I am so discouraged.  I know I shouldn’t be.  I have heard other people say they searched for years for certain information about their ancestors.  This is the down side of genealogy.  When I found the Civil War Widow’s Application for Pension for another ancestor….well, there’s no better feeling.  The find made all the hours of searching so worthwhile.

A great deal of the problem lies with the accuracy of some of the documents.   Many of the Irish immigrants didn’t know how to read or write because of the English Penal Laws against Irish Catholics.  Look them up.  It’s almost like reading the laws against slaves.  Most likely, more than a few didn’t even know their accurate birth date.  Most of them probably came to this country without much documentation.  Their names were often spelled differently from document to document.  I have seen the name Hearn spelled Hearne, Hern, and Heron.  And you can only imagine how many William Hearns or Mary Burkes immigrated to New York City between 1846 to 1851!  How do you know which William Hearn among many is your ancestor?

Two things I am very grateful for are that the Catholic church often kept very good records, and they kept early records.  Even before most municipalities kept records of births and marriages, the local Catholic parish kept their own records of every marriage they performed, every baby they baptized, and every burial they performed.  These records have been very helpful to determine maiden names of female ancestors.   

What I have been able to determine about William Hearn is that he immigrated to New York City during the time of the Potato Famine.  He was either married already to Mary Burke when he arrived, or met her here and then married.  William and Mary had two children in New York, James J. Hearn born around 1852 and Ann Hearn born around 1854.  I called one Catholic church in Manhatten on Tuesday, left a message, but haven’t received a call back yet. I have since sent a letter requesting information and the standard twenty dollar donation.  I am awaiting information now.  I am trying to determine the parish that William Hearn and Mary Burke belonged to in New York hoping that I will be able to pin down whether William Hearn married Mary Burk in the United States, or they came over married. 

 The first census on which William and Mary Hearn appear is the 1860 census in South Carolina, where he is listed as a laborer.  Remember that this is a year before the Civil War.  Think about the issues that are swirling around about that time regarding States Rights and slavery.  This was also the time that the railroads were being built and cheap labor was in demand.  People tended to migrate where the jobs were. 

 William and Mary Hearn had two more sons in Charleston, South Carolina, William Hearn, Jr. born 1859 and John J. Hearn born 1860.  I was able to locate the baptism records from the local parish there.  William and Mary were still in Charleston, SC on the 1870 census.  He listed his occupation as seaman.  William and Mary now have another son named Edward.  I was not able to find baptism records for Edward in South Carolina.  One relative I spoke to said that Edward was born in Wilmington, North Carolina when William was on wartime sea duty from that port.  Interesting!  Wilmington, North Carolina was a major Atlantic Ocean port city for the Confederacy to trading partners in Europe.  Its port traded cotton and tobacco in exchange for munitions, clothing, and food.  The Union had barricaded most southern ports, and blockade running would have been an important role in the Confederacy.  I am going to need to look for some official papers to verify his presence in Wilmington.

By the 1880 Census, William Hearn and family had relocated to Savannah, GA.  Actually, he shows up in the Savannah city directories in 1877.  William Hearn, Sr. is listed as working as a watchman, and William Hearn, Jr. is listed as working for John W. Tynan Co. which repaired machinery, boilers, marine and stationary engines.  Tynan aso made castings, forgings, and did blacksmith work.  So the Hearn men were big strong Irish men, used to hard labor.  In 1880 John Hearn and  James Hearn join their father and brother at John W. Tynan Co.

The 1890 Census was destroyed by fire.  On the 1900 Census ,Mary Hearn was listed as a widow.  William Hearn, Sr. died February 4, 1890.  He was buried in the Cathedral Cemetery at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptiste in Savannah, Georgia. 

A great deal of information can be gleaned from the 1900 Census.  Two of the more interesting questions on the census is Mother to How Many  Children and How Many Living Children.  Mary Hearn had 7 children, 4 living.  I found one child buried in Savannah’s Catholic (Cathedral) Cemetery.  The marker reads “Hearn, infant Died 9/26/1887 stillborn.”  The baby is buried next to William and Mary Hearn.  Two other questions that are interesting are Year of Immigration to the United States and Number of Years in the United States.  These questions are genealogists’ goldmines!  Mary answered that she arrived in this country in 1850, and had lived in the US for 15 years, which has to be a mistake.  

Mary Hearn died March 18, 1904.  She was buried next to her husband in the Cathedral Cemetery.  Her death certificate listed La Grippe disease, which is influenza, as the cause of death.

 William’s and Mary’s son, William Hearn, Jr., born in South Carolina in 1859, is my Great Great Grandfather.

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