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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cornelius, Bridget and J. P. O'Brien

I recently received contact from an O'Brien in Australia.  I was very excited about this.  I'm not entirely sure that this gentlemen has much information at this point.  His ancestor is a Cornelius O'Brien who's parents were Edmund O'Brien and Anne Glesson.  Coincidence.....probably not.  The likelihood of having there be two Anne Glesson's married to two different Edmund O'Brien's is highly unlikely.

Initially, I thought this person was the person who had originally contacted me from Down Under.  I went back to review my messages and found that it was Kate's sister's line who contacted me.  Her sister's name was Bridget.  So, now I think that I've found two descendants of Kate's siblings, Cornelius and Bridget.  I might really be onto something.  I hope and wish that Bridget's descendant contacts me again.

The other thing that I did recently was look at passenger lists in 1908 from Australia to the U.S.  Trying to find anything into San Francisco is dismal.  It does not appear to be available on at all.  While ad-hoc searchable passenger lists into SF do exist online, they are incomplete as I think the records truly are anyway.

It did strike me finally to look at Hawaii.  Being a U.S. Territory, by 1908 the U.S. government was running people through immigration.  Also, you bet a ship would stop there.  It's a good stop over from Australia to California, even today.  The U.S. Military would agree as would many tourists.

Anyway, back to 1908.  Why would I pick that year?  Well, Kate's brother arrived in Napa, CA, in September 1908 to visit her.  He had come all the way from Australia.  Without knowing his first name, I looked for any O'Brien's into Hawaii in 1908.  Guess what?  I only found one.

Mr. J. P. O'Brien arrived from Sydney, Australia, on 18 Aug 1908, in Honolulu, Hawaii.  He had left Sydney on 13 Aug 1908.  It only took 5 days to sail to Hawaii?  That sounds like a substantial improvement over the mid-1800s.

So, did I find John O'Brien.  What was his full name and his full story?  Maybe someone knows.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Vienop Family History per

I recently re-located information that I'd found over a year ago on  For whatever reason, I have a hard time finding it using the search on Ancestry itself.  Instead, I used a Google search with "Vienop Family Genealogy" and there's the link to's page called "Vienop Family History".

As no surprise, the first noticeable diagram is a map indicating where the Vienop name was found in the 1920 U.S. Census.  It indicates, California and Nebraska.  That would be correct and pinpoint my family and their relations living in Nebraska.

If I click on the overall results for Vienop for all U.S. Census from 1860-1930, the results show them still living in Napa, California and Jefferson County, Nebraska in 1930.  If I look at 1910, I find the same locations of Napa, CA and in Nebraska but there's a Chas Vienop in Missouri.  Who is he?

Now, I've tried to track down this Chas, Charles, and/or Carl Vienop previously in Missouri.  I can't figure out who he is.  My uncle, who is an expert on our Vienop and Borchers line, does not know his connection to our family either.  We are stumped a bit over that right now.  St. Louis, Missouri is not out of the question at all for the Vienop name.  It's just that the vast majority did not stick around there after the 1890s.  It really is a shame that the 1890 U.S. Census did not survive.  It would fill in so many blanks.

Another very interesting category is the section with 141 Birth, Marriage, and Deaths.  When I peek at that section, there are so many Vienop's indicated there and I do not have them all on my family tree.  Mind you, many of the marriages took place in Napa, CA.  This may be a good project for me.  I could really sit down and figure out who all of the Napa Vienop's were.  I know the original 10.  I have also figured out that a few more showed up.  Everyone seems to have raised their family in Napa for at least the first generation born in that location, and for some, a second and third generation.

Next, I peeked at the Civil War Service Records.  There I found that Charles Vienop again.  His date of birth was about 1841 and he served our country in 1862 as a Union Soldier out of Missouri.

That's an interesting bit of Vienop history on  I can connect to it easily and identify my relatives, my ancestors.  I think the key to success here is that Vienop is an uncommon name in the U.S.  In fact, my family specifically and consistently changed the spelling of the name from Vinup to Vienop upon immigration to the U.S. 

