Sunday, December 31, 2006


What a year... personally... for me. It's been exhausting to say the least. We sold our home, decided to build a new one, and lived in a tiny apartment with just the bare essentials until the new home was ready; all the while the rest of our "home" was in storage. I was Mommy and Wife 24 hours a day, and with continued blessings I hope I always will be. My research was always full steam ahead in regard to Jerome and the Collins family, that was something I couldn't let up even if I tried. The powers that be from the other side, and I suspect mainly Jerome, made it quite clear that this was the year he would step forth back into the limelight and the name of Jerome J. Collins would be brought back from the grave, the cobwebs that covered the bookshelves of his life would be dusted off once again.

It's one hour till Midnight as I write this, I'm standing on the threshold of wanting to forget this entire past year and look forth to a "clean slate" new year. But even though, personally, this past year has been a harsh one for myself and my family, I can't forget our accomplishments. And I can't forget my own in regard to Jerome. I was able to plant a tiny little seed in Cork that I hope with much cultivation, will grow and grow until it blooms for all the world to see one day. Together with my good friend Ronnie, we made headway into not only Jerome's life, but that of the Collins' family. We were able to publish not one but two articles about Jerome, and in the time frame of just two short weeks I was able to make headlines in Cork between the internet, newspapers and radio. Jerome wanted to be heard this year, and I was his voice. He provided me with the instruments, and like many a symphony or musical that I know he enjoyed in his day, a grand performance happened on the stage of his life, one that I am proud to have witnessed. Jerome Collins' life had been rejuvenated, for the first time in 125 years since his death in the Arctic, and people in Cork were starting to take notice that maybe the gem of their fellow Corkonian was worth a closer glance.

I never made it to his graveside to honor that 125th anniversary in October, it wasn't meant to be. It's my hope to make it to Cork in 2007 with a few other family members, and I hope that 4 generations of the Collins family will provide a good representation for the trip.

Ronnie and I came to a decision that we will write Jerome's book, but without being tied to a contract looming over our heads, dictating everything we write and when we write it. If we're going to write Jerome's story, we're gonna do it right, and do it our way. Once it's written we will explore our publishing possibilities at that time. I couldn't have hoped to make a better friend in Cork than Ronnie, and it's no coincidence that I stumbled across this fine man... I am sure Jerome had a hand in our coming together as friends and co-author's.

There's also many other good people that I was able to get to know a bit better in Ireland, like the crew of the Northabout, specifically Jarlath Cunnane and Frank Nugent. Jarlath contacted me and asked if I'd be out in New York at the beginning of 2006 in January, he was to accept the Blue Water Medal by the Cruising Club of America and asked to meet. I was unfortunately unable to make the flight to see him and the rest of the Northabout Crew, but I hope 2007 will allow me to do so in Ireland instead. And then there is Tom MacSweeney of RTE's Radio 1 Seascapes Programme. Tom has been a great asset and a big believer in my Great-Great Granduncle's life, he sees the potential in Jerome that Tom Crean now holds with the public in Cork and Ireland.

And what would I do without Catryn Power, the Cork County Archaeologist? It was her "power of the pen" that pursuaded Cork County Council to fund the re-erection of Jerome's Celtic Cross monument at my request as a living family member. She's not only been informative and insightful, but has a great personality and is a dedicated mom like myself.

And then, there is Louise. She is the catalyst for everything. I found Louise back in 2002 I think, long before this stuff with Jerome would come to a head. Louise is the wife to my Grandmother's cousin, she has been plowing "onward and upward" as she says for many years to honor the memory of her father-in-law who was so very hurt by his own father's downfall from Jerome's Naval Inquiry in 1884. I can't say enough about her kindness and generousity, and the fact that she is a great supporter in what I am trying to do for Jerome. I received a wonderful phone call from her today, and another one later on this evening to send good wishes for a brand new year. God Bless her and her family, I can't wait to meet them soon.

My New Year's Resolutions:
1. Free Jerome from the chains of arrest and suspension that were never lifted in 1884.

