annie-joyce-with-snowballAnnie Loughlin was born in Tierney, Gorumna Island, Galway, Ireland in 1898. She died before my birth, however, through the stories of her children, I feel a connection to her.

Tierney (spelled many ways) was on a small island off the southwest coast of Ireland. Since it was a rocky island that was not near the shore, it remained untouched by the English and remained a Gaelic island.

When Annie arrived in Boston about 1917, she brought with her Irish superstitions about fairies, banshees, marriages, pregnancy and death, not tainted nor diluted by English rule.
Annie married my great-grandfather Coleman Joyce in 1918. Their children were: Mary Agnes, (my grandmother), Bridget Josephine “Jo”, Eileen Veronica, Margaret Rita “Rita”, (Coleman Francis) “Frank”, John Joseph, Anna Theresa and Thomas Joseph.

Early in 1939, my grandfather proposed to my grandmother. That same year her sister Jo became engaged to Edmund Keohane. Annie insisted the first daughter need be married first or Jo’s wedding would be cursed. Not heeding the warning of her mother, Jo and Edmund planned their wedding four months before my grandparent’s wedding. The day after Jo and Edmunds marriage, the top headline in the local newspaper read: “Girl Weds Injured Fiancé as He Lies on Hospital Cot.” Edmund was involved in a car accident on his way to the church and broke his leg.

Jo and my grandmother were the best of friends. My grandmother asked her to be her maid of honor. Jo was pregnant and Annie forbade it. Pregnant women were not photographed or the child would be cursed. Jo heeded Annie’s warning on this occasion.

My grandmother’s next sister, Rita, stood in Jo’s place. Annie believed in Irish fairies which liked to collect beautiful things. Fairies were drawn mostly to brides. Annie insisted that every woman in a wedding party wear a small veil. This would confuse the fairies as they wouldn’t know which women was the bride until the couple was pronounced man and wife, and the brides veil was lifted from her face. That is why Rita wore a veil as well.

The Irish Banshee were another of Annie’s superstitions. Banshees would wail or weep to a family member warning them of an impending death in the family. I’m sure she believed someone was warned, however, they did not know what it was nor what it meant.
Annie’s husband Coleman Joyce died in 1953 and a traditional Irish wake was planned. An Irish wake is when the deceased is laid in the house where they lived or died. In this case, Coleman was washed and prepared and laid out on the families dining room table for friends and family to come pay their respects until his burial. The body needed to be watched so the soul was not stolen prior to the burial. My grandmother and her siblings took shifts watching over their dead father until the day of his burial.

Annie died on 24 July 1967 and her children had to decide what birth date to use. They knew she was born in 1898, however, after her first 4th of July, she changed her birth date so there would always be fireworks on her birthday. Unlike her husband, Annie was given a standard wake and burial. When she died, most of her superstitions died with her.


If you can believe it, this is just one family. This is my maternal grandfather’s family. The elderly looking woman in the center of the picture actually gave birth to seventeen children – yes I said seventeen. One unfortunately died at a young age. This family picture was taken to commemorate my grandfather’s brother becoming a priest on 26 May 1938.

My grandfather’s father Jonas “John Michael” Grinvalsky was born in current day Slovakia. He and his brother Conrad arrived in New York in 1899 and they moved to Torrington, CT. Anna Zaherek was born in current day Toporec, Slovakia and in 1898 her and her brother James arrived in New York and they moved to Torrington, CT. John Michael Grinvalsky and Anna Zaharek married 9 June of 1900.

In 1901 they had their first child and they would go on to have a total of seventeen. My maternal grandfather was child number eight/ James Jacob Grinvalsky [Yes – I always refer to them by their name and birth order number]. The last child was born in 1926. Family lore says Anna was actually pregnant 20 times, but had three miscarriages. Can you imagine being pregnant for 25 years? Or raising seventeen children? I chalk it up to fertility and devout Catholicism.

What I find strange is that the children did not follow suit and have large families. Most of “The Original Seventeen” as I call them only had one or two. My mother is from a family of four which is the second largest besides Dr. Henry Grinvalsky [number 15] and his wife who had ten. Five originals would never even marry. Maybe, growing up in such a large family they decided to have smaller families, however I can only speculate. Unfortunately, all the originals passed before I started researching my family history. On the bright side it’s been fun tracking down cousins I never knew I had and hearing their stories.

In Beloved Memory Of

Margaret Mary “Marge” (Palker) Grinvalsky

Wife of the late Dr. Henry Grinvalsky