I do wonder if Charles Vienop is a cousin.  I have not found any other definitive information about him that connects him to my Vienop family.  I can see clearly that Charles Fred Vienop married Caroline L. Meier in St. Louis, MO on 11 Oct 1864.  I have found him in Civil War records and he turns up time and time again in U.S. Census, IRS records, and with a number of children.  If I go off track at all on the spelling of the Vienop name when searching for Charles, I find a Carl in Ohio.  I think they are two different people.

So, when it comes to Vienop's, I can trace my direct line, the four original Vienop brother to come to the U.S. along with their mother all the way back to Börninghausen, Germany.  The question along the way is "Who is Charles Vienop?"   Is he the mystery Vienop Cousin?  At least for now. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

McLaughin's 50th

Just when you think that's probably it for old photos, another one shows up.  This time, the prize photo is of my McLaughlin's.  I love this photo and have only seen a few photos of a few people in the family here and there.  This photo came from another of my mother's cousins.  She emailed this to me along with identification of each person in this photo.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

McLaughlin Family, Napa, California - Circa 1919.

McLaughlin 50th Wedding Anniversary.

Back row, left to right:  Catherine (Aunt Kate), Hugh Robert, Ellen (Aunt Ella), Mary (Minnie), Uncle Tom; Front row, left to right: Uncle Joe, Grandma, Grandpa McLaughlin (Ellen; Thomas) and "Dolly" (Anna)

I started my family tree about 2 years ago with my McLaughlin/Maxwell line.  Here they are above.  I have some anecdotal and/or facts to share about each as follows.  Also, I have added a few comments that Kay Flanagan Fratessa told one of her daughters about the McLaughlin's.  

Catherine (Aunt Kate/Katie) McLaughlin - Kate was born Catherine W. McLaughlin in Austin, Lander County, Nevada on 10 Dec 1874, the third child of Thomas and Ellen.  There is no record of Kate marrying and in the 1920 U.S. Census, she is indicated as a glove maker living with her parents.  I have her passing away in Dec 1925 in Napa, California.  She is the namesake of Catherine "Katie" Maxwell Duffy of Napa, California.  I believe that she is buried in an unmarked grave next to her parents at Tulocay Cemetery.
Kay's Comments:   Catherine (Aunt Kate) was beautiful, had straight black hair, never married .

Hugh Robert McLaughlin - From my family's understanding, he went by Robert but his direct line may know him as Hugh.  Hugh was born just after the family moved to Napa, California on 17 Apr. 1886 and was the baby of the family.  If I've understood family information correctly and U.S. Census, he was a newspaper man.  He married and had children.  He died in Fresno, California on 8 Oct. 1952.  He is the namesake of his uncle Hugh McLaughlin, his father's brother.  I have been in contact with one of his descendants via email.
      Kay's Comments:  Robert (Uncle Bob) was the youngest and the only one born in California.  Became a writer, then editor of the Fresno Bee newspaper.
Ellen "Ella" M. McLaughlin Heflin - Ellen was the second born child in this family.  She was born on 5 Oct. 1872 in Austin, Lander County, Nevada and died in San Francisco around 1938.  It definitely looks like Ellen is named after her mother, Ellen Maxwell.  When I bring up Ellen with my mom, she does not really know much until I mention the last name of Heflin/McLaughlin side.  She then says that her parents knew Heflin's in Napa.  The rest of the story is not something my mom has.  Let's just say that she has a whole lot of people to try and keep track of from Napa involving her entire life from childhood to adulthood.  It might click for her someday or maybe someone else will remember my mom from the Heflin side.  Her parents were Richard "Dick" Joseph Flanagan and Dorothy Marie Borchers.  Dick is the Helfin children's first cousin.
      Kay's Comments:   Ellen (Aunt Ella) was small, had blue eyes, married a ranch hand.  Her grandson, Lee Weimers was a writer for the San Jose Mercury newspaper.

