Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking Across the Pond

Finding my Ancestors from County Down Ireland

This is a follow up to Chapter 17 (Looking across the Pond, Nolan(d) and Magennis (var.) families of County Down) written by me in the 2014 published  book (ISBN 9780993918803) Irish Roots in County Down, Stories of Family & Place, edited by Stanley R. Megraw. In that book I write about my struggle    doing research on my father’s mother’s side of the family. My grandmother,  Sarah J Steele (Sadie Vaundell) was born on 6 April 1893 in Clinton, Worcester Co., Massachusetts , to Alexander Steele, born in Scotland, and Sarah Noland, born in Ireland, both residing in Worcester.[1]
Later when I found the Massachusetts marriage record for my great grandparents, [2] I was surprised to find that Sarah (Sadie’s) mother was born in Ireland. See growing up I only remember hearing about the Scottish roots, but nothing about the Irish and do not remember them celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. After doing more research especially when I went to the Family History Library in 2013 I understand why. I was able to confirm Sarah Noland and her family were from County Down, Northern Ireland. While at the library doing research on my ancestors I was talking to someone and stating how I had just confirmed that I had Irish ancestors and when I told him they were from County Down he said in  a voice which was very condemning “THAT IS NORTHERN IRELAND.” To me it was a good thing to be Irish and he was making me feel like it was a bad thing.
At the end of Chapter 17, I presented some questions to further my research on this side of the family, one of the assumptions I had made is that Sarah Noland had come to America without any of her family leaving them all behind in Ireland and Scotland.   My thinking was that since Sarah (Nolan) Steele[3] had died young when my grandmother Sarah (Sadie) Steele was only fourteen years old and if my grandmother was only surrounded by the her father’s family (the Steele’s)  which I knew had immigrated and settled in North Grafton where I grew up, she would most likely only heard stories about life in Scotland.  I couldn’t have been further from the truth and so close at the same time, but more on that in my next post.

[1] NEGHS, “Massachusetts Vital records, 1842-1910,” Worcester Births, 1893.
[2] Town Clerk’s Office, Grafton, MA; Marriage Records, Book 15,  p.174, item 50.
[3] Town Clerk’s Office, Grafton, Ma; Death Records, Book19, p. 240, item 76