Thursday, December 1, 2011

You Might be a Genealogist if. . .

. . . the major selling point of your new apartment is that you can see the cemetery from your front porch.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Serendipity: A visit to the old homestead

I never imagined just how far "cousin bait" would take me. Several months ago, I got a blog comment from a heretofore unknown - to me - second cousin once removed. We corresponded over e-mail for a while about the Mulcahy family, our history, and the story that my great-great-great-grandfather had built the house where our family had lived for 3 generations, before it passed out of the family. My new cousin Patty headed out to the Brooklyn Historical Society to do some research, and here's where the real serendipity comes in.

Imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail from Patty saying that she hadn't found much in the records . . . but that the person who signed in above her at the front desk had given her address as exactly the house we were researching.

Patty went ahead and copied down the e-mail address she had provided, got in touch with her, and two weekends ago, on a Sunday, we went down to the home where my great-grandfather and great-great-grandmother were both born, and got a private tour of the entire building, given by a current resident!

Our family lived in that building from at least 1876 until at least 1930. In 2011, we were able to see, in one of the apartments, that there have since been substantial renovations. There were moldings on the ceiling that didn't follow the walls, and decorative ceiling medallions that were bisected by walls that hadn't been there when they were installed. We saw the laundry poles in the backyard, though we weren't sure what they were. (We guessed correctly, as it turns out.)

The people who live there now were incredibly gracious, and let us see multiple apartments. The resident we who was acting as our tour guide took us around and knocked on the neighbors' doors, and they were all unbelievably nice, and interrupted their Sunday afternoon to let us poke around in their homes. I couldn't believe how lucky we were! It was one of the most exciting moments in my genealogical journey, and I still can't get over the serendipity that brought it about!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Ancestors Geneameme

Here's my participation in the new geneameme from Geniaus:

The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

You are encouraged to add extra comments in brackets after each item 

Which of these apply to you?
  1.  Can name my 16 great-great-grandparents [yes, but one of them is still hearsay - hearsay I trust, but undocumented nonetheless]
  2.  Can name over 50 direct ancestors [I just counted; I can get to 49! Argh!]
  3.  Have photographs or portraits of my 8 great-grandparents [I'm counting this a yes, because I can picture photographs of each of them, but I realized many of those reside with my parents or grandparents; I'll have to make a point of getting copies for myself.]
  4.  Have an ancestor who was married more than three times [The most known marriages in my direct line is an underwhelming 2]
  5.  Have an ancestor who was a bigamist [Not as far as I know, at least!]
  6.  Met all four of my grandparents
  7.  Met one or more of my great-grandparents [I met 2]
  8.  Named a child after an ancestor [Give me a couple years to work on this one!]
  9.  Bear an ancestor's given name/s [Is it too late to italicize this one? I love my name, but I also think it's ironic that as the family historian, I'm the only one of my siblings without a family name.]
  10.  Have an ancestor from Great Britain or Ireland
  11.  Have an ancestor from Asia
  12.  Have an ancestor from Continental Europe
  13.  Have an ancestor from Africa [At some point, don't we all? Still working on finding him though. Where are Neolithic vital records held?]
  14.  Have an ancestor who was an agricultural labourer
  15.  Have an ancestor who had large land holdings 
  16.  Have an ancestor who was a holy man - minister, priest, rabbi [Not a direct ancestor, but I'll count it, since priests can't be direct ancestors, anyway.]
  17.  Have an ancestor who was a midwife
  18.  Have an ancestor who was an author
  19.  Have an ancestor with the surname Smith, Murphy or Jones [Yes, my Murphys lived in city crowded full of Irish immigrants. That's a lot of fun.]
  20.  Have an ancestor with the surname Wong, Kim, Suzuki or Ng
  21.  Have an ancestor with a surname beginning with X
  22.  Have an ancestor with a forename beginnining with Z
  23.  Have an ancestor born on 25th December [I have a 3x great uncle who was baptized on 25 Dec; he probably wasn't born that day, but it's a possibility.]
  24. Have an ancestor born on New Year's Day
  25.  Have blue blood in your family lines
  26.  Have a parent who was born in a country different from my country of birth
  27.  Have a grandparent who was born in a country different from my country of birth
  28.  Can trace a direct family line back to the eighteenth century [Things get murky right around the turn of the century, but I do have two lines where I know at least something about an ancestor born in the late 18th c. - even if that doesn't always include his name!]
  29.  Can trace a direct family line back to the seventeenth century or earlier
  30.  Have seen copies of the signatures of some of my great-grandparents
  31.  Have ancestors who signed their marriage certificate with an X [I'm sure I do, I just haven't seen it yet.]
  32.  Have a grandparent or earlier ancestor who went to university [Both my grandparents on my father's side went to college - my grandmother to be a teacher, and my grandfather went on to get his MBA, I believe.]
  33.  Have an ancestor who was convicted of a criminal offence [Family stories say yes, but I'm still looking for evidence]
  34.  Have an ancestor who was a victim of crime [A few relatively mundane recent crimes, and one rather tragic, sensational 19th century crime that I'm working out the details of before I share it publicly.]
  35.  Have shared an ancestor's story online or in a magazine (Tell us where) [Does right here on my blog count?]
  36.  Have published a family history online or in print (Details please) [I'd love to, one day.]
  37.  Have visited an ancestor's home from the 19th or earlier centuries [Not yet, but it's in the works - probably in 2 weeks or so! Wait for my post about the incredible serendipity that brought it about!]
  38.  Still have an ancestor's home from the 19th or earlier centuries in the family [I wish!]
  39.  Have a  family bible from the 19th Century [I wish!]
  40.  Have a pre-19th century family bible [I wish!]

