A Toppin Family Story

Toppin is one of my family lines in Ireland. My Toppin family was located in Buffanagh (Buffana) Fethard Tipperary. They have been a bit of an anomaly for me. Not much information had been found on the family and most of what I had was family stories and information.

Aunt Girlie, aka Sarah Agnew Toppin, gathered a bit of information about the family. Her father left Buffanagh at the age of majority. He married in Kilkeel County Down and raised his family in Limerick. Aunt Girlie thought her Grandfather’s name might have been Mathew.

The Governor did not speak much about his family. The Governor was the family name for Sarah’s father Philip Rawlins Toppin. The fact that he did not speak about his family caused a bit of a red flag for me. Had something happened that Philip did not want to be reminded of his early life?

In preparation for a trip to Dublin in 2003 I was gathering up all the information already known about the family and started a cluster research project for my Toppin family. The first step was to gather all the birth, marriage and death records for the name Toppin, Tappen, Toppen, Topham, Topping and Tapping in the area surrounding the family home of Buffanagh.

I was ordering a lot of certificates from Ireland and this was getting expensive. To ease the expense I began ordering photocopies of the registrations from the Mormon Family History Centre in Salt Lake City. Only the earlier years of registration are available but any little bit helped.

One of the copies of the death registrations came back with three entries on one page. Mathew Toppin, William Toppin and Richard Toppin all died within a couple of weeks of each other in 1869. This was around the time that The Governor left Buffanagh. Could this have been the reason?

A closer look at the causes of death provided an even more incredible story. Mathew had died of respiratory problems and he was well on in years. William was but 20 and died of Tuberculosis. Richard was middle age and had been murdered. Yes, murdered!

Thankfully this information was found before leaving for Ireland so I was able to concentrate on finding out more about the murder while in Dublin. This was something that would have been extremely difficult to do from Canada. I also remembered that a long time ago on a mailing list someone had mentioned a murder and the Toppin family but no one knew any details.

My first stop was the National Archives of Ireland. When I first approached the Archivist about finding information he said the murder must have been about land. He said that most murders in Ireland had to do with land during that time period. There were no coroner’s records so the only other recourse was newspapers.

I had a date of death so that helped narrow down the search. The Irish Times and Cork Examiner were the two big papers for the area in that time period so the search began.

The National Library of Ireland has a great resource online called Newsplan. You can search for available newspapers by title, town or county. You can even include titles from the Newsplan project that are not held by the National Library of Ireland.

The search provided lists of publication dates and what was available on microfilm and hard copy. It also provided the different incarnations that the newspaper had during its publication.

So into the dark microfilm reading room at the National Library of Ireland I went. Several entries of the inquest were found. The description of the body was so detailed I could not read it all. It looked like the murder was a result of land. Three Fitzgerald cousins of the wife of Richard Toppin were arrested for the murder with the reason being a disagreement over a piece of land they felt should have gone to them.

New family information was also gleaned from these reports. The reports provided the names of his wife and children as well as the fact that his wife and children practiced the Catholic faith and Richard was Protestant. Information on other family and neighbours was also provided in the newspaper accounts. These accounts were published about a week or so after the murder.

In the end the three men arrested were not charged because there was not enough evidence to convict them. By the sounds of it the murder was never solved.

While searching for the coroners records at the National Archives of Ireland the Archivist mentioned another resource that really helped me with my Toppin research. It turns out they had copies on microfilm of the parish registers of the local Church of Ireland in Fethard. By searching these I was able to develop family groups and go back three more generations. The Governor’s father was John Philip Toppin. Mathew Toppin, who died at the same time as Richard, was his uncle. Richard Toppin and William Toppin were his cousins.

No one will ever know for sure but all these things happening at once as well as the possibility that The Governor did not want to be a farmer could have resulted in him leaving Fethard and not wanting to talk about his family.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

Sharing Family History Research, Privacy and the Internet

Everyone who researches their family history ends up sharing their data at one point or another. It is the nature of family history research. I do it myself particularly when I first started out.

Twenty years ago the problem of identity theft was not as big as it is today. We still had to use the mail to share our family history information so you always had a mailing address for the person on the receiving end.