2. Find his Congressional Gold Medal, or have a duplicate made; then present it to the City of Cork in his honor.

3. Go to Ireland.

4. Continue my research, leave no question unanswered, and write Jerome's biography.

5. Locate Jerome's diary.

Happy New Year's everyone, and thank you for your support and interest in my journey.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Whaaa? You mean I get PAID to write?

SO I get the mail today, and there is a standard envelope in the pile posted from "EIRE" (Ireland). I wasn't really expecting anything. It had a little window and almost looked like someone was sending me a bill from Cork. I was perplexed to say the least. Once I opened it up, I was almost positive that the Cork Evening Echo was sending me a bill for publishing the story about Jerome in the Holly Bough, I thought I owed THEM money by the look of the invoice, until the check slipped out! Whew! That was close! But....... HEY! What's this? Money? For me? In Euros? Woaaaaaah. I was really perplexed. I didn't know the paper paid for stories. So this was a very nice little Merry~Christmas~to~me present, early, no doubt.

A special "shout out" to John Dolan of the Cork Evening Echo for letting us submit Jerome's story, he totally rocks.

Also, a HUGE "Thank You!" to Tom MacSweeney with RTE Radio 1 Seascapes Programme in Cork for believing in my story and helping to bring Jerome back to the heart of Cork.

Uh oh. I wondered right away if Ronnie got a check too. He was, infact, co-author. He emailed back right away denying any payment, surprised just as I was, and bluntly stated that I take the money and buy something nice with it. Of course, guilt sets in, I can't keep it, only 1/2. I insist he take his hard earned 1/2. Ronnie writes back again, stating that I keep the money. Good gosh, does anyone out there realize how hard it is to get an Irishman to agree to anything? Are they all politely and humbly stubborn? Finally, after one more email, he takes the money, says he'll use it on a night out with his wife. Finally!

IN THE MEANTIME....... Christmas is right around the corner, and I've backed off on my research. I've got years under my belt already, so I'm taking a much needed breather on researching Jerome and looking in every nook and cranny for info. I've got cookies to bake, cards to send (that will probably arrive late anyway), packages to mail, even some potica going over to Cork to Ronnie that he's taken a liking to. I almost feel bad for taking a break, especially since Ronnie is working his little butt off over in Cork running around from one historical place to the next, finding items and news bits that will be used for our book. Then again, he's the one that needs to catch up to me, soooooooo, I guess I don't feel that bad after all!

Ronnie and I decided that we'll be using Skype to talk over the internet while we do this book. It's free since we're both signed up, and did I mention it's free? We haven't tried it out yet, I still have to locate my mike; we have boxes that need to be unpacked and sorted through from moving into our new home that we built this summer. Between selling our old house, moving to an apartment, and building our new home and moving into it, and trying to keep up with my research, AND be a full~time mommy, well this year has been a huge challenge. HUGE. Did I mention HUGE?

Considering this past year, and the many obstacles I had to overcome, it's putting my next year into perspective and I'm starting to seriously think about my New Year's Resolutions. No one ever really sticks to them, and you don't ever really expect anyone to either. But I'll be making them, and posting them on this blog for everyone to see. Stay tuned for that.

Friday, December 15, 2006

REWARD! Have YOU seen this Congressional Gold Medal?

These are photos of a silver Congressional Medal, given to a crewmember of the Jeannette. It is dated 1879-1882. It depicts an arctic scene of the Jeannette crushed and sinking in the ice pack. Men are escaping and have boats loaded wtih supplies.

In 1900, when my Great-Great Grandfather Dr. Daniel F. Collins died, the GOLD Congressional Medal, which was awarded to him on behalf of his brother Jerome Collins' death while serving on the Jeannette, was STOLEN from our family. It has been LOST ever since. It is a tragedy that the one item honoring Jerome Collins has disappeared, never to be seen again by our family.

It is my hope that someone will step forward who has possession of this medal, or knows its whereabouts, and return it to our family so that it may be indefinitely loaned to a museum in County Cork to rest alongside Jerome Collins artifacts. This way, our family will be able to return what rightfully belongs not only to us, but all of Ireland as well.

