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updated: 11/14/2010 10:37 AM

Hoffman Estates woman traces Irish roots

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By Arlene Miles

The Irish part of her ancestry has claimed Barb Peterson.

She is of mixed heritage with German-Jewish roots as part of her past, but it's the ancestors from the Emerald Isle who have piqued the interest of this Hoffman Estates resident.

Researching her family's past was something Peterson always wanted to do, particularly after she visited Ireland in 1983, but like most people she shelved it until about three years ago.

She began by repeatedly interviewing an 87-year-old aunt, slowly coaxing out information about the aunt's childhood and Peterson's grandmother, Katherine Coyne. The names of her great-grandparents, however, were lost.

One day she acted on a hunch.

"Naming back then was much more sentimental, today it's ornamental," Peterson said. "I began to think, what if my great-grandmother's name was Barbara?"

She immediately got a hit showing a woman with the maiden name of Halloran had a daughter named Katherine and a boarder who lived in the house during the 1920 census, a fact that had been confirmed by her aunt. From there she found her great-grandfather's name, and the names of five brothers and sisters.

"In one day I got all of this information just from a hunch," she said. "It was a joyous eye opener."

Since then, Peterson has delved into her German-Jewish roots, and researched parallel lines of her family, undeterred by every roadblock imaginable, from misspellings to wrong dates.

"You have to run down a lot of rabbit holes and reach a lot of dead ends before you find what you're looking for," said Peterson, a regular at meetings of the Schaumburg Township Library genealogy group. "You have to have a certain aptitude for this and be willing to deal with the ambiguity."