked over my Flanagan Family tree displayed in a bound book at the Flanagan Farm in Termonfechin and was rather overwhelmed.  I had no idea of the details that awaited me.

While I did visit Monasterboice, Drogheda, and Newgrange, during my first visit to Ireland, I can only tell you briefly of the moving experience of visiting St. Fechin's cemetery.  In all of my life, I have felt that feeling of "awe" in certain circumstances.  I felt it once when viewing the landed Goodyear Blimp at the Oakland Airport when I was quite young.  I felt it again when looking up at the Statue of Liberty, on Liberty Island from ground level, front facing.  I've felt it a few other times like when driving into Yosemite Valley at dusk....looking up to see El Capitan and Half Dome looming over the valley floor.  That feeling of "awe" is almost unmatched when it comes to real life experiences.  Isn't that what life's all about?

One of my closest and dearest friends told me recently that the "experiences" in life is what it is all about and helps us learn  She may not remember saying that or phrasing it that way but she does try to live it.   She works to expose her children to any and everything from Hawaii to St. Petersburg, Russia.  Is that the answer?  Experiences?  There is a method to her travels, whether she realizes it or not, it is, in some cases, about trying to walk in the footsteps of one's ancestors and to learn life's lessons through history and, let's not deny it, have some fun!

So back to St. Fechin's....If something gives you chills, elation, wonderment, and curiosity all at the same time, do you stop and squash it?  I think that Americans do.  I think that it is human nature to flush those odd, obscure feelings of disbelief away (or rather down the drain to be specific).  In almost the same sentence, I have to say that feeling of "awe" rolled over me when I looked at the oldest of the old headstones at St. Fechin's belonging to a Flanagan.  Am I being melancholy?  Maybe....I did feel "awe" at that point but squashed it immediately as a 33 year old would do.  I was pretty tired from the long air trip too and did not know what to expect.  I did not understand that I was feeling like I did at the Statue of Liberty.  Is that what many Irish-Americans, or anyone experiencing their roots, feel?

I get it now.  I also get that I walked somewhat in the footsteps of my Flanagan's on their farm, in their village, and on their holy ground where generations have stood and watched family members be buried.  I think that I finally "get it". 

As I draw back stateside, I can visit a place about an hour and fifteen minutes from where I live now, and think of the past and the footsteps.  The first place is Tulocay Cemetery in Napa, California.  I can imagine and have experienced graveside ceremonies for those who have passed on.  I have walked in the footsteps of those who came before me and buried our family.  I have even been there myself for some of  those ceremonial experiences that memorialized our loved ones. 

The other location in Napa, California that comes to mind is the Flanagan Ranch in owned by someone else as I've stated in my blog.  Can I hold my head up high?   Absolutely.  Life goes on and sometimes a vineyard.....even a the famed Carneros Area of the Napa Valley live on as a vineyard.  I have walked up the front steps of the Flanagan home in Carneros...on the footsteps of my Flanagan's...but have never gone into to the house.

I am so passionate about my family tree.  The location in Napa seems so close to where I live now but in some cases are unknown, inaccessible to me, or live in my memories.  Walking in the footsteps of your ancestors can be fullfilling, difficult, and rewarding.   I hope to access, unlock, and be able to walk in my ancestor's footsteps where I have never walked before and where those so dear to me have walked before.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Someone's Ancestor Sunday - Tulocay Cemetery, Napa, CA - Part 1

I thought that I'd join in with some of the genealogy bloggers out there for "Someone's Ancestor Sunday" theme.  There are actually many people out there blogging about their family tree research.  I haven't found any of my relatives blogging though.  I guess I am solo in the bogging venture at this point when it comes to my own family lines.

Today, I thought that I'd post a grave headstone that I came across at Tulocay Cemetery right near the unmarked graves of my Flanagan's.  I know that it might be far fetched to think that these people knew each other in life but one can never tell.  Napa, California was a small town 100 years ago or even 50 years ago.  It still kind of is.

