Mishaps, Trivia, and Surprises Revealed while Renovating Decades Old Wedding Album

Eyes only for each other in the fall of 1982 shortly after we met. After 35 years we still (for the most part) tend to see things eye to eye.

Do you know what you were doing 35 years ago today?

I do! I do!

I was prepping for a wedding—my own.

A few years ago, when our wedding album was quite literally falling apart, I decided I’d better redo it if I wanted to preserve all those precious professional photos that were slipping off of its aging pages.

The classic recessional wedding photo. (August 20, 1983)

I distinctly recalled the meeting a few decades earlier when my soon-to-be husband Mark and I met with our wedding photographer who was promoting the “Perma Bound” brand photo album–a product he promised would “last forever”.

It seemed that 30 years in, though, our marriage was already outlasting the photo album that was promised to be “permanently bound.” (That’s a good thing, though.)

A google search confirmed that the Perma Bound company—unlike my marriage—is no longer in business. (So much for that product warranty. I wonder if the company that made my china is still in business. I could use a few replacement pieces.)

But back to the problem with the photo album:

Computer designed photo books that are all the rage today, were a fad of the future, so I decided to move our wedding pix into a “Creative Memories” style album. You know the kind—the ones where you spend endless hours agonizing over which stickers, papers, and fancy pens to employ in the creation of your album masterpiece.

I did it, though. I committed to that labor of love which—while definitely time consuming—did offer me the opportunity to step back, slow down and carefully re-examine the images from that historic day from my past. It even made me realize a few facts about that day that I’d never realized before.

In fact, there were so many facts that were “new” to me about that day, I added a final page to the back of the  renovated album where I could capture them all on a page of their own.

So in honor of 35 years of wedded bliss (OK—not always bliss, but still wedded and still in love), I offer the following personal pieces of trivia, mishaps, surprises, and ironic coincidences, which relate to that personally historic event which I celebrate with my husband today:


  • The groom and his Best Man were both named “Mark”.
  • The Bride and her Maid of Honor were both named “Patricia”.
  • The wedding took place at the groom’s parish, which was named “St. Patricia”.

(Until then, I didn’t even know there was a saint named “St. Patricia”.  You can learn a bit about her here.)

(Clearly, with a surname like that, he was meant to devote his life to God.)

  • The wedding took place on August 20, 1983 ~ precisely 30 years to the day after the bride was baptized at St. Basil’s church in South Haven, Michigan on August 20, 1953.

(That fact was discovered when the bride examined her baptismal certificate for the first time in her life before passing it on to the good Fr. Chapell—one of the many documents  required to get married at his church.)

  • A replica of the postage stamp, used on the envelopes for the wedding invitations, was available several years later as an embroidery kit at a local craft store. The bride bought it, made it, framed it, and hung it in the couple’s home for their entire married life. In fact, she even had it re-framed a few months ago because it, too, was falling apart—just like the decades old wedding album.

         (And the bride never took up an embroidery needle again… Do people actually still do embroidery anymore?)

The recently re-framed embroidery of an image of the postage stamp used on the wedding invitations in 1983. It was stitched by the bride in the early days of her marriage.

  • Two days before the wedding, when the bride went to pick up her gown at the little Victorian house in Algonquin that was known as “Kiki’s Wedding Boutique”, the veil was nowhere to be found.

(Apparently, the young lady assigned to add pearls to the veil brought it downstairs to the tuxedo shop so she could work on it while socializing with her boyfriend—an employee of said shop. The veil remained among the tuxedos until it was discovered there the day before the wedding. Within 24 hours the veil was delivered by the bridal shop to the bride’s apartment 30 miles away, just in the nick of time.)

  • “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue…”

(In this case the “something borrowed” was a string of pearls the bride borrowed from her sister Dorothy ~ a gift to Dorothy on her own wedding day 20 years earlier in 1963 from her groom, Terry Vaughan.)

  • The ceremony was to include the lighting of a “unity candle” by the bride and groom to signify that their two lives would thenceforth being joined as one. That did not occur. The candle melted because the bride had left it in the trunk of her car during the recent heat wave.

