Disaster

Have you ever wished the floor would just open up and swallow you? Think twice about that . . .

Live auctions are fun! For most of us, the worst outcome is coming home with something we really didn’t need, and possibly paid too much for. We get caught up in the moment and carried away by the bidding. Some people end up hauling an antique oak commode, a weather vane, quilt, and assorted items from Maine to Illinois in a Galaxie 500, already containing 2 adults, 2 teens, and a Labrador retriever. The wrought iron chandelier got installed in the cabin we were borrowing. Occasionally, an auction has more serious consequences.

On Wednesday, 15 January 1958, a large crowd of people gathered at the Carmody Hotel, 38 Abbey Street in Ennis, Ireland. The County Clare hotel had discontinued operation the previous August, so furniture and other hotel items would be auctioned over a 3-day period. The auction took place in a large upstairs dining room, 50′ by 30’—the Sarsfield room. The corner fireplace had a fire blazing to provide heat. The room below, the Commercial Room, was empty and locked.

People came from a wide area. In its heyday, the Carmody Hotel had been a gathering place for influential political figures, including Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847), who used it as his local election headquarters. Supposedly the bed from the room he typically slept in expected to be a hot item. Some bidders were looking for antique furniture; many local residents simply wanted a memento of the 3-story hotel that had been a fixture since 1804.

The auction started at 11:15, and was going well. The auctioneer called for a lunch break at 1pm, resuming at 2:30. The room was crowded with bidders. Some reports claimed there were 50 people5; others, 80; and one even 200¹! No one knew the exact count, but the room was full. As a new lot of linen items came across the auction block, the floor in the center of the room began to sag, finally giving way.

Those standing in the center found themselves falling 14 feet, into the room below. Others found themselves sliding down the sloping floor. A couple furniture pieces were grabbed by people nearby, who prevented those items from falling into the hole. They managed to keep them in place until someone brought rope to secure them permanently.

Meanwhile, the room below filled with people, dust, and debris from above. That room being empty and locked was both a blessing (no one was in there for the floor and people to fall on) and a curse (the doors were locked, so no one could get out). The trapped dust allowed no visibility for those victims.

Townsfolk walking by the building realized there was a problem, and quickly broke out the windows and began to evacuate the trapped people. Across the street at the Queens Hotel, the Corbett family held a wedding reception from the double wedding of brothers William Joseph and James. The guests heard the noise and came out to help. Elizabeth Kelly, one of the brides, was also a nurse. She set to work, in her wedding dress, helping the injured, as other emergency personnel arrived.

Eight people died from the floor collapse, with another 25 injured. Fourteen of those sustained injuries serious enough to require treatment at the hospital, though they were released soon afterwards. Many of the dead died of asphyxiation, inhaling the airborn dust when they attempted to scream.³

Compared to other tragic events, this may not rank high for the number of casualties or monetary losses. This disaster was not only written up in local and Irish papers, it made it to the wire services and was reported in the New York Times, and even the Lodi (California) News-Sentinal. Granted, details got muddled and the numbers exaggerated a bit by the time it got to California, but Lodi felt it was worth publishing.

This disaster also had a huge impact on Ennis. In 1958, its population was 6000 or so. Everyone in town knew someone who died, someone who was there and didn’t die, or someone who was there, helping to rescue people. As evidenced by the articles cited and linked below, the town vividly remembers this disaster and continues to retell the story on the anniversaries in the paper, through video (below) and in books. I have articles for only the 45th, 50th, and 60th anniversaries linked below, but I suspect there are memorial articles from other years that never made it to the internet. Every article I came across always listed the eight victims by name. In 1998, a plaque with their names was installed on the second building owned by the Carmody hotel. It was across the street, and was undamaged by the collapse.

Video prepared for the 60th anniversary remembrance of the collapse. It contains audio interviews with survivors and witnesses of the event. It runs 1 hour 35 minutes.

