Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sorry posting has been so light lately; after finals, Christmas kicked in, and I've been in the throes of the holiday spirit ever since. Give me 2 or 3 more days, and I'll get back to trolling ancestry.com. I may try to transcribe some of the records I have at home, too, while I'm here, and if I can find the time, I might try to make it to the NY Municipal Archives, the Brooklyn Library, or some Catholic churches in Brooklyn to do a little more first-person research. But that's a very big if.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

1870 Census - Madigans in Manhattan

This may be the 1870 census of the Madigan family. They were still living in Manhattan, and the census on the page prior says that it is enumerating Canal St., between Greenwich and Watt. This is an area of downtown Manhattan right around the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. We've been told that Mary Ann Madigan Mulcahy was born on Lake St. in Manhattan, but I've never been able to find evidence that there is or ever was a Lake St. in Manhattan, so I won't take that as the gospel truth just yet. This record shows what appears to be "Mat" and "Mary" Madigan and their daughter Mary, age 2. I know, I know, it doesn't sound like the right family - but could "Margaret" have been abbreviated "Marg" in handwriting where a "y" and a "g" are nearly indistinguishable? Yes, I'm taking a big leap there, and I know it, and I'm not relying on that information in any way, nor do I suggest that you do. However, having looked over a few of the other pages in this census, it seems that this census taker did make a habit of abbreviating "Margaret" as "Marg." Usually, yes, it was more clear than it is here, but hey, this is the penultimate page of the district. I'm sure he was tired. Also, this "Mat Madigan" is listed as a "carman," and really - how many carmen named Mat Madigan could have possibly been running around New York at one time? Remember that I say this knowing full well that our Julia and Patrick Mulvaney shared Brooklyn with another couple named Julia and Patrick Mulvaney at the very same time, and that Suffern once had a William O'Hara with a son named Kevin O'Hara in an entirely separate family than ours - coincidences do happen. Still, I present this on the possibility that it might be our Madigan family, and we'll see if we can find proof - though what that would entail, I'm not sure. I'll know it when I see it, I guess.

(interesting note, since I paged to the next and last image, that of the last page of the census for this enumeration district, where the census taker tallies the total number of inhabitants: 1246 inhabitants, of whom only a single 1 is non-white (a "colored male"). Imagine that!)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

1880 Census - Madigans at 85 Luqueer St.

This is the 1880 census of 85 Luqueer St., showing the Madigan family (though it's spelled Maddigan). Matthew and Margaret both give their ages as 40, giving each an approximate birthdate of 1840. Both say they were born in Ireland, but all of their 3 children were born in NY. Margaret, at 7, has not yet attended school, but Mary, at 11, and James, at 9, both have. According to these ages, Mary was born around 1869, James around 1871, and Margaret around 1873. Matthew's occupation is "truckman," and Margaret is listed as "keeping house." Also listed with their family is 21-year-old Matthew Kelly, who must be a boarder, and who works as a "clerk in store."

What's even more interesting though is several lines further down the page. Also living at 85 Luqueer St., and also a "truckman" by trade, is Cornelius Sullivan, age 30, and his wife Margaret. If we look back to this information that we got from someone's cousin or something or other, we see that Margaret Sullivan Madigan had her siblings listed: Bridgett, Nora, Conn, and James. I have a suspicion - no proof, just a suspicion - that "Conn" is an abbreviation for Cornelius, and that this Cornelius Sullivan is Margaret's brother, working with his brother-in-law Matthew as a truckman. I haven't come across any evidence that Conn actually ever was used as an abbreviation for Cornelius, and Sullivan is a common name. Still, someone who shares a last name with Margaret and is working in her husband's industry while living in the building they own is just too tempting to write off entirely.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Papa and Mulvaney Kids

