Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Family History Writing Challenge Day 16

Note: This Family History Writing Challenge began with the story of Michael J. Crusham, my great-grandfather, and his emigration to the United States around 1879. It covered his marriage and his children, continuing with my grandfather, Michael A. Crusham and his family. The next logical step would be to write about his daughter Catherine, my mother. But first I want to backtrack to information that I found while on a trip to Ireland with my husband in 1987. 

The National Archives in Dublin had no records of the family we know by the name of Crusham. The man at the archives essentially told me to go back to the United States and start over with my information. It wasn't until I went to the history center in Galway that I achieved success in learning the real names of Michael J. Crusham's parents. This time a young woman helped me, and she took the approach of putting into the computer Michael C with the parents Michael and Mary. (I had the information that his parents were Michael Crusham and Mary Heneghan from his death record, but she left off the last names in her search since Crusham wasn't coming up.) She got a hit, and it was a big one. She found Michael Crisham born the same date as Michael J. listing the father as Michael Crisham and the mother as Mary Heneghan. Jackpot! So the name was Crisham, not Crusham but it was much closer than we thought it would be. With the new names in hand she looked for further records. As with most old records, there were variations in the spelling of the name – Clesham, Cresham, Clisham – but Crisham was by far the most common, and also the name that the computer there gave as the root of the name. We spent about an hour with the genealogist and got copies of all the people we could place with our family. 

From this information I learned that my great-great grandfather Michael married Mary Heneghan on 15 October 1855 in Tuam. Michael's father, my great-great-great grandfather, was named Michael as well. He was born in 1811 in Tuam, and he died on Tullindaly Road in 8 October 1883. The death was reported by his wife, Catherine Crusham, whose maiden name was Achard. Catherine was born around 1813 in Tuam, and died there on 23 January 1888. Michael and Catherine had the following children in addition to Michael: Mary born in 1827, John born in 1832, Catherine born in 1835, Honor born in 1844 and William born in 1846.

St. Joseph's Cemetery, Tuam
After leaving the history center I wanted to see the cemetery. We found St. Joseph’s Cemetery and in the pouring rain tried to locate any Clisham or Crisham graves. We found some Crishams from the 1950’s but none older than that. We began to wonder if there was an older cemetery somewhere. Unfortunately there was no one in the caretaker’s house, so we headed back into town to find St. Joseph’s rectory, called the Presbytery in Ireland. Hmmm…sounds pretty close to Presbyterian, doesn’t it? Anyway, a lady at the Presbytery advised us that all the cemetery records were held at McGrath’s store in town because he takes care of them. Mr. McGrath was in, and he went in the back room and brought out a huge old book in which all the cemetery plots are registered. As I was studying the book with him a lady in her mid-forties came into the store. He said to her, “Margaret, you’ll not be believing what name we’re looking up.” And she asked, “Who?” “Crisham,” he replied. She looked startled.  “Oh, go on with you now!” she exclaimed. He told her that I was there from the States looking for Crishams. As it turned out, her 95-year-old grandfather is a Crisham. She studied my records a bit, but none of the names looked familiar to her. She said that her grandfather was having a bad day, or she would take me to meet him. She gave me her phone number and told me to call her in a couple of days. Well, a couple of days later we were two counties away, so I couldn't call. I did, however, contact her when we got home, and mailed her our tree to review with her grandparents. They did not recognize any names, but emphatically stated that no one in Tuam had ever gone by any of the other name variations – it was always Crisham. 

Cathedral of the
Mr. McGrath showed me where the cemetery plot would be located, and also described where the Crishams had lived so we could go look at that land. They are buried in Section D, Plot Line 9, Row 7. The records showed that a single grave 9’x4’ was purchased for Catherine Crisham for 1 shilling 6 pence in 1888. Back to the cemetery only to find that our Crishams had no headstone! Oh, the frustrating sides of genealogy… We also drove out to where the Crishams had lived and that area is all built up with new development, so there was nothing of interest there. 

The beautiful church on the left is where the Crisham family worshiped in Tuam. As I traveled the area and enjoyed all the natural beauty, I wondered again how our ancestors could stand to leave their family, friends and this lovely county behind.

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