Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Captain James Burke

The internet is a big place in which to search for your ancestors. But many years ago I thought enough posts were on the web that I might find something about my ancestors there.

My mom had kept two obituaries carefully preserved. The paper was going past yellow to brown, but the fraying clippings were legible. One obituary was of my grandfather, Kenneth Burke, my mom's father, who fought in World War I and was a newspaper writer. The other was of my great-grandfather, a newspaper editor in Staten Island, in New York City, and in other areas.

I used those clippings to search for their names in association with Staten Island. Fairly quickly I found a web site with information about a gentleman with the correct last name, Burke, who came over from Ireland and joined the Marines for the North during the US Civil War. I scanned the site and saw a discussion about one of his offspring being an attorney of note on Staten Island. I thought to myself, I never heard of an attorney being in my mom's family.

So I went on to explore dozens of other potential leads, finding nothing pertaining to my mom's relatives.

I went back to a simple web search again and ended up back staring at this gentleman who was a Marine in the US Civil War.

As I read more carefully, amazing to me, I found a reference to the name of my great grandfather who was stated to be a newspaper editor.

I contacted the contributor of the post and exchanged information with a nice man. The nice man turned out to be my cousin and I suddenly found out my great great grandfather was Captain James Burke, the Civil War Marine, who came over from Limerick, Ireland. In fact, my great grandfather was born in Ireland and brought over here as an infant.

My cousin helped me get my great grandfather's and grandfather's obituaries on the web too.

I got a big laugh out of something I read about Captain James Burke.

I've written poetry my whole life. None of my immediate relatives write poetry. I wasn't really sure from where I got this interest.

Turns out Captain James Burke wrote poetry. He was published in Harpers. One of his poems was excerpted in a relatively recent book about Staten Island entitled Staten Island: Isle of the Bay, published in 2004, and written by Margaret Lundrigan.

So who knows what stirs in your background from an ancestor you or your family have forgotten?