Coincidentally, one of the victims was Josephine Carmody, a 39-year-old mother of five, married to . . . a Michael Carmody. None of the articles mentioned if her husband was descended from the Carmody line that had once owned the hotel.

So, what does this disaster have to do with my (Mike’s) Carmodys? I am not really sure. Mike’s grand uncle, Michael J. (b. 1856) had worked for the competition (Queen’s Hotel) across the street, but I can’t tie him to the Carmody Hotel. One benefit of a disaster is that newspaper articles tended to provide background information related to the incident. From those I learned:

  1. John Carmody was the original business owner (not building owner) from 1804 through 1824, at least
  2. Patrick Carmody, owned it at his death in June, 1833. His wife died a week after he did, leaving 10 children behind (6 of them “very young”).
  3. Michael Carmody was the owner in 1846 through at least 1875.
  4. Miss Agnes Carmody owned it in 1883.
  5. Delia & Amy Dillon owned it in 1893. Was it sold outside the family, or was this just a daughter name change?
  6. It passed to Monica McKenna by 1901, and was under her management until at least 1931.
  7. Angela F. Bailey was running it (owning it?) by 1943.
  8. Michael Carmody, who had been Town Clerk of Ennis from 1906 -1946+, died after having relocated to Dublin. He came back to Ennis for burial. He was “the only son of John Carmody and was grandson of Michael Carmody, founder of Carmody’s Hotel.”
  9. The Right Honorable Baron Richards was the landlord in 1856. George H. Richards (his son?) was the landlord in 1874.

So the original Carmodys owned and ran the business (which apparently started out as and Alehouse, before qualifying as a full-fledged hotel by 1827) until the 1890s. It seems like Michael in #3 had a son, John, who had the Michael in #8. I found another death notice for “veterinary surgeon, 44 yrs., eldest son of late Michael Carmody, proprietor of Carmody’s Hotel, 12 February 1894.” Could that be the same John Carmody mentioend in #8? Dying at age 44 would put his birth year at 1850, so it could fit.

While I’ve acquired a lot of information tidbits, and can create a tentative timeline, I have gaps unaccounted for. Some relationships can be pieced together, but others are still a mystery. How did Patrick (#2) connect to John (#1)? Were they father and son? Older and younger brother? Cousins? How did Michael (#3) connect to either of them?

Mike’s great grandfather, Andrew, started having children in 1845. Could he and Michael (#3) be brothers? Cousins? I still don’t know. I do know that my dedicated “Carmodys in County Clare” file in Family Tree Maker has :

  • 29 John Carmodys
  • 18 Michael Carmodys
  • 42 Patrick Carmodys
  • 11 Thomas Carmodys
  • 11 James Carmodys

I know some of them are duplicates: one may show up as son to his parents and separately as husband to his wife, but I can’t prove he is one individual. But I’m working my way through the 1901 and 1911 census records, the parish record books, and trying to make sense of Griffiths Valuation, hoping to find enough detail to clear up some of those duplicates, and maybe find the connection between the Carmody family on the west side of the Fergus River (Mike’s) and the east side of the river (hotel family).

My Carmody tree is its own mini-disaster . . .

#52Ancestors


¹”Eight Killed In Collapse Of Old Irish Hostelry,” Lodi News-Sentinel, 16 January 1958; (https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=UvMzAAAAIBAJ&sjid=B-8HAAAAIBAJ&pg=2355%2C1676452 : accessed 28 February 2020 from Google News Archive).

²Jessica Quinn, “Witness To An Ennis Tragedy,”  The Clare Champion, January 2018; (https://clarechampion.ie/witness-to-an-ennis-tragedy/ : accessed 28 February 2020).

³”Carmody’s, Going, Going, Down …,” Irish Identity, January 2003; (http://www.irishidentity.com/extras/people/stories/carmody.htm : accessed 28 February 2020) citing The Clare Champion, January 2003.

⁴”50th Anniversary Of Carmody’s Hotel Tragedy,” The Clare Herald, 15 January 2008: (https://theclareherald.blogspot.com/2008/01/50th-anniversary-of-carmodys-hotel.html : accessed 28 February 2020).

