Thursday, December 29, 2011

Joshua Pim -- An Irish Wimbledon Champion

By Susan Kimura

When doing Irish genealogical research my approach is to find the end-of-line ancestors and then come forward, filling out each generation as completely as possible. This includes finding all siblings, spouses, grandchildren, great-grand-children, and cousins. It is fascinating to see how the family multiplied, where and how they lived, their occupations, levels of education, interests, and sometimes, even heartaches.

From The History of Irish Tennis
I found an article in the Logansport, Pharos Indiana Tribune from 1895 about  “Dr. Joshua Pim, the lawn tennis champion of Great Britain and Ireland, is without doubt one of the greatest experts Americans have ever seen.”   Thrilled with this new information I continued to research and found  an article on Joshua written by Mark Ryan.  This  article was like a short biography. He included birth date and place, parents’ names, and then went on to describe Joshua’s career as a tennis player. He actually won Wimbledon in his first appearance in 1890, and then played there again in 1891, 1892, and 1893. Joshua eventually gave up tennis to become a medical doctor.

Dr. Joshua Pim
Eureka!  Checking my data base I found Joshua Pim, born about 1870, Ireland, to Joshua Pim and Susan Middleton, the very same quoted in M. Ryan‘s article. Using this new information I was able to find a photo of Joshua Pim! Josh was no longer just a name - a dash between two dates - he was an actual person, a world champion tennis player, a medical doctor, a husband and father, and my fourth cousin three times removed.

Joshua’s fourth great-grandfather, Richard Pim, is my tenth great grandfather.  Another descendant, of Richard Pim, Abigail Pim, was born to John Pim and Sarah Clibborn in Dublin in 1767. She is my second cousin seven times removed. John and Sarah were both born in Ireland, had sixteen children, and then disappeared out of the Quaker records somewhere around 1780. More research led to finding a memorial tribute to Minister Abigail Pim from the Friends in England.

Piety promoted, in a collection of dying sayings of many of the people called Quakers: with a brief account of some of their labors in the Gospel, Volume 2 edited by William Evans, Thomas Evans p.193, offers insight into Abigail’s life. While yet a child, her family moved to England.  [No wonder the family had disappeared from the Irish records.]  She had a frail physical constitution, but a sharp mind.  She was inclined to spiritual values and felt herself called to the ministry at the age of twenty-nine. She believed that heeding “the still small voice” allowed one to walk the path of mortality in safety, avoiding the temptations of the adversary. After the death of her mother in 1812, Abigail visited Friends adjacent to London and also in Ireland. She also ministered to female prisoners in jail, reminding them of Christian values.

A Wimbledon champion, tennis playing, medical doctor and a spinster who found peace in ministering to prison inmates and sharing the Truth as she lived and believed it.  What wonderful things to discover about one’s ancestors. These are only two of the ten thousand descendants of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Pim, who have left their mark on the world.

ABOUT THIS BLOGGER:   Susan Potts Kimura graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and a minor in history and was a genealogy researcher for a genealogy firm in Salt Lake City.   She is currently an elementary school aide working with slow readers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

IRISH MINUTE: Memories of Christmas During ‘The Big Snow’ in Mayo

Maura Mulligan was first-born in a family of six siblings, children of farmers who ran the family farm in the rural village of Aghamore, County Mayo.  After immigrating to the United States and working for telephone companies and even trying life in the convent, Maura took up memoir and fiction writing 10 years ago.   Her memoir "Call of the Lark" about her childhood in Ireland, immigration to America and her time spent in a convent is due from Greenpoint Press in 2012.  For this Christmas week, Maura took some time to talk with’s Dan Marrin about memories of Christmas on the family farm.  Tell me a bit about the farm on Aghamore.

Maura Mulligan: There were several fields between [our farm] and the next house, two acres between one house and another.  It could be very lonely if people were on their own, but when I was a child, people would visit each other in the long winter nights.  We did not have television then, of course, or running water or electricity.  Some people had a radio, but we did not.  We did have a gramophone, though, so some people would come to our house to listen to songs.  It was a whole different world.

WG: I read a piece from from 2009 where you talked about your childhood memories of Christmas in Ireland.  What was Christmas like in your house?

Mulligan:  In that time — the 1940s when I was a child — we didn’t have much money, of course ...  So … I don’t really remember getting any exciting gifts.  You’d always get something small -- just something that was necessary, gloves, socks.

You got in your stockings, maybe, an orange and a few sweets, a small toy or a pencil or something like that. Oranges were very unusual, because they only came around at Christmastime.  If you got an orange in your stocking, it was a big deal.

WG: You said in that Christmas piece that December 26, St. Stephen’s Day, was even more of a joy than December 25.

Mulligan: Yes, absolutely because of the Wren Boys.  I remember most of all [when they came] the year of “the big snow,” the blizzard of 1947 — all you could see was this white wall on all sides of us.

When the Wren Boys came, they’d come calling to every house in these bright colors.  They were all dressed up with ribbons, and they disguised their faces and looked unrecognizable until they started singing and dancing.  Then we’d start to guess who they were.  They weren’t just boys either that did it -- they were called “boys” but there were plenty of girls who did it.  Eventually, my sister and I joined them, as well.

In my grandfather’s time, the wren was a bird that would be killed and carried on a holly branch around from house to house.  He couldn’t tell me why they did it — it seemed pretty brutal, and that stopped eventually, thank goodness.  But the practice of going around singing and dancing from house to house continued.

Wren boys would come from different villages; sometimes they’d come from as far away as five miles.  They’d start very early in the morning; you could hear their tin whistles in the distance.  Then as they came closer, it got more and more exciting.

