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.


The Museum of the City of New York has a wonderful collection of photographs, maps and prints many of which are now available online.

I thought I would see if there were any pictures which showed what Harlem might have been like when our Colbert family lived there.

John Colbert arrived in the U.S in 1843 and was in Harlem by 1850 – he lived on East 119th Street, near Avenue A (now Pleasant Avenue). After his marriage he lived on 116th Street and Avenue A.

He died in 1865 and his widow, Mary Coleman Colbert, leased a lot on East 121st Street, between Avenue A and 1st Avenue. She had a one story framed house with a store, possibly the same house John had built on 116th Street. The Colberts had a horse and wagon and possibly a cow and other animals. They were milk dealers.

Did John Colbert’s horse and wagon look something like this?

This picture is in the Museum of the City of New York, but not online. I took it in 2008 at the exhibit on the 200th Anniversary of the Archdiocese of New York.

This picture is in the Museum of the City of New York, but not online. I took it in 2008 at the exhibit on the 200th Anniversary of the Archdiocese of New York.

Here are some pictures I found online – you can see the animals wandering around.

Harlem squatter settlements in 1858.

The Colberts lived on 116th Street at this time. Is this what their area looked like? There were so many hogs in  Harlem that the area around 125th Street was called “Pig’s Alley”

Squatter Settlement in Harlem

116th Street and 4th Avenue

This is the south east corner of 116th Street and 4th Avenue in 1889. Our family lived at 116th Street and Avenue A (Pleasant Avenue), about 4 blocks east of here from about 1855 to 1865.
[South east corner of 116th Street and 4th Avenue.]
This is the south west corner of 116th Street and 4th Avenue in 1895.
[South west corner of 116th and 4th Avenue.]

This is for all those on the Facebook group – Ryans and Roches of Commonealine, County Tipperary.

The file is too big for Facebook. Click on the picture and you will see the chart and then zoom in. I only include information to my parents’ generation, because of privacy.

Descendants of Michael Roche and Mary Wallace

Descendants of Michael Roche and Mary Wallace

This may not be up to date, it’s the one I posted when I started the blog:
Family Group Sheet Ryan Roche

Check out the other posts in this blog – I have other information on the Ryans and the Roches.

It’s been a long time since my last post. Beacon is celebrating its 100th birthday and I am on the centennial committee. For the last two weeks I’ve been working with other volunteers from the Beacon Historical Society setting up our Centennial Exhibit.

I do check records from time to time and this weekend Irish Origins had a free look at Irish directories. I figured I would take a look – again. You never know if something new has been added.

As usual, I put in the family names, Ahern, Colbert, Keating, Whelan. Luckily the site checks for variations of the name. This is what I saw for Whelan – could one of these be a relative?

Search results for James Whelan in Irish Origins

Search results for James Whelan in Irish Origins. Click to see larger view.

I checked the first one and had success.

James Whelan, grocer, Bansha

James Whalan, Bansha    The * means that he was a grocer, not a spirit dealer.

My grandfather’s father was James Whelan and he had a shop in the village of Bansha in County Tipperary. The family lived in an apartment above the store. I don’t know exactly what he sold, whether he had a general grocery store or if he just sold one type of food product, but now I know that he did not sell spirits.

The funny thing is that my grandfather told his children that the store  had a sign over it that said “Whelan”, but his brother Tom Phelan said the sign was “Phelan”. Phelan and Whelan were interchangeable in Ireland and my family used both names. When they came to the U. S. most of them chose Phelan, my grandfather was the only one who used Whelan. As my mother would say, it was pronounced “Wheeeeeelan”.

James Whelan died on January 31, 1881, so it’s just luck that he is in this directory. The information for the directory was probably collected before 1881.

As it turns out, these directories are also on FindmyPast.com. I have a subscription to that. I find the results easier to read, but I found it easier to search on Irish Origins. One more reason to check multiple sites, but not a good enough reason to sign up for yet anther genealogy subscription.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas 2012

Christmas 2012

Christmas Past

Bessie Shanley O’Hara and Annie Shanley Whelan

Colbert Christmas tree – 1939 at 525 West 182nd Street.


Grandma and Grandpa's tree

Grandma and Grandpa’s tree

The Invermark

My father’s family moved a lot. They lived in different types of houses, old tenements, old wood frame house, basement apartment, apartments with no indoor plumbing, but in 1938 they settled down.

They moved to 525 West 182nd Street – The Invermark. Here is a picture of the building and the floor plan from Apartment Houses of the Metropolis which can be found in the New York Public Library and on their website. Click on the picture and you can zoom and look at it more closely. Which apartment did the Colberts live in?

The Invermark, northeast corne... Digital ID: 465689. New York Public Library

In 1901 New York city passed a new law regulating tenements. They had to have bathrooms inside each apartment and they had more light and ventilation. Builders started designing the new buildings which came to be called “New Law” Tenements. These were often built on multiple lots or on corner lots. Often they were given names. One of these was the Invermark, built on the corner of West 182nd Street and Audubon Avenue.

They advertised that they had telephone service, but the Colberts didn’t have one in 1940. I’m  not sure when they finally got a telephone.

The Colberts moved in around 1938 or 1939. In 1940 they paid $42.00 a month rent.

Not long after they moved in Uncle Joe acquired a camera and starting taking pictures, so we have a good idea of what the apartment looked like when the Colberts lived there, almost 30 years after it was built.

Uncle Jackie looking out the window of 525 West 182nd Street.

The family had a lot of gatherings there and Uncle Joe documented them. Here’s one of my father on Christmas Day, 1939.

My father has a little fun before Christmas dinner is cooked.

Grandpa in the kitchen. “A candid shot.” snapped by Joe Colbert

Uncle Mike

The relatives came over too.

Front: Larry, Jane, Joan Colbert, Jim Rogers
Back: Peggy Rutan, Aunt Addie, Aunt Elsie, Bernadette Rutan and Josephine Wunderlich

The Invermark wasn’t far from Highbridge Park.

Frances and Larry at Highbridge Park.

Joan and Jack Colbert swimming at Highbridge Park.

No, it’s not a typo. On November 7, 1918, the country celebrated the end of the World War.

The Evening World, November 07, 1918, Final Edition. Library of Congress, Chronicling America

My father had a great memory. One story he told was about being a very young child and watching, in amazement, as his parents went crazy. His mother ran out of the house, leaving the door open, and his father kissed his mother on the stoop.  In later years he realized it had to be the day the war ended.

Larry and Joe Colbert. Taken around Spring 1918.

I figured it would be easy enough to find out how the people of New York City reacted to the end of the war. After all, I knew the date – November 11, 1918 was Armistice Day.

But I was wrong. The celebrations took place on November 7th – all because the United Press Association reported the armistice had been signed, when it hadn’t.

The Evening World, November 07, 1918, Final Edition. Library of Congress, Chronicling America

The papers knew pretty quickly that the story was false. New York Tribune, November 8, 1918 Library of Congress, Chronicling America

Everyone knew the armistice would be signed soon. On November 11th, the country celebrated again and this time it really was over. No wonder my father remembered the day so well.