(Chicago temperatures the preceding week exceeded 103 degrees, so…no unity candle and no lighting ceremony.)

  • Extended screeching was provided by the bride’s nephew 18-month old Patrick Desmond (whose name is strikingly similar to “Patricia Desmond”–the bride’s given and maiden names). The unexpected sound effects of that enthusiastic toddler made it a bit difficult for those in attendance (including those at the altar) to hear the recitation of the vows.

(Hmmm….If people couldn’t hear the vows being spoken, does that mean this 35 year old marriage is actually invalid?)

Apparently Patrick Desmond, who screeched as the wedding vows were recited at church, had a song request for the band at the reception as well.

  • The reception was held at “The Delphian House” where the groom once worked as a teenager busing tables.

(The tables were turned that day though, when employees of the banquet hall waited on and served the groom, his bride, and their guests.)

  • When the reception was over, the bride and groom returned to the groom’s house to change their clothes; say good-bye to his parents; and head off for their honeymoon. As they waved good-bye and pulled away, the groom—anticipating the years ahead of him—thought to himself: “Now what?”

(This was confessed to the bride by the groom about 10 years into their marriage.)

And thus, Mark and Patti began their new life together as husband and wife:

Mr. & Mrs. Mark Biallas

Happy Anniversary, Sweetie Pie!

(…and I wouldn’t change one thing about that day from 35 years ago.)


An update on the cast of characters since August 20, 1983:

The bride’s brother, Gerry Desmond, who stepped in for his dad to walk the bride down the aisle: Well, he’s gone now. So is the bride’s brother, Brian, who’s son Patrick screeched throughout the recitation of her vows. Gerry and Brian both passed away last year.

The bride’s brother Gerry, walks her down the aisle on August 20, 1983.

Patrick (the screeching toddler) has five kids of his own now. The eldest, Daniel, came to visit Great-Aunt Patti for a week this summer to absorb all he could about Desmond family history and, in the process, helped make a family history discovery of his own. (More on that another time…)

And Terry, who gave his bride Dorothy that pearl necklace back in 1963—the “something borrowed” this bride wore 20 years later—well, he’s gone too, and is also sorely missed by all of the Desmond family. Mark’s parents, Karl and Arlene Biallas, passed on as well—his dad a few years after the couple got married and his mom just a few years ago…

Numerous names have been added to our mutual family tree over the past 35 years. Mark and I are now great-aunt and great-uncle to many of  those descendants, and we also became parents ourselves.

Our home of 33 years began with a childless couple in 1985. It welcomed two back-to-back babies in the late 1980s who were raised to adulthood and now is just housing the two of us again.

We had our house built in 1985 and have lived here for 33 years. A few years in, I pointed out to my beloved that “The house is too quiet” and “The house is too big for us. Perhaps we should start a family”. So we did.

And then we went on to do all the things parents do with and for their kids from strollers, scouts, schooling and sports to the best guidance we could muster to get them through their young lives and on their paths to adulthood.

Meg, Director of Communications at the Center for Public Justice in Washington D.C., married Samory Henry last year.

The next generation: Meg Biallas marries Samory Henry, June 3, 2017 at the Church of the Resurrection, Washington, DC.

And Kelly is now a Registered Nurse on the med-surg floor of a local medical center and fully enjoying all the freedoms and responsibilities of her young, single life.

Kelly Biallas graduates from nursing school, December 2016.

Like our parents before us, Mark and I now belong to the “older generation.” Most of our friends from the neighborhood have left, living their lives in other locations. And I’m back to repeating things I said three decades ago:  “The house is too quiet” and “The house is too big.”

So…maybe it’s time for another change.  Time will tell, as it always does.

Meanwhile, here’s to the next 35 years in the cycle of life with my beloved, Mark.

cropped Venice

Celebrating our 25th anniversary in Venice, Italy in 2008.