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday: Here lies Mathew Madigan

Some time ago, I called up Calvary Cemetery to find the grave location of my great-great-great-grandfather, Mathew Madigan, but was told that they had no record of his burial, despite the fact that all indications - in his death certificate and his obituary - were that he'd been buried there. Commenter Mitch Waxman told me that there'd been a fire in the 1890s that destroyed some records, and suggested many useful work arounds, but I tried a different route. Knowing that Mathew's son James Madigan had died just a few years later in 1894, but not knowing where he was buried, I took a shot in the dark. I called up Calvary and asked for the location of James Madigan's grave, providing his date of death, and just keeping my mouth shut about the fact that I didn't actually know whether he was interred at Calvary at all.

I got lucky! Calvary was easily able to provide me with the location of James's gravesite. They were able to tell me that there are 8 people interred at the site, but couldn't tell me who without great expense. And then I got more lucky, and moved into my new apartment to discover that I could see Calvary Cemetery from my house! While I took a field trip down to Calvary the first week I moved in, and found the Madigan grave in just minutes.

 The front of the stone reads
to the memory of
Mathew Madigan
Died Sept 11 1892
Aged 50 years
also his wife
Margaret Madigan
Born May 20 1837
Died July 13 1882
Aged 45 years
also Mathew Joseph
Aged 1 year & 7 months"

The back reads
Died Oct 9 1894
Aged 23 years
Mathew W. Roche
John Roche

I had hoped that finding the grave would give me some information about Margaret Sullivan Madigan, but I never imagined I'd find a birth and a death date! I started my afternoon knowing less about her than any other member of the family, and ended up knowing more. Mathew Madigan remarried after Margaret died, and I believe young Mathew Joseph was his son by his second wife, unless he had a son named Mathew who died young in each of his marriages. The stone lists 6 names; Calvary told me there were 8 bodies. I suspect that the last two belong to two other children of Mathew and his second wife Johanna. Both young Mathew and a daughter named Josephine were recorded on the 1892 NYS Census and nowhere else, but Johanna's answers in 1910 to the question "Mother of how many children?" indicated 4 children born but only 1 still living. Loretta was the child who lived to adulthood, and Josephine and Mathew died young, but I believe that the 8th body is that of the still-unidentified 4 child.

I don't know exactly who John and Mathew W. Roche are. Mathew Madigan's second wife was a Roche by birth, but his daughter Margaret was a Roche by marriage, marrying a Michael Roche who may have been a relative of her stepmother Johanna. The two boys may have been Mathew and Margaret's grandsons, the sons of their daughter Margaret, or they may have otherwise been relatives of Mathew through his second wife Johanna.

The other interesting thing to note is that James Madigan's death date doesn't match the date that his sister gave in her application for letters of administration for his estate. According to the probate records, he died 9 Aug 1894. That was the date I gave the cemetery when I called. According to the gravestone, he didn't died until 9 Oct 1894. I don't have his death certificate, but the index at confirms the earlier date. My best guess is that there was simply an error inscribing the stone.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mulvaney Family: A Summary

I realized not long ago that I might be facilitating certain cousin connections more so than others. I have a picture of the entire Mulcahy family at a wedding, and, when posting about it, I listed the names of all the Mulcahys and their spouses, including maiden names. No wonder so many of my Mulcahy cousins have found my blog by googling their grandparents' names! So here's a post on the Mulvaneys!

Julia (Toner) and Patrick Mulvaney married in 1893 and had 8 children. Raymond Mulvaney died as a toddler. William Mulvaney and Harold Mulvaney died, unmarried, as young men in the 1930s. James Mulvaney married Florence Goggin. Mae, or Mary R., Mulvaney married John Daniels. Grace Mulvaney married Stephen Kessell. Thomas Mulvaney married Elizabeth Gilies. And my great-grandmother, Veronica Mulvaney, married Joseph E. Mulcahy.

Julia Toner Mulvaney (polk dots) with her children James Mulvaney,
Mary R. (Mulvaney) Daniels, Veronica (Mulvaney) Mulcahy,
Tom Mulvaney, and Grace (Mulvaney) Kessell. 

Julia Toner Mulvaney with her children's spouses, Steve Kessell,
Florence (Goggin) Mulvaney, Elizabeth (Gilies) Mulvaney,
John Daniels, and Joseph Mulcahy.

Friday, September 16, 2011

My first introduction to my great-great-grandfather, Hugh Quinn

"Did I ever tell you about Molly and the kittens?" Pop asked over dinner one day. We'd never heard about Molly and the kittens, so my grandfather continued, "Molly - my mother - was the second oldest. There was Agnes, Molly, Marty, and Helen.* Now, when Molly was maybe 7 or 8 years old, they had a cat, and the cat had kittens. And one day she came home from school, and the kittens were gone. When she asked her father where they were, he told her that he'd drowned them. He was trying to make it sound better so he told her that you always had to drown the first litter - you know, for health reasons. And what does Molly say but, 'Then why didn't you drown Agnes?!'"

I know that drowning kittens was common in "the old days," and I do what I can to avoid presentism. But Hugh Quinn is really one of my more mysterious ancestors. All I know about him is that he was born in Ireland, died in Brooklyn in 1914, and he drowned kittens. Sometimes I wish my very limited knowledge was of something a little more sympathetic!

*Helen was older than Marty, and he left out Terrence, the youngest.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001

I've struggled with whether to blog about my memories of September 11, 2001, as suggested at Geneabloggers. It seems trite, somehow, a superficial way to treat the scariest, most vividly horrific day of my life. But I've been thinking about that day all weekend, and I want to write about it. So I'll write, and I think I may even hit "publish" when I'm done.

