Friday, February 13, 2009

In the name of genealogy

Dear Family,

This is to alert you, in case I'm arrested for stalking in the next couple of days, that it was all in the name of genealogy. Here's the story:

John Griffin has told me that the family story is that Patrick Mulvaney (Julia's husband, Nana's father) had a brother named John who was a Brooklyn alderman. I've come across several online postings by a man doing research on his grandfather, John Mulvaney, a Brooklyn alderman. The time frames fit. These posts were several years old. I responded to one on, but his account was no longer active and e-mails to his e-mail address came back as undeliverable.

Then I came across another posting, by another man looking for his grandfather, John Mulvaney, Brooklyn alderman. I e-mailed him. He responded! He didn't know much, though, he said, and referred me to the family genealogist, his cousin - the same man who had posted on Ancestry. He gave me a different e-mail address, but that one didn't work either, and he didn't have an updated one. He said that if he heard from his cousin, he'd give me updated contact information, but I never heard back from him.

Then, on a whim, last week I tried googling around about John Mulvaney. I figure if any of our relatives are going to show up in a Google search a hundred years later, it'll be the one who was in public life. One of my results was a website, made by the man I'd tried several times to contact. It listed an e-mail address (one of the defunct ones), but also a mailing address. I typed up a quick letter saying I thought we were related, printed out some census records that I believe show our Patrick and his John growing up together, and mailed them.

The next morning, I had a sudden thought, along the lines of "What have I done?! That was completely inappropriate! You don't just mail letters to strangers whose addresses you've found on the internet! I'm a stalker! Can I get that letter out of the mailbox?"

Of course, I could not.

My potential second cousin twice removed (I think) should be receiving that letter any day now. His response could be to file a complaint with the police for inappropriate something-or-other, or to send me a cordial letter brimming with relevant family history information and suggesting we share stories. Let's cross our fingers for the latter.

I also fired off quick snail-mail letters addressed to "Owner" at 85 Luqueer St., as well as to the "Owners" at 89 and 91 Luqueer, all buildings we believe Matthew Madigan to have built, asking if they had any information about the origins of the houses, when they were built, by whom, etc. I'm fairly confident, based on plenty of oral history, that my great-great-great-grandfather was the builder and original owner, but that pesky lack of records is getting in the way of certainty again. Wouldn't a copy of the original deed to the land be nice? Hmm. . . I wonder where you'd find 1870s Brooklyn land records. I'll have to check into it. Those letters I fully expect to be ignored, but I'm hoping it can't hurt to try.

That's what I've been up to, in the completely out-of-character personal letters to strangers category. Chalk it up to losing my mind for the sake of genealogy.

Much love,

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