Send a Casey to Ireland

There once was a girl from Montclair.
Who had pretty reddish blonde hair.
She said with a smile.
Throw money on my pile.
So I can go study over there.

– Rick Palermo

This limerick by a family friend, captures well my daughter Katie’s online efforts to raise money in support of her plan to study abroad at the University of Limerick in Ireland next year.  She has already won a $5,000 scholarship, which combined with existing student loans and her parent’s regular tuition payments will cover the majority of her expenses.  But there is a gap in her budget that remains to be closed, and so she has put out a digital tin cup and is asking for your help.

Limerick isn’t just another spot in Ireland for us.  It happens to be where our Irish ancestor’s came from.  Katie’s GGGG Grandfather Michael Casey worked as a tenant farmer on the Barrington Estate (today’s Glenstal Abbey), and most of his 10 children, including son Michael, emigrated to America and settled in Chicago, Illinois.  So Katie won’t just be studying abroad, she’ll be walking in the footsteps of the ancestors who gave her our Casey name.

After looking over a few alternative sites for online fundraising, Katie selected one called smartypig.  Gifted funds are held in an FDIC insured, interest bearing account, from which she’ll be able to withdraw them when needed for her study abroad expenses.

Online fundraising such as this is the meat and potatoes of my day job, funding Democratic candidates and progressive causes that I support and am proud to work for.  But this is a cause that beats them all, for being one that I support, and that makes me proud.  The hardest, but most important part of fundraising is the asking.  And so we ask.  If you are able and willing to pitch in to help, your support is very much appreciated.

Marion Dedera Casey (1913/Chicago, IL – 2008/Newport Beach, CA)

casey_gram.jpgToday is my grandmother’s birthday. She would have been 95 years old, but sadly did not reach that milestone having passed away two months ago. She was the oldest of five children of Victor and Rose Dedera, and is survived by her sister Jean, her son William, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Twice married to John Casey (and twice divorced), Grandma Casey lived a very independent life, raising my father as a single working mother during a time when that was nowhere near a common as it is today.

In recent years my interest in genealogy led to many wonderful hours visiting with ‘Gram’, looking at old family photos, and appreciating her is a way that could only come in adulthood. She laughed when sharing photos of her and friends at the beach, and was proud to show off memorabilia from her career at Amphenol which included company Christmas cards on which hers was the only female presence among the crowd of male executives. Late last year my brother discovered another interesting tale from Grandma’s working past. As a young woman she worked for the Mars candy company in it’s early days. She was one of the staff who was flown out to attend the founder Franklin Mars’s funeral in Tennessee in 1934. When I asked her when she stopped working for Mars, she responded, “When I got married. They told me there were plenty of young single women who would be happy to take my job, and that a married woman had no place in the workplace.” She said this with no bitterness or resentment, just acceptance that it was how things were. Another good story was finding out that she did not learn to drive a car until my teenage father was also just learning.

Gram was an active letter-writer who was always caring and curious about the lives of others. A postcard from 1988, when I had been married and lived in Virginia for less than a year is typical…

Good morning – It’s Fri. 3/25 – 10am and would you believe 88 degrees already – we’re having a heate wave – anyone for a nice cold dip? – I’m ready for work and looking forward to the week end as I’m sure you are – what do you do week-ends? – where do ya go? – what do ya see? – For me, Sat is a clean house, food shop day and Sunday a day of rest, with the O.C. Register spread all over the d.r. table or maybe a matinee movie. Luv ya, Gram C

I would like to send Gram a similar postcard now. Where do ya go and what do ya see? And I’d like to wish her a very Happy Birthday, and let her know she is missed.

In the Baggage Coach Ahead

Rinkenberger Stumpf WeddingOne of the pleasures of researching family history, is stumbling across a good story. Sometimes they are love stories, or war stories, or funny stories. But recently I came across a poignent tragedy, a real tear-jerker.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve made real progress in searching my wife’s side of the family. The breakthrough came in locating information about two sisters of my wife’s GG Grandfather, Adam Geldmacher. Adam had two younger sisters, Victoria and Catherine, and I was fortunate enough to locate a living descendent of Victoria, Kathy, who has done much amazing work on her ancestors, and as genealogists so typically do, she gladly shared with me. Among the many names I was able to add to our tree thanks to Kathy help was Victoria’s daughter, Mary Stumpf, who married George Rinkenberger on August 16, 1887 in Farmdale, Illinois at the age of 19. From the information that Kathy provided, I saw that Mary died at the young age of 23, and I asked her if she knew anything about the cause of Mary’s death, and she had this story to share.