The night of September 11, 2001, and the afternoon of the next day, I wrote down my experiences, because I thought I'd want to remember them. I didn't realize at the time that I wouldn't be able to forget if I tried. I've never had to refer back to what I wrote when writing or telling someone how I experienced the day. The memories are too vivid, and too detailed. This will be long, I must warn you. I've tried to edit it before, and I can only revisit the memories in minute detail. They don't make any sense to me when I try to cover just the important points.

I was a sophomore in HS, in Chemistry class, when an announcement was made over the PA system. The assistant principal got on, and announced that the principal was going to make an announcement. Then the principal came on, and announced that two planes had been "purposefully" flown into the Twin Towers. My first reaction was a flash forward, to some time in the future, as I told my yet-unborn children how their grandfather had been killed the day the World Trade Center was bombed.

I specifically remember thinking "bombed," though I knew quite well that the announcement had not said that the towers had been bombed. But what word does the English language have for when you fly passenger planes into skyscrapers full of people? "Bombing" was how we conceived of terrorism at the time. It wasn't immediate that we were actually able to settle on using the word "attack" to describe what had happened that day. If you read other people's accounts of their memories, they are often full of terrified phone calls telling them to turn on the TV because "something happened in New York!" And so I thought "bombed," though I knew the word was inaccurate. But mostly, I just thought my dad was dead.

But only for a split second. Immediately thereafter, I went into what I suppose you would call "denial." It was simply inconceivable that my dad could be dead. I wouldn't be able to handle that. He just couldn't be. And so, I went about my day. "If anything's really wrong," I thought, "they'd tell me." (By
"really wrong," I, in my adolescent self-centeredness, thought only of things that would affect my own life.) I had two close friends in that class who, I later found out, didn't know what at all to do with me. They knew my dad worked in the Twin Towers, but I was not at all acknowledging the fact. I simply did my chem lab. I burned my finger on some hot glass. But I didn't talk about my dad. (My sister, a floor below me, I learned, was crying and leaving class repeatedly to call my mom. I, meanwhile, was acting as if everything would be okay, because, well, it just had to be.)

When my first of two periods of Chemistry was over, an unusually large number of people were called down to the office. I took comfort in the fact that Laura and I weren't among them. If anything were really wrong, they'd be calling us down to the office. All those kids who got called down, those must be the kids whose parents were injured or killed. Our dad must have been okay. It didn't occur to me that it might be hours, if not days, before some people were accounted for, and that there was no way that anyone had heard from or about my father  - or anyone else's - yet.

During our second period of Chemistry, there was another announcement: a plane had hit the Pentagon. And another: all after-school activities were cancelled. And then, after that period - we were called down to the office. I went to my locker first. I took the long way to get there. I just didn't want to hear what they might be about to tell me. I ran into a friend. She said she'd been looking for me, she wanted to talk to me. I - not at all realizing the scope of what was happening, not realizing that it must be first on everyone's mind, not just my own - thought she was going to tell me what the drama with her boyfriend at the football game Friday night had been about. Instead, she asked how I was. "I don't know," I answered. "I'm going to find out." How I was depended entirely on what they told me in the office  - and again, at this point, I assumed that "they" (the office staff? my mother? the authorities?) would know whether Dad was okay.

Outside the office was a large crowd of students. One gave me a pinky-swear that my dad would be okay. I thought that was inane, but didn't say so. Another told me that my sister had been crying, really hard. I don't remember who that was, and I'm glad, because it made me think that Dad was dead and Laura had already been told. (She was probably just trying to let me know that my sister needed me.) Another told me to go talk to the woman wearing the red sweater. I went to talk to her. All she told me - this was supposed to be the big moment of truth - was that Virginia Ward was coming to pick me up. "I don't know who that is." But that was the name she had. A friend suggested that it might be Virginia R*****. She was the only Virginia we knew. Of course it was her. But I wasn't thinking clearly.

She came to pick get us, and then we had to go get my youngest sister at elementary school. Virginia asked me to come inside with her, since I was the oldest. In the front hall - there was a desk set up, anticipating the high demand for pulling kids out of school - a teacher told us that the kids hadn't been told yet. Virginia told me that I'd have to tell Anna, because she should hear it from family. I was lost. I felt like just a kid myself. I didn't know what was going on. How could this be my job?

As Anna left her classroom, she put her chair on her desk, just like everyone always had to do in elementary school. I seemed like such a normal, everyday, childhood movement. I couldn't believe it could coexist with what I was about to tell her. As we walked down the hall, she asked "Why are we getting picked up?" and I had to tell her. "A plane hit Daddy's office building." She reached out and held my hand. And then Virginia added, reassuringly, "But the plane hit very high up, and your Daddy's office was very low down, so I'm sure he'll be okay," or something to that effect. I only remember the beginning of the sentence, because it was new information to me. I hadn't known where the plane had hit, or remembered what floor Dad's office was on, and I hadn't thought to ask.

When we got to the house, there were lots of cars outside, and all I could think of was the scene in "Cheaper by the Dozen" where (spoiler alert) the kids come home after school, and they know something's wrong because of all the cars lined up outside the house, and it turns out that their father has died of a heart attack. If there are lots of cars outside, then Dad must be dead!

We went inside, where a number of my aunts and one uncle were, with my mom. Everyone was crying, and everyone hugged us. I saw Mom crying; it was to be expected. I saw several of her sisters crying; to be expected. But then I saw my dad's sister's crying face, and I knew he was dead. And then someone said something along the lines of "there's nothing we can do but wait," and I realized for the first time that no one knew anything yet. They were all just as clueless as I was. We were all waiting for news.