Please help us bring Jerome J. Collins home to Ireland!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanksgiving Day

Ah, Thanksgiving Day in Minnesota. You'd think I'd be spending the typical day doing the typical family dinner with the typical American family. Nope, not this day. Instead, my family stayed at home with sneezes and sniffles, watching Thanksgiving Day parades on TV. We were banned from the family dinner table, germs and all. Instead, my father-in-law went out of his way to actually deliver us dinner a la carte after the family had their feast. It was a win/win situation... they didn't get our sniffles, and we still got to eat without having to get out of our pajamas (gotta lov

e that man!).

I found enough energy to peel my butt off the couch, a box of Kleenex at my side, with extra wads tucked under my shirt sleeves (thanks Grandma Pat for that trick), and checked my email. I was waiting for news. Big news. News that could possibly change the course of my day and life.

I met Roger over a year ago, September 2005 to be exact. I didn't really "meet" meet him, instead I was given his name by the library in Cork City, Ireland. I rang him knowing his local historical society was going to be giving a talk about their native son of Cork, Jerome Collins, in just a few short days, unbeknownst to me prior to contacting the library. Roger is quite the character, he took charge of the conversation, knowing I was calling him long distance from Minnesota, and immediately set me straight that I was to call him Ronnie, that everyone he knew called him Ronnie, that's how it's always been and that is what I should call him too. He agreed to contact me after the meeting and let me know what took place, I wanted to see what the historical society knew about Jerome that I didn't and vice versa. He got my email address and we said goodbye before I could express my gratitude, Ronnie in Cork had made quite the impression with me... were all Irish this brash and brazen and to the point? An email arrived the next day, and 1 year later they still continue. Ronnie and I have become good friends. I managed to entice him to further his curiousity into the life of my ancestor, Jerome Collins, and in return, he has opened up avenues that would have never been possible had I never made that call. Together, we decided to write Jerome's story, starting out small.

Our first article appeared in The Archive, published in Cork. Through his connections, and having previously written an article about two of his uncles lost on the Ardmore, Ronnie and I were allowed to write Jerome's story. It was short, about 2,000 words. It was enough to get the word out that this native son of Ireland should not be forgotten for all the contributions he made to society and that of the world. This was our test, and we were able to work through the kinks to co-author this article despite the great pond of water that separated us.

Next came The Holly Bough, also published in Cork, a yearly Christmas paper put out specially by the Cork Evening Echo. Once again, we were given a 2,000 word limit. But with colorful pictures and a different focus on Jerome's life, the salivating was beginning in us to write more about Jerome, and people were finally taking notice of this long lost son of Ireland.

I myself, had made the headlines in conjuction with Jerome 6 times in just two weeks since October 28th of this year. TWO WEEKS. That's amazing. I can't even remember making the highschool newspaper. I appeared on RTE Radio 1's Seascapes website, along with their section in the Echo, plus a few other mentions and photos in the Echo; Ronnie was interviewed on Seascapes in honor of Jerome's 125th year of his death in the arctic. By this time, Ronnie was entrusted with all I knew about Jerome and the family skeletons in the closet. He could take the info and go off on his own sharing the story with the world, breaking all connections with me. But he didn't. And I knew he wouldn't. Ronnie and I, through our friendship, developed a working relationship for the greater good, to delve deaper into the Collins family roots, to find out what Jerome Collins was all about, and bring him back into the hearts of all Corkonians.

I had made contact with a publisher in Ireland. It was time to write Jerome's story, to let all of Cork and Ireland know about their forgotten hero. The publisher was intrigued, he wanted to know more. Could I write a book by myself? How could I tell my ancestors' story without ever having stepped foot on my ancestral soil of Ireland? How would I describe Cork in the 1840's, all the way through to present, having never lived there? There was only one way I could pull it off, and do honor to the Collins family name. Ask Ronnie. And ask I did. In fact, I begged, quite a few times. Ronnie was the native of Cork, Ronnie knew the history of Cork, he lived and breathed everything Irish. Everything was at his fingertips. For the greater good, for the forgotten hero of Ireland, for my GG Granduncle Jerome, he agreed to co-author Jerome's story with me. Ronnie was to meet with the publisher in person on Thanksgiving Day.

