Researching my Irish third great grandparents, Anthony Curry and Bridget Grant over the past few years has been a piecemeal effort. I was thrilled when I found their names in Francis J. Curry’s Civil War documents and his actual birth date, April 12, 1829. In New York State and Federal Censuses his birth place was enumerated each and every time as “Free Ireland”. That is one generous and complicated research pool. And what was “Free Ireland”?
It was time to delve into Irish history and learn about the timeline of Francis’ life and have context for why a seventeen year old would migrate alone across the Atlantic Ocean to a young country. The big question remained. How do I narrow down where to search for Anthony and Bridget Curry? After the usual Boolean attempt and finding nothing, I went back to their son to see if there could be a clue in some document.
First, I ordered his death certificate from New York State Vital Records. Francis died in 1887 on his farm in Montezuma, Cayuga County. Though New York State began death certificate registration in 1880 and 1881, I found that was no guarantee that one had been filed. Especially in rural areas. It wasn’t until 1913 that compliance was reliable and complete. Luck of the Irish, his death certificate was filed with the state and unlike some others, the information was complete and the handwriting quite legible. And the clue I needed was there. Not “Free Ireland”, but County Clair (sic).
Back to online Irish sources and I went to County Clare Library to see what types of records were available. The first easy step was to “search this site” with the surname Curry and I expected to find either mountains of Curry families or none at all if the records were sparse. First hit was Anthony Curry in the 1855 census transcript in Ennis and there was a Bridget Curry in Ennis as well. The Parish was Drumcliff, but there were place names like Ballyfaudeen and Killaspulgonane and Clonroad and Drumcaurin. Another source stated that in County Clare, a processor named Anthony Curry, worked on documenting the poor. A third document showed an Anthony Curry living in Drumcliff Parish on ½ acre of land in the town of Drumcaurin. I clearly need to learn more about geopolitical boundaries and geography and social, political and religious aspects of County Clare before I try to parse records. Search isn’t research without having a set of valid parameters and all I had was the location of County Clare, but I am not researching with enough basic understanding of its community.
What I am beginning to understand is its history and the event known as “The Great Famine” or the “Irish Potato Famine” and its implication in the migration of my seventeen year old great great grandfather to America. I am also catching on to the continuing reference of “Free Ireland” versus just stating “Ireland”.
Frank Curry arrived in his new home in 1846 and in 1850 Frank was working on the farm of James and Abbie Tyler Jenney in Springport, Cayuga, New York. It is where he would fall in love with and marry Deborah Jane Tyler, Abbie’s younger sister. Debry, as she was affectionately known by her family, was part of the large Tyler family who came to Cayuga County in 1793 and collectively owned some of the best farm land along Cayuga Lake.
By 1855 Frank, Deborah and their two infant sons, William and Henry Eugene, were living in the village of Cayuga and farming. In 1856 Frank’s father-in-law, Lonson Tyler took him to the Cayuga County courthouse and there Frank became a naturalized citizen. Both men signed the document. Frank was literate not just a poor tenant farmer’s son with no education. He could write. Another clue toward Frank’s life in Ireland. Free Ireland. County Clare.
By 1860 the Curry family included my great grandmother, Kate C. Curry and they were living on their own modest farm in Montezuma where they had an apple orchard and cows and chickens.
Frank enlisted in the NYS 111th infantry Company in August of 1864, kissed his wife and two sons and two daughters goodbye and went to fight in the Army of the Potomac. When Lee surrendered at Appomattox, the 111th was there. He mustered out in Alexandria, Virginia in June of 1865 and with his fellow New Yorkers made the journey home. Like his fellow veterans, his health was fragile the rest of his life and he died at the age of 57 of a cerebral hemorrhage.
My notes are better populated with avenues to research and I am hoping that the Anthony Curry I found in Drumcliff is my ancestor and I have the Luck of the Irish working for me.
Go n-éirí an t-ádh leat.
Author, Writer and Genealogical Researcher
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