Help From the Other Side

This month, Cheri Passey from The In-Depth Genealogist, has asked bloggers to write about their experience getting Help From the Other Side (read her original post for more details).

I know the idea of spirits here on earth is a touchy subject. Some believe, and some do not. I am not here to change your mind, but just to tell my story.

Help from the other side

My 1st story:

A few years back I was working consistently on my O’Connell line. I had not found my connection to Ireland at this point, and I was really consumed with the research.

My bedroom is on the second floor of our house, in what was originally an attic. At times this room can scare the crap out of me. A single noise can make me jump clear out of the bed. But, that is besides the point. One night I awoke to a man standing at the foot of my bed. Mind you, no person was really there. I told my hubby about it and of course he laughed at me. I was ‘seeing’ things. But, this happened night after night. I would wake and this man would be standing there, just watching. Not speaking. It was eerie.

The reason he freaked me out is because he wore this hat with a large brim. It reminded me of the old man in the Poltergeist sequels. In the movie that man was a bad guy. I did not get a sense that the guy visiting was bad. He was just there.

It took me a bit to figure out who this visitor was. As I was going through my ancestry tree, I found my third great-grandfather, Dennis O’Connell. Guess what. He was wearing a hat with a large brim! Check out his picture on Ancestry.

As this was happening, I was slowly breaking through my brick wall on the O’Connell line. You can read about that in Removing the Irish Bricks, Ever so Slowly.

My 2nd Story:

When I was in NY visiting the towns my O’Connell family came from, we stopped at the St Mary / St Paul Cemetery in Glens Falls. I had found a folio at Newberry Library years before and knew that my great-grandfather Dennis was buried here, and a few other O’Connell’s as well, I just had to verify who they were.

I thought that I had sketched out a map when I had transcribed the information at the library. But, I did not. There were three of us walking the cemetery looking for Dennis. A small cemetery, by Chicago standards. But I could not find it. When we had arrived at the cemetery I had told my cohorts to look for the O’Connell name as well as Daha and probably a few others.

We walked the first half of the cemetery with no luck.

We started at the front of the second half and as we walked, I took pictures of headstones where I recognized the last name. Not necessarily the person, just the last name. I figured that one day I could figure out who they were and if they were related. At this point, I was more than frustrated and my aunt had already headed off to the car. We had been in the cemetery for more than an hour. I had noticed that there were some folks working at the back of the cemetery and I was going to head back and ask them a few questions.

As I got closer to the end of this section, I tripped. I almost fell on my face. That would have been a great sight to see! When I steadied myself, I looked down to see what I tripped over. I laughed. I could not believe it. I tripped over Dennis’ sisters headstone, Elizabeth (O’Connell) Daha. Next to her was her sister, Mary (O’Connell) Herring. Wouldn’t you know it. Dennis was in the next row, with his father John (and John’s second wife, Marie), his brother John and John’s wife Beatrice.

Mary O’Connell

I was ready to give up completely, and this was our last day in this specific area of New York. One of these O’Connell’s gave me the swift kick I needed. They were saying, we are here. Do not leave before finding us.

When I visit my ancestors, in their final place of rest, I always have a small conversation with them. I want them to know we care. I care! I will not let their stories fade. I will preserve all I can!



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  1. I thought I’d share my experience “From the Other Side.” My dad’s family has always been a mystery because his parents both died before he was 5 years old. Certainly no one had ever been to his father’s gravesite. I learned about it from an aunt, who happened to learn her dad had been remarried & then buried in the second wife’s family plot. I was determined to find it, so a friend familiar with that area drove me. It is a huge cemetery in a very large city several hours away. I’d hoped the office would be open, but it was not. I didn’t have a clue where the plot was, but I was determined, & I asked my friend to start driving. Very quickly, I told her to STOP THE CAR! Still, no idea. I got out and stepped over to the first group of markers—& right there was my grandfather! Now that was spooky, let me tell you. If he (or someone) hadn’t guided me there, I still wouldn’t know its location (though maybe by now it’s on Find A Grave; I haven’t checked). That was many years ago, & just about 2 months ago I found his death certificate online.

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