This photograph was among the effects left by my Great-aunt Mary 'Mollie' Magee Halpin. It is thought to be one of the Geraghty children, my father or one of his brothers, but who? I have compared it to other photographs of my father around this time, and I cannot be sure that it is him because my dad does not appear to have had the same prominent ears as this little lad. Also, I have the First Communion portrait of my father's elder brother Patrick, so I know it is not him. Whoever it is, I think it is a sweet photo.
Mystery solved: This little boy is my father's brother Enda. Enda suffered from polio when he was a child, so the big boots (and an unseen crutch) enabled him to walk.
This morning I was working on a Tuesday's Tip post about researching Irish records from this side of the pond, both online and off. I decided to do a random search on one of the sites I am going to include in the post, so that I could talk about the process. I took an educated guess (based on birth dates of the intendeds and their children) at the date for a marriage document for one of my many men named Thomas, and his wife Mary. Although I have birth records for their children, and know all the details of Thomas's side of the equation, I have never been able to decipher Mary's last name on the birth records of her children.
Anyway...long story short, I found their marriage record.
Mary's full name is Maria Teresa Hynes. HYNES, finally! Previously when I have looked at her children's records I thought her surname might be Lynns, or Lynes, or Bynes, or Bryan, or a lot of other surnames. Now when I look at the birth records of their children I can clearly see the name HYNES. It's funny how the brain works.
In Canada every year on the 11th day of November we commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war. We call this day 'Remembrance Day'. On this day there are ceremonies held at the Cenotaphs in most Canadian cities and towns with the laying of wreaths to honour the war dead. Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November to recall the end of World War I on this date in 1918. Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.
In the days leading up to 'Remembrance Day' you often see Canadians, particularly those of the older generations, wearing red poppies in their lapels. Over the years this day has been both widely celebrated and ignored. The notion of remembering dead soldiers has become politicized by some who choose to recognize it as a sign of support for war, particularly in light of the current participation of Canada in Afghanistan.
The red poppy is in fact a symbol of peace, or perhaps the desire for peace is a better way in which to frame it. The wearing of the poppy, together with an understanding of the phrase 'Lest We Forget", is meant to invoke a willingness to work together in order to create a peaceful world. Lest we forget the terrible price of war, we wear the poppy as a reminder of that cost. Perhaps it is an irrational notion to hope that human beings can actually learn from history, and stop trying to annihilate one another; the poppy stands as a marker of that hope. In my own life I have worked as a peace activist and wear the poppy as a symbol of my desire for peace.
Today I will wear it in tribute to the members of my family whose lives were affected by war, whether they were soldiers or citizens.
Although their adult lives took them in different directions, my Great Great Aunts Alice Fitzpatrick Ward and her sister Teresa Fitzpatrick were ultimately interred together. Teresa remained unmarried all of her life, and Alice was made a widow when her mariner husband was lost at sea. The two are interred close to their parents and the rest of their family members in the cemetery of St. Colmcille's Church in Swords, Ireland. Beneath this unadorned Celtic cross they lie, and although the weather has wiped away all sign of inscription, the gravestone once read:
In loving memory of my dear sister Teresa Fitzpatrick died 29 Dec 1929 Swords.
Also her sister Alice Ward died 27 May 1952 aged 91 years.
Those of us interested in family history seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in cemeteries looking for family graves; so, what do you do when you find the grave, but it is unmarked? This is the case with my maternal grandmother and grandfather. At first I considered not talking about their graves. There are no grave markers, so perhaps it would be best to leave them out, I thought. How can I write about them on Tombstone Tuesday when there is no tombstone about which to write?
Although there is no headstone standing over the graves in which each one is interred, I want them to be remembered, I want them to be thought about; therefore, their graves are the subject of this Tombstone Tuesday. The unmarked graves of my maternal grandmother, Mary Fitzpatrick Ball, and my maternal grandfather, Patrick Ball, are in The Prospect Cemetery at Glasnevin — popularly known simply as Glasnevin Cemetery — in Dublin, Ireland.
Despite the fact that gravestones in Glasnevin Cemetery usually have numbers engraved on the back of them, I had some difficulty finding the graves in which my maternal grandparents are interred. First, I asked at the desk inside the beautiful new visitors' centre at Glasnevin. Already armed with the exact grave numbers and a map of the cemetery, I wanted to ensure that I knew precisely where I was going. The helpful man at the front desk said, "Just follow the road this way to the Dublin Section East and then curve a little to the left, just so, and you'll find your granddad's grave. Your grandmother's plot is a lot further back, in the Garden Section. It will be a little more difficult to find, but just stay on the path, follow the map, and you'll get there".
My grandfather's grave was the first on the map. As I was looking in the section of the cemetery in which the grave is located, out of the blue an elderly gentleman came up the path. He asked me if I was alright, and I told him I was having trouble locating my grandfather's grave, so he helped me, and he found the grave. The look on my face must have given away my discomfort over the fact that the grave is unmarked. Before this gentleman had come down the path, I had noticed this patch of green, and it seemed to correspond to the grave number, but I just couldn't bring myself to accept that this unmarked area next to the road was my grandfather's grave. This man, who had been a stranger on the path, reassured me and said I shouldn't be embarrassed, that it is okay. Like my grandfather, many people in Glasnevin, and elsewhere, are buried in unmarked graves.
The green patch next to the curb marks the grave of Patrick Ball, my maternal grandfather
Patrick Ball died when I was a very young child. I did not cry the night my grandfather died — perhaps because I was far too young to understand the profound effect this loss would have on my mother — but I have a clear recollection of my mother and my Aunt Bernadette as inconsolable. Seated with my father and my uncle at a tiny table in the kitchen of my aunt's small apartment, I felt a kind of heaviness settle in over that once bright little room. I did not understand those feelings until I stood at the curb by the side of my grandfather's grave. With the loss of my own father in 2000, I now had something in common with my mother and my aunt. Now I could understand the loss they felt that day when I was a very young child. In Glasnevin those feelings came rushing back to me, and I sat on the curb, next to his grave, sat and wept for a man I had never known, my grandfather.
After I had taken dozens of photos of this unmarked ground from many different angles, I moved on to find my grandmother's grave. Mary Fitzpatrick Ball's grave is much further back in the cemetery. She died when my mother was five years old, so she is in a much older part of the cemetery. Despite that, I was able to find my grandmother's grave much more easily. There is a marker next to her unmarked grave bearing the number 80.5 and her grave is number 81.5. A beautiful tree stands close by. Although it was not planted for her, I decided it was Mary's tree. It seemed to me as though this beautiful tree at the foot of her unmarked grave served to mark it in a way, and so I did not feel so disconsolate standing there. Whispering a little prayer, I assured her that neither she nor my grandfather would ever be forgotten. I felt as though, in the rustling of the leaves in that tree, I heard from my grandmother, heard her acknowledge my promise to never forget, and I left the cemetery feeling a little better.
Mary's tree stands at the foot of her unmarked grave.