On this date in 1914, Ernest Howard Barnes (1885-1951) married Helen Catherine Barnes (1881-1973) in New York City, NY. Their paths crossed in NYC when a mutual friend introduced them, because they shared the same surname. Very soon afterwards they married. In this lovely picture Helen is wearing a beautiful linen and lace wedding gown and she’s showing off her wedding ring. Ernest sits proudly next to his new wife.
Helen came to the United States in 1908 from Ireland, changing a few things about herself in the process. In County Kings (now called Offaly) she was known as Ellen, or Nellie, the next to last of twelve children of John and Mary Ryan Barnes. The family belonged to the Kilcolman Roman Catholic Church and were farmers. She hated being called Nellie, so after coming to New York City, she started using Helen. One by one, all of Helen’s siblings had left Ireland, with only her brother John staying. Only one child could inherit the small family farm, and the rest helped each other out by paying for the ship passage fees and sharing a place to stay in Manhattan.
The other thing Helen changed was her age. This was actually fairly common among the Irish, and often trips us up doing research on them. It helped with job searching to be younger, and for the women it also helped with matrimony prospects. Helen had worked as a domestic back home, and she quickly found another job in NYC. For her age on forms, Helen switched from 1881 to 1887, keeping her birth date of August 5th. She kept up this deception her entire life.
Ernest had come up north for business college after growing up on a large farm in Grantham Township, Wayne County, NC, and was working in Manhattan. He was the first of three children born to Thomas and Ophelia Rose Barnes. The Rose and Barnes families had come to Virginia in the late 1600s from Scotland and England, and were Protestants. Ernest’s family objected to Helen’s Catholicism, and that she was only a poor farmer’s daughter working as a domestic.
True love always trumps family objections. They did face tough times though. Their first child died an hour after birth – Helen blamed the midwife’s inexperience. They went on to have three more children, bringing them up during the Depression. They eventually moved near Kingston, NJ, where they are buried in the Kingston Methodist Cemetery. The uncovering of Helen’s roots in Ireland was helped in great part from research done by the Irish Midlands Ancestry, in Tullamore, County Offaly. Right in the town where Helen used to say her “original” birth certificate could be found!