E explores Edinburgh and Ennis

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which).

E is for Edinburgh, Scotland

Sunset lights up Calton Hill. © P Cass 2010

This is a city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas.  A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again.” Alexander McCall Smith, 2006

This quote was written on the side of an inner-city building when we visited Edinburgh again in 2010 and I imagine that Edinburgh is one of the places many people would have on their bucket list. I’m not entirely sure that I feel completely at home there…it is beautiful, or perhaps imposing, but the greyness of the buildings is always something of a shock coming from a sunny country full of blue skies.

Still I love walking on the streets and hearing the skirl of the pipes, even if it is rather touristy. I’d be more than happy to have the opportunity to live in Edinburgh for a while….imagine being able to sit in the archives as often as you like, or to see those days where the skies are a beautiful blue!

Despite having visited a few times over 40 years, I’ve rarely played the tourist. My time has invariably been occupied in the various family-history-related repositories. Thanks to the wonderful online access provided by ScotlandsPeople (SP), my most recent visit “freed” me a little to have a look around. I think I should have shares in SP as it’s by far cheaper to obtain digital copies of original records so that a real visit can be so much richer (hmm perhaps richer is not what I mean!). On my last visit I spent happy hours in West Register House (now closed) where the staff were wonderfully helpful and I could trawl kirk session records to my heart’s content…I’m looking forward to them becoming available online.

I loved the words on this memorial to a recent mariner who lost his life at sea. The words are the essence of what we aim for as family historians. Click on the photo to read the words.

Apart from the joys of archives, I have another reason for visiting Edinburgh. My ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, and his ancestors before him, lived in Leith which is Edinburgh’s port. Once, not all that long ago, it was a bit rough, ready and run-down but these days gentrification has come calling. There are expensive apartments being built near the Water of Leith, two Michelin-starred restaurants, and historical monuments including one honouring Australia’s, and Leith’s, Governor John Hunter. What remains constant in my visits are the grey skies. Only once or twice have I seen glimpses of blue skies, even though there’s evidence on the internet that such days exist…I’m sure they can’t all be photo-shopped. I love having a link to this earthy port with its tough maritime industry to which my family contributed for a very long time. Many of my ancestral family members are buried in the South Leith churchyard but of course, not being wealthy, I’ve found no gravestones. How coincidental that having just logged into my family history program, I’ve discovered today is the 158th anniversary of the birthday of my Leith-born ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin.

Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.

This was one of those rare sunny days between the grey so we went to the Botanic Gardens instead of Leith …what was I thinking to not put family history first!

One of the luxuries of our last visit was visiting the Impressionist Gardensexhibition which was wonderful. The Botanic Gardens had a related theme with certain areas of the Gardens highlighting aspects of some of the paintings. We really loved it and had a great time wandering for hours. Actually this was a beautiful “blue sky” day so perhaps we should have prioritised Leith instead of just having fun.One evening we took a trek to the outskirts of Edinburgh to hear a great traditional band, Fiddlers Bid, from the Shetlands. The music was fantastic, but some of the commentary was lost to us in the broad accents.

We also wandered around the old town looking for where another ancestor had lived and saw this sign. I’m not entirely sure I understand what it truly means, but I know I really like it…Alastair Grey himself does have an explanation of it here. Will Scotland vote for Independence I wonder?

My husband is a die-hard rugby union fan, as am I, and we love to watch Scotland play if for no other reason than to listen to Flower of Scotland and belt it out in our lounge room. Sadly the playing infrequently lives up to the music. I had a Scottish rugby union jersey for the 2003 World Cup which I wore in Ireland…I kept wondering why people were looking at me strangely. Mind you, I can get behind Ireland’s Call with a similar level of enthusiasm.

E is for Ennis, Co Clare, Ireland

Ennis has no direct links to my Irish ancestry but oral history suggests that at least my 2xgreat aunt was familiar with Ennis, but whether before or after her sisters’ departure for Australia is unknown. Broadford, their home town, was on the Bianconi route between Limerick and Ennis so perhaps they were able to travel to Ennis for the markets or similar.

For me, Ennis is the home of the Clare County Library and the adjacent Clare Local Studies Centre. I’ve sung their praises so often in my blog so there’s little need to repeat myself and yet I can’t resist. What a great job these people do, and how wonderfully innovative and creative they can be because of the forward-thinking of the powers-that-be above them. Thanks to them Clare family historians are infinitely better served than those with ancestry in other Irish counties. Thank you, I love using the site and I loved visiting in person even more!

It’s funny the things that stay in your mind about a place: the truck jammed under a bridge on the way into town; the welcome and helpfulness of the research staff at the Local Studies Centre; finding the death certificates for my Mary O’Brien’s parents even without known death dates; the river that runs beside the centre of town so that you can have lunch in a café and watch the swans go by; the old narrow streets with their medieval feel; the school kids hogging the footpath as they do the world over; an anniversary dinner in the Old Ground hotel; updating my suite of topographical Irish maps; ginger bath gel for the unheard-of travelling luxury of a hot bath; cash deliveries to the banks complete with machine-gun-toting security guards and multiple armoured vans (this chicken colonial chose to duck into the Vodaphone shop…I’m sure there was something I needed…or not).

