Monday, June 27, 2011

6 Heads Are Better Than One

A group of us took our first walk through St. Patrick's Cemetery this morning assessing how to approach the daunting task before us.  The problem is this, our database of Irish Civil War veterans has about 600-700 names.  Many of these contain lot numbers.  My initial thought was we'd walk through identify the names on the list, have lunch, and go home.  Reality check!  Within the first few minutes we found stones that are not on the list.   Hmmm, I thought this list was pretty complete.  Those who have visited St. Pat's will know that there are few if any records dating from this period, driving anyone doing genealogy a bit crazy. 

Luckily I am smart enough to surround myself with people with talents greater than my own.  Donna has been working with Mercy Way and has a mission of identifying the resting places of Irish immigrants who came to Lowell and have no marker.  Eileen is our tech guru, a self proclaimed geek.  She stood by graves and used GPS to mark locations.  Mo has collected info in Civil War vets and has done extensive work in St. Pat's.  Steve is with Sons of the Union Civil War Veteran's, a national organization dedicated to collecting the resting places of CW vets.  Dick not only knows CW history, but thankfully has an index file in his head and gave much good advice on how to proceed with such a task.

We have short term goals and long term.  Right now it's a lot of leg work, then a lot of paper work.  If you're interested, please drop a line.  We need to hear if you think our efforts are worthwhile, and your thoughts on maybe where to go.  Again, this year's cemetery tour will be interesting and taking new routes we haven't explored before.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Gathering Data

I tend to get obsessed easily.  One of my obsessions used to be with eBay.  Luckily I have gotten it under control.  Oh it started rather simply with Lowell postcards.  From there I got into heavier items like advertisements of Acre businesses.  Then I started noticing that I was betting on items I already had.  Those of you who are "collectors" probably empathize with what I say.  Things are in better control now, but recently my old demons came back to haunt me.  In a moment of weakness I went to eBay and what did I find, but a deed for a parcel of land in the Paddy Camps!!!  I lost control.  My initial bid was a simple $10.  It quickly went to $20, then doubled and doubled again.  Before I knew it I was pushing the "confirm bid" button for $110.  For those of you who know me, I need you to promise you will never share this info with my wife.  I simply left off the last zero when I told her the price.  But it's mine, and it's a beauty.

Which leads me to the topic, where was the Paddy Camp?  More correctly it should be where were the Paddy Camps?  The Camps were "probably" (Please note every time I share new information I now say "probably'"  That's what you get for hanging around archaeologist.) in several locations, likely on Lowell Street, possibly near Merrimack Street,  probably on St Pat Church property.   There is an interesting case that went to the Supreme Court on who owned the land, the Irish squatters or to whom the deeds were passed.  Soon many of the "camps" grew and merged.  So if you're looking for one definite location- sorry.
The Dig this summer may uncover more of the story.

Thank goodness we have some careful readers.  The date for an initial cemetery walk to search for Civil War graves was incorrect.  The correct date is MONDAY, JUNE 27TH AT 9 am.  Again be prepared for heat, walking, and being frustrated.

Lastly, another passing to report of another Lowell historian, Catherine Goodwin.  Many, many years ago Catherine and John were good enough to take me under their wings and walked St Pat's Cemetery with me.  They helped me see the work that had to be preserved.  A couple of months ago Catherine asked if I would promise to do a CW tour of St Pats.  She told me it wouldn't happen for a while, but she wanted me to promise her it would be done.  The work we are doing now in the CW search is all because of her and her insistence that the Irish be recognized in Lowell's Civil War cemetery.  Requiescat in pace.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


We've gotten to the point with our research that we'd like to start the next step.  We're looking for volunteers who could do a very preliminary walk of the cemetery with us on MONDAY, JUNE 27 at 9 am.  If it's much later in the day the sun really bakes the area, so the earlier the better.  Our goal for the first walk will be to just see what Civil War stones are visible.  Those who can attend might want to bring a broom or dust broom to move some clippings away.  Wear a hat and bring your water bottle. 

Please send a quick email if you can attend or would be interested in future walks.

We're also trying to gain more followers.  Folks are wondering when posts are made.  The easiest way is by signing up.  I'm not vary tech-savy to teach you how, but play around with it.  If anyone can give step by step directions, please post under comments.

Friday, June 10, 2011

We've only just begun....... (Or- What the heck did we get into?)

I mentioned a recent find Walter made identifying hundreds of Civil War graves at St Pat's Cemet..  He took photos of each page, one by one.  Walt, Eileen, and myself have transcribed the entire list of 650 names (over 1 weekend).  When you get history fanatics going, they just can't stop.  One would think that would be enough, but no.  Now we want to know more about these vets.  The plan is to identify their resting places (maybe using GPS).  Done?  No way!  Along with that, we'd like to get a little bio about each vet by checking City Directories and obits.  The final product will be a real tribute to those who might have been forgotten over the decades. 

A goal would be to place a flag at each site for next Memorial Day.  With that many graves it will take a team of volunteers.  (Hint, hint)  I saw that some groups in other cemeteries have actually placed grave markers (from the Vets Admin).  There is some cost involved as far as placing the stone, though the stone is free.  But that will take paperwork and time filling out all those forms  (Hint, hint)

Just quickly looking over the spreadsheet of the names, breathes life into some of the names.  You won't believe how many immigrated to America and joined the ranks.  The young men in their teens who died, and even some in their 40s.  Why?  Why did these "new" people pick up weapons and go to war?  On the day the 16th Mass left Lowell, they attended Mass at St. Pat's.  At the elevation of the host, the officers lifted their swords in salute.  Some came home and resumed their lives, a few deserted in the face of battle, and some came home and were laid to rest.  Lest we forget.

Hey folks, we've had 1500 readers.  Don't be afraid to share your thoughts.  I'll tell you, it's a good feeling knowing you're helping to preserve the deeds of those who came before us.  Join in!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Who is this man, and what is he doing???

This is Dan Lynch from UMass Amherst.  He showed up with his two trusty volunteers to do some archaeological work in preparation for this summer's upcoming dig.  The tool he's using is a GRP (Ground Penetrating Radar).  The team spent hours laying out grid lines.  (Now I know why I never became an archaeologist.  They have the patience of Job.)  Then Dan walked the entire front yard of the church, inch by inch, every single step, for hours and hours.  Get me drift?  What does it do?  Well, Dan takes the info recorded by the computer and the red box that is being dragged, and when he downloads the data he gets a good idea if and what might be under the ground.  Isn't technology amazing?  (But tedious)  We got there at 9:30 and I left at 5:40 and Dan and Julie were still hard at work.  The data will answer some questions like what is under there, and where should the dig continue.  As soon as I hear from Dan, I'll let you know what the news is.

Things are really moving pretty fast in our work of deepening the story of Lowell's Irish.  One of our readers, Eileen, has an interest in veteran records at St P Cemet..  We hope to reconstruct a d-base of Civil War and WWI burials.  Especially as this is the anniversary of the CW, we thought it appropriate.  From there our favorite historian, Walter, recalled seeing a list that would prove interesting.  Because of Walt's memory we are reconstructing a d-base of Irish CW vet burials at St P Cemet!  What a great way to honor those men.  It's a massive job, but one that is worthy. 

On a final note I just learned of the passing of one of Lowell's best researchers of Irish history, Kay Curran.  I've known Kay since I was a kid, and she always had a tidbit of info she'd share.  We walked cemeteries, traveled to Archdiocesan Archives, and teased each other with who had the best new fact.  She loved being Irish, the Acre, and St. Pat's.  Requiescat in pace.