Below is the headstone of the Brown's.  Who were Malcom and Mary Brown?  I'm not really sure.  They are somebody's ancestors and it is Sunday. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Duffy House - Napa, CA

It is no secret that the Duffy's house on Big Ranch Road in Napa, CA was restored during a few episodes of "This Old House" in the 1995-1996 Season of the show.  What is interesting is that the owner at the time, Dennis Duffy, is now deceased.  He passed away in 2007.  It makes me wonder who owns the house now.

The Duffy's are cousin's of Jack and Minnie Flanagan's children.  My mom said that she went to high school with some Duffy's and Malloy's of whom she was always told she was related.  Related we are.   Catherine "Katie" Maxwell Duffy and Ellen Maxwell McLaughlin were sisters.  So it really is our Maxwell line that connects us as family.  Let's not forget that Thomas Michael McLaughlin and Philip Duffy seemed to have known each other from their younger years maybe all the way back to Herkimer County, New York.   There must be more Duffy family history there.  I wonder who has those details.  I have McLaughlin and Maxwell information for sure.  Let's not forget the Austin, Nevada area, where they all lived for a while.

Below is the Duffy house.  After a stop to taste some vino at Andretti Winery on Big Ranch Road in Napa, California, on a nice Sunday drive in Spring of 2011, we ventured down the road for a quick photo opt of the Duffy home. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tulocay Cemetery Visit #1 - Part 5

"Borchers is not a very common name and I must take a photo of these headstones."  That's what I told my husband during my first genealogical visit to Tulocay Cemetery.  While looking for my Flanagan's, I stumbled upon some Borchers.  I also told my husband that they certainly must be my relatives.  I snapped my photos with the intent of figuring out who they were later.

I opened up my family tree and found Albert Borchers listed with the same dates and all.  I then went further and found his parents were Henry and Anna Borchers - same dates and all.  The next part almost made me fall out of chair.  Henry and Anna were my great grandfather's parents.  I had been standing at the grave of Hans Heinrich "Henry" Conrad Borchers and Anna Marie Jackel Borchers, my great great grandparents and did not even know it.  They are buried only a few paces away from another pair of my great great grandparents, Patrick and Kate Flanagan.  That is just amazing to me.

My next move was to dig out my grandma's photo album and find a photo of them.  I knew what the photo of my grandma (Dorothy Marie Borchers Flanagan) and her grandmother (Anna Marie Jackel Borchers) looked like.  Now, I was fetching it, scanning it and looking for Henry Borchers too.  I'm not sure if I found him.  My great grandfather (Herbert Herman Borchers) was tall and thin with light hair.  I found him in the photos with my grandma but may have also found Henry. 

Herbert and Henry may have looked a lot like each other.  In some of the photos, it is hard to tell.  I can assume and tell who my great grandfather was but are some of the photos that appear to be of Herbert actually his father?  I'll have to find out from my grandma's sisters and brother.  I am certain to have found Anna with my grandma on this page.

So my Flanagan trip to Tulocay Cemetery in Napa to find my great great grandparents, Pat and Kate Flanagan, also resulted in my finding my great great grandparents on my Borchers side.  My Borchers have always been there no matter what and where.  This appears to hold true even at Tulocay!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tulocay Cemetery Visit #1 - Part 4

On my walk back up the slight hill from block 84, lot 27, where Mary, Louis, and Richard Flanagan are buried under that beautiful tree, to block 82, lot 3, where Pat and Kate are buried, I came upon an Ezettie headstone.  I had to photograph that and wonder if Tony Albert Ezettie was any relation to my grandfather's friend, Louis Ezettie.  Louis gave my grandfather one of his two Winchester Shotguns.

In front of the Brown's headstone are the Elkington's.  I didn't know them but then looked down in front of their headstone and found some Skivington's.  That name rings in my head.  Some Skivington's were my grandparents close, dear friends and neighbors when they lived on Polk Street in Napa.  My mother spent her childhood in that house.  I believe the Skivington's lived right behind my grandparents and had a gate access where their son would pop on over to see my grandma.  There is so much more to that story.  The son that I speak of is still a living Skivington and so his mother.  When I looked to my right, there I found Larry Skivington's headstone.  He, in fact, was the neighbor of my grandparents.  So I guess I found part of their family tree......

