Tag Archives: Irish History

Shaving Begins for 5th Adirondack Donegal Beard Contest

Participants in the 2013 Adirondack Donegal Beard Contest are shaving their facial hair in preparation for growing their Donegal Beards for this year’s contest to grow the best Irish beard. New beardsman are welcome to take part in the event, which will be held in North Creek on St. Patrick’s Day and is free and open to the public. Continue reading

Irish American Museum Presents Erie Canal Exhibit

The Irish American Heritage Museum presents its newest exhibit “The Irish and the Erie Canal” at its new galleries at 370 Broadway in Albany. The new exhibit, wholly developed by its staff and volunteers, is open to the public from Wednesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon to 4 p.m.

“In keeping with our mission of education, ‘The Irish and the Erie Canal’ reveals the historical contributions of the Irish to the planning, designing, engineering, funding and construction of the famed achievement that transformed early America, and in particular New York City, into a world economic power, linking the Great Lakes and the interior of the young nation to the Atlantic Ocean,” stated Ed Collins, Chair of the Museum’s Board Of Trustees.

“Our exhibit expands the common perception that the Irish were limited to only the actual construction of the canal,” Mr. Collins further stated. “The Irish were involved from start to finish, from originally proposing the concept a hundred years before a shovel was even put into the ground, to the routing, to its design, to securing support from elected officials, to the elected officials themselves, to its construction and finally to its navigation and transportation services once it opened.”

“The Irish and the Erie Canal” was researched, written and composed by James Zibro, a Cohoes, NY, resident of Irish descent who is completing his PhD at Catholic University in Washington D.C. after earning Masters degrees in both American History and Irish Studies at the same university and a dual Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree at Union College, Schenectady, NY. Museum Director Krisy O’Connor produced the exhibit and Museum volunteer Adele O’Connell served as the exhibit’s editor.

The suggested donations for admission are: $3 adults, $2 seniors and free for children 14 years of age and younger. Museum Memberships are also available upon entry. Donations and memberships help fund the Museum’s educational programs.

The Museum is unique in the United States, where almost 40 million people claim Irish ancestry. The Museum is committed to the tenet that preserving one’s heritage is vital to providing a cultural and historical foundation to future generations of Americans.

The Irish American Heritage Museum was created by New York State Legislation in 1986 and permanently chartered by the New York State Education Department in 1992 as a 501c3 non-profit educational institution. The Museum’s mission is to preserve and tell the story of the contributions of the Irish people and their culture in America, inspiring individuals to examine the importance of their own heritage as part of the American cultural mosaic.

Irish History: Eamon De Valera in America

A new book by Irish journalist and commentator Dave Hannigan, De Valera in America: The Rebel President and the Making of Irish Independence, illuminates an interesting period in New York Irish history when de Valera, born in New York City in 1882, made an important return trip to convince Americans to recognize the newly proclaimed Irish Republic.

Eamon de Valera is one of the most famous characters in Irish history. He commanded troops during the 1916 Easter Rising, co-authored the Irish constitution, and in 1926 founded Fianna Fail, which continues to be the largest political party in Ireland today. De Valera was head of the Irish government from 1932–48, 1951–54 and 1957–59 and President of Ireland from 1959–73.

In June 1919, he arrived at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel pronouncing himself the &#8220President of Ireland.&#8221 He was on a mission to convince the United States to recognize Ireland as an independent nation, and also to fund the independence movement, which would be a clear affront to Britain. De Valera went on to give speeches in some of America’s largest venues, including Madison Square Garden and Fenway Park, where he drew crowds of 60,000 people. Over the course of that year, he accumulated fame and scandal, but more importantly, he gained essential financial support for the fledgling Irish Republic.

For the first time, a book follows de Valera on his controversial trip across America, exploring his personal and political relationships, and the costs and benefits of his perilous crusade. From newspaper headlines to cloak and dagger antics, Hannigan delivers a truly unique slice of Irish Americana, bringing to life this pivotal moment in history.

Dave Hannigan is a columnist at The Sunday Tribune in Dublin, the Evening Echo (Cork) and The Irish Echo. A former Irish young journalist of the year, he is also an adjunct professor of history at Suffolk County Community College on Long Island. He lives in Rocky Point, New York.

New Troy Genealogy Database Goes Online

The Troy New York Daily Whig for the years 1834 to 1838 is the sixth set of newspapers recently added to the Troy Irish Genealogy Website. There are 821 reported deaths and 1,749 names on the reported marriages during this period. These records will be of great interest to genealogy researchers since the information in this data base predates the 1880 New York State law requiring the reporting of death and marriage records.

You can view these records by going to the Troy Irish Genealogy website (click on PROJECTS then THE TROY NEWSPAPER PROJECT). These records, like most of the TIGS data series, cover the general population in the area and are NOT restricted to Irish surnames.

While 492 of the marriage records showed no indication of residence, those records where the residence was reported are of interest as they show numerous cities and towns throughout New York State as well as other states and even foreign countries.

At the time of the 1840 census, Troy was the fourth wealthiest city in the USA on a per capita basis. This may account for the numerous individuals from across the United States coming to Troy to be married.