This is another of the pictures that John Griffin, Jr. sent me. Papa's the grown man in the dark hat (as far as I know, we don't know the man with his back to the camera). I believe I recognize the two boys in the dark coats as the Kessell boys (George in the glasses and Steve without?), and John says the little girl behind George is Nan, although I can't see her well enough to tell. If I were to guess who the other boy and the girl are, I'd say they're Tom and Grace Mulvaney, but I can't really tell. Does anyone know better? It looks like they're feeding pigeons.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Nana and Papa at Nan and Pop's wedding

This is one of the pictures that John sent me recently. It's a picture of Nana and Papa, Veronica and Joseph Mulcahy, at my grandparents wedding in July of 1956. Betty said she thinks the people in the background are O'Haras, but I'm pretty sure they're friends of Nan and Pop's. Betty said, too, that Papa sang at the wedding.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

1920 Census - Hennessys at 85 Luqueer St.

I had long assumed that there was no information on Margaret Mulcahy, Papa's oldest sister, in the 1920 Census, as she isn't listed with the family. As she would have been about 30, I assumed she was married, living elsewhere in the city, and we present-day Mulcahys would never hear from her again. I wasn't paying attention. John Griffin had already told me that Margaret had married Hugh Hennessy, and that they'd lived at 85 Luqueer St. for several years before moving away. I wasn't looking for that; I was looking to see whether any of Michael Mulcahy's siblings, whom we've heard had lived with him at 85 Luqueer at various points, were ever listed on the census there. Instead, in 1920, I found Margaret and Hugh Hennessy and their sons Hugh and Joseph. Hugh Sr. is 30 and Margaret is 29. Their boys are 2 1/2 (Hugh Jr.) and 10 months old (Joseph). According to John, they later had 3 more sons, John, Eugene, and Philip. Hugh Sr. is working as a mail clerk for a railway.

When I showed this census to John, he told me, "Hugh Hennessy, Sr. goes to work as an accountant at a bronze foundry and during the Depression bought KARBO Bronze Foundry in Red Hook, Brooklyn, fairly close to the Madigan-Mulcahy Home at 85 Luqueer. The foundry actually made a part of the missals of the US Space Program & I believe a part of "Landrover," that was used on the Moon."

Let this be a lesson to you on the importance of looking at not just your own family on a census record!

Update: See this post for an update on the KARBO Bronze Foundry and NASA.

Friday, December 5, 2008

John Griffin Jr. sent me this picture last night - he's the baby, being held by Nana, and Auntie Mae is in the background. He sent a few more pictures, too, and I hope to be posting those soon.

The picture was taken at John's first birthday, in April of 1973.

John added this comment: "Auntie Mae is where we get our wunderlust from, or at least where I get it from, she always used to bring us back something from her vacations across the world!"

Thursday, December 4, 2008

1930 Census - Mulvaneys at 270 Van Brunt St.

So I went looking, and after some searching, I finally found the Mulvaneys at 270 Van Brunt St., and I was slightly surprised by the results, given what I thought I knew. Julia (age 57), Willie (age 28), and Harold (age 24) are living together at 270 Van Brunt. She's widowed, they're single, none has gone to school in the past year. No surprises there. However, Willie is now listed as being able to read and write - AND, he apparently holds down a job, as a Bookkeeper for an insurance agency! That's not exactly what I expected to find, given that last we checked, the 20-year old Willie was illiterate, he didn't speak until he was 10 years or older, and when he died just 3 years and 10 days later, he was listed as having no job. (I believe you were supposed to list "usual occupation," even if the individual was not working when he died - however, we do know that Julia just listed "Retired" for Patrick, so she may not have been in the practice of filling out death certificates to include former occupations.)

Perhaps I've been overestimating the severity of Willie's condition? This is entirely possible, as I know next to nothing about Willie's condition. Another unlikely possibility is that whoever answered the door - Julia, Harold, or Willie himself - could have lied to the census taker, to make him seem like a more productive member of society. In further speculation, it's possible he was some kind of savant, having limited communication but amazing math skills.

In other words, I'm now writing fiction, which is not the stated purpose of this blog.