When my mother would open the door to them, it was just the most exciting time.  They came every year, but I remember that blizzard year most of all.

(Editor's Note: This illustration, titled "The Wren Boys," depicts the Christmas tradition of people processing with the bodies of wren birds attached to a bush. It is from the book "Ireland: Its Scenery and Character" by S.C. Hall; illustrations by Daniel Maclise, London: Jeremiah How, 1841)

As a Wren “boy,” you’d spend days preparing what you’d wear, and then you got money or treats, depending on how good you were at singing and dancing, sort of like Halloween.  Some musicians were quite accomplished and would get more: if you didn’t know how to play music, you’d take a comb and put a piece of newspaper against it and make a sound.

WG: Almost like taking blades of grass between your fingers to make a whistle?

Mulligan: The same idea.

WG: What kind of songs would they have been?  Traditional carols?

Mulligan: The Wren people would sing whatever they’d like, not necessarily Christmas carols, but whatever they thought they were good at.

WG: Church hymns?

Mulligan: No, no, no one sang church hymns except in church.  [laughs]

Maura Mulligan’s memoir, “Call of the Lark,” will be published by Greenpoint Press in the spring of 2012.  More of Maura’s memories and writing is available on her website. WGT

Irish Minute, from, gives voice to individuals supporting any facet of the heritage of the Irish, worldwide. Contact us, via, to suggest individuals to interview.

DAN MARRIN Is a New York-based correspondent and producer for

Thursday, December 8, 2011

3,000 Quakers Help the Irish During The Great Famine

The Irish Society of Friends and The Great Famine of 1845-1852

During Ireland's Great Famine 3,000 Irish Quakers contributed their time, money and influence to alleviate the suffering of those around them. The Pim family were among them.  This is another installment in our ongoing series about this benevolent family from the Religious Society of Friends.

Jonathan Pim / Courtesy HistoryIreland.Com

In trying times of crisis, such as flooding, fire, or famine, there are always common men and women who step forward to offer succor.  The services they perform elevate them from the level of common to that of uncommon. 

Among these uncommon people are my third cousin (six times removed) Dublin coffee and tea merchant Joseph Bewley (1795-1851), along with my fourth cousin (five times removed) Jonathan Pim (1806-1885).

Joseph and Jonathan, like myself, are descendants of John Pim and  Mary Pleadwell.  John and Mary were converted to the Society of Friends by William Edmundson before 1650 in County Cavan.

Joseph and Jonathan were two of an estimated 3,000 Irish Quakers to provide relief during An Gorta Mor (Irish for "The Great Hunger."   At a meeting with his Friends, in November 1846, Joseph proposed that the Society form a Central Relief Committee, operating out of Dublin, to feed as many of the starving Irish as possible.  Everyone in the room agreed to the proposition, and second cousins Joseph and Jonathan were chosen as joint secretaries.  There would be no religious strings attached to the services they would render.

Pim Brothers

Both Joseph and Jonathan were men who loved Truth, improved their natural talents, sought to do good, and were astute businessmen, as well as devoted and loving husbands and fathers.  Joseph had retired from the family business of tea and coffee shops in order to devote more of his time to his family and the Society.  His contemporaries described him as a soft-spoken man, a great listener, a dispenser of wise advice, and someone who truly loved his Lord.

Jonathan, much the same kind of man as his cousin, was the owner, with his brother William Harvey Pim, of the Dublin firm Pim Brothers & Co., drapers and textile manufacturers.  Jonathan  would become the first Irish Quaker to sit in Parliament (1865-74).

Coordinating efforts with a relief committee (CRC) established in London, they worked closely with their co-religionists in America, raising funds and keeping the world aware of the desperate situation in Ireland.

Quaker Soup Kitchen / courtesy The Quakers In Ireland

The relief efforts of these Quakers, both men and women, saved thousands of lives.  They purchased, at cost, 294 copper steam-vats from Abraham and Alfred Darby, a Quaker company in Liverpool, which refused to allow them to pay full price. These boilers were for cooking a soup, called “stirabout,” a mixture of rice and maize from America.  The vats were set up in workhouses and other facilities throughout Ireland. Quaker women opened schools in Ireland and taught practical subjects, such as reading and writing, lace making, quilt making, and net mending.  They also worked in soup kitchens, distributed clothing, and nursed the sick and dying.  Over a year’s time, they distributed over  £200,000 in relief aid.

Fifteen Quakers died from causes related to the famine, among them Joseph Bewley, who literally worked himself to death at the age of 56.    Jonathan Pim collapsed from overwork.  In a letter to his brother James, Jonathan wrote:  "Now the lives of thousands are at stake.  The people must be kept alive, who ever pays for it.”   

Quoting wikipedia,  "Jonathan Pim (1806–1885) was a founding member of the Dublin Statistical Society and president for many years. During The Great Famine (1845-1852) he was noted for offering relief to those who were suffering. He wrote Condition and Prospects of Ireland and Transactions which appealed for radical land reform in Ireland. After the famine, he bought an estate in the west of Ireland for the purpose of benefiting the tenants. After the first Irish Land Act was passed, he swiftly gave the tenants the opportunity to own the land."  

