Can you decipher this name?

One of our readers has been dealing with a mystery, and you may be able to help. Continue reading Can you decipher this name?

How the Irish saved the Union at Gettysburg

Pickett’s Charge, a new book by Dr. Phillip Thomas Tucker, might also be titled “How the Irish won the war for America at Gettysburg and fought fellow Irish to do it.” Continue reading How the Irish saved the Union at Gettysburg

Step-by-step wizard

We’re still in South Dakota, and this will be my first blog posted solely via my phone. Continue reading Step-by-step wizard

Second cousins discovered after 70+ years

Tomorrow is opening day of the South Dakota pheasant-hunting season so we’re here in my hometown for a few days. This morning – over a leisurely cup of coffee – we watched a heartwarming TV segment on the CBS morning news program. Continue reading Second cousins discovered after 70+ years

The Irish Way of Death

The University of St Thomas shared the following news release about a free program, ‘The Irish Way of Death’, to be presented on November 12 by the university’s Center for Irish Studies.

St. Paul, Minn. — The Center for Irish Studies at the University of St. Thomas will present a program on “The Irish Way of Death” from 1 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, in South Woulfe Alumni Hall in Anderson Student Center on the university’s St. Paul campus.

The program, free and open to the public, features:
* folklorist Ray Cashman speaking on contemporary Irish funeral customs in rural Ireland;
* performances of “The Music of Mourning” by traditional singer Erin Hart and accordionist Paddy O’Brien;
* a session on death and dying in Irish literature, presented by student researchers from St. Thomas;
* and a documentary film about Ireland’s Glasnevin Cemetery.

Cashman, the keynote speaker, is an associate professor of folklore and ethnography, with a specialty in Irish folklore, at Indiana University. His most recent book is Packy Jim: Folklore and Worldview on the Irish Border, published this year by the University of Wisconsin Press. His many articles include “Dying the Good Death: Wake and Funeral Customs in County Tyrone” in New Hibernia Review in 2016.

Hart and O’Brien are mainstays of the traditional Irish music scene in the Twin Cities.

Hart is an accomplished unaccompanied singer, as well as the author of a series of novels set in Ireland and featuring pathologist Nora Gavin and archaeologist Cormac Maguire, who are engaged in the recovery of artifacts and human remains from Irish boglands. The first novel, Haunted Ground (2003), won numerous awards, including the Friends of American Writers award and Romantic Times’ Best First Mystery.

Paddy O’Brien is a native of County Offaly in Ireland. He is the creator of the Paddy O’Brien Tune Collection: A Personal Treasury of Irish Traditional Music, and author of a 2012 memoir, The Road From Castlebarnagh: Growing Up in Irish Music.

The St. Thomas upper-division student presenters are enrolled in the theology class “Death and the Afterlife” taught by Dr. Anne King.

The program will conclude with a 4 p.m. showing of the 2014 documentary “One Million Dubliners.” The 75-minute documentary features Glasnevin Cemetery, the largest multidenominational graveyard in Ireland. Glasnevin protects the remains of some 1.5 million persons.

For more information, please contact Jim Rogers, director of the Center for Irish Studies, (651) 962-5662, or

Ireland’s most famous castles

Planning a trip to Ireland? Love castles? Continue reading Ireland’s most famous castles

DNA will tell

I heard an intriguing story the other day about DNA test results. I’m enjoying a long weekend in Chicago, but the story remains on my mind.

A friend submitted a DNA test kit for her 80-year-old-plus father. When potential matches began to appear, she was puzzled. This was not the family she expected to find. The man her dad called his father – was not. Closer scrutiny of available records suggests her grandfather was actually a neighbor of the family. Thinking the news would be too upsetting for her aged father and her siblings, she’s decided to keep it to herself.

I found similar stories online:

1) Earlier this year Jason Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, discovered he was the son of Sir Winston Churchill’s last private secretary. Read Welby’s story.

2) DNA testing surprises were submitted by members of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy.

DNA can’t lie or mislead. Be prepared for surprises.

New TIGS headstone database

The Troy Irish Genealogy Society (TIGS) works tirelessly at transcribing records. Their latest accomplishment: a database of over 1000 Civil War and Spanish-American War veterans buried in Albany County (NY) cemeteries. Continue reading New TIGS headstone database

Finding and visiting ancestors’ graves

Have you spent hours walking around cemeteries to locate a particular headstone? There may be an easier way. Continue reading Finding and visiting ancestors’ graves

Newspaper stories from the 1830s

Researching old newspapers is fascinating, and the snippets one finds can send you on time-consuming side-trips. Continue reading Newspaper stories from the 1830s