5Gerry Quinn, “The Day That Shook Ennis: Eight People Died In Hotel Disaster 60 Years Ago,” The Clare Echo News, 1 December 2018: (https://www.clareecho.ie/day-shook-ennis-eight-people-died-hotel-disaster-60-years-ago/ : accessed 28 February 2020).

Same Name

I don’t have to look very far in my tree to find people with the same name. Undoubtedly there’s at least one instance—frequently more—on each major family line. Depending on the situation, they may cause more or fewer difficulties for me.

I quickly zeroed in on the same name I wanted to write about this week, but this blog has proven more difficult than anticipated. I’ve restarted it at least twice. Then yesterday I discovered a mistake requiring me to publish a correction blog . It’s been quite a week!

So if you read yesterday’s blog, you’ve been reminded about the Andrew Carmodys in Mike’s tree. When I started putting that tree together almost 40 years ago, we knew very little. Mike had some papers his father (Jerry) had left, leaving us a few Carmody breadcrumbs, locating them in Port Huron, Michigan. Other than that, we knew nothing. Mike’s mom had never met any of Jerry’s family, and we had no contact with anyone living.

One item we had was a note Anna Carmody Bauman (Jerry’s adoptive mom, and cousin) had received from Ennis, Ireland, with the obituary for her father, Michael, inside. The note read:

My Dear Nano,

Just a line to let you know I got your letter alright & I am sorry for not writing sooner but I was waiting to get the certificate for you. well Nano it was terrible about your poor Father we got a great shock when he died so quickly we haven’t got over it yet. well Nano your Father left (600) pounds but it is all in the Bank of Ireland & cannot be touched untill all of you come to some arrangements & you will have to write to Mr. Cullinan 6 Bindon Street for any information you want. Andy Carmody (Paddy’s son) wrote to Jack Carmody explaining every thing & telling him what to do & Nano he never heard from him since & he never wrote to us so we can’t do nothing more about it.

[remainder snipped]

letter from “your old Joe” (no last name) at the Ennis Club, Ennis, County Clare, Ireland; dated 5 May 1925. Typed as written. On the note, his periods look like commas, and he doesn’t capitalize the next word—though he does capitalize “Father” each time! So we have an Andrew still in Ireland in 1925, the son of a Patrick!

It wasn’t much to start with. In 1980, the most recent census records available were from 1900, so we spent a Saturday at the Indiana State Library, cranking through microfilm reels, looking for John Joseph Carmody, the name we had for Mike’s grandfather. We found him, his wife, Elizabeth, and their 7 children—including an Andrew, born September 1887!

A subsequent road trip to Port Huron with Mike’s mom found us in the Mount Hope Cemetery, where John Joseph was buried. Nearby were the headstones of Andrew J. Carmody, b. 1887, and another Andrew J., born 1918, presumably his son. Alas, genealogy is seldom as simple as it seems!

As more records became available (specifically, census records) I could fill in branches more completely. The other Andrew popped up, muddying the Port Huron waters. Sorting the two out correctly wasn’t always easy (as is already evident!). A simplified tree below may help:

Simplified descendant chart for Andrew Carmody and Mary Culleeny. I left the girls off, because if they had Andrews, they wouldn’t be Carmodys. Andrew and Mary had 3 sons (none named Andrew!), each one naming a son Andrew. Michael’s son also named a son Andrew.

Sorting these boys out will be easier if done one-by-one, rather than trying to go year-by-year. We’ll start with John Joseph’s Andrew. Originally, I thought the Andrew at Mount Hope was John J.’s son. That is, until I found the family on the 1910 census, where he was listed as Andrew M. He used the middle initial M. inconstently through his life. It was there for the WW I and WW II draft registrations, the 1930 census, and his father’s death certificate. It was missing from 1920 and 1940 census records, as well as Find-A-Grave. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize he was in Lakeside cemetery, so don’t have that headstone photo.