As I continued my walk around block 82, I found two Borchers headstones.  It did not really surprise me to find Borchers' buried at Tulocay but rather interesting that so many people that seem familiar are buried so close to Pat and Kate Flanagan.  Henry Borchers (1853-1927) and Anna Borchers (1859-1931) are very likely relatives of mine along with the other headstone for Albert Borchers (1888-1966).  There were some silk flowers at his headstone.  They did not look all that weathered either.

I have not completely familiarized myself my Borchers family tree.  I do have some pretty reliable information from my aunt and uncle, who are Borchers, that have blazed an exact, sourced family tree.  So what did I do next?  I peeked at my Borchers/Vienop family tree...........and found a huge discovery that rather took me aback.

To be continued........................

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tulocay Cemetery Visit #1 - Part 3

Knowing that I was correct all along is a nice feeling.  What was I right about?  Pat and Kate Flanagan are buried at Tulocay Cemetery and so are all of their eight children.  The disappointing thing is that Pat and Kate have unmarked graves along with four of their children.  At $1600 for a basic marker, I am not in a position to change that right now.

In my past and even today, I have often thought about burial and to an extent, for lack of a better word, the waste that it brings.  I don't want to sound disrespectful or anything but instead rather practical from an environmental standpoint.  However, bear with me as I may have changed my mind some on this point after having worked on my family tree over the past year.

The casket, the expense of burial, the land (plot), and the whole process, seemed so extravagant to me in the past even when I helped with my own grandfather's funeral planning.  The metal caskets that are painted whatever color you want almost remind me of old car colors including powder pink and blue.  Depending on what you believe, the cost seems a bit much knowing that the spirit of the person is no longer there and just a body remains.  Mind you, my grandparents' caskets were beautifully finished oak.  Anyway, I could go on.

What I have changed my mind about is having a place, a location that memorializes the person.  If we have a place like that, the person will not soon be forgotten along with their story.  That is my hope for everyone.  It seems to me that some of the Flanagan's of Napa, California, had been forgotten by much of the family.....not by everyone....but by some.....while some have yet to discover their Flanagan roots.  My hope is to preserve some of the information.

Below is a photo of where Patrick, Kate, Agnes, Edward, Ignatius, and Leo Flanagan are all buried.  While it may not be much to look at, it is where they were laid to rest just left of the Brown's.

I must add to my comments here about the Flanagan's though.  As I mentioned previously, if you can have some delight in visiting a solitary and sometimes rather mournful place such as a cemetery, pleasant surprises are always welcome.  So that I can find Pat and Kate Flanagan's burial location again, I decided to snap photos of graves that surround the plot.  The Brown's are located right there but I have no idea who they were and if they were known to the Flanagan's.  I did find some other interesting headstones though.

To be continued.....................

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tulocay Cemetery Visit #1 - Part 2

Patrick and Kate Flanagan are buried in an older part of Tulocay Cemetery.  What is interesting is that newer headstones of people recently passed away are in this area.  That means that people purchased their plots years ago before they ever reached an age of passing.  However, in this older area of the cemetery, I am sad to see several blank grass areas where there are some block markers but no headstones.  I wonder how common it was for people to have unmarked graves at different times in the history of this cemetery.

Also, in this area are graves that have been vandalized.  Some of the headstones have been push off the graves and/or kicked over.  It is very sad when this happens.  Overall, the cemetery is very well maintained but in some places there are missing headstones with the bases still intact.  The two headstones that we saw pushed over may have been recent vandalism.  Now, I understand why people purchase low profile headstones.  They are extremely difficult to damage.

At block 82 just to the left of Mary and Malcom Brown in lot 3 are located Patrick, Kate (Catherine Mary O'Brien), Agnes, Edward, Ignatius (Nash), and Leo (Dr. Leo Flanagan, M.D.) Flanagan.  There are no grave markers just as I had been advised.  From 1895-1930 or thereabouts, each of these Flanagan's were buried in this location.  What's the story with the lack of grave markers?  I will probably never know.

