Monday, September 30, 2013

My Missing Mary: She Lived

I first mentioned her in a post a couple of months ago. My great-grandfather's sister, Mary O'Hara. She should have been born and baptized around 1908, but her baptismal record isn't found at the church where her sister was baptized a few years earlier. She should have been recorded on the 1910 US Federal Census, but she's missing from the enumeration of her family. She died in 1911, at the age of 3, and I have her death certificate. It had been the only proof I could find of her life.

How sad, how painful, for little Mary's life to be defined by her death. She lived nearly three years before the illness that ended her too-short life. And yet I had no birth certificate, no baptismal certificate, and, bafflingly, no census record.

Mary's sister Malinda also died young, but Malinda's baptismal certificate was easily found at the church that was most logical, given where they lived. Malinda's birth record jumped out at me from indexes, due to her unusual name, and I was able to order the certificate. Malinda is enumerated on both the 1905 NYS and 1910 Federal Census records. Malinda had a life. It was 6 short years, but it was well-documented and that means something. Only Mary was missing.

Mary O'Haras are a dime a dozen in early 20th-century Irish Brooklyn, but I finally felt compelled to begin at the beginning and order the birth record of every Mary O'Hara who could have been mine. I needed to know that Mary had not merely died, but had lived. It meant ordering the records of a number of other Marys, but I finally ended up with the correct one.

Mary Agnes O'Hara Birth Certificate, 4 Nov 1908

Mary Agnes O'Hara was born on 22 October 1908. Her parents were John O'Hara, stableman, and Mary King. They lived at 527 Baltic St., in the same home where most of them would be enumerated 2 years later in 1910. Mary King O'Hara's 4 previous children were my great-grandfather John Joseph, Eugene William, Patrick, and Malinda. Mary was just a month shy of her 3rd birthday when she died on 20 September 1911.

I know now at least a little bit about Mary O'Hara. I can guess that Mrs. Ward (549 Warren St.) was the midwife who delivered her. I know where the family lived when she was born. (The same place they'd lived when Malinda was born, shedding no light on why they weren't baptized at the same church.) I know her middle name was Agnes.

I know, in some brief way, that she did more than just die - that she lived.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The 5th Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge: The Twelve-Forty-Five

Ever since I first heard of Bill West's Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge some years ago, I've wanted to participate. It just so happens that my favorite poet of all time is local to the area where I grew up, and where my parents live, and where my grandparents lived, so he fulfills the requirements of the challenge, in that he is from the region where my ancestors were from. (Don't tell my parents I'm calling them my "ancestors.") He also has so many poems which, I believe, speak to universal themes by illustrating them with the towns I grew up in - so many amazing candidates for this challenge!

And yet, every year, I have missed the Challenge. I've seen the early announcement, and decided to post closer to the deadline so I can be more timely, and I have never, ever done it. So this year, who cares that I'm 3 months before the deadline? I'm posting a freakin' poem. 

That favorite poet of mine is Joyce Kilmer, who lived in Mahwah, NJ. I grew up in New York, but only miles from the NJ border, and Kilmer belonged to my childhood church, Sacred Heart Church in Suffern, NY. (Our local Knights of Columbus chapter is the Joyce Kilmer Council, because Kilmer was a member in its early days.)

There are plenty of Kilmer poems for me to choose from, and I may post more in future years. For this year, though, I've chosen to highlight "The Twelve-Forty-Five," which was published in his most well-known work, 1914's Trees and Other Poems. (The Kindle version is currently free on Amazon!)