Mary "Minnie" Elizabeth McLaughlin Flanagan - I could say a whole lot about Minnie since she was my great grandmother and yet I yearn to know more.  She was the oldest child of Thomas Michael McLaughlin and Ellen Maxwell, born on 17 May 1870 in Austin, Lander County, Nevada.  Historically, records indicate that Thomas owned land in Grass Valley, Lander County, Nevada but his house was in the town of Austin, Nevada.  It seems highly likely, and based on information in church records and the local newspaper, that the family's homestead was in town in Austin and that the children were born there.  This might be different for their cousin's, the Duffy's who lived in Grass Valley, Nevada at the Iowa Canyon Ranch.  Anyway, Minnie lived her life in Napa from 1886 until after her husband passed away in 1936.  I don't actually have the exact year that she moved Monterey County but she did pass away there on 12 June 1949.  She is buried with her husband, John Francis Flanagan, at Tulocay Cemetery, Napa, California.  Minnie had 5 children.

Thomas Shaffrey McLaughlin - Uncle Tom as my mom's cousin refers to him as, was the sixth child born to Thomas and Ellen McLaughlin.  He was born on 20 Jan. 1882 in Austin, Lander County, Nevada.  He is certainly named for his father.  His middle name is his maternal grandmother's (Judith Shaffrey) maiden name.  Church records from Nevada have his middle name completely butchered in transcription.  Also, on Thomas' own WWI and WWII draft registrations, his middle name is written as Sheffry and Sheffery, yet he signed it Shaffery.  It's all rather hard to read on the forms online.  Thomas was married to Alice Loney.  In the 1930 U.S. Census, they are living in San Francisco with their children.  He is indicated as a plumber.  He and his wife both passed away in Mendocino, California. Thomas died on 21 March 1955.  They are interned at the Rockville Cemetery in Fairfield (Suisun Valley), California.  I have only found Alice's headstone and am not sure why Thomas is not indicated at this location.  I am waiting for the Suisun Fairfield Rockville Cemetery District to get back to me on that one.  I've already gone there in person to find Thomas' grave which resulted in my being sent to the wrong cemetery location.  We'll see if they get back to me now that I know more.  I am actually no stranger to Fairfield, California.  Thomas and Alice had children.  The Loney Family appears to have a number of graves at Rockville Cemetery.
      Kay's Comments:  Thomas (Uncle Tom) was a tenor, very likable and had blue eyes.

Joseph Maxwell McLaughlin - Joe was the 4th child born to Thomas and Ellen in Austin, Nevada on 19 May 1877. He is named after his maternal grandfather, Joseph P. Maxwell.  His wife was Henrietta Trailer.  Their two children are indicated as being adopted.  Based on U.S. Census, he seems to have been a bookkeeper for a produce company.  He eventually lived in Vacaville, California.  My own grandfather, Dick Flanagan, seemed to know him.

Ellen Maxwell McLaughlin -  Ellen Maxwell was born in the Parish of Moynalty, County Meath, Irealnd on 22 March 1846 to Judith Shaffrey and Joseph Patrick Maxwell.  To quickly sum up the information that I have about her, they lived in an area near Moynalty and immigrated to the upstate New York - Newport, Herkimer County's Irish Settlement in 1853.  She married Thomas Michael McLaughlin on January 5, 1869 in Newport, New York.  They left for Austin, Nevada around 1870 where they lived until 1886 when they moved to Napa, California.  Ellen passed away in Napa in September of 1928.  She is buried in an unmarked grave at Tulocay Cemetery.
Thomas Michael McLaughlin - Thomas was born at the Irish Settlement in Newport, Herkimer County, New York on 19 Feb. 1840 to James M. McLaughlin and Mary Ellen Gartlan who were both Irish immigrants.  After Ellen Maxwell and Thomas were married (see Ellen's info above), they move to Nevada, and then onto Napa, California.  Something happened to Thomas in 1904 or thereabouts preventing him from working and supporting the family.  His daughter, Minnie, was a school teacher who helped support the family until the children were old enough to take care of themselves.  Their daughter Katie may have taken care of Ellen and Thomas after that.  I have Thomas' death certificate.  He is buried in an unmarked grave at Tulocay Cemetery, Napa, CA. 