As I walked diagonally to block 84 to find Aunt Mary Flanagan, another of Pat's and Kate's children, I was absolutely surprised and delighted to find lot 27 under a beautiful oak tree lined with three headstones.  Mary, Louis, and Richard Austin Sr. are all buried there.  My Mom said that was probably the doing of Uncle Dick (Richard Austin Sr.) himself or his son Richard Austin Flanagan, Jr. and his wife, a living Flanagan.  In such a solitary somewhat mournful place, I found a nice surprise.

I can question all that I want why Mary's name is indicated as May but will probably not get the answer.  Was May her nickname or is that just a typo?  Also, I wonder why Richard Austin Flanagan Sr. is buried here but his wife is not indicated.  My mom wonders if  Mary Emma Towey Flanagan is buried with her family in San Francisco.  Maybe one of their descendants knows.

Anyway, my disappointment with no grave markers for Pat and Kate was recovered a bit with the discovery of the other three graves under the tree in that wonderful location.  I made a few other discoveries though in the same block area as Pat and Kate.

To be continued..................

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tulocay Cemetery Visit #1 - Part 1

Springtime in Northern California can definitely call your name for a nice drive on a mild sunny day. Sometimes, my husband, children, and I head to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada for a lovely day in Nevada City or to "the other wine country" in Plymouth, California. Each are just a short drive from Sacramento. On this particular Sunday in April, we chose to hop in the car and head toward the Bay Area. We hit some pretty heavy traffic on Interstate 80. By the time we were in Fairfield, California, we'd decided to head to Napa as it was much closer than San Francisco or even Fouth Street in Berkeley, California.

Our plan in Napa would be to visit the cemetery and find my Flanagan's.....all of them. I knew that with our children with us that our time would be limited. My McLaughlin's, Vienop's, and the rest of the list would have to wait for another visit. When I visit my Vienop's and Borchers', I would like my aunts with my Mom and I as they know where everyone's graves are located without having to contact the main office at the cemetery.

In my quest to find my family tree, I know that visiting a cemetery or two is certainly in the plan.  I originally emailed Tulocay Cemetery asking if they could help me find some relatives who are buried there.  That was Summer of 2010.  The director asked who I was looking for.  I sent him a list.  He was surprised at the length of the list but also by how many people that he knew on the list.

As a longtime Napa resident, the director knew a good majority of the people listed on the spreadsheet that I'd sent him.  From Flanagan's (about 15 of them), Fratessa's (3), McLaughlin's (3), Vienop's, Borchers', Reidenbach's, Ruffino's and more, there are over 25 people listed.  He was very specific that he had known my own grandparents (Richard and Dorothy Flanagan) and some Vienop's.  He suggested that I come and visit him on a weekday.  I haven't actually made it there on a weekday but did make it there recently on this Sunday afternoon.

Upon arriving at the cemetery, I immediately had my husband drive over to where I thought my grandparents were buried.  I got out and walked over to a large oak tree.  I did not find their graves.  I felt a little turned around as it had been 11 years since I'd been to this location.  We ended up going to the office where a staff member helped me located all of the my Flanagan's.   I was in the correct place to find my grandparents but had been looking on the wrong side of the tree!

My grandparents (Richard J. Flanagan and Dorothy Borchers Flanagan) are buried in Block 153, Lot 23 (which is really quite near block 140), at Tulocay Cemetery in Napa, California.  Next to them are Ellen Maxwell Flanagan (my grandfather's sister), my great grandparents (Jack and Minnie Flanagan - John Francis Flanagan and Mary E. McLaughlin), and Gary Flanagan (my mother's brother who passed away as a toddler).  I found six Flanagan's rather quickly and took photos of their headstones.

