Friday, December 23, 2011


          Since Christmas Eve is tomorrow, I thought perhaps that I should research some Irish Christmas traditions.  Perhaps my parents had adopted some of these traditions and I did not realize that they were Irish in origin.  I do remember many of our family’s Christmas traditions when I was a child, including attending midnight mass, opening our Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve and singing along to Mitch Miller Christmas record albums.

          I found some great websites while conducting my research, including the following – ,, and  From my limited research, I concluded that we Americans share many of the same traditions as the Irish do with some noted exceptions. 

          A big Irish tradition is putting a lit candle in the window welcoming Mary and Joseph on their long journey.  Placing a holly wreath (holly grows in Ireland) on the front door is another Irish tradition.  The Irish also like to sing Christmas carols.  Perhaps they are singing along to Mitch Miller?

          I did find some Irish traditions that I definitely won’t be adopting , like jumping off the rocks into the Irish Sea on Christmas Day.  Unless, it is a hot tub and warm outside, I won’t be participating!  Wearing awful Christmas sweaters is also a tradition.  I try to nip that one in the bud whenever I sort through my closet and get bags ready for Goodwill. 

          On the other hand, I did find some very promising traditions which I need to consider adopting.  First, is serving of salmon or prawn cocktail as an appetizer on Christmas day since I love both of those foods.  We typically eat prime rib (it is that Italian side of my husband’s family) but I could definitely eat stuffed turkey (in fact, stuffing is my absolute favorite part of Thanksgiving) with potatoes and vegetables.   I have never tried plum pudding with brandy sauce but I am willing to give it a try.  My kids, of course, would love the tradition of being offered a chocolate treat after dinner.  They might want one for an appetizer too!  My husband, on the other hand, thinks he has been cheated all these years since Santa at our house only received milk and cookies, not a bottle of Guinness and mincemeat pie. 

          Personally, I totally agree with the Irish custom of not taking down Christmas decorations until Little Christmas on Jan. 6th for fear of bad luck.  I am wondering if I leave them up an additional week or two if I will have even better luck because I definitely need some!  But my favorite tradition, which we will be adopting this coming year, is celebrating Women’s Christmas on Jan. 6.  You may ask how you celebrate this wonderful day.  It is very easy – women get the day off while the men do the housework, cooking and more importantly take down the Christmas decorations.  That alone sounds like good luck to me! 

          In closing, I would like to wish you all a “Nollaig Shona Duit” – pronounced “null ig hun a dit”  or “Merry Christmas”.   

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


          As I discussed in my last post, my great grandmother Bridget Elizabeth Chambers was born in Islandeady, County Mayo, Ireland.  She was the youngest of 9 children.

          Her older sister Ann Chambers was born in 1864 in Islandeady and married Hugh Feehan.  Ann and Hugh lived in Rossow, County Mayo. Rossow is west of Islandeady and very close to the coast. The Feehans had 8 children: Maria, Bridget, Thomas, Jack, Patrick, Nora, Hugh and Elly. Ann and Hugh lived in Ireland their entire lives and their grandson Hugh now lives in the old family home in Rossow.  However, Ann and Hugh did manage to help some of their children and some of James Chamber’s children immigrate to Chicago. 

          Another sister Barbara was born in 1866 but died as a baby in 1867.  A year after Barbara’s death, James Chambers was born in 1868 in Islandeady.  James married Mary Malley and they had 3 children: Thomas, Maria and Kate.  Bridget’s (and James’) mother Ann Kilroy Chambers lived with James and Mary after the death of her husband Thomas Chambers in 1889.  James and Mary, though, died in the early 1900’s.  Ann Kilroy Chambers then immigrated to the US to live with her daughter Bridget in 1905. 

          Bridget’s younger sister Nora was born in 1873 and married Patrick Murray in Ireland.  Nora and Patrick immigrated to Chicago in 1906 and had a son named Thomas. As a child, I remember Tommy Murray visiting my Grandpa Charlie (who was his cousin).  Tommy wore white pants to church and my Dad and Grandpa used to tease him that he was the “ice cream man”.  Once I started researching Tommy, I found out that he was a driver for a laundry.  No wonder he had a lot of very clean white pants!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


           Grandpa Charlie’s mother was Bridget Elizabeth Chambers. She was born on 3 Oct 1870 in Islandeady, County Mayo, Ireland to Anne Kilroy and Thomas Chambers.  Bridget was the 2nd youngest of nine children. Five of her siblings immigrated to the US.  

          The oldest sibling, Patrick Chambers, who was born in 1857, immigrated to the US in 1879.  He worked as a foreman for city services in Chicago.  Patrick never married or as one of my dad’s friends used to say “never made the same mistake once”!

          Michael Chambers, the next oldest brother, was born in 1858 in Islandeady, Mayo, Ireland and immigrated to the US in 1880.  He married Winifred Callahan and they had 4 children.  Michael owned a saloon in Chicago and was possibly also a butcher at a meat market (located at 161 N Market, Chicago). 

