Thursday, September 22, 2011

One-Eighth Irish for Sure!

Katherine Wagner Sauer ca. 1963

Yes, this is a picture of me Christmas of 1963 with my grandmother, Katherine WAGNER.  As a side note, I played a lot more with that handsome guy in the background known as "Hands-Up Harry" then I ever did that doll.  It was my absolute favorite toy growing up and probably accounts for my marksmanship today (that, and dad being an expert shot, too).

This is the branch of the family tree that I have always found the most frustrating.  It's odd, I seldom talk about being "part Irish".  If anything, identifying with my German roots on my mother's side has always been at the forefront, even to the point of opting out of Spanish in high school and taking 4 years of German (ask me if I regret that decision today, living in California).

With that said, there seems to be almost a desperate need to find out more about Katherine's mother's family.  Maybe it is because I married a first generation Irishman myself and have had the opportunity to visit Ireland and meet his relatives.  The last time we visited, the PRONI office was undergoing it's major renovation, which only added to my frustration.  The few leads that I have been able to glean point to origin in "Northern Ireland", which back in the day was Ulster Province.  As if all this wasn't enough, my husband's family has suggested that there were ROUNDTREEs living down in Cavan. Ah, but here is where things become a little rough.

Is it ROUNDTREE or ROUNTREE or, even when driving through Monaghan last Septemeber, ROWANTREE?  That doesn't even begin to cover the variations I have seen.  My grandmother spelled it Roundtree, so I have used that all these years.  However, in the two obituaries that I have found, it is listed as ROUNTREE. In any event, it looks as if my great-grandmother, Alice ROUNDTREE was born in the United States in New York.  Her older sister Mary was born in Ireland (although on one census it is listed as New York) and her older brother John was born in Ohio, which up until a few months ago, I thought had to be a was just so odd.  Then I began to think if they were escaping the ravages/aftermath of the famine, it is a possibility that they came here through Canada, stopping to have a baby along the way in Ohio.  If that is the case, why didn't they just stop there?  Why did they continue with the journey to New York?  More questions; more mystery.

What I do know is the Patrick ROUNDTREE arrived ca. 1865 with his wife, Cathran McCORMICK (which just as easily could be McCORMACK).  If I know little about Patrick, I know even less about his wife.  I still remember the day sitting at Grandma's kitchen table trying to pin down loose ends; to actually write down those names she had quizzed me on so many years previously.  She had suffered a stroke and I think I knew it was now or never.  She rubbed her brow, trying with much difficulty to remember her grandmother's maiden name. "Ah Penny, why do you need to know this!" she exclaimed. "Why is it so important?" obviously angry and frustrated that I was pressing her so hard.  "Because," I replied, "this is important to me.  I want to know about my family."  About a minute later, out she blurted "McCormick", relieved and happy that she had finally provided the last piece of the puzzle as much as she knew.

Did her "Brooklynese" corrupt the surname?  I have no idea.  Upon researching Griffith's Valuation, there are Roundtrees and McCormicks in the same area (just south of the area where my husband's family is from, which would coincide with what his relative said), but as of yet, I have no concrete proof.  In any event, after being recorded in the 1880 census in New York, Patrick is listed as a Widower in 1900, with his son John, daughter Mary, son-in-law John DUFFY and their two children.

Yes, I am looking forward to the release of the 1940 census for this family and the elusive Jenny DUFFY; a piece of the puzzle that wasn't secured.  Grandma referred to her as Cousin Jenny, but I have yet to find where she fits.  I'm not sure how much it will tell me, but I am hoping for the best.  In the meantime, I am working on collateral lines that may help shed some light on the mystery of my Irish ancestors.

©2011, copyright Penny Sexton Brennan

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