Archive for the ‘Book’ Category

Family History Writing Challenge photo FHWC14-290p_zpse0310b87.jpg

I’m taking the challenge again this year – 3rd time. For the month of February I will work on the Colbert Whelan Family History book.

I know, I know, I’ve been working on this for 7 years!! I have a complete draft, but it needs work – a lot of work. I’ve edited and revised much of the Colbert section, so for this challenge month, I will edit and revise the Whelan section. The story will start in Bansha, County Tipperary, with my grandfather’s parents, James Whelan and Honora Keating.

The real challenge will be to complete each chapter – that means I must finish the index and citations too. I will post my progress from time to time, but let’s hope that the end of the month one chapter is compete. Then I will have to set up a plan to complete the rest of the book.


These pictures were taken in 1973 by my mother. She and Aunt Angela went to Ireland and visited Bansha and Ross.

Bansha - 1973

Bansha – 1973

Bansha Roman Catholic Church - Whelans were baptized here.
Bansha Roman Catholic Church – Whelans were baptized here.

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I recently searched land records in not one, but two counties: New York and Dutchess.

New York – 66 John Street

I went back to 66 John Street to get more information about the lot that Mary Coleman Colbert leased. She was quite the fighter. She did not give up on her right to the 15 year lease she had obtained in 1865. The plaintiff, Cornelia Austin, did not give up either and kept appealing decisions that did not go her way. The property was finally sold at auction in late 1877, with Mary’s case still open. The other tenants were apparently paid costs out of the sale. I don’t know what happened with Mary’s costs, but she seems to have been able to stay until the end.

The property where Mary Colbert lived was sold at auction in late 1877.

Her grandson, John Grossman, first child of Mary Colbert and George Grossman, was born in his Grandmother’s house  in September 1879.  Mary’s lease ended on April 1, 1880. A few months later, in June 1880, the family is living in Bronxville, Westchester County.

When they returned to the city they lived at 421 East 12oth Street. Not only was this right in back of their old place, it was the lot that had been leased by Charles Spear, one of the other tenants named in the lawsuit! Curious. Spear gave a description of his house in his testimony, so I’m going back to the Old Records Room to check  it out.

I was also able to find that Mary Coleman Colbert’s brother owned a house in Manhattan, also on East 121st Street, but  several blocks west. He bought it in 1885, but didn’t move there until 1900. Maybe he rented it out?

Lawrene Coleman and his wife Julia bought this house in 1885.

Dutchess – 22 Market Street, Poughkeepsie

In New York you usually look up the block and lot number – after all, New York is divided into a grid. In the Dutchess County Clerk Records Room you search using the grantor/grantee books and look for the name. I found what I was looking for quickly and then went straight to the liber to see the deeds. These libers are heavy, and I believe the ones on the bottom row are heavier!

I have to admit  the typed deeds are much easier to read, but it was interesting to read the handwritten property description in one deed. The property was transferred in 1835 in Amenia and was a farm. The description went on and on – a very long page with very small handwriting. Here’s how it starts:

…end of a stonewall  North of the road and north west of the house of Noah Brown thence south eighty three and one half east twelve chains and nine links to stake and stones thence north ten and one half and five chains and fifty links to stake in the wll thence south…

I gave up at that point.

I looked at another deed (typed). This one was from 1926 for property in the City of Beacon and had an interesting clause. I think it may have been carried over from a previous deed. What do you think?

…Occupants and servants at all times to freely pass and re-pass on foot, or with horses, cattle, beasts of burden, wagons, carts, sleighs, carriages, or other vehicles whatsoever to and fro, over said right of way as above bounded and described..

This did  have cars by 1926 and the horses and sleighs were almost a thing of the past. And just how long did people keep cattle in Beacon?

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Yesterday was day 29 of the Family History Writing Challenge. It’s officially over.

Not really.

I plan to continue writing, but now I have some better ideas on how to write, and re-write this Family History book of mine.