The legacy left behind by these uncommon men and women, 'Friends' in the finest and truest sense of the word, blessed countless lives during and after The Great Famine. For in saving lives, these unassuming rescuers allowed thousands, eventually millions, of Irish and their descendants to not only survive but thrive, in new lands as emigrants or in their native land in the coming decades of tumult. As have done martyrs through the centuries, who gave their lives for the causes in which they believed, these Quakers lived up to the teachings of the Bible, in which they so fervently believed.  As Jesus himself uttered, as handed down through the King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.), "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

ABOUT THIS BLOGGER:   Susan Potts Kimura graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and a minor in history and was a genealogy researcher for a genealogy firm in Salt Lake City.   She is currently an elementary school aide working with slow readers.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Discovering My Irish Ancestry -- From Chicago To Limerick

Sarah Breakey O'Malley on her wedding day (c. 1893)
and later in life
My name is Robert William Burke Jr. (Robert, son of Robert, son of John, son of William, son of Francis, son of Patrick, to use the old Celtic way of naming one’s self).

I’m the oldest of six children.  Both my parents were half Irish, so I proudly call myself half-Irish (although sometimes I think I got more than half my genes from various Irish ancestors).

A love of history runs in my mother’s side of the family and being the oldest means that I remember more of my mother’s stories than most of my siblings.  So I guess it was only natural that I became the family historian.

I always loved hearing stories about my Irish ancestors when I was growing up.  My mother was raised in part by her grandmother, Sarah Breakey O’Malley, who was born in Ireland.  Her family emigrated to America around 1870 and settled on the outskirts of Chicago, just in time for the great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Great-Grandmother O’Malley told my mother stories about growing up as a Catholic in Ireland and the persecution that the people suffered for refusing to give up their faith.  She also told stories about the saints and the wee folk (leprechauns).  Fortunately, my mother was able to keep fact and fiction straight and passed these stories on to me.

Like a lot of people, I really became motivated to research my genealogy after watching the miniseries “Roots” on television.  As best I can recall, I formally started researching my family history in 1978.

I bought a couple of beginner’s books on genealogy, one of which contained several forms for recording family history and creating family trees.

Every genealogy book I’ve ever read suggests the same thing: Start interviewing your oldest relatives first.  Sadly, I learned the truth about this statement when I discovered that I had a great-aunt Blanche Burke who died six months before I started my research.  I never knew of her until after she died.

I was born in Portland, Oregon, in the same hospital as parents.  So even though I was then living in the San Francisco Bay area, I made several trips to Portland.  I had relatives there, so, naturally, I interviewed them.  I also visited several cemeteries.  Old tombstones can contain a wealth of information about deceased relatives.

I once traipsed around Masonic Cemetery, established in 1878, in Harrisburg, Oregon, for half an hour until I turned a corner and found six family graves in a row.  It was like hitting the jackpot.

In addition to wandering around cemeteries, I also visited a funeral home in Portland.  They had records dating back several decades.  These not only gave me information about my deceased relatives (e.g., date and place of births and deaths, cause of death, name of spouse, etc.) but they also gave me the informant’s name, usually a close relative.

Once I had the date of death, I was able to go to the main library in Portland and look up the decedent’s obituary.  Obituaries can be a treasure trove of information.  They not only list the surviving spouse and children, but also sometimes mention any children who died before the decedent.  That was how I learned that my great-grandfather had two brothers.

Some city libraries also have an index for the main city-newspaper.  I was able to look up stories about various relatives in the index and then find the stories on microfilm and then print them.  These indexes saved me countless hours perusing old newspapers looking for articles.

Death records are also a great source for genealogists.  Unfortunately, state governments have learned that they can charge 'an arm and a leg' for these documents.  Finally, U.S. and state census records can provide a lot of information.  I’ve always blessed the unknown census enumerator who not only wrote down the month and year of my relatives’ births, but the actual dates as well.

There’s no substitute for research, but it doesn’t hurt if you get lucky along the way.  Famous and infamous ancestors are often easier to research because they are more likely to be the subjects of articles and letters.

Bishop Maurice Francis Burke
My great-great uncle, Bishop Maurice Francis Burke, was the youngest of eight children.  He studied for the priesthood in Rome, and was ordained by Cardinal Costantino Patrizi Naro, vicar general to Pius IX and dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals. Bishop Burke spoke six languages fluently, and according to family tradition, for a time translated for Pope Pius IX during papal audiences.

Finding his biography gave me his parents’ names -- my great-great-grandparents.  However, I was unable to trace my Burke lineage any farther back for almost 30 years.

Then, about three years ago, I attended a one-day seminar about Irish genealogy sponsored by the California Genealogical Society.  At the seminar, I learned that the old Irish church records (Catholic and Protestant) were being put online.  The Burkes had come from County Limerick, and the records were available on Searching for names is free, but looking at an individual record costs 5 euros.

Johanna Casey Burke and Francis Noonan Burke,
 the author's great-great grandparents
Burke is a common name (the 14th most common surname in Ireland and the most common among Norman-Irish families).  However, I was eventually able to locate my great-great grandfather’s baptismal certificate.  Not only did it contain the year of his birth, but, more importantly, the names of his parents.  Finally, after waiting for 30 years, I knew the names of my great-great-great grandparents, Patrick and Mary Noonan Burke.

William Burke and Mary Lonergan
at their wedding in 1872

Having a famous ancestor (whether a direct or collateral ancestor) can also provide side benefits.  My son John is named after my grandfather John Lonergan Burke.  My grandfather was named after his mother’s brother, John Lonergan, who fought during the American Civil War.  When I was teaching my son about the Civil War, I was able to personalize it for him by showing him a family connection that went back to the 19th century.

Another lucky happenstance occurred when my uncle (John Burke, also named after his father), wrote to the Diocese of St. Joseph, Missouri, which Bishop Burke had led from 1893 until his death in 1923 (on St. Patrick’s Day, no less).  While my Uncle John wrote to the diocese, John Bongart, unknown to us a third-cousin, also wrote to the diocese seeking information about the bishop.  John Bongart's maternal grandmother had been a Burke.  The diocese put John Bongart in touch with my Uncle John, and I soon contacted this cousin, who lived then in Florida.