I remember seeing a tower fall for the first time as I walked into the TV room to greet my uncle, but I had no conscious awareness of what I was seeing. My mom went upstairs, and Virginia came over and whispered to me that maybe I should go up and check on her. This seemed uncharacteristic of me (you'll recall that I've already mentioned my adolescent self-centeredness), but I did it anyway. Mom said she just wanted to shower. I came back down. Virginia left, but soon returned with several pizzas and a few bottles of soda before leaving us to wait and watch with family. No one was hungry.

Most of my detailed recollection ends here. All the waiting was kind of a blur. I don't really know what we did with ourselves, and what I do remember, I don't remember in order. My aunt arrived, bringing with her my cousin Grace, who was not quite 2 at the time. She was, for me, literally a saving Grace. She prattled happily in baby talk, and let us occupy ourselves with something other than the news and the worry. We colored. She was just learning her colors, and that day, everything was "lello." I thought that was ironic. Or symbolic. Something. I noticed, as we stood around coloring, the outfit I was wearing - new clothes, because it was the beginning of the school year. I had on a green three-quarter sleeve shirt, with light blue jeans and a black belt. I made a mental note not to ever wear that exact outfit again - whether out of respect or superstition, I'm not quite sure, but I know I never did it.

At one point, Grace and I were alone in the play room, coloring. The phone rang. There was a bit of a commotion. I couldn't tell whether it was a good commotion or a bad commotion, and I couldn't make out anyone's words. I was terrified. For a minute, I couldn't bring myself to go into the other room. I wanted to stay where I was, pretend I hadn't heard anything, and not have to hear whatever they had learned. I forced myself to pick Grace up and go into the living room, where my mom said, "That was Lester's wife Leann. Dad and Lester are walking uptown together."

We didn't have any details - Dad and all of his friends had been trying to get in touch with their wives, but the cell phone service was overcome by demand, and most of them couldn't get through. When Lester finally reached his wife, I guess, she was given a list of numbers to call to let everyone's family know that they were alive. My family is probably not the only one that thinks fondly and gratefully of Leann, though most of us have never met her. On such a terrible day, she was the one tasked with the telling of good news, and we who received that good news have never forgotten her.

The rest of the afternoon became about logistics. Locating Dad, and other relatives at work in the city, and trying to get them home. No one could drive into the city, Dad's car was stuck in a parking garage near Ground Zero (though we had yet to hear the phrase) and mass transit was suspended. Who could get the closest to a bridge or tunnel, to pick them up as soon as they got onto the New Jersey side? How could we organize it? We got one phone call from Dad, from a restaurant he had stopped at, but after that he was difficult to reach.

We played soccer on the front lawn at one point. We might have watched a movie? My aunt brought my cousin by after picking her up from school, "because of Uncle Kevin." I hadn't even been sure that I would be picked up from school, and Uncle Kevin was my dad. I was only beginning to comprehend how much bigger this was than just how it affected me.

People were stopping by the house, some of them not even knowing that Dad had been in the World Trade Center. The best man at his wedding happened to be in town - I was reminded that it was my parents' anniversary. A coworker of his, who had mercifully taken a vacation day, dropped something off. Neighbors, friends, everyone wanted to see how we were.

Late that afternoon, two of my friends came by the front door. I stood on the step and talked to them for a while. They asked about my dad; they told me how school had gone after I left. They told me that Samantha D*** had been crying in gym class. "Why?" I asked. They looked at me like I was crazy. "Because of your dad." I was still so focused on how I was being affected that I wasn't aware of what the attack meant to other people, those who knew my family and those who didn't, those who were in the towers and those who weren't.

Then we saw someone walking up the road, his shoes in his hand. I assumed it was some dumb teenager. Who else would carry his shoes in his hand for no good reason? "Who is that?" I asked. My friend faltered. "I . . . I think it's your dad." It hadn't occurred to me that he would be walking home, and so it hadn't registered that it could be him. I stayed on the step, unsure of what to do. Should I run to him, or run inside to tell everyone else that he's home?

Suddenly, my mom burst out of the side gate, somehow having seen him coming from the backyard. She was followed by my sisters, my grandmother, and everyone else at my house. I, too, went over to them, and we had our reunion near the top of our next door neighbor's driveway.

There's more, of course: the church service that night; doing my math homework before bed, since I was pretty sure my new math teacher was so strict she wouldn't find even a national and personal tragedy to be a reasonable excuse for not handing in your homework; crying on the soccer field the first day that after school activities returned, as the physical exertion finally caused my emotions to overflow; the dreams I had in the weeks after, about watching my dad die on TV; gathering at my grandmother's on Friday, with a "God Bless Kevin" cake, so that everyone who had worried about my dad could see him. My experience of September 11 extended well past the hours of the actual day. There are things that happened months or even years later that I consider part of my memories of that day.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Well THAT'S a unique way to die!"*

Ever since I learned that my great-great-grandmother's brother, Samuel Toner, died "suddenly" at age 18, I've given him remarkably little thought. Short life, no issue - what else was there to research? It had crossed my mind to wonder what had killed him, but I didn't order the death certificate (rather - ledger entry) to find out. Yesterday, I was searching for the Toners - each of them individually - on GenealogyBank, and I came across an item of note, published in the New-York Herald Tribune on 22 September 1870, the day after Samuel's death.

Samuel Toner, residing at the corner of Van Brunt and Tremont-sts., and employed at Smith's Flour Mills in Hamilton-ave., fell into a bin of bran, yesterday, and was suffocated.

That must have been an awful and frightening way to go, and such a shock to his family!