People did not have their entire family trees online. No concern was given to the information relating to the living members of the family.

Today you have an email address that can be as fleeting as sunshine on an overcast day. The personal contact information for the people you are sharing your information with is not freely given either.

I knew things were moving very quickly in the world of family history when my own information came back to me within one year. I had sent out a descendents chart to someone in Australia, they sent it to someone in Florida who sent it to someone in Alabama and then to Texas. Texas sent it back to me and they did not know that the information had originated with me in the first place. Everyone passed it along without informing anyone about the name of the data’s originator.

I then started putting my address stamp on every page of information I sent out.

Next I started shortening the information being shared. I would try to figure out which branch the enquirer came from and send only the information that would relate to them. They would ask for the other branches of the family which would not be given out, especially if our shared ancestor was six generations back.

Sometimes I wish that I knew twenty years ago what I know now and maybe my data would not be floating around the world unidentified. The other thing is that I have improved my research practices. Sources are cited in more detail and even if it is a tiny bit of information from someone they become my source reference.

Hind sight is always twenty twenty and we can only do better when we know better. Everyone is on a learning curve. Not many of us knew how to actually research our family history when we started we just jumped in and went for it.

Lately my own personal data has been found online which came from descendents charts that had been sent to “new cousins” years ago. I had already started making notes of who received what so the trail could be followed. A little piece of innocuous information would be imbedded that could identify who had received it. These people were contacted and nicely asked to remove my data. They very kindly did so right away.

The only problem was with Ancestry who said there was nothing they could do and would not take the information down. I was especially cross when one tree attached my family to another family that was not connected in anyway. This research was wrong and Ancestry would not remove it.

I will admit that these experiences have made me think twice before sharing my family history data. It bothers me to think that way but my research data is a result of my hard work. I am the one who put in all the hours and a little credit for the work would not go awry.

The need people have for the instantaneous fix has permeated family history research and sometimes not in a good way. Not everything can be found online.

I feel sorry for them in a way because they are missing out on a great adventure. There is nothing like planning a genealogy research trip and going to see actual records. Putting your hands on the documents that your ancestors held or being in the same place where they walked down the hall to register a land transaction or birth. Or to be in a Family History Centre reading microfilms and sharing information with the community that gathers there.

In my opinion to miss these kinds of activities in your research is to miss out on a lot. It becomes a gathering data race rather than a personal journey of discovery.

You can not be in touch with your ancestors only through a computer. They did not have one.

And remember to please ask the living members of your family for their permission before you put any data relating to them online. Or better yet do not put any data relating to living relatives online at all. They will thank you in the end.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

Anthony Toomey and Martha Cross: A Love Story – Finding the Proof

The place to start would be the family story itself so here is the story that has been passed through the generations about Anthony Toomey and Martha Cross.

“Anthony Toomey who filled the Office of Physician General at Bombay in the East India Company Service, a native of the County Kerry married about the year 1780, Martha Cross, daughter of George Cross Esquire of Rathconnell in the County Kildare, she being a Protestant and he a Roman Catholic.

By the influence of the said Anthony Toomey’s sister, who held a high position in the Convent Tralee, County Kerry, he got a position in the East India Company’s Service and left for India. His wife, being with child, did not go with him but in time she was safely delivered of a boy whom she got christened Mark Toomey and brought him up in her own religion, a Protestant.

Shortly after the birth of her child she got what purported to be an official account of her husband’s death in Bombay of yellow fever, and from what transpired afterwards, he (Anthony Toomey) must have got a similar official notice of not only her death in childbirth but also the death of her child.

Without a husband (as she thought) and estranged from her family by her marrying a Roman Catholic, she was obliged to earn her bread as best she could, and took the position of Housekeeper to a Mr. Purcell of Athy, County Kildare, a wealthy man who ran a number of mail coaches in Ireland at that time that were well known as “Purcells Coaches”

The town of Athy had a Military Barracks and Mr. Purcell always called on the Colonel and Officers of every new Regiment stationed there and invited them to dinner. He being a self made man, felt highly honoured at having them at his house, and the story goes that the young Officers used to laugh amongst themselves at the expense he went to to entertain them with the finest of wines, etc. – indeed it is more than surmise to say that the reason he employed Martha Toomey was to assist him in such entertainments which of course he did not quite understand.

