TOUR DE CATHOLIC CLEVELAND
On a Sunday afternoon in the month of August, an unusual and possibly first-ever event took place under sunny skies in Cleveland. Under the auspices of the Irish American Archives Society (www.wrhs.org/collects/irisharchives.htm ), a group of Clevelanders had brunch at the Irish Harp Pub and Restaurant and then boarded two buses bound for the 2nd Catholic Cemetery founded in Cleveland (1855) - St. John’s, on Woodland Avenue.
The mission and purpose of the Irish American Archives Society is to support the collection and preservation of papers, documents, photographs and memorabilia of individuals and families of Irish descent, and the records of organizations and institutions that have influenced the growth and development of the Irish American community in northeast Ohio. A further goal is to assist with the development of exhibitions, publications, or other materials documenting the history of the Irish-Americans in Cleveland.
“It involves spending a lot of time standing around in cemeteries and looking for dead people.” That was the comedic response of tour leader Bernie McCafferty when asked about his newly-formed enterprise, Cleveland Genealogical Research. (www.bernieworld.com). “There’s lot of genealogical research at my website related to Cleveland.”
After his mother passed, who was the family historian, one of McCafferty’s aunts’s put a family tree together for a family reunion. “It ended up being a 350 page book.” Since then he decided to keep moving with it, try to help other people with their genealogies. “That puts me in cemeteries.”
McCafferty has been working with Margaret Lynch, Executive Director of the Irish American Archives. They wanted to do some cemetery tours, especially the ones that aren’t easily accessible. “She talked about getting a busload so they wouldn’t have to drive over to St. John’s Cemetery. She asked me if I would lead the tour so I said yes.”
When this piece was originally written, McCafferty had just finished three weeks in County Mayo, Ireland photographing gravestones and cemeteries. “We’re putting it into a database and eventually onto a CD-ROM and tying it together with obituaries and other information that’s available on the Internet.”
St. John’s was the 2nd Catholic cemetery in Cleveland. The first was actually a burial mound at what is now Ontario and Prospect. The Erie Street Cemetery opened in the 1830s. ” St. Joseph’s Cemetery, which is about a quarter mile down the road, was the first Catholic Cemetery in Cleveland. The first burial there was in 1850.”
Two ladies who signed on for the tour were sisters, Colleen Raleigh O’Shaughnessy and Maureen Raleigh Bihn ( http://youtu.be/XmaaX9DUFNc ). “We brought our father here, who will be 80 in September, to pay homage to our ancestors and to see the tombstone of our Irish-born ancestor Patrick Raleigh,” said Maureen. Patrick married a New Orleans resident, Suzanne Dooley. Their aunt believed Patrick was a Federal Civil War veteran, which would possibly explain how he came to meet Suzanne. He probably was stationed there during or after the Civil War. Other family members however believe their son, Morris Raleigh, was the veteran. It's also very possible that Raleigh was actually Riley or Rahilly.
Others in the large group of visitors scurried about to find gravesites of their families. The Irish Archives Society provided a clear map of the Cemetery for everyone and lot locations for some individuals and/or family plots.
Because of the huge interest, Lynch and McCafferty are thinking about conducting another tour at St. Joseph’s (1850). Gauging by the popularity of this one, I’m sure there will be at least two busloads, if not more.
To see additional video of the Callahan family’s tribute at the cemetery for the re-dedication of Capt. James K. O’Reilly’s final resting place see:
Sullivan is published internationally and is a frequent contributor for Irish American current and historic events. He resides in Northfield Village, Ohio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org/