I figured that if his death had been significant enough to be a news item in the Herald-Tribune, it had probably merited more than just his death notice in the Brooklyn Eagle, and so I went to Fulton History and read the paper for Sept. 22. Sure enough, I found it, right there in small, faded type that makes a poor candidate for OCR.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 22 September 1870
It reads:

SUFFOCATED.--About eleven o'clock yesterday, a young man named Samuel Toner, 19 years of age, was found suffocated in a bed of bran in the flour mill of Mr. Smith, in Hamilton avenue. His body was conveyed to the residence of his parents, on the corner of Van Brunt and Tremont streets, and the Coroner was notified to hold an inquest.

I'm certainly glad I checked the second paper, or I'd have no idea to look for records of the coroner's inquest!

*My husband's response when I read him the death notice.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Book Review: Outwitting History by Aaron Lansky

I stumbled upon Aaron Lansky's Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books at a thrift store; I'd never heard of it before, but the title caught my attention and the blurb on the back sealed it for me. Even though I don't know the first thing about Yiddish (I can spell yarmulke, which is apparently more than most Irish Catholics can say), and even though I have the pretty common bias that leads to my spending my pleasure reading on the histories and stories of people like myself and like my ancestors - the Irish, the Italians, the New Yorkers, the Catholics - as a historian and a bibliophile, I couldn't pass up a book about the rescue of 1,500,000 books.

Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books I wasn't disappointed. Even as someone who's never so much as seen The Fiddler on the Roof, I found the story of the rescue of Yiddish literature to be touching and profoundly moving. I cried more than once. I learned a lot, too. I picked up the story assuming that Lansky was setting out to save rare, priceless, historic books, and learned that he had much more inclusive standards of what was worthy of saving then I did. He aimed to save all the books - the entirety of Yiddish literature. The story begins with the author, a graduate student, and a rag-tag team of friends and volunteers salvaging books from dumpsters, and ends with the founding of the Yiddish Book Center and the digitization of the entirety of extant Yiddish Literature.

The book is full of funny, touching, stories about Lansky's encounters with the elderly Jewish people who donated the books of their youth, and, more than that, passed on their culture with them. Although I'm sure that the book would be particularly interesting to readers with Jewish heritage, it's a story that would fascinate anyone with an interest in books, culture, literature, or history.

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rosa D'Ingeo's Immigration Records

For a long time, I'd had immigration records for all the D'Ingeos but one. Vincenzo's was easy to find and Domenico brought his all younger daughters over together, but Rosa's immigration record eluded me. A few weeks ago, I described the process of finding it using the always-helpful Steve Morse One-Step site.

Rosa D'Ingeo is found on line 13 of these pages. She's listed as Rosa D'Inseo, 16. She's listed as a domestic, although it appears to have been written in after the fact by someone with different handwriting than the person recording the other information. Her nearest relative "in country whence alien came" was her father, Domenico from Toritto, and she's going to New York. She had a ticket to her final destination, said she paid for her own passage, and it looks like she had $28 with her. She was being met by her brother Vincenzo, and there's an address given for him, but it's difficult to read. She was 4'8" tall and was born in Toritto, Italy.

Rosa also shows up at the back of the passenger manifest on the Record of Detained Aliens. She is, again, listed as Rosa D'Inseo. She was detained awaiting her brother, Vincenzo, whose address is here given more clearly as 221 W. 19th St.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Learning from other people, OR, GenealogyBank is awesome!

I finally caved and got a subscription to GenealogyBank. I told myself it was mostly for my husband, whose ancestors come from backwards states like Massachusetts and New Jersey, states whose newspapers haven't been made available online en masse by the unbeatable Thomas M. Tryniski of the unmatched FultonHistory website. My ancestors are all New Yorkers - even more, they're (almost) all Brooklynites, up until the last 50 years. What more could I ask than a site that has the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, plus dozens and dozens of other New York papers, just in case?

I should have known better. After all, I read lots of genealogy blogs, right? If you didn't know better, you might assume I pay attention to them, too. I sure thought I did. I remember two posts in the not-too-distant past about making sure you check multiple newspapers for your ancestors. Kerry Scott, of ClueWagon, posted Why You Should Always Check the Second Newspaper. That was literally the title of the post. Why you should always check the second newspaper. And what did I think? "Good thing I don't ever have to check other papers, since everyone in Brooklyn read the Eagle!" Humor me for a moment and take a look at the Brooklyn Public Library's list of Brooklyn newspapers that they have on microfilm. You don't have to read it. Just look at how very long it is. Then you can roll your eyes, if you must. Meanwhile, Liz Haigney Lynch of The Ancestral Archaeologist posted News You Can Use, in which she even mentioned multiple Brooklyn newspapers. And it's true that, somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that the responsible thing to do would be to one day check out the Brooklyn Daily Standard Union. But the Brooklyn Public Library was so very far away, and reading years of newspapers on microfilm can be so very tedious. I still didn't think I needed a subscription to GenealogyBank. After all, GenealogyBank doesn't have the Brooklyn Daily Standard Union, so what good will it do me? I'll still need to get to Brooklyn to read the Standard Union, and what other newspapers will do me any good?

It turns out that the one newspaper that will do me the most good is one I didn't even know I needed. By the 1910s, the Mulvaneys were publishing their death notices in the Daily Eagle, like all good ancestors do when they know the Eagle will be available free online in a century or so. But a few decades earlier, back in the 1870s and 1880s, it seems that the Mulvaneys were dedicated New York Herald readers.

In less than an hour from the time when we began our GenealogyBank subscription, I had come across the following, from the 10 February 1883 edition of the Herald:

MULVANY - On Thursday, February 8, BRIDGET, beloved wife of James Mulvany, native of Kells, county Meath, Ireland. Friends of the family are invited to attend the funeral, from her late residence, 127 King st., Brooklyn, Sunday, 11th, at two o'clock. 

