Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar

This morning I happened upon another episode of This American Life that was all about genealogy! In "The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar,"a woman starts to investigate a family story she grew up with, with very interesting results. It's a really great story, complete with newspaper clippings, court files, finding relatives on the internet, and everything else genealogists enjoy! You see what happens when you're nerdy enough to search "archives" in a radio show's archives? (Wrap your mind around that!) You can download the episode for $0.99 on iTunes, or stream it for free from

(As a disclaimer, it is a story that demonstrates how genealogy can be "another reason for your family to hate you," which we know, of course, is usually not the case. But when it does happen, it's probably related to stories as cool, as involved, and thus as crucial to relatives' sense of self as this one.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

1905 NYS Census - Loughlin/Renehan

This is the 1905 NYS Census of the Loughlin-Renehan family. Julia Mulvaney's sister Elizabeth Toner Loughlin Renehan lived at 213 Conover St., with her (second) husband, Thomas Renehand and several of her children (from her first marriage), Thomas, John E., William, and Kate Loughlin. Thomas is 52, Elizabeth is 48, Thomas Loughlin is 23, John is 21, William is 19, and Kate is 11. Thomas Renehan is a day laborer, Elizabeth does housework, Thomas and John E. Loughlin are "Machinist Help," and Kate is "at school." I wonder whether Thomas and John E. are "help" for their uncle, Julia's husband Patrick, who was a machinist. (It appears that there were several machinists on their block as well; it wasn't necessarily Patrick they were working with.) There's a 9 in parentheses next to "at school" by Kate's name. When I saw numbers in parentheses on the census return for the Mulvaneys, I assumed they referred to the grade the child was in; the numbers over there matched up to what grades the kids would have been in. There, the 11-year-olds (James and his cousin Thomas) have the number 4 in parentheses. Eleven-year-olds in 4th grade is appropriate, but 11-year-old Kate certainly wasn't in the 9th grade. What do you think these numbers mean?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Census Taking, History Making

In this census year, I think we're all gaining a little insight into the ways our ancestors were enumerated in prior censuses. The Census Bureau had our 2-apartment building listed as containing 3 residences, so even though my roommates and I sent back our census form weeks ago, we just got a visit from a very nice, but slightly flustered census taker. (She started to fill in our information on the form for the house next door before I corrected her.)

The experience left me wondering what's going to happen when our descendants go looking for us in the 2010 census 72 years from now. I acted as the informant who said that the upstairs apartment was vacant, and they already had our response for our ground floor apartment, but I had to provide the information for my roommates and I all over again because something had to be filled out for the third (non-existent) residence. She included a note that the basement and the ground floor were one apartment, but now that they have our information twice over, what happens?

Are we counted twice? There must be provisions in place to avoid that, considering that getting an accurate count is the whole point of the census.

If they only "count" one return, is it the one we sent in for the ground floor apartment, or the one I just helped her fill out, for the non-existant third residence? I sure hope it's the former, because I am not the most reliable source of information for my two roommates. I couldn't remember the birthday of one of them at all. I was pretty sure it was August, but didn't supply even that information because I wasn't positive. I thought I was positive about the other's birthday, but nope, I was off by two days. Imagine the damage I may have done to some genealogist in the future!

And what if we do get counted twice, or at least if both returns are kept, as they probably will be? We're all familiar with the phenomenon of finding an ancestor twice in two different places in a given year's census, but what happens when you find an ancestor twice in the same place in one year's census? Does the universe implode?

Besides, since my name is listed as the informant for the upstairs apartment, my descendants could one day find me listed on the returns for all 3 of the 2 apartments in this building!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - My Grandmother's Wedding Dress

(Cross-posted at When Hoya Met Saxa)

When I was at home last weekend, I tried on my very first wedding dress, the dress my grandmother wore when she married my grandfather in the 1950s. It's satin with lace, and it was worn by both Grandma and, in the 1980s, my aunt Linda. (The lace isn't original, but was replaced when Linda wore it, and is so yellowed that it would have to be replaced again if I were to wear it.)

I'm going to keep shopping around, doing some of my shopping in relatives' closets and some of it in bridal boutiques. But here's dress #1.

Ben, the rest of this post is not for your eyes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"They changed it at Ellis Island": Betty White on SNL

"Blarfengar Blarfegnar" spelled L-E-E S-M-I-T-H. And I thought it was bad when my 2nd great aunt Helen Quinn was enumerated as Hellen Quinne!

Monday, May 10, 2010

1905 NYS Census - O'Hara Family

This is the 1905 New York State Census record of the O'Hara family. They're living at 586 Baltic St., only about a block and a half from where they lived at 527 Baltic St. in 1910. In the interim, however, they probably lived somewhere else entirely, as the church they attended in that neighborhood, St. Augustine's in Park Slope, has the 1905 record of their daughter Malinda's baptism, but not what should have been the c. 1908 record of their daughter Mary's baptism. Neither girl lived long enough to celebrate any of the other sacraments.

In 1905, the family is listed as John, 30; Mary, 29; John, 8; Eugene, 6; Pacey, 3; and Malina, 2 mos. Malina should be Malinda, and Pacey should be Patrick, although for all I know he may have been called Pacey. Both parents were born in Ireland, while all the kids are listed as American-born, though Patrick was actually born in Ireland in 1902. The family had moved back to Ireland and lived there between 1900 and 1902. In the column "number of years in the United States," John has answered 17 and Mary 16. I wonder if that's given as "number of years since immigration," or if it's been adjusted for the ~2 years they had spent in Ireland since they immigrated. If the former, they immigrated in 1888 and 1889, respectively. If the latter, it may have been more like 1890 and 1891. All are citizens. (I've yet to attempt to wade through the astronomical numbers of John O'Haras in Brooklyn at the turn of the century to find John O'Hara's naturalization papers.)

John is a stableman, and Mary does house work. John Jr. (my great-grandfather, AKA Grandpa JJ) and Eugene are "at school," but neither "Pacey," nor Malinda is.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

1905 NYS Census - Quinn Family

This not-very-clear image is the 1905 NYS Census that records the Quinn family living at 1371 Atlantic Ave. I could have sworn that I already knew the Quinns lived on Atlantic Ave at some point, but maybe I only knew they lived in the neighborhood from when they lived nearby on Fulton Street, as there are no Atlantic Ave. addresses in my list of family homes. The family is recorded as the Quinnes: Hugh J., 38; Mary, 38; Agnes, 10; Mary, 8; Hellen, 5; Martin, 3; the last name begins with a T and is illegible but clearly too short to say "Terrence." It may say "Terry." Uncle Terry is 1. Hugh and Mary were born in Ireland, and all their children were American-born. The column for number of years in the US appears to say "W" for both of them; I can't figure out what number is intended. Maybe "20"? I think they're all listed as Citizens, but that column is pretty difficult to make out, too. Hugh is an engineer, Mary does house work, and Agnes and Molly are "at school." Neither Helen nor the boys are in school yet.

Surprisingly, Agnes is listed as Agnes, the earliest example of her use of the name that I've come across. Besides this, she's Nora until the 1920 Census.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Family Search Indexes 1905 NYS Census!

They're not done yet, but I've already found several of the families that I'd never been able to find by browsing the unindexed images!