In Old New York: The Irish Dead in Trinity and St. Paul's Churchyards by Michael J. O'Brien. 1928, reprinted 1997 by Clearfield Company, 200 E. Eager Street, Baltimore MD 21202. 262 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover. $26.50 plus $3.50 p&h.

In all his books Michael J. O'Brien attempts to show how many Irish were present in the U.S. prior to the Great Famine of the 1840's. This book has the same bias. This means that all people with possible Irish names are assumed to be Irish. Many of them are, and are shown to be, but some are probably not.

The book begins with a story of the lunchtime New Yorkers who visit the graveyards of Trinity Church or St. Paul's Chapel in the Lower Broadway section of Manhattan, who rarely take the time to read the markers. I too observed this when I worked in Manhattan. O'Brien takes some of these inscription, or entries from the burial registers and tells us stories about the people, often using other sources to make the people real. These stories occupy the first 131 pages of this book and all names mentioned are included in the general index at the back of the book.

The second part of the book is a series of verbatim transcriptions copied from the records of Trinity and St. Paul's such as tombstone inscriptions, marriages, baptisms (often giving mothers maiden name or the names of the sponsors). Baptisms and marriages from the First Presbyterian Church of New York, records of wills, letters of administration, deeds and conveyances from various offices of the city and county of New York. These lists contain people with Irish surnames. They are not proven to be from Ireland or of Irish descent.

A major shortcoming is that the lists in the second half of the book are not indexed and the individual lists are generally not in alphabetical order. This means that each list needs to be read carefully to find names being researched.

Reviewed by Paul Milner
BIGWILL v.5 no.1, 1998