Saturday, November 10, 2018

Edna VanHee 1884-1977


     I came across this photo today on Ebay and was captivated by that wee face and the unusual pose.  Unlike many formal, stiff, starched pictures of young children this one captured the baby's sweet, innocent smile and the utter delight of a child learning to walk.  On the back was written, "Edna S. VanHee taken the day before she was a year old".  Since I'm completely unable to look at an old photo without wondering who that is looking back at me, I needed to find out how Edna's life had unfolded-- so I turned to Ancestry.  The photographer's studio was in  Palmyra, New York so Edna and her family must have lived in that vicinity.  The New York State Birth Index shows Edna was born 7 November 1884 in Marion, Wayne County, New York, very close to Palmyra which would date the photograph 6 November 1885.  The 1900 census gave her age as fifteen, still in Marion, and revealed her parent's names; Peter from Holland and his wife Francena a native of New York. Edna would grow up in the rural town of Marion as an only child on her parent's farm.

     I found Edna's father Peter VanHee in the 1870 census of Marion living with his parents and siblings.  Peter was born in 1858 in Holland and the next child in the family in 1861 in New York; somewhere in that three year window Peter and his parents immigrated and settled in upstate New York.  By 1880 Peter was working as a farm laborer for Harry Clark, also in Marion.

     Skipping ahead to 1920, Edna can be found still living with her parents at age thirty-five.  It looked like Edna was going to end her days a spinster, but then I stumbled upon a marriage record.  In 1922 Edna married Burton Clark, a farmer four years her senior.  It was a first marriage for both of them and while thirty-seven and forty-one seems a bit long in the tooth to decide to wed, hopefully Edna was happy in her marriage.  Could Burton be related to Harry Clark who had employed a young Peter VanHee back in 1870?  While Clark is a common name it's possible.

     Edna's parents must have missed her a great deal after almost four decades of having her under their roof, but she didn't stray far.  Her husband's farm was located in the town of Walworth, New York which borders Marion.  A newspaper article from 1935 noted Edna's father Peter visiting her there in Walworth, her mother having died in 1929.  Peter followed his wife in 1936, both are buried in Marion Cemetery.  Probably because she married fairly late in life, Edna never had any children of her own but kept busy teaching Sunday school to her neighbor's children at their local church.  Her husband Burton died in 1964, and Edna herself passed in 1977.  

     I couldn't locate an obituary for Edna, the last mention I found of her was a deed transfer in February of 1977 for property in Walworth executed by Edna S. Clark of Newark.  Newark is the seat for Wayne County and the location of the county home for the aged.  Being a childless widow, it would appear Edna spent her last days in that facility and while there sold the farm in Walworth.  It makes me a bit sad Edna wound up alone in the world, I hope she did have visits from old neighbors and perhaps her former students.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Another Auburn Tale

   


     I've been reading the wonderful book about President Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin titled, A Team Of Rivals.  Ms Goodwin is a Pulitzer prize winning author well known for her historical writing.  This particular book looks closely at the cabinet members, (the rivals), during the Lincoln administration, one of whom was William H. Seward, a former governor of New York who lived in Auburn in that state, the place many of my Irish ancestors settled after arriving in America.  While looking online at some articles about Mr. Seward I came across this description of a holding at the University of Rochester library--
Box 6  Jan 13, 1844, New York Weekly Tribune page 3, an address by the Irishmen of Auburn, New York, to Governor Seward with his reply.
     "The Irishmen of Auburn", well that got my attention!  I knew my McGarr ancestors were in Auburn by the early 1840's, well before my O'Horas arrived there during the famine, I needed to see this article and find out what those Irishmen were up to.  I looked around the net and finally found the edition of January 13, but no article.  I was getting a little discouraged but I did some wider searches and finally found it in the January 9 edition and also in the Auburn paper.  I'm glad I persevered, it was a fascinating article.  The so-called address to Governor Seward was actually a letter written to him dated December 19, 1843, the second signatory of which was John Magar.

     In part, the letter mentioned, "patriotic zeal in and of a people long oppressed by tyranny, and who at this time loudly invoke the generous efforts of every man who has a heart to feel for the woes of others; for a country blighted by the withering hands of despotism which would otherwise compare with other nations of the earth...poor and lonely though she be, the time is at hand, we trust, when her spirited sons, aided by American liberality, and patriotism, will raise her to eminence...  The letter closes with, "gratitude, respect, and esteem" from the signers as "Irishmen and Friends to Ireland".

     It's not often I find such a personal connection to events, usually I find myself wondering what my ancestors thought of what was going on in their world but this pretty well spells it out.  What, I wondered, had Governor Seward done to merit this appreciation?  And who were these Irishmen, were they part of a political club?  Auburn had an active branch of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in the late 1850's, so it was reasonable to think there may have been earlier political groups. 

