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Irish Case Study: Putting the Pieces Together

Although the process can be tedious, putting the pieces together from a variety of disparate sources to solve a single research question is very much like working a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, it can be done. Sometimes the end result is not a tidy and clean as we would have it and you have settle for a little fuzzy logic.


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This is the third article in a three-part series on Irish research, suggesting avenues and resources for others researching their Irish ancestry, beginning with U.S. resources, followed by research in Irish records, finally, reviewing facts and putting it all together. If at first you don't succeed . . .

After a lot of work and a lot of success, I still had not answered my primary question: what was Catherine McGuigan/Goodwin's maiden name? I turned to the only other one of her children in the U.S. and searched his line, and I tried to follow the collateral trail that the brother of John Goodwin might have created in NYC.

My aunt had said that the Thomas Goodwin in the 1910 Census was her mother's first cousin. He had an older brother, Owen, and a younger sister, Kathleen. There was a Thomas Goodwin listed on the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) who have been my grandmother's cousin. Writing back to St. Raphael revealed that he was the son of Peter Goodwin and Mary Cunningham. He had a marriage notation and I was able to use that information to contact his descendants and compare notes.

St. Raphael had not been able to find baptismal certificates for John Sr.'s sons, but did provide more information on his brother Peter's family. Peter's son, Peter Goodwin, was born in February 1894 and his daughter Catherine/Kathleen was born in April 1898. As I had never heard of Peter Jr., I called the cemetery and was told that Peter Goodwin, age 5-months, was buried there in July 1894. Peter Goodwin Sr. purchased the grave in February 1893. This is the same month and year that John Goodwin Sr. bought his grave. (Their sons were born 4 days apart, baptized on the same day, and buried 8 days apart.) There were other burials in Peter's grave: 1893, 1894, 1901, 1901, 1903, 1950 and 1955. I wanted to find Peter Goodwin's death certificate so I could verify his parents' names and hopefully learn his mother's maiden name.

New York Times Death Lists

The New York Times is available on microfilm. It used to publish a daily list of deaths, between 1897-1903. I scrolled through day by day trying to find a Peter Goodwin the right age and living on the west side of Manhattan.

I searched 1903 first, thinking that his wife may have died in childbirth, as there were two burials in 1901. In 1903, Mary Goodwin, 36, was the only Goodwin that could have been in that grave. I checked 1901 and found Peter Goodwin, 38, died in February 1901. I sent away and received his death certificate. His parents were listed as Patrick Goodwin and Catherine Goodwin. In this time period it was common to find death certificates where the mother is listed under her married name. It definitely gave more information than his brother's death certificate four years earlier, and corroborated evidence found in the Irish records. (I found that the other 1901 burial was for Peter's youngest son, John James, aged 3 months.)

Checking the Census for Peter

Finding the family in the 1900 U.S. Census Soundex initially failed. Years later I would find them as Googovin on West 49th Street. The census information proved very reliable for the three children and their mother, but was inconsistent for Peter. His month and year of birth were left blank.

I was able to find Peter in the 1890 Police Census. Peter Goodwin was 30 and his wife Mary was 25. They lived around the corner from one another; John was at 660 11th Avenue and Peter was at 546 West 46th Street. This was the apartment where their eldest son was born the following summer.

Figuring Out a Man's Age

Peter Goodwin was born around 1855. His age varied from record to record. In the 1890 Police Census he was 30, on his son Owen's 1891 birth certificate he was 35, and he was still 35 on his son Thomas' 1896 birth certificate. His age goes up to 40 on the 1898 birth certificate of his daughter but then comes down on the 1900 Census to 35; he was 36 on his son John James' 1901 birth certificate and finally on Peter's 1901 death certificate, he was listed as 38. (Peter died just 8 days after John's birth, aging two years in the process.) Peter's birth occurred sometime between 1856 through 1865, according to these records. As there was no baptismal entry at Clogher for Peter or Bernard it is likely that they were both born before 1856 when christening records commence for Clogher.

Peter Goodwin married Mary Cunningham by the fall of 1890. Most unfortunately, there is no civil record of this marriage. Peter and Mary did not marry at St. Raphael or Holy Cross nor any of the other Hell's Kitchen parishes. A Department of Health marriage certificate would have listed Peter's mother's maiden name, but, alas, it does not exist. Even when the parish record is tracked down, it is unlikely that the pastor would have any notations regarding baptismal details or parents' names for Peter Goodwin.