It is hard to read Gary Richard Flanagan's headstone in the photo.  At the cemetery, his is the vertical headstone in this location, the rest of them are much more level to the ground.  Gary's headstone says "Gary R. Flanagan Died Feb. 9, 1943 Aged 13 Mos".  Even now that does just break my heart as I know it did my grandparents when he passed away.
I went looking for Kay Flanagan Fratessa (my grandfather's sister), Joe Fratessa, and their daughter Anne but did not spot their headstones.  My children were waiting in the car and getting antsy plus I wanted to get to where Patrick and Kate Flanagan are buried.  That location has been a mystery in the family for years.  How much of a mystery?  Well, when I asked where they were buried, the cemetery was able to find them but they do have unmarked graves.  As for the Fratessa's, I have been to their graves before and next time I will have my mother with me to point them out so I may photograph the headstones.

May I just add one more thing about this Flanagan family plot at block 153.  It is under a beautiful tree alongside a road in the cemetery near the new main office and chapel on the premises.  It is a gorgeous spot.
To be continued..........

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Romaine's - A Brick Wall

Recently, I had a great family tree conversation with one of my aunts.  She is a living McGuire relative who is a McGuire by marriage to my father's brother.  While she does not have a lot of time these days to work on her own family tree, she does know some great information and where to "look and find".

I would not call her an outsider looking in on the McGuire Family.  Maybe a better way to phrase it would be an insider with a more objective perspective on the family.  My other uncle talks about all of the "secrets" in the family.  My own parents only knew some of them because we lived in California and everyone else was in New York.

With my father now passed on, I don't get to hear his own perspective.  He would have been very honest if I had gotten around to asking more about his family.  It is funny to recall that he would tell us what the family wanted everyone to know but then tell it like it really was inasmuch as he knew.

This lands me on my Romaine's.  My father recalled everyone pronoucing this surname as "Roman".  My aunt who I spoke with recently indicated that she always told the family that spelling of Mary "Roman's" last name was Romaine.  Well, she's right.  When you look through official documents and records, the name is spelled Romaine.  There are mispellings of the name in census documents but even church records seem to get it right as Romaine.  So, I am reaffirmed that I've got the spelling down.  Now, finding them is another story.

I've found Mary Elizabeth Romaine, her father - Joseph Romaine, her mother - Frances Romaine, a brother - Joseph, another brother - John, and a probable sister - Rosa, circa 1870-1890 NYC.  Were there other children?  They lived on Delancy Street in NYC.  Census information has them indicated as Prussian.  Part of Prussia is now located in today's Germany.  Were they German?  I'll have to check out the historical boundaries of Prussia. 

I have 5 versions of Frances Romaine's maiden name.  You can take your pick on which is the real deal.  None of the names come up on internet search engines are real surnames.  Someone must have had a thick accent and/or transcribers wrote down what they heard and did not ask for the spelling.

Have I hit the proverbial brick wall with my Romaine's?  It's looking like it.  As my wise grandfather, Richard "Dick" Flanagan, would say "wait awhile".  I'm waiting.........

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Genealogy is the study of families and tracing lineages and history.  It is, in fact, defined as so much more than that according to the official definition and experts in the study of the subject.  As a popular hobby (and becoming more popular by the day), it is a way for individuals to find their own roots and offer facts for more accurate storytelling about their own family line.

The storytelling is what I am looking for with some accuracy.  I am also interested in finding out what people were like.  It is people's personalities and character that I wish to identify in my own family tree.  That can be hard to pin down as these attributes are sometimes left up to a subjective perspective and life experience.  Some personality traits are inherited, I suppose, and/or learned and handed down from generation to generation.

It is interesting to me to find quite a variety of reasons why certain groups research their family tree.  The LDS trace their roots for religious reasons while others do this for proving status within a society as in royalty, for example.  Other motivations are not so innocent.  The Nazi's compiled family histories to prove the "master race".  That rather turns my stomach.   At its best though, modern families trace their history out of pride.  Curiosity to answer the question that comes up in almost everything we do in life is "Why?".   Answering "the why" is what life is about in many cases.  That's where the storytelling comes in.   

Human beings love stories.  It is our nature.  We learn from those who lived before us.  Lessons of life, including past mistakes, are how we learn.  I seek the stories of my family.  We can learn so much from those who came before us.