Book review: “From the Emerald Isle to the Cream City”

I had a chance to review “From the Emerald Isle to the Cream City: A History of the Irish in Milwaukee” by Carl Baehr.

In family history, context is incredibly important. “From the Emerald Isle to the Cream City: A History of the Irish in Milwaukee” gives the reader that context of the Irish experience of settling in Milwaukee, along with the concurrent history of Ireland. If your family includes the initial settlers of Milwaukee or the famous or infamous, you may find details of their lives among the pages. Even if your family members are not named, you will still find be able to understand the more about their lives and times while living in the “Cream City.”

From the “Note of Street Names” that begins the book, you know that you can expect a well-researched work. The author has produced a well-written narrative, sharing citations for the material he used. The book takes the reader on a trip from the beginning of Milwaukee to the present day, focusing on the Irish in the city’s Third Ward. You learn how Milwaukee recruited immigrants and how they traveled, settled and lived. There are the stories of neighborhoods, schools, work and politics.

Mr. Baehr is a great storyteller. As you read through the chapters of the book, the history unfolds decade by decade. It is as if he is sitting with you, setting the stage for the events that will unfold, then immersing you in the stories of the people involved. He finishes their tales, telling what became of them after their notoriety.

The Irish-born population faced significant challenges in the city. Even their eligibility for citizenship was questioned by those who forgot that immigrants may have spent time living closer to ports before their arrival in Milwaukee.

The book describes the events that shaped the Irish community, such as the impact of the loss of life to the Third Ward in the tragic sinking of the Lady Elgin and the Leahey Riot. The experiences of Milwaukee’s Irish soldiers in the Civil War is detailed.

The Appendices contain useful reference material for students of the Irish in Milwaukee. The author shares his research into the miscalculation of Irish born Milwaukeeans in the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Federal Censuses; a list of the victims and survivors of the Lady Elgin; and the victims of the Newhall House Hotel Fire.

Mr. Baehr tells compelling stories about the Irish in Milwaukee and of the city itself. Students of Milwaukee’s history and those interested in the history of the Irish in America will also enjoy this book.

You can learn more about the book here.

Get Your Irish Civil Records Online!

If you have Irish ancestors, you need to be using the Civil Records at IrishGenealogy.ie This website will be a major boon to your research. Using this website, I was able to look up and download records that would have cost quite a bit to order from overseas.

The Civil Records that are online are:

  • Births: 1864 to 1915
  • Marriages: 1882 to 1940
  • Deaths: 1891 to 1965

A good place to start is the page about the Civil Records:

https://www.irishgenealogy.ie/en/civil-records/help/what-are-the-civil-records

 

irish-civil-1

 

To search, go to https://civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/churchrecords/civil-search.jsp

 

irish-civil-2

 

Give the simple search form a try. In fact, I found this form to be the most useful.

The first thing I did was to download the images for my Grandfather’s and his siblings birth records. I knew the Civil Registration District/Office, and their dates of birth. The children were born between 1882 and 1902.

When you begin to type into that field a drop down menu appears. You can always leave that field blank to search all the counties.

 

irish-civil-3

 

After pressing the Search button, I had to check a box to prove that I was not a robot.

Then I had to give my name to search the archives.

 

irish-civil-4

 

When I used 1894 with no end to the range, the results ranged from 1894 through to the last year of the database.

 

irish-civil-5

 

The records before 1900 did not have the Mother’s Birth Surname indexed. From 1900 on, the search results show the Mother’s Birth Surname.

You can select “More search options” to use additional search options.

The additional search options restrict the search.

 

irish-civil-7

 

I clicked on the result that was my Grandfather’s.

 

irish-civil-8

 

I clicked on the image button to see the whole page of the register.

 

irish-civil-9

 

My Grandfather was listed as entry number 59. The section on the right was used for comments in other entries.

 

irish-civil-10

 

For one of his siblings there was an image of the record, and the certified record.

Then I downloaded his Mother’s birth record.

Next came his parent’s marriage record. For the end of the session, I downloaded the death record for his Father and Sister.

 

A Broader Search

For some ancestors, their county of birth is not yet known. I left the District/Registration field blank. I can now search each record to see if I could find the ancestor.

 

irish-civil-11

 

I knew the ancestor’s mother’s name from her death certificate, so I searched a timeframe around her birth year. There were two birth records that matched the mother’s name. One of those two had a father’s name that matched the name of one of her sons. However, he son’s father had the same name, so it is not firm evidence.

 

irish-civil-12

 

There is more work to be done, but this is a good lead. I am going to review my atDNA test results to see if any clues are hiding in the matches.

An interesting article by John Grenham can be found here: https://www.johngrenham.com/blog/2016/10/03/roadmap-of-the-promised-land/

Give this a try, and let me know how you do!

Save

Save

Save