They had six children between 1891-1901. Finding the baptismal records for the two older boys in 1891 and 1892 proved difficult. An initial request for records from the parish adjacent to St. Raphael was answered that the baptisms were not there. After checking other parishes in the area and viewing the St. Raphael records myself on microfilm from the Salt Lake Family History Library (FHL), I wrote Holy Cross again. They finally found the baptisms of Owen Goodwin born 1891 and Francis Goodwin born 1892 and the baptisms of their cousins Patrick, Owen and Hugh Godwin in 1890, 1892 and 1894.

Peter and JOHN Goodwin had several children in a parallel fashion:

1890 PATRICK 30 July

1891 Owen 23 July

1892 Francis Patrick 3 Sep and OWEN 7 September

1894 Peter 6 February and HUGH 27 February

1896 Thomas 22 February and SARAH 31 January

1898 Kathleen 11 Apr

1901 John James 19 Feb

Peter's six children had twelve different baptismal sponsors between them. Only two of the twelve were named Goodwin. In 1891, Owen Goodwin was the godfather for Owen Goodwin and in 1892 Peter Goodwin was the baptismal sponsor for Francis Patrick Goodwin. I was puzzled because I had no idea who these men might be. I knew that both John and Peter named their sons Owen. John and Peter's grandfather was named Owen. As the child's father in 1892, Peter Goodwin could not be the sponsor. That meant another Peter Goodwin existed who was old enough to fulfill the role of sponsor. (None of the godparents John and Kate picked in NYC were named Goodwin. I could not get a copy of John Jr.'s baptismal certificate from Clogher, so I did not know who his godparents were. The witnesses at his parents' wedding were Francis Lynch and Catherine McGinn. One would assume she is a cousin or sister-in-law to the bride, as they had the same name.)

When Peter's daughter Kathleen returned to NYC in 1935 she created a fine paper trail. She set sail in 1910. Perhaps John Goodwin Jr. accompanied his young cousin Kathleen to Ireland? Among the passport records were her father's naturalization papers certifying that he arrived in 1882 and became a citizen in 1888. It also provided his addresses for those two years.

I checked the city directories from Manhattan in the 1880s. I found Peter living in the West 30s between 10th and 11th Avenues as expected. I also noted a man named Owen Goodwin living in that same area and sometimes in the same building as Peter.

Searching the Census before John and Peter Arrived

I decided to check the 1880 census and found Owen Goodwin, age 35 living in that neighborhood. He was enumerated with Hugh and Ellen Goodwin, both 38. They had four children: Margaret, 16, Owen 14, Peter, 3 and Sarah 10/12. The adult men's relationship was left blank. However, I had to determine if these were possible relations to Peter and John Sr. or just a coincidence. Here in one entry I had two candidates for the Owen Goodwin as sponsor in 1891 and one for the godfather Peter Goodwin in 1892. This family also had a Sarah, which I knew was the name of my grandmother and her father's sister in Ireland. answered a lot of questions. Hugh Goodwin married Ellen Rafferty in 1872. She was a widow, as her father's name was O'Brien. That also eliminated one Owen Goodwin. Margaret and Owen Rafferty were Hugh's stepchildren, and the 1870 Census confirmed this fact. It also explained the 11-year age between children.

Hugh's parents were identified on the record as well. He was the son of Patrick Goodwin and Catherine Rogers. I wrote it down and tried to figure out how Hugh and Owen might be cousins to my John Sr. and Peter. I created a family tree and had drawn the branches when it hit me: what if they are not cousins but brothers? After all Hugh, John Sr. and Peter are the sons of Patrick and Catherine Goodwin. Are they the same couple for each man? (Curiously, Rogers can be a form of the name MacRory. My grandmother maintained that her family was related to the Irish archbishop, Joseph Cardinal MacRory (1861-1945). He was born in Ballygawley down the road from Clogher.)

If the 1851 Census was correct in stating that Patrick and Catherine Goodwin married in 1833, could Catherine have been old enough to bear a child in 1834 but young enough to bear a child in 1860, when her last known child was born? The death record in March 1867 suggested that she was born in 1818, as she died at age 49. That would make her 42 years 3 months in December 1860 when John was born and only 15 in 1833 when she married. That might have been possible.

All ages are subject to error but ages at death are particularly questionable. If she were born just three years earlier she would have been 18 in 1833 when she married, 27 when Hugh was born in 1842, and 45 when John was born in 1860. This is not proof that it happened that way but a theory worth examining because it could have been so. If Hugh and John were brothers then I had proof of their mother's maiden name. also had an entry for the birth of Ann Elizabeth Goodwin born 20 Janurary 1882 to Owen Goodwin and Elizabeth O'Connor. I have not been able to find the marriage record for this couple. They were not recorded at the city with the Department of Health.