One aspect of researching my genealogy I particularly enjoy is collecting old family photographs.  Many years ago, one of my aunts was kind enough to have negatives made from all her family photos, going back to my great-great grandparents on the Burke side of my family.

Someday, I hope to publish a book about both sides of my family, with a special emphasis on my Irish ancestors, who left the land that they loved to come to a New World, in order to give their children and their children’s children a better life.  More than anything, I want my children to know where they came from and to take pride in their Irish ancestry.

This was supposed to be a short essay, but you know how the Irish love a good story.  Still, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my quest to discover my family history, and that you find valuable the sources I have used for discovering information about my family.


Robert Burke trained as a lawyer and now works for a publishing house focusing on legal data and information. He and his wife, Helen, hail from Antioch, California. They have three children, Katie, 20, John (Sean), 17, and Michelle, 13, all imbued with an appreciation for their Irish heritage.  

If you would like to discuss genealogical research, particularly Burke ancestry, you can contact Bob here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Geneablogger Deborah Large Fox Interview on Irish Genealogy

This Q&A with Genealogist Deborah Large Fox was previously posted in our weekly newsletter but we feel is well worth posting this very popular genealogy blogger's interview, in it's entirety, for those who have not signed up for our free newsletter...enjoy!

A member of the popular Geneabloggers Group on, Deborah Large Fox's Help! The Faerie Folk Hid My Ancestors! blog was voted as one of Family Tree Magazine's Top 40 Genealogy Blogs 2011.  One of Deborah's many goals is to help researchers navigate through the quagmire of Irish genealogy.

In the 1990s, Deborah left the practice of law and became a researcher for a local historical organization, while giving classes and lectures on genealogy in the Philadelphia area, which she continues to do.  She has recently moved to Toronto with her husband, and is excited to be joining the Canadian genealogy world. Some of her Irish ancestors immigrated to Canada in 1844. Deborah also founded the Irish American Family History Society .

When Deborah was 14 years old, her grandmother gave her a letter written in 1847 by her third great grandmother in County Tyrone, Ireland, to her children in America. The letter spoke of the crop failures. On news broadcasts that evening were stories of the violence of ‘The Troubles.’ Deborah’s grandmother pointed at the televised riot scenes and told her that the letter came “from right there.” Deborah was hooked.

Fox recently fielded questions from’s Family History Producer, Alannah Ryane. One of your passions is ‘injecting’ the human and historical element into the data stream of genealogy. How can we fellow genealogists accomplish that?

Deborah Large Fox: Sure, getting hits from an online database will fill some blanks on a chart. So many researchers stop at that point. But, that data can also help us to “flesh out” our ancestors and bring them to life. For example, what does it signify to find your ancestor on a Freeholder’s List in County Kilkenny?  We must avoid the trap of noting simply the year and location. Instead, ask yourself: What were the political, economic, and perhaps religious ramifications of your ancestor’s being on that list? When you add the “why” to the “when and where,” you are on your way to watching your ancestor evolve from a name, to a stick figure, to a person with a unique story. That story is part of yourself!

WG: What do you cover in your talks on Irish genealogy?

Fox: My most requested talks cover the basics of Irish records and of Irish history and culture. I find that even experienced family history researchers are often in the dark regarding many of the basics of Irish research because so many Irish records are local in nature. Also, too many researchers today concentrate on plugging names into search engines and noting the results. They don’t understand the records they are finding. Irish family history research is a constant learning process. In my blog and talks, I ask my audience to learn along with me. I don’t regard myself as an expert by any means. I learn as much from my audiences as they do from me.

WG: What tricks or shortcuts have you found to finding the elusive data of Irish Family History?

Fox: No real shortcuts, but some tricks. One is to pay attention to family stories. The Irish tradition is an oral one, dating back to the ancient Celtic bards. Yet, time after time, professional genealogists say that family stories are mostly false. I have heard scores of family stories from my audiences over the years, and each story, if not entirely true, still held a kernel of truth. Maybe our ancestors embroidered their family tales a bit, but those tales hold important clues for finding that elusive data.

WG: What do you think it is about the Irish that makes them so resilient in overcoming the devastating challenges they have faced through centuries?

Fox: There is an old saying, I don’t know if it is an Irish one (if it is not, it should be), “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” From what I have learned of Irish history, the challenges served to strengthen the ties that held the Irish together as a people. One of these ties is the family.  As I wrote recently, sticks alone can be broken, but bound together with string, they are strong. Family is that string for the Irish.

WG: We have noticed that the Irish Diaspora has a more emotional tie to Ireland than the recent young people who have left.  They seem to reflect the attitude of the early immigrants who wanted to put it all behind them leaving us with little or no information about their origins, which has made it difficult to find actual locations.  Can you comment?

Fox: I have noticed the same, and I think that what you say has probably been true throughout the history of immigration. I think it is just natural to want to put everything behind you when you are leaving a place. Don’t forget, the person who is emigrating probably has an adventurous and forward-looking nature. The less baggage—physical or emotional—the better. I would think many of our ancestors simply could not bear the pain of talking about the homes and families they left behind. Others didn’t see much sense in talking about the past when they were building a future.

WG:  I have discovered through my own research that we carry the memories of our ancestors in our DNA, and it seems to me that Irish descendants have a stronger desire for that connection to their past than most. Have you found any indications of this?

Fox: I have surely noticed that the Irish descendants seem to have a stronger desire than most other researchers to connect to their pasts. I have often wondered about this, myself. The connection seems to be such a passionate and visceral one that I believe that there is a genetic component at work. What is interesting to me is that this desire to connect is not dependent on whether the person grew up in a family that preserved the Irish culture. It seems to come from within the person.

