Friday, June 10, 2016

The Letter That Started It All

The Letter 

page 1

Fifteen years ago, I started asking questions about my family history. My mother was very helpful and organized with the family photos and documents. One document that caught my attention was a letter written to my paternal grandfather in 1918 from Dublin, Ireland, to New York City. 

My grandfather, John “Jack” Carrick Cooper, was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1886. He immigrated to New York City in 1906, a few months after his father, Alexander Sisson Cooper.  Of his five siblings, three others also crossed the Atlantic. The greeting was to Uncle Jack, from his niece, Sheelagh. Who is Sheelagh? No one on this side of the Atlantic had any idea who she was! I was determined to find this mysterious cousin! 

Jack and Honey Cooper

 Transcription of Letter:
                                                                                                       12 Annesley Place
                                                                                                        North Strand

Dear Uncle Jack

    I hope you are quite well also Aunt “Honey” and in the best of spirits in spite of dark “war” days.

    I went over to see Granny last Sunday and found her quite well, and had just received a letter from Uncle Edwin telling of his second marriage. Tell Aunt Honey to write to me and send me a photo. We are in a bad way for foodstuffs over here, we can’t get butter at all and margarine is very scarce. Milk is so scarce that your milkman will only allow you 1 pt. every day, and then it is 10-1 that it will go sour.  If you see Uncle Alick, tell him to write me and send me a photo of himself in his army togs. I should like to have it to show to friends.

    I am learning shorthand typing and bookkeeping and find it a terrible bore, and am still minding the shop for Daddy.
   Give my love to all there. I am such a bad hand at writing letters.

                                                                                                   Your loving niece,


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Jack met his future wife, Sophie Ramona Piña, aka Honey, a few months later after his arrival. They were married by 1916. He had a brother (Austin) & sister (Elizabeth) who remained in Dublin with their mother, Laura Jane nee Boyd Cooper. 

Sheelagh gave her home address of 12 Annesley Place, North Strand of North Dublin. She stated that “Granny” is doing well. 

I knew of the family members she mentioned who crossed the Atlantic. Sheelagh referred to a letter that Uncle Edwin sent to his mother about his second marriage. Edwin Cooper, came over in 1906 & worked in New York City, as a cinematographer in the silent movie theaters. He later moved to California with the introduction of “talkies.” The photo below is taken on the roof of the Egyptian theater of Hollywood where he was involved with the rebuilding for sound in the 1920s. He also traveled throughout the southwest with the updating theater sound systems. 

Edwin Cooper

She also mentioned Uncle Alick. Alexander, Jr., was the youngest son of Alexander & Laura Jane, who came with his father to New York in 1905. I was thrilled to find this picture in my boxes of old photographs. Did Uncle Alick write to her, along with other family, and send them  copies of this photo "in his army togs?"

Alex "Alick" Cooper

Sheelagh discusses the hardship of wartime of WWI and ends with mentioning “that she is still minding the shop for Daddy.” What was the family business?

The Hunt

I started with the Ireland marriage index looking for both Austin Sisson Cooper born 1879 in Dublin, Ireland, along with Elizabeth Cooper also born in Dublin in 1881. This was before the indexes were put online on Starting with 1898, I finally found the right couple, after going through several microfilms. Elizabeth Cooper, daughter of Alexander S. Cooper married George Corcoran in 1900. Salt Lake City does not hold all of the Irish Birth/Marriage/Death records on microfilm. Some have to be ordered from the Civil Registration Office in Roscommon, Ireland. Now knowing the marriage name of Elizabeth, I start looking for Sheila Corcorans born around 1901in the birth index. I find the right Sheila. I order both records from Roscommon and wait. I received my package about two weeks later with these two copies.

Dublin, Ireland, Marriage Registrations; Civil Registration Office, Roscommon, Ireland.

On 30 Nov 1900, George Corcoran, a full adult, bachelor, Merchant, living at 49 Up[per] Dorset St, Dublin, John Corcoran, father, a hatter; married

Elizabeth Cooper, 19 years, spinster, 34 Carlingford Road, Drumcondra, Alexander Cooper, father, a bookeeper.

Dublin, Ireland, Birth Registrations; Civil Registration Office, Roscommon, Ireland.

On the day of  31 March 1901; Elizabeth Corcoran was giving birth to her daughter, “Sheila” Corcoran at the National Maternity Ward on Holles Street of North Dublin. Home address is listed as 34 Carlingford Terrace.

Interesting, this was the same day of the 1901 Ireland census. Elizabeth’s mother, “Granny” Laura Jane Cooper, was crossed out in her Cooper family page on Ranelagh Road of Rathmines; and found with her widowed mother, Jane Carrick Boyd at 34 Carlingford Road. 

1901 Census of Ireland, Dublin, Rathmines and Rathgar, Ranelagh Road, N. 139, Alexander Cooper; digital image, The National Archives of Ireland ( accessed 9 June 2016).

1901 Census of Ireland, Dublin, Drumcondra, Carlinford Road, N. 34, Laura Jane Cooper; digital image, The National Archives of Ireland ( accessed 9 June 2016).

This is the same address on Sheila’s birth registration listing her parents’ residence. George and Elizabeth Corcoran were living with Elizabeth’s maternal grandmother. Sheila’s great-grandmother, Jane C. Boyd, died 3 months later.

I now know how Sheelagh (Sheila) is related to me & through which line. She is my first cousin 1x removed. This special letter “opened the door” for my fascination with genealogy & family history.

The Place

I was able to take a trip to Ireland in 2010. I hired a taxi driver to find ten addresses of my ancestors from historical documents. One included 12 Annesley Place, North Strand, Dublin, from Sheelagh’s letter.

12 Annesley Place 2010

Regarding, George Corcoran’s business? He was a hairdresser according to Ireland Census of 1901* and 1911. Was he doing the same by 1917?

Thank you, Pop Jack Cooper, for keeping this letter, so I was able to discover it decades later.

After the 1911 Ireland Census was released online, I found the growing Corcoran family at 12 Poplar Row. “Sheila” was the oldest of two sisters & one brother. I later found another sister born in 1915. I am on the hunt looking for living descendants of this family.

1911 Census of Ireland, Dublin, Mount Joy, Poplar Row, No. 12, George Corcoran; digital image, The National Archives of Ireland ( accessed 9 Jun 2016).

Pop’s letter was originally found in his TRUNK in which his oldest grandson inherited. One evening, as my family was visiting New York City, back in 1979, my cousin pulled out the treasure chest. We all pulled out items to browse. He told us to pick items that interested us. My mother chose this letter and later filed it away. (I was not interested in family history at the time as I just finished college and was ready to start my teaching career.) Thank you, cousin, for saving these special documents and photos.

I will continue with detailed stories of each of the people mentioned in this letter as I learn more about them. 

 *On the night of his daughter’s birth, in the 1901 Irish Census, George Corcoran is found visiting his brother, Thomas Corcoran, at 49 Upper Dorset St., the same address on his marriage registration. George is listed as Married. I am sure George is filling in his family that wife and daughter are doing just fine.

1 comment:

  1. The Irish Marriage and Birth registration records mentioned above can now be found online at