Two other transcription projects are currently being completed by the Troy Irish Genealogy Society. Over 28,000 death and marriage records reported in 40 years of the Troy Daily Whig for the years 1839 to 1878 will be added to the TIGS website in the next few months along with over 4,000 records of interment in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Troy.

Irish Heritage Museum Moving to Albany

The Irish American Heritage Museum has announced that it is moving into a new home at 370 Broadway in downtown Albany, NY. The Museum is completely modernizing the ground floor of the historic 19th century Meginniss Building in what has been a gutted century-old space to transform it into a state-of-the art, year-round exhibit and educational facility that also will house its O’Dwyer Research Library.

“In celebration of our 25th year of meeting our educational goals and the vision of our late founding Chair of the Board of Trustees Joseph J. Dolan, Jr., the Museum is moving into a new year-round, multi-faceted and expansive exhibit facility that will allow us to host large numbers of visitors as well as school and public groups for exhibit viewing, lectures, and other presentations throughout the year,” stated Edward Collins, Chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. “Further, our new Museum facility will be more accessible to the general public and provide downtown Albany with new vitality.”

Collins said of the Museum’s decision to move into downtown Albany from its part-time, summer seasonal exhibit facility in East Durham, Greene County: “The Irish have played such a central role in the history of this great city and region, from literally building Albany – and surrounding cities, villages and towns – from the earth up to protecting these areas and their people, to leading the people in every aspect of life in Albany and the surrounding region. Name a profession, occupation, leadership position or community service, and the Irish have had a central role in Albany’s life and the lives of those throughout the great northeast. The Museum’s Trustees, especially the late Joe Dolan, value greatly this rich legacy and seek to pass it forward to new generations of New Yorkers and Americans.”

The Museum expects to formally open its new, renovated facility at 370 Broadway, Albany, in September. It will move from The Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural and Sports Centre in East Durham, Greene County, which owns the summer seasonal exhibit facility previously leased by the Museum on Rt. 145 in that hamlet- the Quill Center will assume residency in that facility. The Museum will continue to partner with the Quill Center through loans of its exhibits to the Quill Center.

Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings joined in lauding the Irish American Heritage Museum’s move to the city. In a statement, Mayor Jennings said, “This museum is an important part of our community, inspiring countless residents and visitors to discover the story and may contributions of the Irish people and their culture in America, and even learn a bit about their own heritage along the way.”

Museum to Launch New Fundraising Campaign

The Museum will be launching a new fundraising campaign to help it sustain its mission and to provide future Capital Region generations a sense of the importance of their own heritage compass – whatever their heritage legacy might be – to help guide them in their lives. “In an age when we are all connected to each other through the internet, cell phones and so many other electronic devices, we would serve younger generations well by helping them stay connected to their heritage,” Collins explained. “The Museum is committed to the basic tenet that preserving one’s heritage is vital to providing a cultural and historical foundation to future generations of Americans. To paraphrase the Pulitzer Prize winning historian David McCullough, ‘Our heritage is who we are, and why we are who we are.’“

Olana to Host Irish History Themed Tours

Events such as the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s and 1850s led to a major influx of Irish immigrants to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. Like many other families in this area, the Churches hired numerous Irish immigrants for their staff at Olana during the years Frederic Church lived on this property (1860-1900).

Two of the longest-serving employees were the Churches’ coachman and head cook, Michael and Jane McKenna – a brother and sister – both of whom were employed here for over a quarter-century. Olana will present special Irish-themed tours Friday-Sunday, March 11-13 & 18-20, at 10 and 11AM, 12, 1, 2 & 3PM.


Photo: Frederic Church’s coachman Michael McKenna is shown here with one of the Church’s horses. Collection Olana State Historic Site, NYS OPRHP.

Rensselaer County Surrogate Records Index Goes Online

An index of 31,325 Rensselaer County Surrogate Court Records from 1786 to 1917 has now been added to the Troy Irish Genealogy (TIGS) website. These records, especially those prior to 1880 will be of great interest to genealogy researchers. The information in this data base was copied from a file in the Rensselaer County Historical Society, 57 Second Street, Troy, New York.

To view these records go to the Troy Irish Genealogy website and click on PROJECTS and then click on RENSSELAER COUNTY SURROGATE COURT INDEX. These records, like most of the TIGS data series, cover the general population in the area and are NOT restricted to Irish surnames.

For each name in the on-line index there is a Surrogate Court Record folder that may contain various original source documents such as Wills, Letters of Administration, Guardianship Papers, Invoice of Property, Depositions Concerning a Person’s Death, etc. The on-line index shows the following information for each record which may help you identify those records that will be of interest to you:

1. NAME &#8211 Last, first, middle name or initials if any, and titles like Dr., Rev., etc.

2. FILE NUMBER &#8211 Used to locate the files at the Rensselaer County Historical Society.

3. LOCATION &#8211 Gives name of city, town or state of residence.

4. DATE &#8211 May be year of death or year of legal issue.

5. INV. &#8211 Indicates when there is an inventory of household goods in the record. An invoice may be in the records EVEN if this column is not checked.

