history-genealogy site

This is a site where I will discuss my family genealogy research and related history. When a blog deals with a particular family group, I will try to include it in the title so uninterested people can skip it without skimming it. It is my hope to get feedback on research methods, family members and historical context from other historians, genealogists, and researchers. (c) Barbara L. de Mare 2006, 2007

Location: Englewood, New Jersey, United States

Thursday, July 17, 2008



All I ever knew about my paternal grandfather’s childhood was that he was born in County Tyrone, North Ireland, and immigrated to our shores as a teenager before Ellis Island was open. I thought he might be from Stewartstown. I had also been told that his father’s name was Richard and his mother’s Eliza Jane. I had early childhood memories of at least 2 brothers, Uncle Billy and Uncle Jack, and remembered that Uncle Billy had one child, my Cousin May. Aside from my grandfather who had 6 children, none of his other siblings left heirs. There were an unknown number of sisters; one story I heard was that they died young of cancer. I also heard that the mother returned to Ireland. Not much too go on!

To begin my quest into my Irish routes, I joined the Ulster Historical Society and purchased various how-to books on researching the North Irish. The Ulster website permitted various name checks, but no Ferrys turned up. After a year or two, I decided to hire a researcher through the Society, and buy a 5 year membership. I provided my limited information as set forth above, authorized the expenditure of 250 lbs sterling without further contacting me, and made a preliminary payment of 70 lbs.

Another couple of years passed with me making quarterly inquiries into the status of my report. Then my Aunt Jay died, the last survivor of her generation and my grandfather’s eldest child. Aunt Jay had always been interested in the family history and may have belonged to the DAR as did her mother. Consequently Aunt Jay had a fair amount of genealogical material. Her two sons gave these materials to me for safekeeping.

In the process of sorting through Aunt Jay’s papers, additional information came to light. It seems that my great-great- grandparents had come to this country before the Civil War with several small children, one of whom was my great-grandmother Eliza Jane Smith. The scraps of paper in the box given me by my cousins, mostly miscellaneous notes in Aunt Jay’s distinctive handwriting, indicated that this Eliza grew up in New York, and married and had a child. The husband and child died shortly after the marriage, and Eliza Jane returned to Ireland where she found and married Richard Ferry. After giving birth to half a dozen kids, she and her second husband returned to New York with their brood, where an unknown number of her siblings had remained.

By this time ancestry.com had procured databases with many more ships’ manifests than had previously been the case. First I search unsuccessfully for James Ferry, Richard Ferry, and the other brothers. No hits. I then tried just the surname, and up popped Mrs. E. Ferry. Following this lead, I discovered the entire family on the “State of Georgia” which had sailed from Glasgow, Scotland and Larnem, Ireland, arriving in New York on 23 May 1889 (National Archives, Washington, DC, micropublication M237, Roll 533, List No. 651, lines 25-32). This explained the theory I had heard set forth by Aunt Jay that Grandpa may have landed in Georgia. Georgia was the name of the ship, not the port of debarkation!

The names of the Ferry family on the “State of Georgia manifest matched what I knew of my grandfather’s family except that all ages appeared to be off by 2 years. I did not consider this unusual for the times. As my grandfather was born December 6, 1879, he was 9 years old upon debarkation in New York. According to the manifest he was 11. This would make it easier for him to get a job. I simply subtracted 2 years from the ages of all family members when entering them in my database.

Now that I knew the age of my great-grandmother, and that she had previously resided in the United States, I did another search for her under her maiden name, which I knew to be Smith. Fortune smiled upon me once again. I found a Smith family with children named similarly to those of my grandfather’s siblings. The mother and one daughter were both named Eliza Jane, with the daughter’s age matching that of the mother on The State of Georgia as I had adjusted said age. This Smith Family sailed on the Star of the West, which ship arrived in New York on 1 May 1863 from Liverpool ((National Archives, Washington, DC, micropublication M237, Rolls95-580, Manifest of “Star of the West,” filed District of New York, Port of New York, p. 6, lines 20-28).

By this time about three years had passed since I order and pre-paid for a search in North Ireland. As nothing whatsoever had been forthcoming, I wrote again with the additional information I had discovered on my home, hoping it might simplify and speed up the search. I hoped in vain; I got a return e-mail stating that the researcher had already discovered all this information. My five year membership expired, and I still had no report. Now I wrote monthly, each month being promised the report the next month. Like Annie sang about “tomorrow,” next month was not forthcoming. Another year passed, during which I did not renew my membership. I did, however, become increasingly pushy about wanting my report for which I had paid. Wasn’t six years long enough for the researcher?




Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh! Don't leave me hanging!

10:40 PM  
Blogger his gene, esq. said...

OK--I will get to it soon. It is nice to know someone reads this and wants to see the continuation. I have put my report away, but will get it out again and finish this saga. Barbara

7:18 PM  

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