"The Twelve-Forty-Five"
Within the Jersey City shed
The engine coughs and shakes its head,
The smoke, a plume of red and white,
Waves madly in the face of night.
And now the grave incurious stars
Gleam on the groaning hurrying cars.
Against the kind and awful reign
Of darkness, this our angry train,
A noisy little rebel, pouts
Its brief defiance, flames and shouts -
And passes on, and leaves no trace.
For darkness holds its ancient place,
Serene and absolute, the king
Unchanged, of every living thing.
The houses lie obscure and still
In Rutherford and Carlton Hill.
Our lamps intensify the dark
Of slumbering Passaic Park.
And quiet holds the weary feet
That daily tramp through Prospect Street.
What though we clang and clank and roar
Through all Passaic's streets? No door
Will open, not an eye will see
Who this loud vagabond may be.
Upon my crimson cushioned seat,
In manufactured light and heat,
I feel unnatural and mean.
Outside the towns are cool and clean;
Curtained awhile from sound and sight
They take God's gracious gift of night.
The stars are watchful over them.
On Clifton as on Bethlehem
The angels, leaning down the sky,
Shed peace and gentle dreams. And I -
I ride, I blasphemously ride
Through all the silent countryside.
The engine's shriek, the headlight's glare,
Pollute the still nocturnal air.
The cottages of Lake View sigh
And sleeping, frown as we pass by.
Why, even strident Paterson
Rests quietly as any nun.
Her foolish warring children keep
The grateful armistice of sleep.
For what tremendous errand's sake
Are we so blatantly awake?
What precious secret is our freight?
What king must be abroad so late?
Perhaps Death roams the hills to-night
And we rush forth to give him fight.
Or else, perhaps, we speed his way
To some remote unthinking prey.
Perhaps a woman writhes in pain
And listens - listens for the train!
The train, that like an angel sings,
The train, with healing on its wings.
Now "Hawthorne!" the conductor cries.
My neighbor starts and rubs his eyes.
He hurries yawning through the car
And steps out where the houses are.
This is the reason of our quest!
Not wantonly we break the rest
Of town and village, nor do we
Lightly profane night's sanctity.
What Love commands the train fulfills,
And beautiful upon the hills
Are these our feet of burnished steel.
Subtly and certainly I feel
That Glen Rock welcomes us to her
And silent Ridgewood seems to stir
And smile, because she knows the train
Has brought her children back again.
We carry people home - and so
God speeds us, wheresoe'er we go.
Hohokus, Waldwick, Allendale
Lift sleepy heads to give us hail.
In Ramsey, Mahwah, Suffern stand
Houses that wistfully demand
A father - son - some human thing
That this, the midnight train, may bring.
The trains that travel in the day
They hurry folks to work or play.
This midnight train is slow and old
But of it let this thing be told,
To its high honor be it said
It carries people home to bed.
My cottage lamp shines white and clear.
God bless the train that brought me here.

What I love about this poem is that I've taken that same train. Kilmer was taking it in the 1910s, and I was taking it in the 2000s when meeting friends during college, or living with my parents and commuting to a summer job in the city, or even now when going home to visit my parents. The stops are all the same. Joyce Kilmer didn't have a cell phone, but I know that I can call my parents' house and say, "We're at Allendale" and they know - and I know - just how long it will be until I'm disembarking and in need of a ride home. Kilmer must have known, too, though he probably just got off the train and walked home by himself.

Although I don't think the 12:45 is the last train out of New Jersey any longer, I've taken those middle of the night trains, too. When, during college, I visited friends in NYC but stayed at my parents house, or on those summer Fridays when I went out for drinks after work, or on trips home for the holidays when I took a train into Manhattan and then another, later, train home to the suburbs. Though I was never working the late-night shift, and though my neighbors were as often drunken high school students as world-weary workers, I love how this poem places such importance on bringing us all home where we belong, and how relatable it is, to me, given that Kilmer's train and mine were speeding us to the same place.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you choose to make a purchase from Amazon after clicking one of these links, I will receive a small portion of your purchase price as a commission. I personally make a point of starting my Amazon shopping through the affiliate links of bloggers and friends whenever possible, so that large corporations are not the only beneficiaries of my purchases, and encourage others to do the same, regardless of whether they use my affiliate links or another blogger's. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

HOW many? A look at the children of Mary Madigan Mulcahy

I got a shock when I recently ordered the birth certificate of my great-grandfather's brother, Vincent Mulcahey, born 21 Feb 1909. He is the youngest of his siblings, and apparently the only one whose birth was registered with New York City at the time. (Two other relative, slightly older, show up in the index with certificate numbers that include an "S," which I believe means that they were delayed certificates and are only available at the NYC Municipal Archives. They're on my list for the next time I get there.)