One issue with him was his birthplace. Early census records said he was born in Ontario, Canada, but later ones said it was Michigan. Which was it? This weekend I found his Canadian birth record at FamilySearch. The date was 2 days off from his other records, but his father didn’t register it until 3 or 4 weeks afterwards, so he may have mis-remembered. The parents’ names were correct, but what was most interesting was his name was given only as “Michael.” Apparently “Andrew” was added on, later.

When I re-examined the records I’d found for him, I realized that Canada was given as his birthplace when he was younger—when his parents would have provided the information. His draft registrations and later census records (when he would have provided it) all said Michigan. I also noticed in the 1900 & 1910 censuses, he, his parents, and two older siblings all emigrated in 1887. Andrew M. was born in September, 1887, so it seems they moved to Michigan in the 3½ months after he was born! By 1910, his father was naturalized, probably naturalizing his wife and children at the same time. Maybe Andrew didn’t really know he’d been born in Canada? His only memories growing up would have been of Michigan. Or maybe it was simpler to say he was natural born, rather than naturalized. I don’t know.

So the Andrew J. buried near John Joseeph wasn’t his son. Who was he? Andrew J. didn’t appear in Port Huron until the 1930 census. He was married with 3 children . . . who were all born in Massachusetts? That seemed a little odd. But he was buried close to the other Carmodys at Mount Hope, so that suggested a relationship.

When I found Michael’s family (John Joseph’s brother) in the 1901 Ireland census, there was an Andrew who was only 10 years old—a little younger than expected. But Andrew J.’s death certificate at Michiganology.org clearly identifies him as one of Michael’s children—brother to Anna Carmody Bauman, Patrick, and Lena, and older sister Margaret Carmody Alloway, all of them emigrating to Michigan. So what was up with Massachusetts? I decided I need to to track that down.

Andrew’s oldest child should have been alive before the 1920 census, so I searched FamilySearch for the family. I found a likely match in the Boston area. The record indicated he’d emigrated in 1908, so I looked for him in 1910. His wife, Mary, emigrated in 1910, so they did not arrive together, and it’s unlikely they got married before enumeration day. Again, I found a likely Andrew living with a brother, John F. Carmody, and his wife, Catherine F.

But was this my Andrew? Boston had a lot of Irish, and Carmody isn’t that unusual a name. While the 1901 Ireland census had listed an older brother, John, that’s not an unusual name, either! I was able to find a 26 January 1910 marriage record for John Francis Carmody and Katherine Frances Gallagher. Fortunately, parents’ names were listed, and the groom’s parents were Michael Carmody and Mary Whelan. BINGO!

I would feel a little better if I found Andrew’s marriage certificate, but the databases at FamilySearch don’t quite go far enough. My Ancestry subscription has expired, but Ancestry is giving me a teaser that Andrew and Mary got married in 1916. I will have to follow up with that at the library. It seems that Michael’s son John, moved to Boston and settled there. John’s brother Andrew J., followed him there, but eventually moved to Michigan, where he was closer to his other siblings.

What about “Paddy’s son,” back in Ireland? I know the least about him. The 1901 Irish census listed a Patrick Carmody, age 38, living in house 7 in the Borheen, with his wife, Anne. Ten children are listed, including an Andrew, age 5. The only other Andrew Carmody listed in Ennis for that census was Andrew J., Michael’s son. This 2nd Andrew was still alive for the 1911 census. Were these the right Patrick and Andrew? A March 1859 birth record exists for a Patrick, son of Andrew and Mary Culliney. That fits with this Andrew’s father’s age in 1901. He is the only adult Patrick in The Borheen. There were, however, other Patrick Carmodys in Ennis—aged 44, 58, 19, 30, 47—though none of them had an Andrew.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found a marriage record around 1884 for Patrick and Annie, nor do I have a death record that might confirm this Patrick had the right parents. 1881 and 1891 census records (which might place his parents with him) were pulped during WW I. The information I have is circumstantial at best. If I could connect with descendants of Patrick’s children, I might get the verification I need. For now, though, it’s a big question mark.

