Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"was formerly worth considerable money"

When I was posting about Richard Toner's death, I went through all the information I had about his life, and when I put it all together, and it became clearer than ever that there's a piece missing from this puzzle.

I have US Census, NYS Census, and City Directory records for Richard Toner and his family from 1860 through 1880, as well as a handful of newspaper mentions of them, mostly about deaths in the family.

One of them includes the line Toner is an old resident of Red Hook Point, and was formerly worth considerable money, a line that alludes to, but doesn't actually tell, a story. As I pulled together the facts about Richard's life for a post about his death, I tried to find other evidence of that untold story, and came up more or less empty. 

Here's what I know about Richard Toner after he arrived in the U.S. circa 1850:

1850 - daughter Julia baptized
1852 - daughter Mary Ann baptized
1853 - son Samuel baptized
1860 - a laborer, value of personal estate: $50
1863 - a porter
1863 - a son, Richard Joseph, dies of diptheria
1864 - a laborer
1865 - a laborer, value of home $2,000 
1866 - a clerk
1866 - a son and daughter, James Thomas and Julia, die of cholera
1868 - a laborer
1869 - a clerk
1870 - a painter
1870 - a son, Samuel, dies "suffocated in a bin of bran" at the flour mill where he worked
1871 - a laborer
1872 - a painter
1873 - a painter
1874 - his mother, Judith, dies of "old age"
1875 - a painter, value of home $1,500 (his son-in-law is listed first, and is presumably the homeowner, if indeed either of them owns the home)
1876 - a painter
1877 - a painter
1877 - a painter, "was formerly worth considerable money"
1878 - a painter
1879 - a painter
1880 - a painter
11 May 1880 - dies of Hepatitis 

You can look at these and make a few educated guesses. Richard was more well off in 1865, when he owned (or at least lived in) a house worth $2,000 than he was in 1860, when his entire estate was worth $50. His fortunes apparently declined again by the time he moved in with his daughter and son-in-law and, a few years later, was acknowledged to have been "formerly worth considerable money." However - his occupations don't demonstrate any substantial change that would seems to indicate a change in fortunes. In fact, it's precisely at the time when he appears to have been the most financially well-off that his occupation changed frequently and he was rarely listed as anything more specific than a laborer. That's not the employment situation I'd expect from someone "worth considerable money." He seems to have become more established in profession (painting) precisely between the time of his greatest net worth and the time of his considerably lower fortunes. (Though I've looked, I have no indication as to whether he was an artistic painter or a house painter; in the lack of evidence, I tend to assume the latter. I can't help but think that there would be some evidence if the opposite were true.)

I've never been able to find a probate record for Richard Toner, though I'm going to give it another shot now that I've got an actual death date. (I'm also going to check the indexes under Fones and Foner, considering that that was the search method that led me to his death certificate.) I also haven't found a death notice or obituary for him published in any of the papers that the family regularly appeared in. (I wonder if Richard was the one who had published the death notices for his various children and his mother, and no one in the family took up the job after his death? His wife and son died almost 20 years later, and neither had an obituary published at that time, either.)

Next steps: Return to the Kings County Surrogates Court to look for probate records for Richard Toner, now that I have a death date to work with.

Head to the Brooklyn Public Library to read the Brooklyn Standard Union on microfilm, in hopes that there was a relevant story published there that didn't make it into the Brooklyn Daily Eagle or the New York Herald

1 comment:

Nancy said...

It seems like you've uncovered a lot about this ancestor. I hope you're able to find more info about his situation when he was "worth considerable money." How sad that so many of his children died from unnatural causes.