I got read through almost the entire certificate before encountering anything that struck me as out of the ordinary.

Vincent was born on 21 Feb 1909, at 85 "Luquere" Street, the family home. His parents were Michael Mulcahy (occupation: Liquors) and Mary Madigan. Michael, 49, was born in Ireland, and Mary, 40, was born in Brooklyn, NY. Mary had had 19 previous children and currently had 10 living.

Birth Certificate of Vincent Mulcahy, 21 Feb 1909

19 previous children?! Could that possibly be accurate?

I know it's possible - larger families have certainly existed - but I had really never had any indication that the Mulcahys had lost any children at all, much less 50% of them. I had spent all these years thinking about how fortunate - or healthy, or wealthy, or otherwise privileged - this family had been that all their children had apparently survived to adulthood. Could I have been so wrong?

I always thought that the family's 100% survival rate was a bit unusual, so I wouldn't have been surprised to have a found a between-the-censuses baby somewhere. I aim to cultivate an open mindedness to new information, but *10* babies who had escaped my notice? This was stretching even my already-open mind. It was time to a trip back to review the records in my file, and see if I'd missed something or if this was inconsistent with the existing data.

 The Mulcahys first appear as a family in the 1892 NYS Census. Prior to that, Mary was always enumerated with her parents, Mathew and Margaret (Sullivan) Madigan.

Mulcahy, 1892 NYS Census
In 1892, Michael and Mary have two children, Maggie, 3, and James, 1. Although there's no address on the census, when Mary's father Mathew Madigan died later that year, the Mucahys' address was given as 227 Hamilton St., just down the street from the home where she was raised at 85 Luquer St.

In 1900, they are nowhere to be found. They are living at neither 227 Hamilton St., nor at 85 Luquer St., the home where Mary was raised and where they later raised their family. 

Mulcahy, 1905 NYS Census
In the 1905 NYS Census, they're living at 85 Luquer St., where they'll stay for the rest of their lives. They now have 7 children: Margaret, 15, James, 14, Mathew, 12, Joseph, 9, Michael, 6, Mary, 4, and John, 1.

Mulcahy, 1910 US Census

In the 1910 US Federal Census, the family has 9 children, including Vincent, and according to this record, Mary has only ever had 9 children. These children, Margaret, 20, James, 18, Mathew, 17, Joseph, 13, Michael, 11, Mary, 9, John, 6, Gerard, 3, and Vincent, 1yr 2 mos, are the only children I've ever encountered. They're the only ones who show up in census records. They're the only one anyone in the family has ever spoken of. 

The family continues to look pretty similar in the years following Vincent's birth, even as his parents eventually die and his older siblings get married and move out (rather: move to other apartments in the building, but for now we'll just treat the household). 

Mulcahy, 1915 NYS Census
In the 1915 NYS Census, the family appears all together for the last time - by 1920, Michael Sr. has died and the eldest daughter, Margaret, is married. For now, though, the family looks identical to what it looked like a few years earlier. No one's died, and there are no further children. I could keep going through the next 4 census records I have, but they wouldn't speak to any of the supposed 10 missing children who were born before Vincent. 

As I suspected, there is no indication that 10 children were missing. In fact, these census records bring to light one additional inconsistency: there's also no evidence that Vincent was the 10th living Mulcahy child. He appears to have been the 9th, instead. Now, I had heard from a relative that Vincent had a twin who died at birth, which could account for at least this discrepancy. However, the Italiangen indexes give no evidence of another Mulcahy being born or dying on 21 Feb 1909 or in the days thereafter. Had the twin been stillborn, he might not have been recorded in birth or death indexes, but he also shouldn't have been counted towards the number of children "now living." 

For a bit of context, the birth certificate was filled out 5 days later by G.W. Welty, who certified that he had attended professionally at the birth. I thought this name sounded familiar, and a quick search revealed that Dr. Welty was also the doctor who had attended the death of Vincent's grandfather, Mathew Madigan, 17 years earlier. Could this account for some of the discrepancies here? Long-standing family doctor though he was, had Dr. Welty just gotten confused by how very many kids Mary Mulcahy had given birth to over the years? 9? 10? What's a baby or two between friends?