William & Mary RinkenbergerMary and her husband William had left Illinois and moved to Kansas, and had recently become parents with the birth of their son George in February of 1891. Sadly, just three months later, on May 11th, 1891, Mary died of pnumonia. William returned to Illinois by train, bringing his wife’s body home to be buried. On the train ride, the baby cried and fussed, a dilemma that any parent traveling with a baby can sympathize with. And the other passengers complained to William, and asked him why he didn’t give the baby to its mother to be soothed. He let them know that he wished that he could, but that she was dead in the baggage coach ahead. With this revelation, other women on the train took care of the baby for the remainder of the trip.

The incident was supposedly witnessed by a train porter, who retold the story in a poem that was later put to music and published by Gussie L. Davis in 1896 in a song titled, In the Baggage Coach Ahead that went on to be a very popular song and the biggest hit of Davis’ career.

I set out to find the song and at the Library of Congress I found a recording of it from 1925, and on many other sites such as this one I found the lyrics. Read on to listen to the song and read the lyrics.

Listen here to the song (mp3 format), while you read along with the lyrics. And just try not to get choked up.

In the Baggage-Coach Ahead

On a dark stormy night, as the train rattled on,
All the passengers had gone to bed,
Except one young man with a babe in his arms
Who sat there with a bowed-down head.
The innocent one began crying just then,
As though its poor heart would break.
One angry man said, “Make that child stop its noise,
For it’s keeping all of us awake.”

“Put it out,” said another, “Don’t keep it in here;
We’ve paid for our berths and want rest.”
But never a word said the man with the child,
As he fondled it close to his breast.
“Where is its mother? Go take it to her,”
this a lady then softly said.”
I wish I could,” was the man’s sad reply.”
But she’s dead in the coach ahead.”

While the train rolled onward, a husband sat in tears,
Thinking of the happiness of just a few short years.
Baby’s face brings pictures of a cherished hope that’s dead,
But baby’s cries can’t waken her in the baggage coach ahead.

Every eye filled with tears when his story he told
Of a wife who was faithful and true;
He told how he’d saved up his earnings for years,
Just to build up a home for two;
How when Heaven had sent them this sweet little babe,
Their young happy lives were blessed;
His heart seemed to break when he mentioned her name,
And in tears tried to tell them the rest.
Every woman arose to assist with the child;
There were mothers and wives on that train.
And soon was the little one sleeping in peace,
With no thought of sorrow or pain.
Next morn at a station he bade all goodbye,
“God bless you,” he softly said,
Each one had a story to tell in their homes
Of the baggage coach ahead.

Ireland: Day 6 – Murroe, Limerick, Annagh, Newport

Glenstal Abbey, MurroeWhen my GG Grandfather Michael Casey was born in 1850, his father Michael was a tenant farmer working land rented from the Barrington Estate. About 70 years later, after their only daughter was killed in an IRA ambush, the Barrington’s sold their estate to the Benedictine monks who continue to run the estate today as Glenstal Abbey. And after breakfast on Friday morning, we took a nice stroll on the Abbey’s grounds, taking a quick look at the castle and meeting some Donkey’s along the way. Was the stone watchman in the castle tower there 150 years ago, watching my Casey ancestors harvest potatoes? I wonder.

Next we headed into Limerick, and despite hitting some traffic heading into town, and getting turned around a bit, we ultimately succeeded in getting the car parked so we could do some shopping, which we did. I failed in my mission to dunk a friend’s hat into the Shannon River, sorry Bobby, the banks were too high.

With Father Ryan at Annagh GraveyardAfter our short stop in Limerick, we returned to Murroe to keep our date with Father Ryan. We met him at the church and then followed him to the Annagh Graveyard. The church in the center of the graveyard has been a ruin for more than 100 years according to the land valuation map I obtained in Dublin to locate the Casey plot, but the cemetery is still in use and has recent burials in it. Among the older markers, there were many so worn or damaged that there was nothing legible on them, and having found no Caseys among any that could be read, we had to assume that we may be close but would never know for certain if this was Michael Casey’s final resting place or not. Father Ryan returned to the church, having been very generous with his time this Easter eve, and we stayed a bit longer taking pictures in the graveyard, and then along the nearby road of what we guessed must have been the Casey plot of farmland. And our family hunt might well have ended there.

But it did not.

At Ryan’s pub in nearby Newport, I asked the woman tending bar if there were any Casey’s in the area. She said she wasn’t from nearby, but would ask the owner, and shortly he came by to speak with us. When I asked him about Casey’s, he paused for a bit and then told me to follow him outside into the street. Pointing up the street at a house a few hundred yards away he said, “Willie Casey lives there, you should talk to him.” And so we finished our drinks, which they wouldn’t let us pay for, and we set off to find Willie.