I was bogged down in the research, which is the part of genealogy because you never know what you might find.

I know can research and still continue to write. After I do some research, whether it’s at the archives, or in a book, or online, I will write it up and weave it into the story.

Today I worked on some of the Whelan story. I had forgotten how many good stories Aunt Angela told me.

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Hard to believe I have been writing for 21 days – well, 20 days. I missed one day –  last Thursday. My excuse is that I was in New York doing some research and then I visited my niece Kate and little Maeve. By the time I got home, I just couldn’t sit at the computer and type.

This challenge has helped me look at the book in a new way. I am rewriting some sections and getting some new ideas for others. I plan to continue wtiting after the challenge ends. I will write for 30 minutes a day and continue to research. I think what I’ve learned this month is that I can’t put off the writing in favor of the research.

Maybe I will finish this book by 2013???

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It’s been more than a week since I started the challenge. I’ve stuck with it. Every day I set the timer for 30 minutes and write. The first couple of days were easy because I wrote about the new information I’d found – Mary Coleman Colbert’s life in Harlem in the 1860s and 70s.

Since then I’ve been reviewing my book draft and revising – and adding more details and more background.

I sometimes procrastinate before I start the writing timer, but I’m always surprised at how quickly the bell goes off.

I found a great new program on one of the challenge links. It’s called Scrivener and it’s designed for writers. It’s a MAC program, but now it’s available for Windows. There’s a free 30 day trial – and that’s 30 usage, not calendar days. My kind of trial. The cost of the program after the trial is $40.00.

So far it’s been great – there’s a split screen, so I can look at the section I’m typing and check out what I’ve written in another part of the document or in another document. I can easily cut and paste from one document to another.

Another feature I love is the highlighter – it comes in several colors and I can highlight an area that needs more research or a citation without losing my train of thought.

Only 21 more days to go – but I plan to continue past that, until I’m finished.

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Family History Writing Challenge

The other day I stumbled across The Family History Writing Challenge  and decided to sign up.

I’ve been writing “The Book” for 5 years now. I have a draft, but it needs revision. Lots of revision. I keep finding new information about the family that I need to incorporate into the book and wonder if there is anything more I can find. I hope the story that I tell will be interesting even to those family members who are not particularly interested in family history, but like a good story.

In other words:

research – fun

writing the blog – fun

writing “The Book” – not so much

This challenge comes at the perfect time. February is a good month to work on a book – not that much going on in winter, and I need to jump start this project. I want to complete my book by next year (I’ve said that before).

So every day for the whole month of February I will write – the book.

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The Ryans

I’ve been working on the Ryan section of the book for the past couple of weeks. I have a bit of a to do list for the next time I go to the Municipal Archives. Now I’m trying to review and rewrite the narrative section of the book – the stories of Michael Roche and Mary Wallace and Lawrence Ryan and Johanna Roche. I hadn’t looked at my draft in a long time and it seems that the Roche-Wallace story is in pretty good shape, but the Ryan-Roche story – ugh – it’s really bad. I just wrote down some basic facts, I guess I was planning to do more and then just stopped. Fortunately, I have a lot of material around and am reviewing all of it. The Ryans moved to Manhattanville around 1890. It’s been interesting reading up on the changes in Manhattanvile during the period they lived there. Looking at the maps of the area, I can see how close they lived to schools, churches, and each other.

The Colberts also lived in Manhattanville – they moved there about the same time as the Ryans, so research for the Ryan section does double duty. I want to check out the addresses and see how close they were to each other. They would both have gone to Annunciation Church, and maybe even to the same schools. Josephine Ryan was a bit older than William Colbert, so they wouldn’t have been in the same class. Her sister Helen was the same age as his brother James; her brother Larry the same age as his sister May – so maybe they went to school together?? Who knows.

Church of the Annunciation - the new church built in 1907 - the old church was two blocks west.

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