WG: promotes the continuation of Irish culture through the Diaspora.  You have written on the subject, can you explain how we can discover even small indications that our family carried on some of these traditions?

Fox: Oh my, you have hit on one of my very favorites topics! I give a presentation called “Beyond ‘Just Because’” that explores the myriad ways in which our families carry on traditions, often without knowing it. Food is a huge cultural conduit. Family recipes often have roots that stretch back to Ireland. Holiday traditions are another. Favorite sayings and peculiar pronunciations of words are also clues. Again, the key to discovering these traditions in our own families is the word “Why?” … “Why do we do it this way?” And don’t be satisfied with the answer, “Just because, we always have done it this way.”

WG: The driving force behind the creation of my webisode series “By Her Roots” was to, as you say in your post “Genealogical Soil,” find myself "standing on the ancestral dirt.” I believe Ireland would benefit greatly by putting more energy behind genealogy travel and allowing more free access to the records. Could you comment on this?

Fox: Free access is key. I know many researchers who balk at paying for records for various reasons. My own budget for my genealogy research has risen astronomically through the years. I do understand the costs involved in creating access to records, and I tend not to grumble about paying my share. But I think that the benefits to Ireland would soon outweigh the costs. Not only do the descendants today have a passion to find their ancestors, they seem to have a strong need to stand on the land of their ancestors. And, after they stand on that land, they want to go into town and have a pint or two, and then bring home as many Irish goods as they can stuff into their suitcases!’s Alannah Ryane has extensive experience in media production, including interviewing for print, radio and television. Alannah was awarded a grant from genealogist and author Megan Smolenyak to assist in the production of the Family History Series “By Her Roots,” which Alannah produced for

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cromwell And His Irish "Friends"

Almost all genealogy researchers have a goal of discovering the immigrant ancestor especially the Irish! Where did they come from? Why did they choose this land? What did they do after they got here?
I realized, that to answer these questions, I needed to know more about the Quakers. The more I researched, the more ancestors I discovered to be of this religious persuasion. Their method of record keeping was a treasure trove of information. They diligently recorded births, marriages, deaths, and burials. The notes of their monthly meetings were a glimpse into their everyday lives.
Thomas Pim, my third great grandfather, was born in 1790, East Caln, Chester County, Pennsylvania, the first recorded birth in our family bible. He had 12 second great-grandparents, all members of the Religious Society of Friends, with eight of them married in America before 1715. These wonderful people came from England, Ireland, and Wales.
Immigrationof the Irish Quakers into Pennsylvania, 1682-1750: With Their 
EarlyHistory in Ireland,” by Albert Cook Myers, was filled with details about my ancestors. Two names that were often repeated in the book (published in 1902) were those of Oliver Cromwell and William Edmundson. Both men played important roles in the lives of my ancestors in Ireland.
Many of the soldiers in Cromwell’s New Model Army were given land in Ireland that was confiscated from native Irish as a reward for their service in Cromwell’s invading force. Some of my ninth great-grandfathers were among this group. Myers suggested that because of Cromwell’s actions there was greater opportunity for religious sects to develop, though clearly those thousands of Irish who suffered massacre and confiscation at the hands of the New Model Army would have a less benevolent view. William Edmundson, a veteran of Cromwell’s army, began to try to convince his former comrades about the goodness he found in the Religious Society of Friends.
Myers quotes John Grubb Richardson (1813-1890), a prominent and representative Irish Friend, who says of his family, "We were members of the Society of Friends, our forefathers having been convinced by the preaching of William Edmundson in 1660. All our ancestors came from the north of England in Cromwell's army, and received grants of land from him to settle in Ireland."
John Grubb Richardson is my fourth cousin five times removed. Our common ancestors are John Pim, Mary Pleadwell, Thomas Jackson and Dorothy Mason. They are John’s third great-grandparents and my eighth great grandparents.
John Pim (1641-1718) was converted by William Edmundson in Cavan. He followed Edmundson to Laois, moving from Mountmellick to Maryborough (Portlaoise), to Coolucant and then to Mountrath. Here he and his wife Mary raised eight of their 11 children, three having died young. In apparent acts of civil disobedience, John was imprisoned many times in the 1660s for non-payment of tithe to the government-established Church of Ireland. He had a successful butchery business with Richard Jackson. Mary tended their interests in John’s absences. The Quaker Pims in Ireland descend through this John Pim and Mary Pleadwell. Their descendants were merchants, selling glue, candles, blue, and soap. The Pims had a mill producing rapeseed oil at Lackagh.
Anthony Pim (c. 1774-1842) was a brewer. He was also involved in the importation of American and Baltic timber. In 1856, James Pim & Sons, Market Square, were grocers, wine merchants and woolen drapers, with a thriving woolen business in Dublin. There are Pims in Ireland today, many of them still associated with the Friends.
Another film at the LDS Family History Library gives detail of Richard Jackson, who migrated, from England, to Lurgan, County Armagh, in 1649. He married Margaret Keete, also from England, at Carrickfergus, County Antrim. In 1655, he moved to Cavan, and in 1659 moved to Mountmellick. He joined the Society of Friends in 1654 and was imprisoned for his beliefs in 1661. Their son, Robert Jackson, is often mentioned in "The Journal of William Edmundson". He sometimes accompanied William in his travels. According to Mountmellick Quaker records, Richard was a soldier in Cromwell’s army and came to Ireland in 1648. He became ‘convinced’ about 1654.
William Edmundson went to see Richard Jackson upon his deathbed and said of him, “He was convinced of God’s everlasting Truth about the year 1654, since which time he walked in the Truth, and with the Lord’s people, bearing his share of suffering as it came, whether spoil of goods or imprisonment of body, for the Testimony of the blessed Truth, which he had received of the Lord, and in which he believed. He was a serviceable man in the creation, and more especially in the Truth. ...” [Records of Mountmellick Meeting: "The seventh of ye second month, 1679.”]
Richard’s father, Anthony Jackson, served the English government in a number of capacities:

  • Admitted to the Inner Chamber 1616.
  • Became private secretary to George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, until the assassination of the Duke by John Felton in 1628.
  • Became a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber of Charles I.
  • Called to the Bar 1635.
  • Promised the place of Protho-Notary of the Court of Common Pleas at Oxford in 1646.