The woman who answered my knock at the door was quick to welcome us in when I mentioned my name was Casey and I was hoping to speak with Willie. And in no time we were sitting at the kitchen table with Willie and his wife Maureen, comparing Casey notes. Soon Maureen had me on the phone with Willie’s cousin, and while we didn’t find any direct connection between ourselves, they knew of other nearby Caseys and mentioned another neighbor we should speak took, and a graveyard we should visit called Ballymackeogh. A few doors down, we dropped in on Mary Ryan, and after a quick explanation we again received a warm welcome. Mary’s aunt was married to a Michael Casey, and when Mary confirmed that this Michael’s father had been named Thomas, and that they had farmed land in Annagh across the county line, the pieces all seemed to fit to say this Michael was my first cousin, three times removed (or more easily, my GG Grandfather’s nephew, I couldn’t sort any of these complex relationships out without my computer!). Mary gave us directions to another local cemetery, Rockvale, in which she said Michael had been the first burial. When we asked for directions, Mary pointed and said, “It’s just that way across the fields. But by car you’ll need to turn right at the main street in town and follow your noses from there”. That worked, and at Rockvale Cemetery we located my distant cousin Michael Casey, and a number of other Casey’s which we have yet to sort out. I should say ‘Jennifer located’, because she was always first to find the headstones we were seeking.

Proceed, or Turn Back?Finding Ballymackeogh was a bit more difficult, but after a few tries we found ourselves at then end of a gravel road facing a locked gate with three signs nearby. The first read ‘Ballymackeogh Graveyard’, the second essentially said ‘Private Property, Keep Out’, and the third read ‘Beware of the bull’. It was the third sign that most caught our notice. But having traveled so far, and now standing outside the gate that I thought could lead to my ancestors graves, was I to let a bull stop us? Never! I went first into the field, with Jennifer bravely following about 25 yards behind (wearing her new bullfighting red sweater), and our caution was rewarded by our arrival at the graveyard gates about 100 yards across the pasture, with no bull anywhere in sight.

Ballymackeogh was similar to the other graveyards that we had visited in that it had a roofless, ivy-covered church ruin the in middle, but was different in that the grounds around the ruin we terraced with paths, and the ground much more uneven. Headstones jutted out of the ground at every angle, some laying flat on the ground and others in broken piles. In placed the ground had collapsed in on a grave, while in others the grave was a large mound pushing upwards. It was late afternoon by this point, and long shadows hung everywhere. It was a very peaceful place, and as graveyards go, could be a scary one.

Once again, Jennifer found the Casey’s. A plot of four graves near one of the church corners had four burials, one of which seems to match well with our hunt. Reading with our fingers, we found a headstone that read:

Erected by Thomas Casey in memory of his Father Michael Casey of Polough who died Oct 9 1884, aged 70 years. May his soul rest in peace.

The death certificate for my GGG Grandfather Michael Casey says he died on 12/1/1882 at age 66, a pretty big difference from this headstone which is specific enough to give confidence in its facts. So do I have the right Michael Casey and just some errors of fact over time? Or are there two Michael Caseys, with sons named Thomas, who lived, farmed and died at about the same time in very close proximity? I don’t know. Progress brings new questions, that’s just how it goes in genealogy. Wherever the truth is, the hunt continues.

We made it back through the pasture without any sign of the bull, and headed to Bunratty hoping to get in on one of their Castle Banquets for our last night’s meal, but finding it booked we had a very fine meal at a nearby restaurant and headed back to our B&B for our last night’s sleep in Ireland.

Ireland: Day 2 – Dublin

Ireland's National LibraryFamily Hunting and Souvenir Shopping was the program for the day. I had thought I would allow myself just a couple of hours this morning at Ireland’s National Library to see what I might find out about my Casey ancestors, in particular my GGGG Grandfather, Michael Casey. I was already aware that the Church Diocese of Cashel and Emly are available only via Tipperary Family History Research, and I have already obtained some records by that route. So my visit to the Library was more in hopes of perhaps finding something that I didn’t yet know I was looking for. The very helpful library genealogist was great, and although there was little there at the library to search, he set us out on a family hunt that took us to three other offices in Dublin; the General Register Office, the Valuation Office, and Ireland’s National Archives.