I think that there are a couple of ways to interpret this information. Either the "19" is a mistake for "9," or it's not.

If it's not, Mary Mulcahy gave birth to a lot of babies who died young, and all 10 of them were between-the censuses babies. This is especially difficult to achieve considering that between NYS and federal census records, the family is enumerated almost every 5 years. There is, of course, a substantial enough gap between 1892 and 1905 to allow for plenty of babies to be born, but that gap seems to be pretty well filled by surviving children, born every 2 years or so. There are a couple of gaps large enough to be filled by other children, particularly between Mathew and Joseph (4 years), and then later a slightly smaller gap between John and Gerard (3 years). That suggests the possibility of at least a couple of children who didn't make it to the next census enumeration, but it doesn't seem to allow for 10. And yet, the number 19 is very clearly written on the birth certificate, isn't it?

If the number 19 is, in fact, a mistake for the number 9, one of 2 things is possible. Either Dr. Welty simply was wrong about how many living children the Mulcahys had (my guess is that 9 noisy, excited kids can sound an awful lot like 10 . . . or 30), or there actually was a child living in February 1909 who had died by the time the census was enumerated in 1910. I don't know why that child wouldn't have been included in the Mulcahys own count of how many children Mary had given birth to (the enumerator records "9" for both "mother of how many children" and "number of children still living), but 1 baby seems easier to miss than 10. Of course, searching the Italian Genealogy Group archives doesn't show death records for any probable Mulcahy children between 1909 and 1910.

So where does this very long, very detailed analysis leave me? As much as I hoped that this close look at the available documentation would give me an answer, it has not. The birth certificate is the only evidence of a high infant mortality rate in this family, but I'm not comfortable disregarding it entirely. The other evidence indicates a total of 9 children, but that "other evidence" is strictly census data, not always an accurate and in-depth look at a family's circumstances.

What conclusion would you draw?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11, 2001

[A version of this post originally appeared on September 11, 2011.]

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 would later learn, 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 us up, 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.

It occurs to me now that I had spent the entire day assuming any news would be bad news. It's not a hard assumption to make, when planes are crashing and buildings are falling. It's only in retrospect that I'm able to see that on that day, no news was almost always worse. For my family, and I'm sure for many others, the phone ringing was heart-stopping, but it brought good news. It was when the phone didn't ring, undoubtedly, that the worst news slowly dawned. 

The rest of our 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'm still not sure why, but I stayed put for a minute, until my aunt came to the door and urged me to join them, at which point I did. 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, where I watched 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.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Problem with Italians

And probably with a lot of other ethnicities, too.

Imagine a family consisting of a widowed father and his 5 children: Domenico, Vincenzo, Rosa, Angelica, Maria, and Giovanna. The census taker can't spell their last name, D'Ingeo; the only time you've found them on a census, it's spelled Dengao.

Vincenzo, in that unusual trick of Americanizing the name Vincenzo, goes by James, or Jimmy.
Rosa can be Rosa or Rosie.
Angelica might go by the Italian nickname my grandfather pronounces "Yaneen" or "Aneen;" she may also take on an American nickname the way her siblings did, but I have yet to discover it.
Maria, of course, is sometimes Mary.
Giovanna is Giovannine in Italian; she's Jenny in English.
Their father, of course, could be Dominic, Dominick, Domenico, Dominico, Dom, etc.

They immigrated in 1909 (Jimmy), 1911 (Rosa) and 1917 (the rest of the family). Some portion of them should show up on the 1910 Census (I've found no one), the 1915 NYS Census (no one), the 1920 Census (I may have found Maria, grown-up and married to my great-grandfather), and the 1925 NYS Census (no one). They finally start showing up in 1930, grown-up and married, where I've found Jimmy with his family, Jenny with her family, Maria with her family, and Domenico with Jenny's family.

I simply can't figure out how to search for them more thoroughly. Usually I'd resort to exact-search functions and searching for the relationships between family members, but between the misspellings and the nicknames, the permutations are absolutely endless and I haven't had any luck.

Who has a tip who can get me back on track with these troublesome Italians?