I sat down at the computer, put the box of Kleenex down on my desk and opened up my email. One by one the emails came, but I didn't need to know about the latest sale at Old Navy or JCPenney. I was waiting for word on how Ronnie's meeting went with the publisher. Why would I want to write a book and have it published in Ireland, you ask? Why not. It's where part of me came from, and it's only natural I give back to Cork what Cork gave to me.
Ronnie's email arrived. I read it, blah blah blah, something about ear infections, Happy Thanksgiving Day wishes to my family, yadda yadda, and then... the meeting.... "We're on" he writes. We're on!!!!!!!

I ran outside to my husband, grabbed the phone and called our parents, all the while my husband is wondering what I'm doing with a trail of Kleenex falling out of my sleeves. I announce to the family that I am about to begin a new journey, and for reasons other than wanting to put a buck or two in my pocket, I was going to publish my ancestor's story. Ronnie was going to co-author it with me, and for the first time since 1884, everything about Jerome J. Collins was going to come to light for the entire world to see. All the hundreds and hundreds of hours of research I had done was going to be compiled. Ronnie's knowledge of Ireland was going to be put to the test. Together we were going to combine our resources, our research, and our respect for one man, and tell his story as best we could. I could think of no better way to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. I was thankful for all my roots, Norwegian, Swedish, and Irish. And I was thankful for that good friend across the big, big pond over in Cork who cared enough to help me.

Let the journey begin.


Before Jerome Collins came to America, he was a Civil Engineer and over saw the erection of the North Gate Bridge in Cork City. It was later replaced in the 1960's by the Griffith Bridge, the River Lee running under just as she did 142 years ago when the cast iron structure was a distinguished presence known throughout the city.

Meet Jerome...

WHEN I was twelve years old,
I was asked by my history teacher to write a "cultural report", basically a paper on where my ancestors came from. So I did. I asked my parents about my heritage and found that I was 1/2 Norwegian, 1/4 Irish, and 1/4 Swedish. As luck would have it, our Norwegian side was already researched and documented quite well, it was traced all the way back to 1600 in Norway! I was able to find out good info about our Irish and Swedish side, however I couldn't trace it back very far. Either way, I got an "A" on my paper, my teacher commenting he wish he knew as much about his family as I did mine. That was the spark that lit the flame which still burns inside me today. Thanks Mr. Sjoberg!!!!!!!

IN college I was going to study abroad in Ireland for a few semesters, so my mother's aunt, a very stoic Irish Catholic Nun (red hair to boot!) sent me some very interesting info about our Irish side of the family. She had hoped I could trace our heritage while I was studying in Ireland. Unfortunately, my father had health problems, and passed in 1989; I stayed home and as a result, I didn't want to leave mom alone. I was only 19, my dad passed when he was 47. The documents that "Aunty Sister" gave me were put away, occasionally I'd bring them out, but I didn't understand the notes that were made on the papers. There was an uncle that had discovered some ocean currents that went to the north pole, there was also a Congressional Gold Medal in my GG Grandfather's obituary mentioned, there was mention of the Paris Conservatory and a musical background in piano and a love for poetry. So many odd notes were written, so many things that didn't make sense. So I put the papers away and they didn't come back out until 1996.

I GOT curious. Where was this Congressional Gold Medal, who in the family now had it? Why was it awarded? Who went to the north pole? Did the fact that I was also a pianist and had a talent for poetry mean it was in my genes? Thank God for the internet. When I was twelve all I had was a telephone and a library. I was older now. I had access to computers and the World Wide Web. Yahoo was the biggest search engine that I knew of, along with AOL. I didn't find anything on the net until 1998 when I moved back home to live with mom. That's when things started happening.