How long had I been trying to find out where in Ireland these Mulvaneys originated? Oh, only approximately forever. It was the one last family whose Irish hometown I didn't know. And "Kells, county Meath" waited, tucked away in a database I wasn't willing to subscribe to because I was sure that all the newspapers I would ever need the Eagle (free online) and the Standard Union (only on microfilm) (and occasionally the Times, but really not until after consolidation, which wasn't until the immigrant Mulvaneys were long dead).

In sum, pay attention to what you read, listen to people who know more than you do, read lots of newspapers, and don't be as dumb as I am.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Runs in the Family

There's a funny thing about connecting with cousins over the internet - it happens in lots of different ways, but I've begun to notice patterns. Family tendencies, maybe.

The O'Haras and the Gattos appear to have no internet presence at all - they're the branches of my family who I haven't encountered in my research.

The Gillans I've met primarily on surname message boards, though one also landed here after a Google search.

The Mulcahys are extremely fond of Googling their grandparents' names. Several have found my blog by doing so. 

The Mulvaneys, on the other hand, are prone to doing genealogy. I've connected with a number of them through Ancestry family trees, and we have a nice little group of people to share research with as we find it.

The Lanzillottos do genealogy, too, and I've encountered a couple of them through Ancestry.

(As I write this post, though, I think I might be creating some of these tendencies instead of just witnessing them. Have I visited message boards for all my surnames? And I realize that I have one or two posts where I list all the Mulcahys and their spouses  - of course their grandkids can find them by Googling their names! I guess I need to get on that with the rest of my lines - too bad there's no big family picture like the one that was the catalyst for the Mulcahy posts.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Looking just a little harder to find Rosa D'Ingeo

I have long had the immigration records of my great-grandmother, Maria D'Ingeo Gatto and a portion of her family; she immigrated in 1917 with her father, Domenico, her sisters Angelica and Giovanna, and an unrecognized woman, Maria Lupo. The family said that they were being met by her sister Rosa; I know that she also had a brother, Vicenzo "James" D'Ingeo. I had never been able to find arrival records for Rosa or Vicenzo on Ancestry, but some time ago I searched a little harder and came up with Vicenzo's arrival records on the Ellis Island website. But I never had any luck at all finding Rosa.

Then, last week, Ben bought the Who Do You Think You Are book by Megan Smolenyak, and I read it. In it, she mentions the Steve Morse One-Step webpages. Now, of course I knew about the One-Step site. Of course I had visited the One-Step site. But it occurred to me that I had never really used the One-Step tool to systematically search for and find something that was eluding me.

I didn't even go into it looking for something I couldn't find; I went into it looking for something I knew was there. My subscription has lapsed, and we're letting it stay that way for a little while longer, and then maybe discussing if it might be more worthwhile to direct our limited genealogical funds towards a different database for a time. So when I needed information about Maria and her father Domenico from their passenger manifest (and this week I'm on a computer that includes neither my saved documents nor my genealogy software), I used Steve Morse's Ellis Island Gold Form to find the passenger manifest I'd already seen, by filling in information I already knew it contained. And I realized that this long-ignored tool might be able to do what it was intended to do and help me find something I had never been able to find. So I tried a little harder, and in 15 minutes or less, I had Rosa's arrival records, dated 6 Dec 1911, where she was recorded as Rosa D'Inseo. She stated that she was meeting her brother Vicenzo and that her closest relative in Italy was her father Domenico, in Toritto. It was really her! I think I'd begun to suspect that she had married before immigrating, and I'd never find her arrival records without knowing her married name. But it turns out that I just wasn't looking hard enough!

Later this week I'll share Rosa's elusive arrival records with you!

(The above post includes affiliate links.)

Monday, July 25, 2011

The other Richard Toner; or, At least MY ancestors didn't bite off rats' heads

Online newspaper searches taught me that not only was my great-great-great-grandfather not the only Richard Toner in late 19th century NYC, he was also not the most interesting Richard Toner in NYC.* Although g-g-g-grandpa lived a memorable life (high- and low-lights include immigrating to America with his bride, and trying to kill himself after a fight with his teenaged son), he was not nearly as newsworthy as the young man who shared his name, the Richard Toner who was known as Dick the Rat.

My ancestor Richard Toner almost certainly knew of the existence of the younger, and seemingly rougher and scarier Richard Toner across the river in Manhattan; Dick the Rat was written up in NY and Brooklyn papers for any number of things, and even appears to have been the subject of an early silent film short by Edison's studios, Rat Killing (1894) (now lost).

Dick the Rat made the newspapers for such diverse accomplishments as:

(1) Taking over his father-in-law's business
The New York Times, 2 Jan 1871

(2) Explaining his trade to the New York Times
The New York Times, 30 Jan 1876
(Read the rest of the article here.)

(3) Being arrested on suspicion of shooting John Casey in the thigh
The New York Times, 17 Feb 1876

(4) Handling a dog who could kill 7 rats a minute

The New York Times, 18 Feb 1878

(5) Shooting himself in a drunken stupor
The New York Times, 3 July 1880

(6) Being inappropriately intimate with a married woman
The Sun, 4 Dec 1887
Wikipedia reports that he was also known to regularly bite the heads off of rats, but I haven't come across that tidbit in any of the contemporary sources that I currently have access to.