A Catholic Wedding Recorded in the NYC Civil Records

NYC kept both marriage certificates and a marriage register from 1866-1888. Unfortunately, most NYC Catholic parishes did not return wedding certificates to the Department of Health before 1900. Hugh Goodwin's 1872 marriage was an exception to the rule. I ordered the FHL films for both the certificate and the register listing. This information verified that Hugh and Ellen married on 1 Oct 1872. They married at their neighborhood parish, St. Michael. The witnesses were Hugh McNary and Kate Battle.

Search the Cemetery, Census and Death Records Again

Ann Elizabeth Goodwin and her mother were buried in a grave purchased in 1883 by Owen Goodwin. The addresses on the death and birth records suggest a strong likelihood that this Owen Goodwin was the same gentleman that lived with Hugh in 1880 and Peter later in the decade. One of his last appearances in the records was as sponsor in 1891. In the 1892/93 NYC City Directory there was an Owen Goodwin, driver, at 546 West 46th Street. This is the building where Peter and Mary Goodwin lived in 1890 and 1891. He was not buried in this grave and his date and place of death remain unknown.

Hugh Goodwin on the other hand died in 1926 at the NY Farm Colony on Staten Island. His death certificate verified that he was the son of Patrick Goodwin and Catherine Rodgers. He was buried at Calvary Cemetery in a grave purchased by Martin English in 1901. The other burials were 1908, 1926(Hugh) and 1939. I had no idea who Martin English might be.

I found a death citation for Ellen Goodwin in 1890 that proved to be Hugh's wife. She died in March and the certificate gave me their street address for the 1890 Police Census. I found them at 647 West 46th Street down the block from Peter and Mary and around the corner from John and Kate. Hugh's son, Peter, was 14 and his daughter Sarah was 11. This Peter Goodwin would have been 16 in 1892 when Francis Patrick was baptized. He married in 1902 and lived until at least 1910.

Ellen Goodwin was buried in a grave at Calvary that Hugh purchased in 1876. Their son was almost two when he died. His name was Patrick. Ellen was the second burial. The last one was 1901.

Using the NYC death records index online, I was not able to determine who these burials in 1901 and 1939 might be in the graves where Hugh and his wife were buried. The lack of pastoral compliance with recording marriage records with the city made this search extra tough. I could not easily find who Margaret Rafferty and Sarah Goodwin had married. Neither appeared in the death index as single women.

After deciding that finding Sarah Goodwin by searching the censuses in 1900 for married Sarah's born in 1879 would not work, I called the cemetery. I was looking for the process to avoid paying for a full interment list, since I had two of the three burials. I was lucky that day. The person on the phone told me the 1901 burial was for Helen Flaherty, age 11 days, buried 23 July 1901.

I went to the library and found that Helen died at 620 West 46th Street, according to the New York Times death list. I also checked the 1900 Census online and found a Jeremiah and Sarah Fleherty[sic] at 620 West 46th Street. They had been married two years and had a son, Jeremiah, born in 1899.

I could not find these Flahertys in the 1910 Census. I found a Sarah and a Jerry who were the right age on the death index in 1904 and 1913. Where might the Jerry born in 1899 have gone?

I found the answer in the 1920 U.S. Census. Jerry Flaherty, 19, was living in the same neighborhood as in 1900. He was listed as "nephew" to the head of household. I tried to figure out how Jerry and this woman were related and did a double take on her last name. Margaret English, 56, was Jerry's aunt. At first I though she was a Flaherty but the age suggested that she was more likely Margaret Rafferty Moons English, the half-sister of Sarah Goodwin Flaherty. This explained why Hugh was in the grave of Martin English. He was the husband of Hugh's stepdaughter. I checked the 1939 entries for deaths and found a Jerry Flaherty, 40, who died in 1939.

Contacting the descendants of Sarah Goodwin Flaherty has been done. It is unlikely that they will be able to establish whether there is a link between Hugh Goodwin and John and Peter Goodwin.

I have a lot of information but am still looking for the glue that ties the Goodwin men together. It is still possible that they are not related, but there is enough circumstantial evidence to suggest otherwise. I believe that if I keep digging I will find an obituary or letter that establishes that Catherine Rogers married Patrick McGuigan/Goodwin in 1833 and had many children between 1834-1860; including Hugh 1840, Owen 1843, Ann 1846, Patrick 1848, Sarah 1850, Peter c.1853, Bernard 1855 and John 1860.

Other articles in this series:

Irish Case Study: U.S. Resources
Irish Case Study: Irish Records

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2008.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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