     But first, what was going on in Ireland in 1843?  Why did the Irishmen of Auburn believe the time was near when Ireland would be raised to eminence?  Because, 1843 was the year of Daniel O'Connell's monster meetings and agitation for repeal, with a goal of abolishing the Act Of Union passed in 1800 that made Ireland a part of England.  Further research in newspapers showed Auburn had it's own Repeal Association which assembled at the town hall on the 25th day of November in 1843, (three weeks before the letter of appreciation to Seward), to accept from Governor Seward's hand a letter he had written, at their request, to Daniel O'Connell ... and my relative was a member ... I just love this stuff.  You can read Seward's letter here if you're interested.

     Now the question became, who was John Magar who signed the letter to Governor Seward?  There were two in Auburn at that time, one is the man I strongly suspect was the brother of my third great-grandfather Daniel McGarr, the other was Daniel's cousin.  It's going to be hard if not impossible to figure out which John signed the letter, but in the end I guess it really doesn't matter.  They were both relatives of mine and I'm proud of what they were doing.  It also amazes me that John was familiar with William H. Seward, governor and later secretary of state to President Lincoln.  Genealogy never stops surprising me.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

I Do Believe In Spooks!

     Most of you will recall the title of this post as the utterance of the Cowardly Lion in the movie, The Wizard Of Oz.  It could also have been the notion running through my mind a few nights ago as I participated in my first "ghost walk" in Palmyra, New York.  After the passing of my husband last year I cast about for something to occupy the time I now had in plentiful supply, settling on joining a group called Historic Palmyra.  Chosen not only because it was nearby and history is something I enjoy, but also because the building which houses one of the museums they operate was once a hotel/bar owned by the husband of my distant cousin Catherine Ryan Riffenburg, daughter of Thomas Ryan and Mary Power.  Furthermore, Catherine's first cousin, my great-grandmother Maggie Power, was shown working there as a teenage domestic in the 1900 census.

     Catherine and Maggie are far from the only ancestors of mine who once called Palmyra home.  Cornelius Ryan, (a different family of Ryans than Catherine), lived there after arriving from Tipperary and the Hogans, Sheehans, and Slatterys all were there for a time in the mid to late nineteenth century.  As easily imagined given the state of medical science at that time, there were more than a few tragedies associated with those families. Cornelius died at age 33 leaving a wife and young son Oliver; his widow Anna Hennessey died just six months later.  Anna's sister Ellen Hennessey, who with her husband Edward Welch became Oliver's guardians, died a year after that, causing the grief-stricken Edward Welch to commit suicide on her grave.

     Ten years earlier, Cornelius' sister Sarah Ryan had died in Palmyra at age 26 not long after her marriage to William Slattery, quite possibly in childbirth like her sister Ellen Ryan Maher who had passed a month before Cornelius in 1877.  Though Ellen's demise was in Ohio, she was buried in Palmyra.  William Slattery's wife before Sarah Ryan had been Catherine Hogan, a sister of  Bridget Hogan who was married to Sarah, Ellen, and Cornelius' brother Andrew Ryan.  Catherine is another likely candidate for death in childbirth.  It's quite involved I know.  But the point is, I felt like I had lots of material to work with here, vis a vis possible spirit activity.

     First stop on the walk was the oldest cemetery in the village where a woman wielding two dowsing rods asked questions of several of the "residents".  Which they appeared to answer!  Then on to a marvelously preserved general store dating back to canal times, and lastly to the old hotel.  Would Grandma Maggie stop by?  I can't say I'm positive ghosts really do exist though I definitely lean that way.  Over the years I've experienced what I consider unusual events, like the time I set out alone to find Aurelius, NY, first home in America of my great-great-grandfather James O'Hora from County Carlow.  Though my map said I was still miles away, at least the way I read the map, suddenly I somehow knew I was already in his town. (I was in fact, one road over from the farm he had lived on.) And the time I first saw French Cemetery in Victory, NY and was able to walk with no hesitation directly to the grave of my 4th great-grandmother.

     I did my best to remain open and approachable as we sat in the darkened former hotel listening for footsteps or knocks. Sad to say none were forthcoming.  Disappointing, but given the large size of the crowd, due to a pirate festival being held the same night on Main Street, it didn't seem to me especially conducive to ghostly appearances.  Were I them, I would have taken a walk until the intruders left my home.

     Still, the idea of communicating with family members who have gone to their rewards is an intriguing one.  So many questions could be answered!  The night really wasn't a loss, it was great fun to suspend disbelief while wandering the darkened old buildings, and to wonder, "what if"... and I even met a pirate.




Sunday, July 15, 2018

Rev. Vincent Watson, Wish I Had Known

     
Rev. Vincent W. Watson


     While pursuing my family history I've come across scoundrels and bigamists, nuns and ordinary people just trying their best to get by; some fascinating and others not terribly so.  They all have their stories nonetheless, that should be told. This blog is about a cousin I dearly would have loved to meet, he passed away only five years ago though regretfully, our paths never crossed.  