Of course, all this started with Mike’s great grandfather, Andrew Carmody. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of information on him. He lived in/near Ennis, County Clare, Ireland, and married Mary Culleeny. Other than his appearance in his children’s birth registers, I haven’t found more about him. I’ve not located a death certificate. No marriage certificate. No birth certificate of his own, or anything to tell me who his parents were. He has left me with more questions than answers.

Nevertheless, I’m grateful he was an Andrew, and not a John or Patrick. I would be having a much harder time of it!

#52Ancestors

Brick Wall

I have many brick walls, some of which you’ve seen. Unfortunately, most are miles away from being solved! With a potential trip to Ireland next year, it seems wise to take a look at one of the brick walls located there.

Mike’s Carmodys come from County Clare, Ireland. In Close Up, I revealed how the history I had for Mike’s grandfather, John J. Carmody, had been wrong, as a result of some incorrect information. Solving the problem of that unknown brick wall unfortunately created a new one!

To recap: I mistakenly had two brothers related as a father-son combo. When that was corrected, I had John J. correctly connected to Michael as a brother, with another potential brother, Patrick. Their father was Andrew Carmody, and mother was Mary Culleeny/Culliny/Culliney. Andrew was actually a fortunate first name, because outside of this family group, I don’t tend to see it (though all three sons named a son “Andrew”). It was much better than John or Patrick!

Unfortunately, besides his name, I don’t have much other information for Andrew Carmody. By the 1901 census, he and Mary seem to have already died. None of the early census records exist. The 1821-1851¹ were destroyed in the 1922 fire in the Public Record Office (a few stray pages survive). The 1861 and 1871¹ were destroyed shortly after they were taken, and the 1881 and 1891¹ were pulped during WWI (there was a paper shortage). So there are no helpful census snapshots of the family with Andrew in it.

Griffith’s valuation finally came online. What’s that? Well, it’s rather like a tax list. It calculated your contribution to support the poor and destitute within the local Poor Law Union. The rate was based on the property and how it was developed. The valuation took place between 1848 and 1864. That’s a perfect time period for Andrew.

When I search for him in County Clare, he appears in Griffith’s here. Snips from the page will make it a little easier to follow:

Griffith’s Valuation, page 169² (with the middle of the page clipped out). The red boxes point out the headings at the top, and Andrew Carmody’s entries: two as an Occupier (14 shillings owed for both), and one as the Lessor (landlord —8 shillings). I don’t know who pays the valuation — the Occupier or the Lessor. The green boxes point out other Carmody entries in the area: Margaret, Thomas, and Ellen. Parish of Drumcliff, The Borheen (heading missing in the snipped section).

It’s interesting to see three entries for him. How do I know all three are the same man? Well, the two as Occupier are, because in the 4th column for lot 29, it says, “see also No. 32.” If they were two distinct individuals, I doubt they would link the entries in that way. The property where Andrew Carmody is the Lessor is adjacent to No. 29. While it could be a different man, it seems unlikely that the only other Andrew Carmody in County Clare (a name search returned only these three results) happens to live next door to property owned by a different Andrew Carmody!

Section of a Griffith’s Valuation map² showing what I believe to be The Borheen area. It is north of the River Fergus. The almost vertical lane to their right is The Borheen (“country lane or rural road”), now called Marian Avenue. The blue arrows point toward the parcels I believe are associated with Andrew Carmody.

Could this NOT be Mike’s great grandfather? Possibly. But with no other Andrews in the county, and him being in the correct parish (Drumcliff) and place (Borheen), it makes a good case in his favor. Ideally, I would be able to find other documents tying him and his family to these properties.

I’m also curious why he is not occupying the property he owns. Perhaps his family had outgrown the house, so he needed to lease a larger one? It would be interesting to know more about Francis Gore (his landlord) — he was the Lessor for a lot of properties! It would also be nice to know who the other three Carmodys were. Quite likely they are related, but I have no clue how.