From The Great Ancestral Hunt
Because of his support of the Stuarts, he was arrested by Cromwell at Worcester and imprisoned in the Tower of London eight years, charged with treason. By that time, his property was gone and, being penniless, he was released. His sons, meanwhile, were granted manor estates of confiscated lands in Ireland for their support of Cromwell in 1648, and the family moved there in 1649.
Anthony was born about 1599 in England died about 1666 in Ireland. The name of his wife is unknown. He left three sons who continued his legacy -- John, Richard, and Anthony. It is even posited that Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the United States, is a descendant of Anthony.
In 1660, Richard Jackson, among other Friends, was fined 40 shillings and imprisoned for 14 weeks, for holding Quaker meetings.
My sixth great-grandmother, Dorothy Jackson, who married William Pim, in 1715, in Mountrath, is the granddaughter of Richard Jackson and Margaret Keete. William is the grandson of John Pim and Mary Pleadwell. William and Dorothy are my immigrant ancestors to America.
When a Quaker individual or family, moved from one location to another, it was necessary to have a certificate of removal to present at the new meeting. This document usually stated whether or not one was in good standing with the meeting and whether or not the individual was married.
As I researched at the Family History Library, reading through the old Quaker records on film, I found that many certificates of removal from Ireland to Pennsylvania were signed by Pims, Jacksons, and other names I had begun to recognize. 
For me, it was like reconnecting with old friends.
My life has been enriched by discovering ancestors who had high ideals for living, and regardless of consequences, lived up to those standards. They turned their hearts from war to seeking after Truth, as they called it, and made their corner of the world a better place.  

ABOUT THIS BLOGGER:   Susan Potts Kimura graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and a minor in history and was a genealogy researcher for a genealogy firm in Salt Lake City.   She is currently an elementary school aide working with slow readers.  We look forward to more articles from Susan on her Irish Quaker Ancestors!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Connecting the Past and Present: Chatting With Genealogist and Author Megan Smolenyak, Part 2 of 2

We continue and complete our interview with genealogist, author, producer and speaker Megan Smolenyak, wherein we discuss her work with Unclaimed Persons, finding the family of a World War I veteran from Ireland, and her latest book!
                -- Family History Producer Alannah Ryane

Alannah Ryane: I would think that one of the more rewarding hats you wear is your work with helping coroners and medical examiners locate the next of kin for Unclaimed Persons.  The number of volunteers you have enlisted to assist you with this is amazing and they have solved 251 cases. What got you started in this area and what was one of your more moving experiences with this group?

Megan Smolenyak:  It was a newspaper article about a specific coroner’s office in Pennsylvania that first alerted me to the very existence of this quiet epidemic maybe seven or so years ago. I started researching cases on my own for several counties, and then decided to make a video about a few of those cases – and that’s what triggered Unclaimed Persons. I was inundated with requests from other genealogists who wanted to help, so I started a very ad-hoc group that gradually grew and developed a structure. I no longer run the group (that’s done by the tireless Skip Murray and Janis Martin), but continue to cheerlead and “recruit” for it and solve cases. It’s hard to single out any one case. Some stand out because of the circumstances and others because of what it took to find the family, but I have to say that it’s especially rewarding when the family is grateful to have been notified. I couldn’t imagine what it’s like to be left wondering, but thanks to Unclaimed Persons, there are hundreds of families who no longer are. The one thing I would say is to call your brother – or whatever relative you have a bit of a feud with. Too many of these cases result from long-held grudges about trivial matters. Don’t let it happen to you.
Alannah: While working with the U.S. Army and their on-going repatriation efforts, you were asked to locate the next of kin of a World War I veteran who immigrated from County Galway in 1892, named Private Costello. How does the emotional aspect of stories like this affect you?

Photo Courtesy of Megan Smolenyak
Megan: Thomas Costello was one of my first WWI cases, and it hit close to home because my own grandfather – whose parents had come to America from Ireland – served in WWI.  You might have noticed that I have a soft spot for all things Irish, so when I realized he was an immigrant, I was determined to find his family.  As it happens, I had planned a vacation perhaps just 15 miles from where he was from in Tuam, County Galway, so I even tried visiting the local library!  It took a while, but I was eventually had the honor of attending his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.  And there was a lovely article by Tom Gilmore of The Tuam Herald that featured a photo of Private Costello’s relatives, including a youngster who attends the same school he did and is actually holding the soldier’s school records in the photo.  I happen to be an Army brat, so every case is meaningful to me, but this one was especially so. (Read more at the Huffington Post.)

View on Amazon
Alannah: Your new book, "Hey America, Your Roots Are Showing," is to be released in January 2012 and promises to reveal more secrets to your "Indiana Jones" style of sleuthing. In the book, you received thanks from Stephen Colbert as you assisted in his family history research for his segment on "Faces of America."  I have written before on that segment because I thought it was a such a wonderful moment, when he read the oath of allegiance his Irish Immigrant ancestor had to read after being starved out of his homeland. Can you please share one of your more moving and rewarding experiences while wearing any of your many hats . . . and perhaps some advice to everyone about researching their family tree?

