Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Irish Forebears

Of all my ancestors whose details I've uncovered over the years in censuses, wills, tax lists, city directories, Civil War pension files, and other documents, by far the most mysterious is a man named Edward Harding Ryan.

Edward was born in Ireland in 1826 and immigrated in 1873, arriving in Philadelphia. He was apparently a Protestant so I'm guessing he may have been from the North, but I have yet to find any more concrete information on his origins.

He was naturalized on August 31, 1880, but strangely I can't seem to find him in the 1880 census. I don't know what his wife's name was and I don't know his profession.

He had at least two children, one of whom was my great great grandmother, Isabella Esther Ryan, born in 1859 in Ireland. She married Andrew Lucas Chamberlain and died when my great grandmother, Laura, was only five.

Edward's other daughter that I know of, Catherine S. Ryan, was born in 1857, also in Ireland, and married Douglass Bellerjeau, a Philadelphia native.

The most informative source on my great great great grandfather is his death certificate, dated January 1886. He was only sixty. He died of pneumonia and was buried in the Greenwood Knights of Pythias Cemetery. His address was listed as 1477 Cook St., and he was a widower.

I'm fascinated by the mysteries of my past. These people are part of who I am, and it's amazing to think that this almost anonymous Irish immigrant was one of the people without whom I would not exist. Some day I'll find out more about him but until then it's good to know on St. Patrick's day (though surely Edward would not have acknowledged St Patrick!) that I'm at least that little part Irish.