While it was great finding him (hopefully) in Griffith’s, it didn’t really solve the problem of whether there were other children or who his parents were. Fortunately, the Catholic parish registers have been put online from several sources. Find My Past has some of them available (with images), and some parishes have put the information online, themselves: sometimes indexes only, sometimes images.

Searching through parish records,³ I’ve pieced together a tentative list of the children of Andrew Carmody and Mary Culleeny:

  • Catharine, baptized 27 July 1845
  • Mary, baptized 30 December 1848
  • Ellen, baptized 22 November 1850
  • Anne, baptized 4 July 1853
  • Michael, baptized 18 August 1856
  • Patrick, baptized 14 March 1859
  • John, baptized 24 February 1862

Mike’s grandfather, John Joseph, appears to be the last child. Curiously, though, his birth date as recorded in US documents is mid-August, 1863. The parish baptism index does not include his middle name (or initial). There are no later children for this couple, though. It’s possible that this son, John, died, and they had another son that they named John Joseph, 15-16 August 1863. I don’t have access to death records to test that theory, but I need to look for possible evidence of that.

Similarly, there was a Mary Carmody, baptized 18 February 1843 to an Andrew and a Mary Collins. Granted, Collins seems a long way from Culleeny (or any of her spelling variations), but it’s actually closer than one would think. No other Carmody fathers are named Andrew in the index, and no other Carmody children born to a Mary Collins — married to an Andrew, or not.

So it’s possible this Mary is also one of their children — the first one, perhaps. Since there is clearly another Mary born in 1848, if that is the case, the first Mary must have died before then. Further research looking at the actual documents (rather than a transcription) is necessary to assess who the 1843 Mary belongs to.

Their marriage date is still up in the air. The parish marriage index³ shows only one Andrew Carmody. He has a marriage date of 27 July 1840. That date fits with the other information I have (children’s births — even the potential “extra Mary.” Unfortunately, the bride is listed as “Mary Carmody.” Sometimes same-named couples marry (related or not), but sometimes the person filling in the register/certificate — or the transcriber — makes a mistake. For some reason the bride’s maiden name isn’t recorded, so the married surname is used in its place. While this index entry is an encouraging lead, looking at the actual record might solve the dilemma.

Additionally, the index doesn’t tell us their ages or their parents’ names. Is that information included in the original? Maybe. That’s another reason to view the original! If I can’t locate images online, I may need to see if I can get access to them when we travel there. I don’t have death dates for Andrew or Mary. Those might point me to birth dates (and parents?) for them.

As I looked for “my” (well, Mike’s) Carmodys, I stumbled across all sorts of other ones nearby. Are they related? Maybe. I don’t know if Andrew had siblings — if so, their records might point me to parents. They could also be cousins. But how to keep track of them, with stray children, marriages, and so on? How do I figure out their connections (or lack of) to each other? I decided I needed to spin off a separate “working file” just for the Carmodys. I can enter Carmody data as I find it, without cluttering my own file. It lets me deal with them in a contained environment. When I get them sorted out, I can transfer the ones I need back to my regular file.

This brick wall is still pretty solid . . . Bummer. I need to keep chipping away at it, and checking for new record sets to come online to help break through it.

#52Ancestors


¹National Archives of Ireland, “Census of Ireland 1901/1911 and Census Fragments and Substitutes, 1821-51”, database, The National Archives of Ireland (http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/help/history.html), paragraph 3.

²”Griffith’s Valuation, 1847-1864″, database, AskAboutIreland.ie, Ask About Ireland (http://griffiths.askaboutireland.ie), General Valuation, p. 169, for Andrew CARMODY, occupier, The Borheen, Ennis (town), Lifford (townland), Drumcliff (parish), Ennis (union), Islands (barony), County Clare, accessed 7 April 2019.

³https://www.ennisparish.com/genealogy/     Search on “carmody” in the surname field, click submit. List of