Last winter, I was contacted through Ancestry.com by a woman with an incredible story! She claimed that her ninety-something year old mother had found an old, handwritten manuscript in the basement of a convent in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania while moving the Carmelite sisters from France to their new rectory many, many years before.
After rescuing the beautiful, leather bound book, she was inspired by the articles and snippets of the author’s time. Painstakingly copied in meticulous calligraphy and illustrated with original Currier & Ives lithographs, it is an impressive volume that took the author, Roderick Jerome McDevitt, over twenty years to complete! She knew she must find a surviving heir or relative. For decades she kept the book, until her daughter found that I had Roderick J McDevitt in my family tree.
R. J. McDevitt was born in Donegal, Ireland around 1852. He was the youngest son of Daniel McDevitt and Rose McKeever. There is not much known about him except that he was a printer by trade in Philadelphia. Roderick never married and had no heirs. He died on April 27, 1893, at just forty one years of age. Roderick’s older sister, Brigid McDevitt was born in 1833. She married Daniel O’Donnell, my maternal second great grandfather. The rest, shall we say, is history.
Between 1872 and his death in 1893, Roderick worked on his manuscript, which begins with this inscription;
Roderick McDevitt’s Book January 15th 1872
It is when I am dead and gone and when my bones are rotten,
this book will be in rememberance of me,
when I am gone, gone and quite forgotten.
In future weeks, I hope to scan all of the pages of this very delicate, antique heirloom so that my entire family can enjoy it as much as I do. Thanks to the amazing efforts of two wonderful women, Roderick McDevitt will always be remembered.
Roderick McDevitts Book