*My ancestor Richard Toner died before consolidation in 1898, so he wasn't ever really a Richard Toner in NYC. He was a Richard Toner in Brooklyn, and Dick the Rat was a Richard Toner in Manhattan. But even before Brooklyn became a part of New York City, the two cities were geographically and culturally close, a connection that increased dramatically with the building of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Magna Carta Conservation at NARA

As someone who worked at NARA, where most documents are handled with clean, dry, bare hands, I've never understood the vehemence with which some people insist on gloves for the handling of old documents. I've done it at jobs where it was the institution's standard practice, but not without voicing my objections. My understanding is that it provides increased risk with little to no added benefit over bare hands. (Photographs, of course, are a completely different story!)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Brooklyn Online Resource: John D. Morrell Photograph Collection at BHS

The John D. Morrell Collection is a collection of photographs of buildings and street scenes from 1950s-1970s Brooklyn.  In 2008, the Brooklyn Historical Society received a grant to have the collection digitized, and all 2,675 photographs are online as part of their image gallery. The collection includes photographs in both black & white and color. According to the finding aid available through the BHS website, the photographs cover all of Brooklyn but concentrate on the neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights, Bath Beach, Flatbush, Downtown Brooklyn, and Carroll Gardens. (Luckily for me, my people hail from Red Hook, of which Carroll Gardens was once a part, so my main area of interest is pretty well represented.)

If you use the "Advanced Search" function, you can specify the "John D. Morrell" collection, and then keyword search on the names of streets or neighborhoods. Doing this, I was able to find pictures of some of my ancestral homes, as well as pictures of the neighborhoods my ancestors lived and worked in. There are also pictures of schools, stores, and other local landmarks. It's easy to find addresses online using Google Street View, but this collection could include buildings that were around at mid-century but are no longer extant, or give you a perspective not as far removed from the time when your ancestors actually lived there. 

You can see the collection here

Monday, June 27, 2011

The pictures our descendants would love to have

One of the things about searching for evidence of the major life events of people who lived a hundred years ago is that you start to view all of the major life event you experience through the eyes of people who live a hundred years from now. I would be pretty darn excited to see a slideshow of dozens of pictures from my great-great-grandparents wedding, so I imagine this is the kind of thing my great-great-grandchildren would love - once they went to their local museum to use some old-fashioned machine called a computer that it could be viewed on.

Kathleen & Ben: ROCK STAR video slideshow from Small Moments Studios on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Timing is Everything

This actually just happened. If you look closely at the above screenshot, you'll see that I opened the Brooklyn Historical Society's Photo of the Week e-mail this morning, to find a picture of one of the dry docks of Todd Shipyard in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Now look even closer, at the other tabs that were open when I got that e-mail. One of them was a brief history of Todd Shipyards. Another was a search I'd done for "todd" in Emma, the BHS "Archives, Manuscripts, & Special Collections" catalog.

Here's a screen shot for another window I had open at the time:

I'd been about to compose a request to the Brooklyn Historical Society to ask whether they had any collections pertaining to the Todd Shipyards facilities in Brooklyn.

I spent yesterday at the Library of Congress reading Every Kind of Ship Work: A History of Todd Shipyards Corporation. I spent last night searching WordCat for copies of the Todd Shipyards mid-century in-house newsletter, The Keel.

And then today, with no effort at all on my part, up pops Todd Shipyards in my inbox! I think I may have to rephrase my question about whether BHS has any collections relating to Todd Shipyards.

I've been researching Todd Shipyards because my great-grandmother's brother, Harold Mulvaney, was killed while he was working there in August, 1933. He drowned in the East River. The death certificate judges his death an accident, though rumors have trickled down through the years that his family wasn't so sure about that. But the Mulvaneys didn't like to talk about things, and so I don't have much information. Ever since I learned, yesterday afternoon, about the existence of The Keel, I've been hoping that I could find a copy of the issues for 1933, and maybe find some mention of the incident or memorial to Harold after his death. (None of the institutions listed in WorldCat as holding copies has issues for 1933.) Harold was killed on Pier 5 in 1933, when, according to his death certificate, he accidentally fell overboard. The picture I received this morning was taken at Pier 1 in 1928. I have no idea whether Harold had been working at Todd Shipyards 5 years prior to his death, but it's entirely possible that he's actually in the crowd of men pictured surrounding the dock, above.

I can't help but think that this serendipity is a good omen for this line of inquiry.

(The above post includes affiliate links.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Graduation Day

As we head into full-blown graduation season, I thought this would be a nice photograph to share.

This is a photo of my grandfather, William J. O'Hara, on his graduation day. I don't know the identity of the other people in the photograph, though the guy to his right looks familiar - I'm sure I've seen pictures of him before, somewhere. (Update: The guy posing with Pop has been identified as his close childhood friend Henry Gorra.) I don't know what he's graduating from - just from looking at him, it seems plausible that he could be 13, graduating from grade school - which, if I'm not mistaken, was St. Saviour's - or that he could be 18, graduating from Regis High School. My guess is the latter; I think those other boys look a bit old for middle school. I've had one relative suggest that it was actually college graduation - she thinks Pop looks even too old for high school, but I'm not sure I agree.

I can't tell what building they're in front of. The piece of a sign that's visible in the upper right-hand corner reads

Pop was born in 1930, so a grade school graduation would have taken place around 1943/4, and a high school graduation around 1948/9. At first, I thought that his sign might help date the picture, but it seems more likely that it's a plaque commemorating an alumnus who was killed overseas, who could have been a graduate of either school, killed at any point during WWII. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How would Great-Grandma bake?

There are a couple of genealogy or history related books on my list of things to read while I'm unemployed/a housewife (Annals of the Famine in IrelandA Tree Grows in Brooklyn), but what I've recently started reading instead is Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. It is a fascinating, enlightening, eye-opening book, though I'm not sure I'd recommend it unless you're open to taking a long, hard look at what you eat and where it comes from. Of course, I do think the author probably has his biases, as we all do. I recently watched his movie The Botany of Desire, where he rails against monoculture. He certainly makes good points, but to attribute the Irish Potato Famine strictly to the fact that growing a single variety of potato left the crop more open to disease with not one single mention of a single political, economic, social, or religious factor? Yes it's a movie about biology, but the Potato Famine wasn't a strictly biological tragedy, and can't honestly be presented as one. If he's committed similar omissions elsewhere, though, they haven't been in areas where I'm knowledgable enough to pick up on them. With that in mind, and if you want to know where your food comes from, I'm enjoying The Omnivore's Dilemma so far.