Anna "Dolly" Agnes McLaughlin Lewis - Anna was the 5th born child to Ellen and Thomas in Austin, Nevada on 25 Aug. 1879.  She went onto marry John James Lewis in 1909 and had 4 children, 3 of which survived to adulthood.  She died in Feb. 1930 and is buried in Dunsmuir, CA.  Her Lewis descendants have researched her tree and we have connected online at  Several of them have lived in the Sacramento Area.
Kay's Comments:  Anna (“Dolly”?) small, musical, married name Lewis

Let's suffice to say that it looks like many of the these McLaughlin/Maxwell descendants stuck around Northern California.  I hope to find more of them and make connections someday.  We have a very interesting and fairly decently completed family tree that takes us back to Ireland.

Also, I love that I now have this photo of them!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Find A Grave - Part 2

Back in the Spring of 2011, I made my first official genealogy visit to Tulocay Cemetery in Napa, California.  After locating where the unmarked graves are of my Flanagan great great grandparents in Block 82, I almost fell over the headstone of another set of my great great grandparents, Borchers, a few plots over. In fact, I have 4 sets of great great grandparents buried at Tulocay Cemetery.  That's a lot of ancestors in one place that can lead you to your family history.  I have had success on all four lines to boot.

Taking photos of headstones is key to research. They can be so telling.  For example, I found Henry and Anna Borchers at Tulocay Cemetery with the exact years of birth and death that I had on hand.  Right next to them was one of their son's graves.  Family trees at cemeteries can keep going, especially if you look at the overall cemetery as a whole.  There are actually three of the Borchers' children buried there along with grandchildren.  In Northern California alone, there are three additional Borchers children buried in Sonoma, Mendocino, and Solano Counties.

Henry and Anna Borchers had nine children in all.  They have an infant child buried in Minnesota and two of their other children buried in North Dakota.  I entered the three children that knew of buried at Tulocay Cemetery in Napa, CA, and found that the other six children had already been entered into Find A Grave by others in their respective cemetery locations.

The interesting catch with is that you can connect people to their parents and spouse on up the family line.  I have done this.  This is almost like building your own family tree based on final resting places.  You can also request that a volunteer go to the given cemetery and photograph the headstone.

Now, I have had great success so far in finding my German relatives across the U.S. but also in finding my Irish ancestors who are buried in the Irish Settlement Cemetery in Newport, New York.  I thank everyone who has photographed headstones.  I have even uploaded my own headstone photos.

I leave everyone with an example of the progress on Find A Grave.  I was able to connect already posted online memorials (as they call them) for my ancestors on my Borchers side.  I started with Henry and Anna Borchers at Tulocay Cemetery and the photo of their headstone.  Armed with their exact dates of birth and death along with their given full names and nicknames, I posted a memorial that I hope relatives will appreciate for the family tree.

Henry and Anna Borchers
Hans Heinrich Conrad Borchers and Anna Marie Jackel Borchers
-Emilie Regina Barbara Borchers - Buried in MN with her Jackel relatives
-Elizabeth Borchers Strehlow - Buried in Healdsburg, CA
-William Borchers - Buried in Mendocino County, CA
-Martha Sophia Dorthea Borchers Joersz - Buried in ND
-Henry Ludwig Christian Borchers - Buried in ND
-Matilda Margaretha Borchers Weber Adams - Buried in Vallejo, CA
-Albert Borchers - Buried at Tulocay Cemetery, Napa, CA
-Clara Borchers Gruenhagen - Buried at Tulocay Cemetery, Napa, CA
-Herbert Herman Leonhardt Borchers - Buried at Tulocay Cemetery, Napa, CA

Above is a great start on Find A Gave for the above family unit.  In fact, several of these online memorials above have their spouses linked to them already.  That can be a project in and of itself.  I've even linked Anna Borchers to her parents in the cemetery in MN.  By the way, it looks to be out in the middle of farmland near Havana, MN when I map it on Google Earth.

