I know little, and really next to nothing, about my great-great grandfather Denis Cronin. Everything I know about him is via sideways genealogy, such as birth and death records for his children, which list him as their father. I know his son and my great-grandfather, Timothy Cronin, was born in County Cork in 1879 and came to the United States as a child. I know Timothy was the youngest of the nine children of Denis Cronin and Nora/Hanora/Hanoria/Norry Dono(g)hue (on all her American records, she's Nora). I know that Nora and all her children ended up in New York by the year 1900, with no sign of Denis. I always assumed he had died over in Ireland prior to their immigration, but I have nothing to back that up. I know Denis had a sister, Julia, who married John Cullinane, and they and their children ended up in Westchester County, and their granddaughter, Nora Cullinane, was the maid of honor at my grandmother (and her second cousin) Mary Cronin's wedding.
So what does that tell me about Denis? Absolutely nothing. I don't know when or where he was born. I don't know when or where he died. I know very little about his life in between. He is a ghost. We all have those ghost ancestors, the ones who are impossible to find. They're the ancestors that drive me to drink...they're also the ancestors that drive me to keep digging.
Irishgenealogy.ie recently released civil and church records that has shed a bit more light on Denis. According to the birth records of my great-grandfather and his siblings, Denis was a farmer at times and at other times, a laborer. He lived in various locales in the same vicinity of County Cork, including Curraraigue, Dromtariffe, Crinaloo and Knockatuder...although he may have been born in County Kerry. I am unable to find a death record for him yet. I'm in the midst of trying to cross-reference possible parents for Denis, his sister Julia and a possible brother Timothy to see if I can come up with parents who match all three, but that's a project for a day when I'm not running after a 3 1/2 year old and a 9 month old. But thanks to the Irish Genealogy website records, I found an intriguing addition to the few and far between facts I know about Denis - according to my great-grandfather's birth record, Denis' residence in 1879 was London.
I have never heard anything at all about any of my Irish Catholic ancestors living or working anywhere but Ireland and New York. So why was Denis in London? Was he living there to support the family? Why London, when the rest of the family left Ireland for America? What did he do there? Did he ever return to Ireland? Did he die there? I always assumed he died in Ireland before the whole Cronin clan up and left for America, but maybe he was in England instead? Since a Julia Cronin was the birth informant and Denis' residence is listed as London, I assume that means he wasn't around for my great-grandfather's birth. Did he know his wife was pregnant? How long into her pregnancy did he leave? Did he even ever get to meet his youngest son, my great-grandfather?
As you can see, this one little word, this one little teasing nugget of new information has given me no answers, not really...just a million more questions.
I'm not quite resigned yet to the fact that I might never know what actually happened to my great-great grandfather. I've started looking into some English records to see if he turns up in any of those. Maybe I'll have some luck answering even one of my questions.
My grandmother was my genealogy mentor...Grandma, wherever you are...this is your grandfather I'm looking for!! Give me some heavenly inspiration on what to do next!
Have you used these records yet? Have you had any luck discovering new family members or new information about known ancestors? Have you come across any new and strange puzzle pieces such as my London tidbit? Despite my frustrations, my excitement at these records still wins the day - if you haven't checked them out yet, go now, go! :)