Saturday, May 2, 2015

Sometimes the Genealogy Jokes Just Write Themselves

A sense of humor is definitely a requirement when doing genealogy and family history research. There are times when you find a funny name or funny place or stumble upon a funny story. If you’re really lucky, you get a “double funny” as I call them.

Recently I was working with the U.S. Civil War Era Records page over at FamilySearch (it is an amazing free resource) and looking for possible McEntee ancestors who served on the Union side. Under the Union: Pensions section is the United States Index to General Correspondence of the Pension Office, 1889-1904 record set which is basically a series of cards noting when someone wrote with an inquiry and the nature of the inquiry.

A New Ancestor: Balls McEntee

So how neat would it be to find an ancestor who either through a given name or through a nick name was called “Balls” as in “Balls McEntee?” That is what I thought I had when I searched the record set:

As my mind is racing with an image of this ancestor, perhaps so nicknamed due to some heroic event involving testicular fortitude, I do what every good genealogist does: I carefully looked at the record to make sure I was gathering every detail. And because of my vision issues, I enlarged the image and found out that the name was Bails and not Balls.

Oh, bullocks.

Bails as in . . . Wait for it . . .

Even with all the air let out of the many family story possibilities, I still had to look at the image itself. And that is where I got the second giggle of the day involving this record:

Cue drums: bah dump dump. So what are the chances that a man named Bails is writing to the US military about his desertion record? As I said before, sometimes the genealogy jokes just write themselves.

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday - April 3rd, 2015

As I do every year, I shut down and disconnect from work and the world by noon on Good Friday. Growing up in the Roman Catholic faith, as a child we would sometimes go to church and follow the Stations of the Cross. Or we would stay home with no radio, no television and sit and recite the rosary. It was also a day of fasting.

There was no music and NOTHING would be on the altar. In fact, the Altar Ladies (known as the Altar Guild in some churches) would clear the altar of the usual Holy Bible, altar cloth and other regalia right after the Holy Thursday service. Often there would be a single red rose placed on the altar which would remain until Easter had arrived.

I also knew it was Good Friday since church bells did not play their recorded tunes at the regular 12 noon and 6pm times. All music at the church stopped right after the Holy Thursday service and would not resume until the Easter Eve service at 10pm on Holy Saturday.

As I've gotten older I find I don't keep all of the Catholic traditions I grew up with. I now have this routine on Good Friday: I get up early in the morning to get as much work done as possible. Then I post a video of my favorite gospel song "Were You There" sung by Johnny Cash and the Carter Sisters, and then I just sit, pray, remember by ancestors and contemplate the Crucifixion.

This year I'm also focusing on the message that Jesus brought: a message of change. I'll focus not just on changes I've witnessed over the past year, but changes needed to improve my life. I will also look at changes we as humanity can make in terms of how we treat each other and how we experience life.

For me, Good Friday is more than a holy day. It is a day of change and offers the chance to understand that change both 2,000 years ago as well as each and every day.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 20, 2015

An Alzheimer's Journey via StoryPress

Many readers of Destination: Austin Family know that this site started back in December 2006 as a way of coping with my mother's early onset Alzheimer's Diseases diagnosis in 2000. My main goal was to capture the many family history stories that I heard growing up.

Over the past eight years I've expanded the posts to cover genealogy and family history as well. An important element of many posts is the concept of "storytelling" and conveying the power of a family story with all its facets.

The written word can only go so far. So I've been working with a new platform called StoryPress ( to create video stories using photos and text narrated in my own voice. Here is my latest video, My Mother and Alzheimer's Disease, based on an annual post entitled "Our Family's Journey to Remembering."  Here is the video and look for more video stories in the future:

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.