Megan:  Yes, I was thrilled that Stephen, who’s about 94% Irish, was kind enough to provide a quote. I have to say that on a personal level, getting hugs and kisses from the Obamas and [Irish Prime Minister Enda and his wife, Fionnuala] Kennys earlier this year in Dublin was pretty darn special. I had no idea back in 2007 when I traced then-candidate Obama’s roots to the little village of Moneygall [County Offaly] that he would wind up going there as President to raise a pint in Ollie’s pub and meet his cousin, Henry Healy, who’s now fondly known as Henry VIII (since they’re eighth cousins). And of course, it’s always fun to see your handiwork make the news or be featured on TV.  But I think it’s probably the quiet stuff that matters most. Each soldier buried, each unclaimed person reclaimed, each cold case re-opened or solved, each orphan heirloom returned, each adoptee reunited with their birth family – you get the idea.  You don’t hear about these, but each one means a lot to a few.  As to advice, reach out to others.  Genealogy is ultimately about connecting across oceans and time, so don’t do it in a vacuum!  And whenever you hit a brick wall in your research, do everything you can possibly think of and then just leave it. Our ancestors want to be found as much as we want to find them, so they’ll often meet us half-way if we’re patient.

Alannah Ryane is's Media Manager and Family History Producer.  A native of Ontario, Canada, she has an extensive media background, including CBC-TV news production, conducting TV, radio and print interviews and promotion for independent and foreign-film distributors in Toronto.  Her passion for genealogy resulted in her series “By Her Roots” for 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

‘Connecting Across Oceans and Time’: Q&A With Celebrity Genealogist Megan Smolenyak

Photo Courtesy of Megan Smolenyak
Genealogist, Author, Producer and Speaker Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak (yes, that's her real name) wears many hats and has appeared on so many TV shows including Good Morning America, the Today Show, the Early Show, CNN, NPR and BBC. She has also written numerous books. So it was a real challenge for me to craft questions she may never have heard before.  My solution was to cover a few of her famous and not so famous genealogy branches, many of which were created out of her passion alone and a desire to share her expertise.

To say that I admire her is an understatement. Megan awarded me a grant (something she did for so many genealogists out of her own pocket) when I took on the very daunting task of producing, shooting, editing and financing my genealogy series By Her Roots on my Irish Ancestors for her very popular genealogy channel. Just to keep things interesting Megan's genealogy career has branched out to include her being a Cold Case Researcher for the Army, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and the FBI.

As former Chief Family Historian and spokesperson for, Megan has a bottomless bag of wisdom on how to move through the minefields of genealogical and historical research. Her expertise has put her into the world of Celebrity as a consultant on
"Who Do You Think You Are", "Faces of America", "African American Lives", The PBS series "Ancestors", "Timewatch" and "They Came To America".  We have all now read how she traced Obama's Irish Roots and found Michelle's Slave Ancestors!

I began this interview, with a question stemming from my own goose bumping late nights and attempts to solve the mystery of how I ended up experiencing life with this particular strand of DNA. DNA, I believe holds all the experiences of those who came before us.
Alannah Ryane, Family History Producer

ALANNAH: You and Dr. Ann Turner wrote the best selling book TraceYour Roots With DNA about genetic genealogy. You also helped Alex Haley's nephew discover their Scottish roots through DNA testing. Now The Genealogical Society of Ireland and Ireland 's Royal College of Surgeons have launched a new project to explore human genetic variation in the Irish population. What are your thoughts on this project and the path genetic genealogy has taken today?

MEGAN: I first got into DNA back around 1999 as a result of my work with the U.S. Army’s efforts to identify soldiers from past conflicts such as WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam .  Because of that, I was one of the first in line when DNA testing became available commercially, and as an early adapter, I launched one of the first ever geographic projects way back in 2001. At the time, folks wondered what the heck I was doing, and it was hard to defend back before many “got it.” So I’m delighted now to see projects such as the Irish DNA Atlas project. I’m bummed that I can’t participate since I’m only half Irish heritage-wise, but I expect to be one of the many around the globe who will ultimately benefit.  In terms of genetic genealogy in general, I continue to be greedy. Would just like more, more, more! More tests, more tools, more studies, more data, etc. Let’s hope more countries follow this Irish model.

ALANNAH: One of your longest and more famous investigations uncovered the true story of Annie Moore the teenager and first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island . Something about Annie's family tree didn't sit right with you and after a number of years the difference between the two identified Annies was revealed. What was it that made you suspicious and what can you tell the rest of us that have often fallen into the trap of accepting truths that steer us in the wrong direction?
Annie Moore & Brothers at Ellis Island
MEGAN: I actually only learned about the wrong Annie by accident. I was working on a PBS documentary on immigration to America . Being an Irish American, I knew of Annie and “pitched” her as a story, telling the producers I would track down her descendants for an interview. They agreed, so I set about finding them. It was easy to do because of all the articles about them. But one of the challenges with historical documentaries is finding appropriate visuals – not nearly as much as we have these days – so I told the producers I would snag Annie’s paper trail to use as illustrations. The first one I found said she was born in Illinois , but that didn’t worry me since such errors are common in old documents. But then I found another that said Illinois – and another. And that’s how it dawned on me that the wrong Annie had been permitted to slip into the cracks of history. Finding the real Annie was a needle in a haystack situation, so took about 4 years. What blew my mind is how many people had simply accepted the tale of the other Annie without so much as checking a census record. When it comes to family lore, there’s almost always a seed of truth, so those tales are always worth pursuing, but you have to be open enough to recognize other realities when they smack you upside the head! BTW, the Annie saga continues. I’ve been involved with excavating her story for 9 years now.