 Copyright © 2018 Patricia Desmond Biallas


Posted in Biographies, Family Stories, Photo Stories, Social History | 6 Comments

Oh, Those Irish Romantics!

Tradition and romance appear to run deep in my line of the Desmond clan–more than two centuries deep–from what I’ve discovered so far. 

It seems my great-great grandfather, Patrick Desmond (b. 1795) was baptized on his (and my) namesake’s day–exactly 223 years ago–on 17 March 1795. The sacrament took place at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, diocese of Cork and Ross, in Cork City, County Cork, Ireland. 

Whether Patrick’s parents, Humphry Desmond and Mary Huggins, planned to have their son christened on St. Patrick’s Day or that was just a coincidence, remains unknown. 

(By the way, don’t you just love his mom’s surname? If she was around, I’d give her a squeeze!)

I’d like to think, though, that Patrick’s parents intentionally had him baptized on the feast day of Ireland’s patron saint–perhaps as a little extra insurance that their son would have a lucky life after already being named “Patrick.”

After all,  a plethora of Irish babies over the centuries have been named “Patrick” –many in my own family–but how many of those Irish babies christened “Patrick” were actually baptized on St. Patrick’s Day?

Intentional or not, it seems Patrick himself, must have been a romantic at heart. Just look at what I discovered about the date of his marriage:

Yep, that’s right.  Twenty-four years after his birth, on 14 Feb 1819, Patrick was married on St. Valentine’s Day, a day that honors the patron saint of lovers.

The lucky (and beloved) bride was Bridget Cronin, my great-great grandmother (born c. 1800). The ceremony occurred in the parish of Kilmurry, diocese of Cork & Ross, County Cork, Ireland–most likely the same church that Patrick was baptized in 24 years earlier.

Pretty lucky, I’d say, for Patrick and all of his descendants…

And what’s not to love about that?

A portion of the Desmond clan. Apparently they were Irish romantics, based on the dates of Patrick’s baptism (17 Mar 1795) and his marriage (14 February 1819).

 Copyright © 2018 Patricia Desmond Biallas





Posted in Biographies, Family Legends, Family Stories, Holidays, Ireland, Just for Fun!, Research | 4 Comments

Tips for Researching Desmond (& other Irish Surnames)

Last week I received an email from a fellow Desmond named “Claire” via the GeneaJourneys blog you’re reading right now.

She’s  been researching her genealogy for a fairly short time and wondered if perhaps we were related due to having Desmond ancestors who also had similar given names as well.

While some of the names of her Desmond ancestors did match a few on my tree, I knew we probably weren’t related–at least not closely related–because the birth and death dates were pretty far off and our ancestors didn’t live in the same locations.

Her inquiry (which appears at the bottom of this post) was both earnest and hopeful. She’d clearly done her homework and had garnered much data about her ancestors’ lives in a short time. She also reminded me of myself about eight and a half years ago when I first began the geneajourney of researching my Desmond ancestors.

Back then, when I left similar inquiries on genealogy message boards (like most people I suspect), I rarely got more than a one-line answer from those I reached out to. Most responses–if I got one at all–simply and succinctly stated that “No. We’re not related.”

Pretty discouraging for a beginner…

Ultimately, that surprise inquiry from Claire got me to thinking—particularly about just how much I’ve learned over the past 9 years (primarily on my own) through reading, classes, workshops, conferences and plain old trial-and-error. Claire’s heartfelt email made me realize I would have been much further ahead in my research by now if I’d only had a few tips from a mentor who’d been at it a little longer.

So in the spirit of helping my younger self, I answered Claire’s inquiry—first letting her down easy (please read on), but then offering a host of suggestions that I hope will kick start her entry into Irish research with much more success than I initially had. My response appears below, which I later learned was both encouraging and helpful to her.

At the bottom of this post is an edited version of Claire’s original inquiry just in case there are other readers researching Desmonds who have names, dates and locations that match those of Claire’s ancestors. Perhaps that will be just the connection you both need to break a stubborn brick wall.