Other interesting pieces of information we pick up from this census are that Julia's rent was $18 a month (what happened to rents like that?!), that neither of the boys had been in the military, and that Harold was a "Checker" in the "freight" industry - that seems relatively consistent with a job on the docks, I think, though I don't know what a "checker" is, unless it's exactly what it sounds like, and he checked things for a living.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

April 13, 1933

Here's my transcription of William Mulvaney's death certificate:

A. 58521
State of New York
Department of Health of The City of New York
Bureau of Records
Standard Certificate of Death
1. Place of Death:
Borough of: Brooklyn
No.: 270 Van Brunt St.
Character of premises, whether tenement, private, hotel, hospital, etc: Tenement*
Registered No: 8548

2. Print Full Name: William Mulvaney
3. Sex: M
4. Color or Race: W
5. [Marital Status]: Single
5A. Husband or wife of: [blank]
6. Date of Birth: 1900
7. Age: 33 yrs
8. Occupation: None
9. Birthplace: US
9A. How long in US: [blank]
9B: How long resident in City of New York: Life
10: Name of Father: Patrick Mulvaney
11: Birthplace of Father: US
12: Maiden Name of Mother: Julia Toner
13: Birthplace of Mother: US
14: Special INFORMATION required in deaths in hospitals and institutions and in deaths of non-residents and recent residents: Usual Residence: [blank]
15: Date of Death: April 13, 1933
16: I hereby certify that the foregoing particulars (Nos. 1 to 14 inclusive) are correct as near as the same can be ascertained, and I further certify that I attended the deceased from Jan 1 1930 to April 13 1933, that I last saw him alive on the 12 day of April 1933, that death occurred on the date stated above at 12:10 AM and that the cause of death was as follows: Encephalitis Lethargica, duration: Life.
Contributory: [blank]
Operation?: [blank]
State kind: [blank]
Duration: [blank]
Witness my hand this 14th day of April 1933
Signature: William A. Burke, MD
Address: 377 Sterling [illegible]

17. Place of Burial: Holy Cross Cemetary
Date of Burial: April 15th, 1933
18. Undertaker: Joseph Redmond [illegible]
John J. Redmond 2190
Address: 476-73rd St.

I hereby certify that I have been employed, without any solicitation on my part or that of any other person, as undertaker by Julia Mulvaney - 270 Van Brunt St., the mother of the deceased. This statement is made to obtain a permit for the burial or cremation of the remains of deceased William Mulvaney.
Signature: Joseph Redmond [illegible]
John J Redmond 2190

*A tenement, officially, was defined by the city as a building with 3 or more apartments, and does not necessarily imply the negative connotations that come along with the word. Trump Towers, technically, is a tenement. I can't testify to the condition or nature of 270 Van Brunt, but keep that in mind. (I learned that in class this semester - Museum school teaches you loads of real world stuff!)

So we know that William died at home, and that his death wasn't sudden; if the doctor had been there the day before, they certainly knew something was wrong. I'm very interested in Willie's cause of death. I've looked up Encephalitis Lethargica, and it's not something you were born with. If Willie had had it his entire life, he must have simply acquired it young. (No one's sure what causes it, but there are theories that it's a complication of the flu, or a reaction to a severe strep infection.) It was epidemic, worldwide, in the early '20s, and wasn't identified or named until 1917. I haven't been able to find information on how prevalent it was before the epidemic, but it's been pretty rare, though existent, since them. I'm wondering how he was diagnosed with this illness early enough for it to have been considered lifelong, if it wasn't identified until he was in his late teens. Do we have any doctors in the family? I'd love to know more about the specifics. I also wonder whether it may have been the case that, when Encephalitis Lethargica was prevalent, it may have been "the next big thing" in medicine and was overdiagnosed to encompass other, unidentified and undiagnosed illnesses? The symptoms of Encephalitis Lethargica could include anything from sore throat and double vision to a come-like state, behavioral changes (especially in young children), and progressive Parkinson-like symptoms. Symptoms sometimes resolved and sometimes left people permanently disabled, physically and/or mentally. What we know about Willie, or think we know about Willie, is that at 10 years old, he couldn't speak, and at 20 he could speak, but not read or write. It does seem that what affected him could have been Encephalitic Lethargica, if he were nearly comatose as a child, or didn't have the muscle control to speak, and if these conditions kept him out of school as a child, he may not have ever learned to read or write, even if some of his conditions eventually resolved enough that he was able to learn to speak.

