Monday, August 5, 2013

Finding Louisa

My 2x great-grandmother, Julia Toner Mulvaney, had a sister named Louisa. Born around 1857, Louisa Toner seemed to disappear from the census records after 1875, and for the longest time, I couldn't find any evidence of her until her death in 1918.

In 1860, Louisa, 3, is enumerated with her family in South Brooklyn:
Toner family, 1860

In 1865, Louisa is 8 years old:
Toner family, 1865

In 1870, Louisa, 13, is at school:

In 1875, Louisa, 17, is living with her family, including her married sister Elizabeth and brother-in-law Thomas Loughlin:
Toner and Loughlin families, 1875

In 1880, I can't find any of the Toner family on the federal census, and in 1892, I can't find anyone but the Loughlins on the NYS census.

After that, the rest of the surviving Toner children - Julia, Elizabeth, and Mary Toner Murphy - show up in census records with their families. But not Louisa. I couldn't find a single record of her until she died in 1918. At some point, she married a man by the name of Deegan, according to both familial memory and her death certificate, but I have no idea what his first name was. Family lore says that he made buttons, but even with that information, city directories have proved no help. Despite the fact that Louisa's death certificate claims that she was a life-long resident of New York City, there was no evidence of her life between her teens and her 50s. For years, the preceding part of this post was all I knew about Louisa.

Louisa's death certificate lists her residence as 391 Baltic St. at her death in 1918, but I've had trouble finding the enumeration for this address in the 1915 NYS Census, even when I page through each sheet of AD 08 ED 02, which is where Steve Morse's AD/ED Finder tool suggests the building should be.

Louisa is buried in a grave with my 2x great-aunt, Auntie Mae; Mae's husband Uncle Johnny; and an infant named Charlotte Reade who seemed unconnected to the rest of the family. I ordered baby Charlotte's death certificate, though, and when it arrived recently, I realized I'd been mistaken. Not only is she not unconnected to the family, but might she be the only connection we have to Mr. Deegan's family?

Excerpt from the death certificate of Charlotte Reade, Brooklyn NY, 17 July 1918

Charlotte's parents' names are given as John Reade and Minerva Deegan. Her home address, of 391 Warren St., puts her living right around the corner from Louisa's home at 391 Baltic. I didn't know who Minerva Deegan was, but my first guess was that she might be a sister of our Mr. Deegan. The truth never even occurred to me.

I went searching for Minerva Deegan, hoping her unusual first name would be easier to find than a Louisa in a haystack, or a Mr. Deegan whose first name I didn't even know. If I could find a link to the Deegan family through her, it might lead me to Louisa eventually.

That's sort of what happened.

The first record I found was of a Minerva Deegan who was the daughter of "Niele" and Louisa Deegan, living at home with her parents and an Irish-born servant, Mary Doren.

Deegan Family, 1900
Why this record never showed up in all the years I spent searching for Louisa Deegan I may never know, but I'd certainly never seen it before.  Minerva was born in May 1882, and it gives us a name for Mr. Deegan - though that name would prove less useful than I might have hoped. That the Deegans employed a servant struck me as a little unusual, because I assumed that a "cloak cutter" - Niele's occupation - was a low-level garment industry job. Asking around revealed that it's actually a highly-skilled garment industry job and might well bring a good wage.

Minerva soon disappears from the Deegan family, and it's probably because she grew up and got married to John Reade. On top of that, "Niele" is not the name by which Mr. Deegan is enumerated through the next few decades. Nonetheless, these Deegans - who had proved so elusive for so long - suddenly started popping up like crocuses in springtime.

Deegan Family, 1905
 In the 1905 NYS Census, the family consists of Louise and William Degan, and they're living in Manhattan, not Brooklyn. However, Mr. Deegan is still a cloak cutter, and all their other information matches, so I feel pretty confident that this is the correct couple.

Deegan Family, 1910
In the 1910 Federal Census, the household consists of William B. and Louise Degan and a boarder, Henry Wagner. They're still living in Manhattan, and William's job is given as a "Cutter" in the "Clothing" industry.

Deegan Family, 1915
In the 1915 NYS Census, William and Louise Deegan and a boarder (Harry Buston) are still living in Manhattan - this despite Louisa's home address being in Brooklyn when she died a mere 3 years later. William is a "Clothing cutter."

I have yet to find more information about Minerva Deegan Reade in the years between when she's enumerated with her parents in 1900 and when her daughter dies in 1918. Despite her unusual name, she isn't showing up easily for me this time around. Stay tuned for an update when, with any luck, I track down the rest of the Deegan and Reade families.