          The oldest sister and 3rd in line was Marie Chambers, who was born in 1860 in Islandeady, Ireland.  She immigrated to the US with her brother Michael and married Thomas Lynch.  They lived in Chicago and had 6 children: Anna, John, Mary, Thomas, Columbus and James. 

          Next in the sibling line is Charles, who was born in 1862 in Ireland.  Charles either immigrated in 1880 or 1885.  Charles married Ellen Ruane in Chicago.  He owned a grocery store/meat market, which was located at 678 Orleans Street in Chicago.  That building is one of the only wooden buildings to have survived the 1870’s Chicago fire.  It is now called “Green Door Tavern”. 

          I will talk more about Bridget and her other siblings in my next post but a quick note about the above photo.  The photo was taken in Islandeady, County Mayo, Ireland by my cousin Kevin on his pilgrimage back to the homeland with his wife a few years ago.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


          For those of you who have been following the story of Charles Sherlock, in this post, I am going to discuss his father Edward Thomas Sherlock (who was my great grandfather).  

          Edward was born on January 6, 1869 in Navan, County Meath, Ireland to Bryan Sherlock and Margaret Caffrey.  I had very little information on Edward, except that he was a butcher, came to the US and lived in Chicago and then died at an early age in 1901, when my grandfather was just a baby.  Edward died of tuberculosis, which according to his death certificate he had for six months.  I did have the above photo of Edward.  I also knew my Dad’s cousin who somehow was related to us on the Sherlock side – his last name, in fact, being Sherlock.  What I didn’t know was where his branch intersected our family tree?

          I will readily admit that I am not very experienced in family history research outside of the U.S.  In fact, I am still learning how to do family history in the U.S.  But thanks to and, I was able to locate some birth record information that listed Bryan Sherlock and Margaret Caffrey as parents to Edward’s siblings.  So, I found Irish birth/baptism records for the following of Edward’s siblings – Mary (born in 1865), Bernard (born in 1867), Bridget (born in 1871), John (born in 1873) and Patrick Joseph (born in 1876).  However, none of them were my dad’s cousin’s grandfather Christopher Bartholomew Sherlock.  I couldn’t find a baptism/birth record for Christopher, but I did find 2 marriage certificates for Christopher that listed his parents as Bryan Sherlock and Margaret Caffrey.  I also found an Australian death record for a Nicholas Sherlock (also with his parents listed as Bryan Sherlock and Nicholas Sherlock) but no birth/baptism record for Nicholas.  It is puzzling to me why I can’t find a birth/baptism record for either Christopher or Nicholas.  

          I do also wonder what happened to the rest of Edward’s siblings since the only descendants I ever knew of were from Christopher.   I guess I have a lot more research to do.  Thanks to the online class on Irish Research that I took through Family Tree University, I do feel more prepared to tackle this quest to find the connecting branch of our family trees. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Go West, Young Man!

            The year is 1929, it is late spring and Charles Sherlock has recuperated from his internal injuries suffered from a car accident while on duty as a Chicago policeman.  However, Charlie won’t be returning to police work, instead he has been placed on permanent disability.  What should he do now with his young family – wife Theresa Nebgen Sherlock, and children Charles Jr. (8 years old), Eddie (2 years old) and baby Donald (born in March)?  Perhaps, California is the answer.

            He travels solo to California and to the San Francisco area in specific.  Even though he has lived his entire life in Chicago, San Francisco is too cold for him.  Perhaps, San Francisco’s weather reminded him too much of Chicago.  What is that saying (that has been attributed to Mark Twain) about “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”?   So not appreciating San Francisco’s weather, Charlie takes a boat down to Southern California (probably the Los Angeles/Long Beach area). 

            Well, anyone who has been to Southern California after spending a winter in Chicago will easily appreciate both its weather and beauty – the moderate Mediterranean type climate and its beautiful coast with its sandy beaches and palm trees.  Charlie decides this is the place for him and his family.  He returns to Chicago and moves his family to Los Angeles.  He drives his big car across the country with baby Donald (6 months old) in a homemade hammock strung across the back seat.  They find a place to live in Redondo Beach and live there for the next 5 years until Donald is in kindergarten.  

            In 1934, Charlie moves his family to a house on Beachwood Drive in the Hollywood Hills.  By now the Great Depression has hit, but Charlie doesn’t have to worry about money like the majority of Americans do because he is living on his pension from the Chicago Police Department.  He is also being paid for being a character actor in movies.  See my first post in this blog for the story on his acting career.

            A little postscript to the story of his acting career -- on Friday night, I went to the movies to watch the film “J Edgar”, the story of J Edgar Hoover, the longtime Director of the FBI.  In the movie, there is a scene where J Edgar is watching the original “G Men” movie.  Well, who should appear up on the big screen (28 years after his death) but my Grandpa Charlie.  It was awesome seeing him up there for just a few moments with the legendary James Cagney.

            What’s up next for this blog?  Perhaps it will be my adventures in researching Charlie’s father Edward Sherlock, who died when Charlie was a year old.  Stay tuned!