I’d love to show you some of my own photos of Ennis, but for the life of me I can’t find them, so have a look at what they have to say at the official website. I think the next time I visit I might take this rather intriguing walking tour…we think Mr Cassmob’s Clune ancestors may have come from Ennis, perhaps we’ll learn more.

Second Gavin Sighting in Dublin….Shocked speechless

There I was Dutifully writing my D is for Dublin post and reflecting on my Gavins and their links to Dublin, Davidstown and Dalby. “Perhaps I should have another look at Irish Genealogy”, I thought to myself, “in case new records have been uploaded”. Well, there hadn’t been, but I put in a search for “Denis Gavin Dublin” anyway and was stunned into silence when a marriage entry came up for a Dionysius Gaven and Elleanora Murphy at St Nicholas in Dublin! Heart beating, afraid to believe it really might be mine, I thought I’d best check that Dionysius was indeed the Latin form of Denis. Google took me to a Flemish (!)-Latin translation and, instinct confirmed, I clicked to see the original entry in the church register. No place of origin, occupation or parents but I have no doubt this is their marriage as Ellen appears as Eleanor in her immigration record[i]…perhaps that’s how the priest certified their application for emigration assistance.

The witnesses to their marriage on 23 February 1851 were Jacob and Maria Hughes (so possibly James and Mary Hughes, or indeed Jacob and Maria). Given their names were written this way I’m working on the assumption that they were a couple. I’ve not come across their names in other family references so perhaps they were friends rather than family…but worth keeping an open mind. I also checked to see if they had witnessed Mary Gavin’s baptism at St Catherine’s Meath St…but no, that was a Rose Moorehouse.

So which church of St Nicholas was this? So far I’ve had a preliminary skirmish through Google etc etc, and have reached the tentative conclusion that it was St Nicholas of Myra rather than St Nicholas Without. However I’ll need to do more thorough research to be confident of having reached this conclusion.

Let’s assume for the moment that it was St Nicholas of Myra in Francis Street. This church is only a few blocks from St Catherine’s Meath St, which was recently gutted by arson, and where Denis and Gavin’s first child, Mary, was baptised 10 months after their marriage. (Another detour, this church was supposedly built in 1852, so was this where she was baptised?) Although there’s nothing to say where the Gavins were living specifically, it’s probably safe to assume it was somewhere close to both these churches. This meant they were living in the Liberties of Dublin, which one site suggests was a locus for those fleeing the Famine…obviously I have some more homework to do.

One thing leading to another, as it does with family history, I discovered that the parish church of Davidstown was erected after Ellen left, and that she would have belonged to the parish of Dunlavin…I’ll grant you these things are ever so much easier to discover on the internet. Dunlavin parish is now part of St Nicholas of Myra so it leads us full circle. More research and more homework and they even have a family history link on their web page. Alleluia!

I confess that I haven’t always put as much effort into this family after my early years of Irish research: my 1992 visit to the Wicklow Heritage Centre and the church at Ballymore Eustace had proved expensive (former) and futile (both).  Tempting leads disintegrated as I explored them, and Dublin was just a challenge too far pre-digitisation and indexation. Foolishly I had thought that Denis and Ellen had moved there not too long before emigrating but how wrong I’ve been proven to be. All of which just confirms that revisiting our paperwork, and sometimes checking our online searches, is well worth doing. Another lead I can follow is that on his second marriage, Denis declares his father to have been a huntsman. This suggests to me that he may have been employed on an estate…again another research lead but one which didn’t leap out at me when I was an inexperienced researcher.

A further clue also leaped out at me as I trawled my Gavin folder: Denis and Ellen had a daughter Rosanna Ellen, born Dalby, who died as an infant. Was she named for Rose Moorehouse who witnessed daughter Mary’s baptism in Dublin? Was Rose Moorehouse a relation after all?

So my participation in the A to Z 2012 challenge has certainly paid off for my family history offering new research paths and giving me a gold-plated “hit”…after 25 years of searching. You can see why I was rendered speechless at least temporarily….I think I needed to wake up and find it was all true…oh happy day! And now I’ve got lots more sleuthing to do as well…bonus!

After a quick dip back into FindMyPast Ireland, was it my Denis Gavin who had a cheque, two watches and wearing apparel stolen in January 1855? Or was this the fellow who was on the Griffith Valuations in the Parish of Chapelizod, Dublin?

SOURCES:

Irish Genealogy baptisms

NSW Immigration records

Queensland birth marriages and death certificates for this family.

On site research of microfilms National Library of Ireland.


[i] The Board Lists on film 2469 (State Records NSW) give more information as to surviving parents and their place of residence.