Sunday, 19 December 2010

A warm welcome to our American cousins

I am delighted to have been emailed recently by Jamie Evans. Regular readers of this family research blog will be aware that in the past 12 months Jamie has carried out a significant amount of research into our Finn ancestors who went to live in Cleveland, Ohio in the early 1900s.

The Finns were ancestors of my father Geoff. His maternal grandmother was named Mary Helen Finn and she married Henry William Clayton.

Mary's parents were Thomas Finn and Bridget Flynn. See this post for more details: 

Both Bridget and Thomas Finn (my g-g-grand parents) originated from Galway in Ireland. The evidence from census records indicates they came to Birmingham in the 1850s/1860s and anecdotal evidence suggests they were displaced by the great famine of the late 1840s.

Thomas Finn had an older brother named James, who lived close by Thomas in the Newtown area of Birmingham, close to St Chad's RC Cathedral.

From Jamie's research it seems that it was the cousins of Thomas and James Finn who left Birmingham in the early 1900s to live in Ohio. Their parents were Patrick and Catherine Finn. Patrick's brother Martin was father of Thomas and James.

The family of Patrick and Catherine Finn consisted of at least 8 children, half of whom went to Ohio.

The members of the family who went to Ohio were all sisters:

Mary born in 1852 - never married.
Ellen born in 1859 married a man named Ratchford.
Julia born in 1865 married Edward Robinson.
Ann born 1868 married Thomas McKiernan.

Jamie has carried out fairly detailed research showing how members of the family travelled back and forth to America right up until the mid-1900s. Another researcher in Birmingham, Ian Payne, has also confirmed that his great grandparents, including his g-grandmother Mary Jane Payne (nee. Finn) went to America to visit their relatives in Ohio on many occasions.

Jamie's more recent research has traced living relatives, descended from the Ratchfords of Ohio. In December 2010, Jamie emailed:  

"Trawling the web looking for the surnames we have for the children of the original Birmingham families who went to Cleveland way back, I came across an obituary of a Paul Penkaty Junior, who died on 20th June 2010, Copy attached, it states he was born in Cleveland, Ohio on 27th December 1953, the son of Adrian and Lucille (Asbury) Penkaty.

Lucille Ellen Asbury was the daughter of Ellen Ratchford who married Henry J. Asbury as per the family obituaries I found earlier and forwarded to you for the blog, Lucille was born in 1924 and died on 18th May 1999 in Lewisville, Watonwan, Minnesota USA.

On the Obituary entry there are 2 e-mail dedications from friends of Paul Penkaty, being a little cheeky I sent a message to one of these e-mail addresses, but again there was no reply, that's when I did a little digging and decided to contact the brother of the deceased who is listed on the obituary as Dennis Penkaty who lives in Minnesota USA.

A week or so later, Jamie emailed again, having made progress in contacting Virginia Kass, the sister of Paul and Dennis Penkaty:

"Hello James, in looking up geneology of my family, I came across your site earlier this year. I am the daughter of Lucille Ellen Asbury Penkaty. She was the daughter of Ellen Ratchford Asbury, who was the daughter of Ellen Finn Ratchford.

I have a sister named Andrea Ellen Penkaty Smith and I believe you contacted my older brother Dennis. My younger brother Paul Henry Penkay died earlier this year.

Most of the Ratchfords that I knew are now dead. I did know some McKiernans but the last I knew was Sister Marie Nativa and we lost contact with her after my mother died in 1999. Actually we lost contact with a lot of them when we moved from Ohio to the state of Minnesota (in the upper Midwestern part of the USA)

The only other decendents I know of are Francine Asbury Trivisano (daughter of Thomas James Asbury & Beverly Asbury Erdlac (daughter of Henry Charles Asbury). Both still living in the Cleveland Ohio area. But neither was all that close to the Ratchford/Asbury family.

It seems once my Grandmother Ellen Ratchford Asbury died in 1935, my grandfather Henry James Asbury pretty much cut himself off from the family.

I was born in 1948 so a lot of that was way before my time. And when my grandmother died in 1935, my grandfather only kept in contact with 2 relatives that I know of. Alice Schindler (I think that was her last name) & Sister Marie Nativa. But that was because my Mom stayed with her Aunt Alice who lived in Dunkirk, New York during the summers & because she was close to her cousin Sister Marie Nativa."

Well done to Jamie once again for great detective work, I hope that Virginia and her family will feel free to contact us in the future and send us up-dates for the blog. We are pleased to be able to say "welcome to your Anglo-Irish roots" and hopefully in the future we may even be able to trace the town or village that the Finn family came from in the mid-19th century.


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  2. Thanks so much for your interest in my blog. Great to be a part of your community.