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PostDublin Report: Irish Family History Centre (Patrick Mears, Germany, 07/09/18 2:00 pm)
Based on the high degree of interest expressed by WAISers about genealogy as evidenced by a flurry of recent posts, I thought I would pass on some recent discoveries and refinements that resulted from my July 7th meeting at the Irish Family History Centre in Dublin.
The expert assigned to me by the Centre, a one Patrick Roycroft, did not disappoint and was extremely helpful in ferreting out sources of information and strategies for future research, which I hope will result in finally determining where in Ireland my Mears ancestors were born and raised.
To refresh WAISers' recollections, Patrick Mears was my great-grandfather who was born in Ireland in 1820 and who emigrated to the United States from Ireland, likely by way of Liverpool. He landed in New York City in the early 1850s, where he apparently lived for a short time either in the Lower East Side of Manhattan or Brooklyn on Cherry Street before he set out for the then-young State of Michigan. To finance his way overland, Patrick worked on railroads being constructed in the direction of Southeast Michigan. In 1855 or thereabouts, he lived with his wife, the former Catherine Purtill (born in 1822 in Ireland) and their two children, Catherine ("Kittie") and John, in the village of Bath, Steuben County, New York. At some point (likely before making this trek), Patrick married Catherine Purtill, with whom he sired his children. It is unclear when and under what circumstances Patrick first made Catherine's acquaintance and where and when they were married.
What is clear is that Patrick, Catherine, Kittie and John arrived in the Flint area by 1857, when my grandfather, Edward Francis Mears, was born. Sometime prior to 1859, Edward purchased a small farm in Mount Morris Township, Genesee County, Michigan on land contract, but by 1859, he had defaulted on his contract payments and his interest in this real estate had been forfeited by judgment of the Genesee County Circuit Court. At the time of the 1860 federal census, Patrick and his family were living in Burton Township, also in Genesee County, where he worked on a farm as a common laborer. By 1870, however, Patrick had apparently accumulated sufficient funds to purchase a small farm, again in Mount Morris Township. This property formed the nucleus of the larger farm later acquired by my grandfather, Edward Francis, after Patrick's death in 1876. The 1870 federal census states that Patrick, Catherine, Kittie (age 14) and Edward Francis (age 12) were living on this farm. Neither Patrick nor Catherine could read or write English, but Kittie and Edward had attended school within the prior 12 months. Interestingly, this census records that Patrick was a citizen of the United States although his wife was not so listed.
The records of the parish of St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church in Flint state that Patrick died of stomach cancer in 1876, the centennial of the birth of the United States, and was buried in Old Calvary Cemetary in Flint. Two of his children are also buried there (John and young Michael) and have gravestones, but no gravestone marks Patrick's plot there today. I have no information on Kittie Mears, although I confess that, until now, I was either not aware of her existence or had simply forgotten about her. Eddie and I will try to track her down soon. However, she may have moved to the Lansing, Michigan area after Patrick's death with her mother. Catherine Purtill Mears married soon after her husband's death a farmer with the last name of Quinn. I cannot yet locate a grave for her in the cemeteries in the Lansing area, although there is a grave for a Philip Quinn in St. Joseph Cemetery in Lansing. Philip's birthdate of 1828 and death date of 1908 would make him a contemporary of Catherine Purtill Mears. Nonetheless, I can find no reference to a "Catherine Quinn" in cemetery records in the Lansing area.
At the conclusion of our meeting, Patrick Roycroft's strong recommendation was to check the New York State marriage records between 1850 and 1857 to discover, if possible, a record of the marriage of Patrick Mears (or "Myers," for this is how Patrick is referred to sometimes in official records) and Catherine Purtill. If such a record exists, it will list the names of their respective parents. Armed with such information, we could then search the Irish records that Patrick Roycroft and I labored over in his office. He also recommended that I search records of Roman Catholic parishes in New York City and Bath, New York, to find similar information for my great-grandparents in the Mears line. That is now the next task for Eddie and me to engage in.
This has proven to be almost a lifelong task, but a fascinating and rewarding one nevertheless.
JE comments: Best of luck on this epic quest, Pat! If your great-grandfather and namesake Patrick built railroads in SE Michigan, he probably spent time in the young and booming town of Adrian, which was the major railroad hub of the region. What backbreaking work it must have been--literally.
One small detail: don't you mean that Patrick, not Edward, bought the farm--once again, literally--in 1859 or before? Your grandfather Edward was still a small child at the time.