Because Encephalitis Lethargica is rarely seen these days, I can't find information online that offers detailed descriptions of what it actually entails, what life looks like for the victims, or how serious it would have been, or how it could have killed people who had lived with it for years.

What do you think? Does anyone know anything about Willie that might give us insight into his life or his condition?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Happy Birthday, Pop

In memoriam:
This picture of the whole family with Pop was taken at the last O'Hara Christmas Party at "The House," though it may have already been "The Casa" by then. I think it was in 2005.

We miss you, Pop. Happy Birthday.

(Goodness, what Pop would think if he knew he were the subject of a whole blog post on the internet! - in the unlikely event, that is, that he knew what a blog post was, or understood what the internet was.)

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Information Overload

I'm absurdly busy, have 3 pages of a paper on the Korea Gallery at the Museum of Natural History to write tonight, a twenty-minute presentation to prepare for Wednesday (which I can't start until I'm done with the paper, work, and class tomorrow). Do you ever wonder if our ancestors were this busy?

However, I am very excited to take a break to report that when I got home from my Thanksgiving break, I found 3 death certificates waiting for me in the mail. They belonged to Mary Madigan Mulcahy who died April 11, 1927, William Mulvaney, who died April 13, 1933, and Harold Mulvaney, who died August 26, 1933.

I'm having a little bit of trouble deciphering the handwriting on Mary Ann's and William's (Harold's is typed). I suppose I'm not overly interested in how Mary Ann died, though I'd like to know and will try to figure out what it says. Willie's and Harold's being the more mysterious deaths, of young men, I'm much more interested to know the circumstances thereof. It seems that Willie died of Encephalitis Lethargica, though my first reading of the word doesn't bring quite that. (It looks more like "encefihalitis" to me, but as far as I can tell, that is not something that exists.) According to his death certificate, its duration was "life." I did some cursory googling, and have yet to find anything that clearly states the symptoms of Encephalitis Lethargica and how it would affect young children, but it was not something you were born with, so I doubt it truly lasted for his entire life, though its onset may have been when he was quite young. It also doesn't seem to have affected intellect, but mostly behavior and muscle control, so I'd venture a guess that Willie's inability to speak at age 10, and inability to read and write at 20 were not the marks of a mental deficiency but of a physical or behavioral one that may have, among other things, prevented his attending school.

Harold died at Pier 5, Robbins Drydock, in the East River. He was 28 and had been a Machinist (like his father before him, we know). His cause of death drowning due to an accidental fall overboard. I've heard that there were suspicious circumstances surrounding Harold's death, and what might reinforce that here is that his death was recorded to have occurred at 12:30 AM. That would have been just after midnight. I can't imagine upfront circumstances that would have him at work on the pier in the middle of the night, but I also can't tell from the death certificate whether he died immediately or was possibly pulled from the water only to die some hours later, in which case he could have fallen overboard at 2 in the afternoon and died some 10 hours later at 12:30 AM. It is, I'd say, almost equally likely that, like so many, the good doctor who filled out the death certificate was confused about how AM and PM apply to the times around noon and midnight.

I'll try to transcribe the actual certificates when I get around to it, as well as dialogue about the effects the deaths and illnesses may have had on their (our) families and and try to decipher all of the remaining handwriting (I'm thinking Mary Ann's cause of death may read "pyelonephrosis" which is apparently "an obsolete term for any disease of the pelvis of the kidney"). First, though I've got papers to write! Wish me luck!