I just can't say enough good things about Find A Grave at this point.  It is worth a review by everyone and a contribution if you have already taken photos of headstone.  Search and Contribute!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Find A Grave - Part 1

In recent months, I have been enticed to enter and update information on Find A Grave at  I know that this may sound kind of strange.  Rather than considering a cemetery a rather "spooky" locale to seek out people in their final resting place,  I see cemeteries as a clue to finding my ancestors.

I suppose the typical genealogist would see it as more than a clue.  After-all, cemeteries are a wonderful memorial to those who came before us.  Some people would say that they just don't care about the past and their family trees.  Little do some of them know that until they take the step to finding their roots what interest they may find.  Think about it, aside from your own family tree, cemeteries (or memorials) tell a story or at least can lead you to one.  Who knows who you might find at the other end?  You really could find more of your origins and, in some cases, a descendant who can tell you your family history.

How important is family history?  In my mind, it is our connection to the past, can explain how and why we live where we do in the present, and influence our present and future philosophy about life in general.

I have lots of anecdotal information about my ancestors.  Quick, brief stories are always excellent when my relatives want to share.  Also, letters from the past can be so telling.  The crowning moment is when you find a photo of the ancestors you have never seen before.

Find A Grave is a website that's been around for a while but has grown in popularity over the past few years.  In the past few months, I have personally added 33 memorials to my ancestors buried at Tulocay Cemetery.  I have photos for the gravestones of over 20 of them posted on the site.  I have more photos to take at Tulocay Cemetery in Napa, California in the near future. 

I will get back to Napa, California soon but what I've found of my ancestors' final resting places on this site is pretty amazing.

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

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Year 2

It is the second anniversary of this blog.  It's sometimes hard to believe that I have more to write about my family history and tree.  Yeah for two years!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

O'Brien Message - New Zealand

I am continually amazed at how people really start to come out of the woodwork when you post your family tree and pursue connections.  The following message was posted to me on on June 10, 2012.

hello my name is (private). Mary O'Brien is my 2x great grand mother. She Married John Courtney.  In 1855 later they moved to NZ were the Daughter married my great grandfather Edmond Fraser . Mary had two sisters Catherine And Bridget there is also another named Ann She was baptism sponsor to Catherine Courtney. I also have baptism records of other O'briens from Hokitika West Coast New Zealand. I have a statement here that Catherine O'brien married a Patrick Flanagan They settled in the Napa Valley California. I came across you whilst searching ship passage for the O'brien family to Australia.

I have sent her a quick message back providing her with my email address.  I am now up to 3 potential contacts on my O'Brien Family Tree in the "Land Down Under".  This person actually found information about Kate and Pat Flanagan living in the Napa Valley.  I do need to find out more.  While I know Kate's origins in Ireland, I have only sparse information about them in Australia and New Zealand.  I have a plethora of information about Kate and Pat once in Napa, CA.  I also have letters about Pat's travels around mining camps in New Zealand and Australia.  Now, if I could just pinpoint where the O'Brien's were located.  It looks like this person just provided me with a big clue.

The following are links to my O'Brien research in this blog (CRTL+Click on each link):

O'Brien's in Ireland to Australia and onto California - Part 1 
O'Brien's in Ireland to Australia and onto California - Part 2 
O'Brien's in Ireland to Australia and onto California - Part 3
O'Brien's in Ireland to Australia and onto California - Part 4
O'Brien's in Ireland to Australia and onto California - Part 5
O'Brien's in Ireland to Australia and onto California - Part 6

I must say this again,  Kate Flanagan (born Catherine Mary O'Brien) is one of the most interesting characters on my family tree.  The fact that we know so much about her is a story in and of itself.  For whatever reason, I feel very connected to her and want to know more about my 2x great grandmother who's reputation in our Flanagan Family precedes her even today.

My biggest challenge in locating the O'Brien's in Australia and New Zealand is my lack of understanding of the geography of that part of the world.  What seems fairly clear is that the O'Brien's were in Melbourne, Australia by 1854, went to New Zealand for a time, and were back to Melbourne, most likely.  Knowing that the O'Brien surname is quite common makes it hard to track them but I think I have found them here and there.