Now, one of the most exciting wedding presents we got was a bread machine, and I'd already started using it to bake bread recreationally. I'd have nice, thick, slices of homemade bread during the day as snacks, or a slice for breakfast, or as a side with dinner. But we were still buying loaves of sliced bread to make sandwiches. It was almost as if we thought of the fresh, homemade bread as some sort of novel new extra, not "real" bread like the stuff in the plastic bag from the shelf in the store. Thanks to this book, I made the somewhat radical decision not to pick up any bread when I went grocery shopping yesterday, despite the fact that we had no store-bought bread at home. (When I told Ben that I would make him a sandwich on homemade bread for lunch today, he responded "I'm going to have to get rid of that book!")

I also have recipes for baking bread the old-fashioned way, in the oven, and I'm thinking of trying out a sourdough starter, too. But what I'd really like to do is bake bread the old-fashioned way. The recipes I find on the internet can't be the same as the recipes my great-grandmothers would have learned a century or more ago. (Is cottage cheese really a standard bread ingredient? Or, more to the point, was cottage historically a standard bread ingredient?) The bread recipe that Grandma Molly learned from Mary Gillan Quinn, or the recipe that Nana learned from Julia Toner Mulvaney? That would be a recipe I'd love to try. The 19th century was no nostalgic era of good nutrition and food purity (see: swill milk) - but I'd still be really interested in baking the bread my great-grandmother baked. (When I add milk, it'll be milk that complies with FDA regulations, after all.)

I used the Fulton History website to search old newspapers for bread recipes. As it turns out, bread recipes did not often appear in late 19th century newspapers. (If everyone knows how to bake bread, why print the recipe? When was the last time your local paper printed a step-by-step guide to sending an e-mail?) They often appeared in mid-20th century papers, but I'm not really interested in bread recipes from the 50s, when everyone was eating Wonderbread, anyway. There were only a couple of recipes I came across that met my criteria, and I may try them all - if I can figure them out!

Elmira NY Morning Telegram, 1898

Geneva NY Gazette, 1879
Interesting - a recipe for potato bread, I guess. Not sure whether I'll try this one. I also can't tell how much flour Miss Davidson added. (Is it really more important to tell us where the flour was milled than to tell us how much of it to use?)

Hudson NY Evening Register, 1886

Syracuse NY Evening Herald, 1895
Can anyone help me with this - what is "sweet milk"? I'd like to try my hand at some of these, but some of the terminology is a little difficult to penetrate.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

106th Carnival of Genealogy: Swimsuit Edition

These two handsome gentlemen are Harry Kunze, on the left, and Martin Quinn (Uncle Marty), on the right. They were my great-grandmother Molly Quinn's brother (Marty) and brother-in-law (Harry). Harry was married to Molly's younger sister Helen Quinn. Marty married Elizabeth "Bobbie" Byrnes. My sources (aka my great-uncle, Molly's son) tell me that this picture "was probably taken on Rockaway Beach or some other local beach" - local being local to the NYC area. He estimated it was taken around 1925, which would make Harry Kunze about 26, and Marty about 23. Based on the information they gave in the 1930 census, Harry and Helen would have been married for about a year.

 Of course, my favorite part of this picture is the swimsuits themselves! How cool!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Where lies Mathew Madigan?

My great-great-great-grandfather was Mathew Madigan. He died 11 September 1892. According to the death notice in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, he was to be buried at Calvary - that is, Calvary Cemetery in Queens, NY.

According to his death certificate, he was buried at Calvary Cemetery, on 14 September 1892. The undertaker was Jos. L. Hart of 496 Court St.

But according to Calvary Cemetery, who I called this afternoon, they have no record of his being buried there in September of 1892. I'm not sure what to do next.

Monday, May 23, 2011

When a Family History Nerd Gets Married: The Bachelorette Party

I had some misgivings about allowing myself to have a bachelorette party at all. Clubbing and loud music and dancing are not my style. Wearing "BRIDE" or "Last fling before the ring" t-shirts is not my style. Luckily, my fantastic sister had something else altogether in mind: a genealogy-inspired bachelorette party designed just for me!

A normal bachelorette party location:

A Dance Club

My bachelorette party location: A tour of NYC's oldest bars!

Ear Inn (image source)

McSorley's Old Ale House (image source)
Normal bridal party shirt:

Bridesmaid Rhinestone Girly Tank Top, Wedding Tank tops, Small, Black

My bridal party's shirt:

(I think they were making fun of me.)

Bride Rings Rhinestone Girly Tank Top, Large, Black

My shirt:
Probably from here?
It reads:
#1 Leave no stone unturned, unless it is a headstone.
#2 Handwriting legibility is inversely proportionate to a document's importance.
#3 The further away a cemetery or library is, the more awkward the opening ours will be.
#4 The relative you most need to talk with is the one whose funeral you are currently attending.
#5 Wherever you find two or more sibling, there also will you find two or more surname spellings.

Normal bachelorette party pin:

Bachelorette Party Buttons 8ct

My bachelorette party pin:

designed by my awesome sister Laura!

Is my bridal party not obviously the very best ever?

Next time you're in McSorley's look for the "Genealogy is Cool" pin stuck above the door jamb!

And to hearken back to the discussion of making money in genealogy, I know a maid of honor who might be able to make a living as a genealogy-themed party planner!

(Several of the links in this post are affiliate links.)
(Cross-posted at When Hoya Met Saxa)