Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Happy Dance of Genealogy

Carnival of Genealogy 65th Edition: "The Happy Dance. The Joy of Genealogy. Almost everyone has experienced it. Tell us about the first time, or the last time, or the best time. What event, what document, what special find has caused you to stand up and cheer, to go crazy with joy? If you haven't ever done the Happy Dance, tell us what you think it would take for you to do so."

I've always loved history. I minored in it during my college years and yet I never really explored my own genealogy. Why? Simply explained, I knew my ancestry. Did I know my family tree? No, not really but I knew where they originated.

When I met my husband, he really had no clue regarding his origins. I then began my long adventure into the world of genealogy. As glorious as my searches and discoveries were regarding my husband's family, I did not have any happy dances. I had a few shouts of glee. There are still 2 brick walls at the moment and I'm sure I will dance if I ever break those walls down. One is Joseph Johnson born October 1852 Illinois. Could I get a more difficult name to locate? LOL The other is Robert Gragg/Gregg born 31 July 1830 Ohio.

I soon decided to look deeper at my own family line. My mother's side was fairly easy. Both grandparents were from Ireland. It was just a matter of jotting names and dates down on paper. I did do a little jig when I discovered the Finegan line was from Co. Monaghan, Ireland on a naturalization record. His ship record gave me his town. Do I hear a, "Hooray"? Oh yeah!

My father's side is a different story. I am beginning to wonder if someone in the family was wanted for something. So very secretive this family of mine. I searched and searched all records for Alfred Bench in America, my paternal great grandfather. I knew he came from Birmingham, England but that was all. I finally searched for a naturalization record. It was located and the happy dance began.

He went by his middle name, Richard. All that time wasted on searching for Alfred!!!! Little unknown facts can stop you dead. My father was named after his grandfather and never knew it until I ran over that fact. Marvelous things began to appear. I found his ship record, birth record, census records, and his 2nd marriage record (always searching in MA and it was in IL). I still don't know why he left IL for MA. The family never even knew about IL. I then was able to pull the family line further backwards in England. I was elated and doing a major happy dance. Of course, Alfred's 2nd wife, Margaret Donahue Maher Bench, is still giving me heartburn. She's my paternal great grandmother. Now, if I find her, you will all hear me! Trust me.

Onto my Degnan family and I knew even less. Several misspellings on census and military records tossed me for a few loops but I prevailed. I must say that when I finally found the naturalization record for Patrick Degnan from County Longford, I had myself a good long happy dance. His marriage record does list his parents as Patrick Degnan and Mary Riley. My parents are visiting Ireland in May and I'm hoping that they can uncover something. Here's to dreaming.

If I discover those still missing, I will be throwing a happy party with one major scream for Margaret thrown in there. Keep listening for it.

Colleen Degnan Johnson
CMJ Office


Judith Richards Shubert said...

Colleen, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your "happy dance" and the search for your ancestor. I have not pursued the naturalization route. You've given me a new focus!

Colleen Johnson, CMJ Office said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it. Definitely check out the naturalization records of ancestors. I've uncovered counties, cities, birth dates and even the only picture of Alfred Richard Bench that my family has. It was an incredible find along with his signature.

Andrea Christman said...

I enjoyed reading your entry! We have similiar backgrounds; military (my husband, though-not me) and the fact that I knew all about my history and my husband only knew the names of his grandparents and that he had a Civil War Veteran and that is about it! Most of my happy dances are finding details for HIS tree! I did hit paydirt with a Naturalization application and that WAS a great time! :-)

Colleen Johnson, CMJ Office said...

Thanks Andrea. My hubby is the military guy (not me either). A lot of people forget about the naturalization records. Some have great info; however, some don't. It's a hit or miss but worth the shot. Glad we had luck with them!