Desmond, or not, May the Luck of the Irish be with ALL of us who continue to seek out our hidden Gaelic ancestors.


Hi Claire ~

Thanks for reaching out to me to see if we’re related. Always nice to hear from another Desmond family history researcher. While many of our mutual ancestors’ given names are similar, based on the dates and locations you’ve provided, I don’t believe you and I are closely related, though we may be very distant cousins.

Like yours, my Desmonds also come from Cork (where I understand the Desmonds were–and still are–concentrated).  I’ve also seen many Desmonds listed in databases as coming from Macroom. Mine settled in upstate New York when they came to America, though numerous Desmonds settled in  Minnesota, Massachusetts, and elsewhere, so you’re probably correct about where your Desmonds settled when they arrived here.

I’m sure you’ve heard or read that Irish research can be difficult, and that it’s best to work backwards by exhausting all record sets on this side of the pond first. As one who is still new to Irish records, I can tell you I’ve definitely found that to be true.

But…the data in American records (if the person you’re following is truly your ancestor) should provide unique details about him or her that will enable you to then search more successfully for them in records abroad.

Here are some ideas for doing Irish research that have worked for me:


You mentioned findagrave.com. I’ve found FAG to be a mother lode for hints on other family members and have been able to greatly expand my tree that way. I caution you, though, that those hints are exactly that—only hints—and they should always be confirmed in other ways (vital records, obituaries, census, newspaper articles, etc.) If not, you may end up following someone who’s NOT your ancestor—a big disappointment and an even bigger waste of time.

The good news is, there’s a man named William Desmond who goes by “Des” on FAG who keeps track of all the Desmonds that he comes across. Here’s his FAG bio:

One-name researcher with info on thousands of Desmonds. Your queries are welcome. Leave a message. Be sure to check the “Desmond Variant Spellings” Virtual Cemetery below. There are many more Desmond obituaries, death and funeral notices, and other information, at my Desmond Archives website: https://wmcdesmond.neocities.org/

Try contacting Des for some guidance on that. Here’s a link to Des on FAG: https://www.findagrave.com/user/profile/47520387

A U.S. Expert in Irish Genealogy

Have you heard of Donna Moughty? She’s a U.S. based expert on Irish research who uses her website, speaking engagements, and Facebook page to educate others in Irish research. I attended several of her sessions last year at a local conference and have been following her ever since.

She (like others) also publishes Quick Reference Guides on Irish research topics, and offers coaching in Irish research. She even organizes research trips to Ireland for those who are far enough along in their research to make that worthwhile. (Not me, yet, but perhaps someday!)

An Expert Based in Ireland

Do you know about John Grenham? Based in Ireland, he has a website (part free; part fee-based); a Facebook page; and an indispensable book called “Tracing Your Irish Ancestors: The Complete Guide” which I highly recommend. It’s loaded with details on how to go about doing Irish research from getting started; to church, land and county records in Ireland; to research services, Irish repositories, and publishers. (There are dozens of books on Irish research but this is the most comprehensive and useful one I’ve found so far.)

A Specific Database on Ancestry.com

Do you know about the Ancestry.com database entitled “Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655-1915″? Try it! Plug in one ancestor’s name at a time and see what pops up. You may be as lucky as I was.

Using that specific  collection, I was able to find baptismal, marriage and death records in Ireland that took me back two more generations on my direct Desmond line and I was also able to find similar records for siblings of those direct ancestors.

One-Name & One-Place Sources

There are also organizations, websites and Facebook pages dedicated to researching the genealogy of a single surname or a single location in both the U.S, and other countries.  (Full disclosure: I haven’t fully researched any of them but I know they exist.)

Examples I’m aware of include the Guild of One-name Studies  and Wikitree’s One Place Study project. To thoroughly investigate this topic, try googling “one name study” or “one place study” to learn more about how they can help you with your Irish Desmond research.