6. COMMENTS &#8211 This column will have an interesting comment for each name. Some comments may show marital status (bachelor, spinster, widow, widower), while other comments may show maiden names, occupations, name of street residence, relationships (wife, husband, mother, father, son daughter, etc.) and number of children.

Copies of any original source documents that are contained in the file folder for each name can be requested from the Rensselaer County Historical Society. The TIGS website has a PRINTABLE FORM that can be used when requesting copies from RCHS. For each request there is a $5.00 fee which will cover RCHS’s cost of locating and pulling a singular file folder from the archives. After the file folder is located, RCHS will contact the requester about the contents of the file to see which documents they want copied at a cost of .25 cents per page plus postage for mailing.

Walking Tour Explores the Mafia in America

A new walking tour examines the roots of the Mafia in America including the often overlooked early lives of such criminal heavyweights as Charles &#8220Lucky&#8221 Luciano, Al &#8220Scarface&#8221 Capone, Giuseppe Morello, Joe &#8220The Boss&#8221 Masseria, Meyer Lansky, &#8220Bugsy&#8221 Siegel, and more.

The weekly walking tour with guide Eric Ferrara is hosted by the Lower East Side History Project and runs every Saturday and Thursday at 2:00 pm, through March 2011. The cost is $20 per person.

The tour details the Sicilian and Italian immigrant experience and conditions which led to organized gangsterism in America. From the arrival of Sicilian Black Handers and Neapolitan Camorra to New York in the 1890s, to the forming of the Mafia Commission in 1931, tour participants visit the early homes, headquarters, hangouts and assassination locations of some of the most powerful criminals in American history, and explore the wars which shaped the future of organized crime.

Sites visits include &#8220Black Hand Block,&#8221 headquarters of the &#8220first family&#8221 of the American Mafia- the headquarters of Paul Kelly’s notorious Five Points Gang, the gang responsible for breeding the likes of Al Capone, Johnny Torrio, &#8220Lucky&#8221 Luciano, and hundreds more- the home of prohibition era’s &#8220Boss of Bosses-&#8221 and the childhood homes and teenage haunts of &#8220Lucky&#8221 Luciano, &#8220Bugsy&#8221 Siegel and Meyer Lansky.

Ferrara deciphers the myths and realities of the Mafia in Hollywood, including Boardwalk Empire and The Godfather series. Ferrara is a published author, educator, and founder of the Lower East Side History Project and the first museum in America dedicated to gangsterism. He is a fourth generation native New Yorker with Sicilian roots in Little Italy dating back to the 1880s, and has assisted several movie, tv, and media projects world wide, including HBO, SyFy, History Channel and National Geographic.

Ferrara says that he has consulted the families and estates of crime figures discussed on the tour, as well as law enforcement agents, collectors, authors and historians to provide unique first-hand accounts, images and documents in over five years of research.

For more information visit the Lower East Side History Project online.

Donegal Beard Contest Participants Sought

It’s that time of year again, when men with whiskers shave-down in anticipation of growing their Donegal for this year’s Adirondack Donegal Beard Contest. New beardsmen are welcome to take part in the event, which is free and open to the public.

A Donegal Beard (also called a chin-curtain or Lincoln) is a particular style of Irish hirsute appendage (facial hair) that grows along the jaw line and covers the chin — no soul patch, no mustache. This year marks the contest’s third year.

In order to take part in the contest (and all are welcome) contestants must be clean shaven January 1st and grow a Donegal Beard by St. Patrick’s Day. On the day of the contest, held at Basil and Wicks on Route 28 in North Creek, 4 to 7 pm — all beards must conform to the Donegal standard.

Contestants are judged on length, fullness, style and sophistication.

To see pictures from last year’s contest, and to join the Facebook group, go here.

Photo: 2009 Adirondack Donegal Beard Contestants.

Troy Newspaper Transcriptions Now Online

In 1935, the Philip Schuyler Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), located in Troy, New York, documented the death and marriage records that were printed in various Troy newspapers during the years 1812 to 1885. This project, which was funded by the Works Progress Administration (renamed during 1939 as the Work Projects Administration- WPA), was the largest New Deal agency employing millions to carry out public works projects.

The Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy, New York provided the Troy Irish Genealogy Society (TIGS) access to their copies of these extensive records to develop this searchable online database. These records will be of great interest to genealogy researchers since much of the information in this collection predates the 1880 New York State law requiring the reporting of death and marriage records.

Newspaper records transcribed so far include the Troy Post (1812-1823), the Troy Weekly Whig (1834-1839), the Troy Daily Press (1833-1834), and the Troy Sentinel (1823-1832). Volunteers are currently transcribing the Troy Daily Whig covering the years 1834 to 1873. To volunteer on this project send an email to seamus@nycap.rr.com.

You can view all these records by going to the Troy Irish Genealogy website. Click on PROJECTS and then TROY NEWSPAPER PROJECT. It should be noted that these records, like most of the TIGS data series, cover the general population in the area and are NOT restricted to Irish surnames.