The story will have to wait. I REALLY need to get some sleep, as it’s 3:16 am and we have a very big day tomorrow, needing to get our rental car in the morning at Dublin’s airport, and then seek to make our way across the southern part of the island on our way to our next destination, Kinsale. More details to follow about the family tree hunt, but I’ll include this teaser, I found information about the Casey brother who stayed behind and farmed the family plot while his siblings had emigrated to America. And his son (?) was still owned that same plot until 1956. So guess which one of the above offices was the source of that breakthrough?

More to come, going to bed.


findagrave.jpgFor me, one of the most satisfying parts of my hobby of exploring family history is finding and visiting the burial sites of my relatives. And I have a growing album of photos from such visits. While these visits sometimes can provide new information, more importantly they give me a sense of connection and satisfaction. Regardless of anyone’s individual beliefs in an afterlife, I know that one sure way to live on after death is in the memories of others. And I like that.

As nice as these cemetery visits are, it’s not always possible to make them. And that’s where a great site for Genealogists and Graveyard enthusiasts can be a big help. Find-A-Grave is a virtual cemetery in which information matching burials in real world cemeteries. For example, you can find information about my brother Sean, and my Great Grandmother Myrtle on the site.

One feature that’s available on Find-A-Grave is to request a photo. If there is a burial for which you’re interested in seeing a headstone photo, you can submit your request on the site. The request will be sent to registered users who have agreed to be photo volunteers that live near that cemetery. I have submitted a few such requests, but to earn the favor, I wanted to do the same for someone else. And I recently got the opportunity when a request to visit Hardens Hill Cemetery and photograph a particular headstone arrived in my email.

Thanks to the Google Map that showed the location, it was easy to find our way to Harden’s Hill Cemetery, unexpectedly nestled in some woods at the end of a cul-de-sac in a development just minutes from our home. My daughter Colleen joined me on the hunt, and we quickly found our subject, Theodore Reid. I took a bunch of photos, and added all of them to the appropriate internments on Find-A-Grave. The oldest burial we spotted at Harden’s Hill was in 1905, the most recent in 2005. And by the flowers all about, it was obvious this is not a forgotten cemetery. But even when there’s not human visitors, we learned that there are others keeping watch.

Where Victor Met Rose

dedera_bicek_wedding_sm.jpgNinety-five years ago, in 1910, seven of the eight individuals who would eventually become my Great Grandparents were living in Chicago. The eighth, arrived in 1911. I’m going to attempt to write about their lives and circumstances at the time, not from first-hand knowledge, but by blending information available and familiar to any genealogist; public records, family histories, and the recollections of their children and others who knew them. And the first couple that I will write about, is Victor and Rose.

Vitus (Victor) Dedera was the youngest of his father Adelbert Dedera’s thirteen children. Adelbert, a tailor, had come to America from Bohemia with his second wife, Marie, in 1881. They spent two years living in New York, working to save the money needed to continue their journey to Chicago, which they did in 1883. Adelbert had brought seven children with him from Bohemia, and another had been born while in New York. Victor was the last of three more who were born in Chicago (two other children had died in infancy). A great deal of what I know of the Dedera’s comes from a family history written by Victor’s older (by eleven years) brother Adelbert (Albert). In 1910, Victor was nineteen years old and one of four children still living with his parents at 2809 Central Park Avenue. According to the Census, he was a “machine hand” working in a “machine shop”.

map_28th_central_park.jpgLike Victor, Rose Bicek was also the youngest child in a large family. Her parents, Martin and Marie had immigrated from Bohemia in 1883, bringing their two oldest children Marie and James with them. Rose was the last of four more daughters who were all born in Chicago. Martin had worked as a day laborer and teamster, and in 1910 at age 58 he worked as a watchman in a coal yard. Three daughters still lived with Martin and Marie in the home at 2818 Clifton Park Avenue (later renamed to Drake Ave). Sister Emma, married to Alfred Sengstock, a Wells Fargo clerk, lived there with their two-month old daughter Adeline. Bessie and Rose also lived at home when the Census taker visited their home in June of 1910. Rose had turned 17 in January, and both Rose and Bessie worked as servers at a “WholesaleN”?

Other family members lived nearby. Victor’s older half-sister, Marie Jenicek lived with her husband and eight children down the street at 2831 Central Park Avenue. Their twelve year old son Albert, would one day marry Marie Novotny, who at the time was a nine-year old living at 2859 Central Park Avenue.

In addition to living near family, it jumps off of these census page how people chose to live among their own ethnic groups. For page after page, the place of birth of the individual’s parents is listed as ‘Aust Bohemian’. By the 1920 Census, following the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War One, the label would change to ‘Bohemia’ or ‘Czechoslovakia’.