A new Regiment came from India and was stationed at Athy Barracks and Mr. Purcell as usual invited them to dinner and after dinner, as was fashionable then, there was general wine taking all round and the host, Mr. Purcell said “May I have the pleasure of a glass of wine with you Mrs. Toomey”. On hearing the name of Toomey one young Officer said to the other “That reminds you of the name of our old friend the General”, whereupon Mrs. Toomey enquired who the General was and was told he was Physician General in the East India Company Service at Bombay to which she exclaimed, “My husband”, but the Officer said “Oh! Pardon me Madam, General Toomey’s wife and child died in Ireland soon after he arrived in Bombay. He got official notice of the fact.” She asked did they know what his name was and they told her “Anthony”, and she said “It is my husband and I got official notice that he was dead”. It was quite clear to all present that a swindle had been perpetrated on both of them and Mr. Purcell set about the next day to try and solve the mystery.

This must have been many years after the General left Ireland for his only son, born after he left (Mark Toomey of Eagle Hill) was at the time bound to a shoemaker to learn a trade as his Mother of course had not means to leave him or give him a profession.

The mode of communication between Ireland and India at the time was much slower than now, and it was many months before the General was communicated with, but when he was quite satisfied in his mind of the truth of the statement he sold off and prepared to leave Bombay and return home, but unfortunately he died a month exactly before he should have started home.

Martha Toomey received after his death some few personal effects of his and over 20,000 Pounds in cash, so I need not tell you that Mark Toomey gave up the shoemaking trade and lived a private gentleman all the rest of his life.”

It is believed that my Great Great Grandfather Mark Anthony Toomey (1844-1916) wrote this story. He was the Great Grandson of Anthony Toomey. The story could have been written between 1890 and 1916.

So here I am presented with this family story and what to do next. First step is to check out the East India Company records to see if Anthony Toomey can be found. A book called “Roll of the Indian Medical Service, 1615-1930” by D.G. Crawford was checked and Anthony Toomey was in the East India Company Medical Service in Bombay. He was born in 1746 and was an Assistant Surgeon as of 18 April 1771. Anthony was involved in the Second Mainsur war 1781-82 and became a Physician General on 13 January 1790. He died in Bombay on 16 January 1797.

Another useful book was “History of the Indian Medical Service 1600-1913” by D.G. Crawford. In this book I found more detailed information of Anthony’s time in India and a monument inscription that was on his tomb and where he is buried in Bombay. This also explained the sketch I have of Anthony’s tomb in Bombay.

This information does call into question the date of marriage of about the year 1780 but I continued.

If he did leave 20,000 Pounds to his wife and son then there must be a probate record of this fact. The National Archives of England has Documents Online and there is an index of Prerogative Court of Canterbury probate records. There is a notation for Anthony Toomey of Dublin so I purchased a copy for 3.50 GBP. This was the gold mine that connected the two sides.

The will which was written on 5 January 1796 states that he divides his estates in half, one of which goes to his wife Martha and the other to his son Mark Toomey. If one or either dies then the other gets the entire estate. If Mark had married or had children it would be divided up equally amongst them. The cash value of the estate was not mentioned. If the estate was worth 20,000 Pounds then in today’s money the estate would be worth 643,400.00 Pounds. I found this out by using the Currency Converter on the National Archives website.

So Anthony Toomey of the East India Company Bombay did have a wife Martha and son Mark. When the will was written Martha and Mark were living in County Dublin.

A Catholic in Ireland at this time had a hard life. Catholic emancipation did not happen until 1829 and even then it was still difficult. They were excluded from parliament, holding a profession and not many actually owned land. If Anthony had a medical education he probably had to go to Scotland or the continent to receive it. Martha had strength of her convictions and a true love of the man to marry Anthony and be estranged from her family.

A quick Google search provided proof that “Purcell’s Coaches” did exist and were based out of Dublin.

The decedents of Mark Toomey were from County Kildare and could be found in the Ballyshannon and Fontstown area of the county.