Here is a video we featured this week on our Family History Channel on YouTube because it was created by a teacher to instruct students on Ellis Island. The soundtrack by The Irish Tenors is the song the story of Annie Moore's entrance to America.

In Part 2 of this Interview Megan answers my questions on working with coroners and medical examiners to locate the next of kin for unclaimed persons, as well as the kin of a WWI Irish Immigrant from 1892 Co. Galway.

ALANNAH RYANE  is's Media Manager and Family History Producer.  A native of Ontario, Canada, she has an extensive media background, including CBC TV News Production, TV, radio and print interviews and conducted promotion for independent and foreign-film distributors in Toronto.  WG

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Pims - Ireland's First Irish Quakers

Irish Family History of the Pims:  1st Irish Quakers 
From England To Pennsylvania
By Susan Potts Kimura

Susan Potts Kimura read an article in on Tennis In Ireland by James Doherty. Her famous Waterford relative Tennis Player Joshua Pim (nicknamed The Ghost) was featured with a photo.  Susan had never seen a likeness of him and contacted us for a copy of it.  After sharing a little bit about her Pim Ancestors we asked her to be a guest blogger as this story about the first Irish Quakers piqued our interest!
Joshua Pim

Pim is such an uncommon Irish name.  I never knew anyone named Pim except my Grandma Mamie Pim Potts.   When Mamie moved from Breen, Colorado, to Parker, Arizona, she decided to lighten the load.  Dad would go downstairs and carry up boxes full of miscellaneous junk, at least that’s what Grandma said it was.  She told him to take it outside and burn it.  As he would bring the boxes up my mother would look through them.  She could not stand the thought of those boxes being burned without knowing the contents.  The two treasures to surface were an old family bible and a box of letters.  She set those aside and kept inspecting.

Much later, as we looked through the bible, we found some truly wonderful information.  The oldest birth recorded in the bible was that of “Thomas Fisher Pim born the 10th day of January in the year of our Lord A.D. 1790.”    We realized that every generation had a page for their family and had carefully recorded, births, marriages and deaths.  My grandmother’s generation was the last to have their births recorded.  When I grew up and Dad gave the bible to me, I recorded the death dates across from their names.  Grandmother told Dad that she knew the family had once been Quakers and came to Pennsylvania from Ireland, but she didn’t know when or where.  That was for us to discover, and we did!

The Pim family bible spurred my interest in doing research and learning about these people who could read and write in the 17 and 1800s when the most of the rest of the English speaking world couldn't.  The box of letters I mentioned are letters written to my  2nd great grandfather, Thomas Fisher Pim, from his family in Missouri.  The 30-40 letters begin in 1855 and the last one was written in 1892.

I learned that  William Edmundson, a former Cromwellian soldier, was the first Quaker in Ireland and, with five other Quakers, Richard Jackson, John Edmundson, John Thompson, William Moon and John Pim, settled in Mountmellick in 1659. The early Quakers seemed to have been young when they arrived. John Pim was only 18 when he settled in Laois. Richard Jackson was born about 1643 and died in 1697, at the age of fifty four, so he was sixteen upon his arrival in the area.  They were all recent converts to Quakerism. As a result, they were people of strong religious fervor. They came with Edmundson to Laois and Offaly to oppose the payment of tithes. Many of them had not been Quakers when they arrived in Ireland but had been 'convinced' personally by William [The Quakers of Mountmellick].   Richard Jackson and John Pim are my 8th great grandfathers.  My other Irish grandparents include William & Ann Makin Pleadwell,  Christopher Raper and Philippa Worswell, to name a few.

The name “Pim”  makes it easy to do family history research, and we already had our pedigree back to 1790.  It was now a matter of going to the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City and reading the books and films we found there.  That was an easy thing to accomplish as we live in the Salt Lake Valley.  When I asked a librarian at the research desk how to get started, she handed me a three-ring binder a staff member had compiled that explained Quaker research, terms, meetings, and their manner of writing dates.  I noticed that an early Quaker genealogist, Gilbert Cope, compiled files on the families in Pennsylvania.  His records explained the Pims coming to America and traced generation after generation, beginning in 1655 and coming down through generations of individuals, many names I recognized, other names I would come to know.  Every record he included I was able to verify through other sources at the FHL. His records included Richard Pim, an ancestor who moved from England to Ireland, and generations of Pims after him until 1730 when the first Pims in my family came to America.   This is one of my favorite entries:
 FHL Immigration of the Irish Quakers Into Pennsylvania, 1682-1750  p.372:   
"Richard Pim, of Leicestershire, England, in his old age, about 1655, removed to Ireland." p.374  ..."and in the year 1655 Godfrey Cantrell and family came into Ireland and Richard Pim, then very old, came with him and some time after he died at Godfrey Cantrell's house, near Rosenallis (in the Queen's County), and was buried in the church at Rosenallis."

In less than twenty words I knew the name of the end of line ancestor and his residence in  England!  I would learn that Godfrey Cantrell was his son-in-law, married to daughter Mary.  This has only been the beginning for me, Quaker research has kept me enthralled for over 15 years and I get excited each time I discover new information about each generation, like the Civil War doctor, the Wimbledon champion, or the first Quaker woman business person.

ABOUT THIS BLOGGER:   Susan Potts Kimura graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and a minor in history and was a genealogy researcher for a genealogy firm in Salt Lake City.   She is currently an elementary school aide working with slow readers.  We look forward to more articles from Susan on her Irish Quaker Ancestors!