I TOOK another look at my GG Grandfather's obituary. I read a bit more slowly. In there it stated his brother Jerome sailed on the Greely Relief Expedition to the north pole. So I went to the library, and found every book on the expedition. I could find no mention of Jerome Collins. I was getting frustrated. Why would I hit a brick wall so suddenly? Then it happened. I was searching for Jerome Collins on the internet, and I found the name with a sketch of his image on the US Naval Historical website. Could this be our guy? It was! Upon further research I was able to confirm that Jerome J. Collins was actually a member of the Jeannette Arctic Expedition to the north pole in 1879, and that the Greely Relief Expedition was sent after the Jeannette had been out of sight for quite some time. Doors were opening, questions were being answered, but with each question answered, it posed at least 10 more new questions. One thing I learned right away, don't believe everything you read. In this case, my GG Grandfather's obit had been embellished, but why would the family mention the Greely instead of the Jeannette? I was about to find out.

THE Jeannette was formally the Pandora owned by Sir Allen Young, a bark-rigged steamer yacht purchased by James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald who had hopes of making headlines at the north pole. Pandora would have been more appropriate, the Jeannette had bad luck before she even set sail from San Francisco Harbor in July of 1879. She didn't even make it to the pole, instead just a few months after setting her sails, she was thrust into the ice pack by the Lieutenant DeLong, in hopes of letting the flow take her north. Soon she was trapped for almost 2 years. The crew of over 30 men finally had to escape to the ice, sledging over the jagged ice packs where they finally took to the water and made for land. Three boats in all were in the Laptev Sea above Northern Siberia, only two made it to the Lena Delta, the 3rd presumably lost in a gale, never to be found again. (Later, pieces of the Jeannette had reached the coast of Greenland, thus enhancing the theory that Jerome had discovered the "ocean currents" mentioned in his brother Daniel's obit). That boat of Jerome Collins, who was the New York Herald correspondent forced to sign on as a seaman while leaving the harbor to the pole, was alongside DeLong as they landed on the Lena Delta. The other boat made it to safety and found natives and food. DeLong refused to go any further, and insisted he wait for help as he guarded not only the sick men, but his precious log books. Two men were allowed to walk and seek help, Jerome volunteered to go, but was forced to stay behind by DeLong, never mind the fact that he was the largest and healthiest man in the small party.

HELP came, but it was too late. DeLong and his men died, including Jerome, due to starvation and exposure to the harsh arctic elements. DeLong's last entry in his guarded journal read, "Mr. Collins dying", October 30th, 1881. Jerome Collins had died while under suspension for a trivial offense, that which was never lifted by DeLong before their death, and that which was never lifted after a formal Congressional Inquiry into the mistreatment of Jerome while on board the Jeannette from 1879-1881. Even in death to this day Jerome Collins is still under arrest.

HIS brother Daniel, my GG Grandfather, and brother Bernard, did all they could to lift the charges, but a decision was never made. Daniel treasured the Congressional Gold Medal which was awarded to Jerome posthumously, and when he died just 6 short years later, it disappeared, never to be seen by his descendants again. If I died, would I want the world to know about my failed attempts to vindicate my own dead brother? Would I ask that any reference be published alongside my name in the papers to the tragic Jeannette Arctic Expedition? Maybe, maybe not. But the Collins family was full of honor and had roots that ran deep into the heart of Ireland. Their instinct to fight for Jerome's honor wasn't just a publicity stunt, it was their heritage, their way, and their blood which made them stand up for what was right.

HOWEVER it happened, the fight was given up after Daniel's death in 1900. No mention of this expedition was ever verbally passed on down to me along with the heartache and pain it must have caused the family knowing that a cherished son of Ireland perished in northern Siberia at the expense of making headlines for a playboy newspaper man with hopes of selling the next million dollar headline. So it comes to this. 2006. My research, my journey, my fight, and the flame that my history teacher lit in my heart when I was twelve years old to find my roots. Just because I'm 1/4 Irish doesn't mean I won't give it 100% to clear my Great-Great Granduncle Jerome J. Collins name of the trivial charges. If anything, I'll be giving 200%.