But back to Victor and Rose. My grandmother, Marion, tells me that they enjoyed singing together. And that on walks in the neighborhood, Victor would visit with Rose on her families front porch, and join them in singing a few tunes. I haven’t yet found the exact date when they were married, but in the 1930 Census, Rose was reported as having married at age 20, which she turned in January of 1912. And grandma, the oldest of the five children they would have, was born in 1913.

Maybe they hadn’t even met yet in 1910. But the Census that year tells the story. My Great Grandfather Victor didn’t marry the girls next door. He found her a block over.

for further reading:

Czechs and Bohemians
Encyclopedia of Chicago

The Bohemian People of Chicago
by Josefa Humpal Zeman

Joseph Casey (1916 – 2006)

casey_joseph.jpgTonight my Casey searching took me to’s Casey Family Genealogy Forum, looking to see if they offered a news feed so that I could pull entries into my Casey Surname DNA Project site.

The first entry caught my eye, initially because the word ‘Chicago’ was in the title, and my Caseys are from Chicago. It turned out to be an obituary reprinted from the Chicago Tribune last Sunday for my Great Uncle Joseph Casey.

Joseph T. Casey, beloved husband of the late Lucille Catherine, nee Dore; devoted father of Jo Anne (Joseph) Baratta and Christopher K. Casey; cherished grandfather of Brendan and Jason (Lisa) Baratta and Christopher K. Casey Jr.; proud great-grandfather of Michael and Adam Baratta; loving son of the late John A. and Myrtle, nee Ross, Casey; dear brother of Margaret J. Sheehan; fond uncle of many nieces and nephews. WWII Veteran, having served in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1945 in the South Pacific. Joseph retired from the Chicago Police Dept. in 1974 after 28 years of service in Traffic Area 2, then spent the next 12 years working at the Beverly Bank. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to American Parkinson Disease Assoc. Memorial Mass Saturday, Feb. 18, 2006, 10:30 a.m. at St. Christopher Church, 147th and Keeler, Midlothian. Hickey Memorial Chapel, 708-385-4478.

Published in the Chicago Tribune on 2/12/2006.

I don’t think I ever met Joe. If I did, it was as a very young child before any memory I have. My thoughts are with him and his family.

Neighbors from WAY Back

annagh_1840_sm.jpgTwo weeks ago I received the sort of email that can make any genealogist’s day. It read:

Hello – In researching my Guinane family, I came across your Casey information. My gr-gr-grandfather’s brother Thomas Guinane married Bridget O’Casey in Annagh, Murroe Parish on Feb. 21, 1846. Patrick Casey & William Casey are sponsors of 2 of their children. Does any of this match your info?
Nancy Peregrine on the Lost Coast of CA

There was so much familiar here, I knew there had to be a connection. Patrick & William are the names of the older brothers of my Great Great Grandfather Michael Casey, and all of them were born in Annagh, Murroe Parish, Limerick Ireland. Also, the name Guinane rang a bell to me. Looking up the information I had obtained two years ago from Limerick Ancestry, I found that William Casey had been sponsored by Thomas Guinane in 1847, and Patrick had been sponsored by Bridget Guinane in 1848.

Nancy and I have been swapping emails and letters, sharing information in our common hunt for ancestors in Annagh. Probably the most interesting new information for me came from a map Nancy had that showed the numbered lots of Annagh, as they corresponded to the lots that Griffith’s Valuation shows our ancestors to have lived on. By matching those numbers to my own map of Annagh, I produced the map displayed here, which shows where Michael Casey and Timothy Guinane lived.

Nancy has shared other helpful ideas with me that have open new routes to search. One clever idea was to search for Casey’s living in Murroe today by searching Eircom’s Online Phone directory (I heard back today from Murroe’s only listed Casey, no obvious family connection, but it’s always good to hear from a fellow Casey), and to try the Tipperary Family History Research Center for research assistance, since they have access to the church records of the Archdiocese of Cashel & Emily, which included the Parish of Murroe.

One of the nicest aspects of genealogy as a hobby is the shared enthusiasm of fellow family hunters, and typical eagerness to share information, both to help another, but also in hopes of learning something useful for your own research. I hope that some of the info I provided to Nancy was helpful to her, and I’ll look forward to sharing our future discoveries with each other. Although we live on opposite sides of the country, we share a common history leading back to a time when our families were neighbors, friends, and family to each other.

And if by chance, you have found this page as Nancy found me, by Googling our shared hometown of Annagh, or the surname she’s hunting, Guinane, I’m sure she’s love to hear from you, so feel free to write her at, I’m sure she’ll be as glad to hear from you as I was to hear from her.

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