Online Courses in Irish Research

The National Institute of Genealogical Studies (NIGS) also offers a series of classes on Irish research. Two very basic ones I’ve taken are: Irish: Understanding Ireland, History and Source Records and Research: Irish Ancestors. You can learn more about these courses (and many others) by going to: http://www.genealogicalstudies.com/

Other online providers offer general courses in genealogy as well.

Books for Your Own Personal Genealogy Library

Eventually—when you’re further along in your Irish research—you may want to pick up a few of the reference books mentioned below.

Some are introductory guides to pursuing Irish research; some are guides to Irish surnames and places; one focuses on records located in Ireland; and the other is about the social history of everyday life in Ireland in the 1800s. (Can’t wait to dig into that one!)

Some you’ll refer to often and others, for the most part, will remain on your bookshelf but  come in handy when you need them. A sampling:

Finding Your Irish Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide by David S. Ouimette (c. 2005)

Tracing Your Irish Ancestors by John Grenham. (c. 2012)

The Surnames of Ireland by Edward MacLysaght (c. 1999)

Special Report on Surnames in Ireland by Sir Robert Matheson (c. 1909)

A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland by Brian Mitchell (c. 2002)

Irish Place Names by Deirdre and Laurence Flanagan (c. 2002)

General Alphabetical Index to the Townlands and Towns, Parishes and Baronies of Ireland as reprinted by the Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. (c. 1851).

Irish Records: Sources for Family & Local History by James G. Ryan (c. 1997)

Everyday Life in 19th Century Ireland by Ian Maxwell (c. 2012)

By the way, when it comes to buying books, you don’t have to buy them new. I often use online booksellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble to find gently used copies that are in “very good” to “excellent” condition for a very reasonable price.

(For other tips on buying books see this 3-part series of posts I wrote a few years ago for this GeneaJourneys blog.)

There are a host of other resources (websites, webinars, conferences, institutes, archives, specialty libraries, etc.) that are available for doing Irish genealogy research as well, but the ones above should give you a good start.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll find out we’re more closely related through the Desmond line than we thought!

Best of luck in your research, Claire.

Pat Biallas

Following is an edited version of the original inquiry I received from a fellow hunter of Desmond ancestors whose origins are in County Cork, Ireland.

If any of the facts from your family tree match those of Claire’s, feel free to reach out to me through the “Contact page” on this blog. I’ll be happy to forward your name and information to Claire so you can contact her directly.


Hello Patricia,

I joined Ancestry.com four months ago, completed two genealogy courses, and am a member of my local genealogical society. My current research relates to my great grandfather, Timothy Desmond who was born in 1838, Macroom, County Cork, Ireland. His father was also named Tim Desmond and his mother was Johanna Foley. They immigrated from Dublin to America in 1849. Sadly, Johanna died on board their ship (Bark Argyle). I have not found my great grandfather’s name on the ship’s registry, however every document I have confirms that he immigrated in 1849.

Timothy Desmond settled in Massachusetts. He had at least three older sisters.  One sister was named Johanna Desmond. Johanna was also born in Macroom, Cork, Ireland in 1824. I was intent on learning more about her and eventually found a listing for “Johanna Desmond Holland”. From there I went to Find-A-Grave and found your name.  I now realize that it’s a coincidence that there were two Johanna Desmonds born in Ireland around the same time, who were both immigrants.  I’m just wondering if there could be any family connection between us?

As I said my great grandfather immigrated as a youth, settled in MA, was a boot maker, and eventually married Margaret Gertrude Lyons in 1906. They had 2 sons Clarence F. Desmond and Walter J. Desmond, who all lived in the Waltham, Milford and Worcester area of MA. I am a descendant of Walter J. Desmond, my paternal grandfather. Hoping to hear from you!

Thanks for reading this.


No, Claire, thank YOU for reaching out and inspiring me to write this post. I hope that the tips above on pursuing Irish research will prove useful to you and others like you who are just getting started on their Irish geneajourney.

(…and an early “Happy St. Patty’s Day” to you and yours!)

Copyright © 2018 Patricia Desmond Biallas

Posted in Ireland, Research, Research Tips | 2 Comments