Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Why I look at every available source.

This is a story of my research into the Besticks of County Longford and a lesson that I learned.

I have been lucky enough to visit Ireland twice. On our first trip to Ireland in 1995, my husband and I visited the city of Longford. I knew my Bestick ancestors had come from there and I wanted to see the town where they had lived.

While walking around the town on a cloudy day, we came to St. John’s, Church of Ireland, which had an old graveyard around it. There were many headstones that were over 100 years old. Some were legible, many were not. Most that were readable contained minimal information. As we were walking around looking at the headstones, the sun broke through the clouds. My husband then pointed at a nearby headstone and asked, “Can you read that word?” I looked and read “Bestick.” I was thrilled. With the angle of the sun and a lot of effort, we were able to make out the following inscription:
“O Lord have mercy on the soul of Catharine Bestick who departed this life on the 19 of August 1830 aged 21 years”

The sun had broken through at just the right moment for us to see the inscription. If we had been there on a rainy day, we would not have made this discovery.

Our next trip to Ireland was in 2006 with our daughters. This trip was the Library-Tour of Ireland for me and the Playground-Tour of-Ireland for my husband and the kids. (It is great to have a family that puts up with my family history obsession.) While at the Longford County Library, I copied some pages from a manuscript, including a transcription of the Catharine Bestick headstone we had found in 1995. Upon comparing the two versions, I discovered that the manuscript contained an extra line of text that was not visible on the headstone in 1995. This line was … “Erected by her Mother Anne Bestick”

This experience taught me a valuable lesson about genealogy research—always look at all the available sources. It might have seemed like a waste of time to copy a transcription of a headstone that I had already photographed and transcribed myself. But in this case, the transcription contained more information than the original headstone. If I hadn’t copied the manuscript, I would have missed a valuable clue to the relationships of one Bestick family of Longford.

The Bestick Family of Longford

Last week I blogged a little about my great-grandmother Mary Bestick Brady. This week, I plan to start posting what I know about her Bestick ancestors and relatives.

My earliest Irish immigrant ancestor was Mary’s father Timothy Bestick. He came from County Longford and settled in Newark, NJ before 1833. When I began doing genealogy, I knew very little about the Bestick line. Since then, I’ve had some great discoveries. For example, originally we didn’t know where in Ireland the Besticks were from. I did find through the Householders Index that the name was found in Longford, so I started researching in church records there. I also wrote to the church in Newark, NJ to obtain Timothy’s marriage certificate for my collection. I received a transcript from the church with the basic information. But then, I noticed that the Newark church’s records were also on microfilm through the Family History Library. So, I decided to take a look at the microfilm too. And when I did, there was Timothy’s marriage listed on the first page of the church marriage register. Besides the information I already had, it stated that he was from County Longford and his wife Ellen McSorley came from County Tyrone. The priest only noted where people were from for the first few pages of the register. So, this was the first of my lucky finds in my Bestick research.

Timothy was the son of James Bestick and Catherine Farrell. He was baptized on 25 March 1809 at the Catholic Church at Longford (Templemichael and Ballymacormack parish.) The baptism sponsors were James Kiernan and Judith Bestick. Timothy was born into a large family. According to the Catholic baptism register for Longford, James and Catherine Bestick had at least 7 children: John, baptized 11 June 1803; Mary, baptized 29 June 1804; Francis, baptized. 10 May 1807; my ancestor Timothy; Edward, baptized 13 October 1810; Robert, baptized 18 September 1812; and Charles, baptized 12 December 1813.

Timothy’s parents both died at Longford before Timothy turned 18. His mother Catherine died 7 April 1819 and his father James died 22 February 1827.

Although Bestick is not a common name, there were several Bestick families in Longford. Judith Bestick was the baptism sponsor of my ancestor Timothy. Baptism sponsors of his siblings included Edward Bestick and Penelope Bestick. According to the Longford Roots research service, there was a Patrick Bestick married to Mary Beglin. Patrick and Mary had 6 children baptized between 1818 and 1830. An Edmund and Elizabeth (Greer) Bestick had 6 children baptized from 1806 to 1820. William Bestick and his wife Mary Kelly had 8 children baptized from 1814 to 1833. John and Brigid (Gannon) Bestick had one child baptized in 1838. While the Bestick name is uncommon, they were “thick on the ground” in Longford prior to the famine.

How were these other Besticks related to Timothy’s family? I don’t know for sure, but I believe they may all have a common ancestor 2 or 3 generations back from Timothy. I hope that someday I will be able to prove at least some of the relationships.

Coming soon: Timothy’s siblings in the United States and in Ireland.