As mentioned in the above story, news did not travel quickly between Ireland and India at that time so who knows how long it took for the news to reach Anthony, for him to be sure it was true and be able to arrange to get home. We know that he knew about his wife and child when he wrote the will on 5 January 1796 and that he died in Bombay India on 16 January 1797.

This story was written about 75 years or more after the event. It had gone through several generations to get to my Great Great Grandfather. If he wrote it when he was older then he may have remembered things differently. Whether the events in the story are true is not known. Either way it is a great story to have and some evidence has been found to corroborate the story. Finding information for this early a time period in Ireland is difficult but I keep looking as you never know what else may appear around the corner.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

Online Education with the National Institute for Genealogical Studies

Have you ever considered taking genealogy courses to help you with your research, to expand your knowledge base or to begin your preparation to become a professional? I was looking for all of these when I found the National Institute for Genealogical Studies in October of 1999.

I had read an article about the program in Maclean’s magazine and was very excited to find a program on offer in Canada. I had been researching different programs to see what would best suit my finances and what I wanted from this type of education. My post secondary education already included two diplomas from Sheridan College for Research Techniques and General Arts and Science.

To be honest I had all but given up taking genealogy courses to expand my experience. They were very expensive and if they were available by correspondence I would still have to go to the educational institution to do my final exam. Since most of the institutions offering these programs were in the United States this was out of my budget range.

So you can imagine my excitement in reading about the online courses that were going to be offered by the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. The article in Maclean’s said they were affiliated with the University of Toronto. I was at the “Word on the Street” festival in Toronto and the University had a booth. The people manning the booth had not heard about the program, it was that new. While at a one day genealogy conference I found a flyer on a table about the program and grabbed it up. This was a Saturday and I had to wait until Monday to call.

First thing Monday morning I called and they had just started their very first course so I had to wait until the beginning of November to start my course and then I was off! I have completed my Professional Learning Certificate in Genealogical Studies (PLCGS) for Canada, England, Ireland and Methodology and was in the first graduation class for each program.

The NIGS offers a variety courses. You can take a single course or you can take a full certificate course. Do you have ancestors in Canada, England, Ireland, Germany, United States or Scotland? Are you a Librarian who would like to take genealogy courses so you can better serve the patrons coming into your facility? The National Institute can help.

You not only take your courses online but you upload your assignments and do your exams online as well. They also offer chats with instructors that are audio and video. You will see the instructor but if you do not have a webcam that is not a problem. Everyone is welcome and it is a chance for students and instructors to meet. If students have questions, need clarification or just want to connect with their classmates this is the place to do it.

There is the choice of printing out the reading material on your own printer or ordering the material already printed and getting a binder to store it in. If you get the pre printed material it comes all at once. If you do it yourself you have to wait for each week to be released before it can be printed.

You can basically custom make this program to suit you, your schedule and your price points.

Want to do one course on how to research your Slovak, Scandinavian or Polish ancestry? How about a course that tests your analysis and skills for each level of the program you are taking? The National Institute can help you with that as well.

I have risen through the ranks at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. I started as a student and then became an author and instructor. Are you planning a genealogical research trip to Ireland? Consider taking my course “Planning a Research Trip to Ireland”. I also moderate the chat sessions for the Irish program.

You can start slowly with a single course and then build upon that baseline. Or you can jump in and take a full certificate course. One thing I can say is that I am very glad that this program was on offer when I was looking to improve my genealogical knowledge base.

Check out their website or give them a call and have a chat. You will be glad you did.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

Irish Research and the fight for Independence

Recently I came across a new blog called “On a flesh and bone foundation: Irish History” and found it very interesting. Jennifer Geraghty-Gorman is researching her Grandmother and her family who lived in Dublin at the start of the 20th century. The Magee family was also involved in the Irish War of Independence.

Jennifer’s blog provides a good description of how family and history come together. She shows the effects of the Irish War of Independence on the family and how the death of a beloved son affected them.

Jennifer shares her trials and tribulations of doing research in Ireland as well as the joys and sorrows of seeing the places that played a big role in her family’s lives.

I would suggest that you visit the blog and have a great read.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

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