     I put a small tree on the Family Search website a few months ago and every once in awhile I get a message from them about a possible match, sort of like Ancestry's little leaf hints. This new match was from my Vincent line on Mom's side.  It contained a link to an obituary dated 2013 on a pay site I don't have a subscription to.  The obituary was so recent I thought perhaps it could be accessed on another site and sure enough it could.  The funeral home the family used had posted it.

     I knew of this man's existence, and that he had become a Methodist minister, but had no idea he was still among the living in the 21st century.  My mother's grandmother Hattie Vincent had a brother named George.  George Vincent's daughter Grace and her husband Floyd Watson were the parents of my newly rediscovered cousin Rev. Vincent Watson, born in 1916.  His family lived in downstate New York and Connecticut, hundreds of miles from where my family resides and as families sometimes do, they drifted apart.

     In part, his obituary read, 
"In 1955, Rev. Watson received the George Washington medal for a Memorial Day sermon, "Our Responsibility for Remembering." Participation in civic activities included the 1963 March on Washington and a 1965 trip to Selma, AL."  
     That stopped me in my tracks.  Vincent Watson's parent were born and raised in a very rural area not known for, shall we say, a deep interest in civil rights.  I was surprised and curious, but mostly I felt very proud of this man.  A cousin on my father's side who belonged to the order of the Sisters of St. Joseph was in Selma in 1965 and helped care for the marchers who were attacked and injured there.  The bishop had forbade the nuns to march so they did their bit by tending the wounded, but Rev. Watson was out there on the street!

     The obituary continued,
"In 1984, Rev. Watson began genealogy research which led to an expansive family tree; an only child with few close relatives, Rev. Watson discovered ancestry connections as far back as the fifth century."  
     He was interested in genealogy!  How did we not connect?  It occurs to me he may have stopped actively researching by the time the internet and message boards came about, he would have been 68 in 1984. Ancestry would not go online until 1996 and at that early date was nothing like the site we use today.  I must confess I'm slightly skeptical of the claim about the 5th century but still, I'm sad I missed this remarkable man.  And I think I may need to add to my Family Search tree.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

See! It's Not A Waste Of Time To Follow Distant Relatives

     


     I'd like to shake the hand of the person who thought it would be a good idea to put books on the internet.  Especially the obscure genealogies.  Whilst perusing records of the Wiggins family I drifted into the family of Freelove Nichols who in 1803 married Richard Wiggins of New York City, (who I believe is a brother of my 4th great-grandfather William Wiggins who moved to Wolcott, NY).  As I delved further into the Nichols family I began to feel a wee bit guilty about wasting time on lines I wasn't closely related to.

   I came across information about Freelove's mother, Freelove Wright, which stated that before she married Samuel Nichols, she was married to Samuel Wood for only a short time before his untimely death and that she bore him a son named William whose name she changed to Samuel in honor of his father.  A short biography of William/Samuel Wood followed which detailed his life and various careers, the last one being founder and owner of a successful publishing company.  A list of some of the books he published was included in the biography, many of which were for children.

     That certainly piqued my interest.  In an earlier blog I made mention of  an educational book written by the above mentioned Richard Wiggins.  I eagerly turned the virtual page and there it was!  The book "The New-York Expositor", written by Richard Wiggins, was on the list.  Samuel had published the book of his niece's husband Richard Wiggins in 1818.  That certainly tends to tie the two men together genealogically speaking.  Had I listened to that nagging voice saying,"you're wasting your time", I never would have found this connection.


      It's a real shame New York didn't keep records in the early 18th century, or many in the 19th for that matter.  It's proving difficult to find evidence definitively linking the various Wiggins in New York City to each other or to those living in Wolcott, making clues like the book list especially valuable.  Speaking of which, I made the trip to the Wayne County Historian's office today only to find the 1855 census of Wayne County, New York is not complete.   Towns whose names begin with the letters A-P are all that survive.  The records for Wolcott no longer exist so there is no chance of finding Richard Wiggins; the one mentioned in the last blog who died in 1857 and who married Hannah Ostrander. 

         The only thing worse that no record created, is record loss.

     

    

Thursday, June 21, 2018

It Was There All Along: Part Two

 
Clarissa Wiggins, Earl Owen and David Owen

     In my original post written almost four years ago I mused about the discovery of a previously unknown daughter of my third-great-grandfather Dr. Richard Wiggins.  Clarissa Janette Wiggins was born in New York, almost certainly in Wolcott, in February of 1855.  After the death of my third-great-grandmother Hannah Ostrander Wiggins in Michigan in 1848 Richard had taken a second wife, Susan Gray, who was Clarissa's mother.

     Richard is reputed to have died in 1857 and been buried in Old Westbury cemetery in Victory, New York, close to Wolcott.  I was never quite sure if the Richard Wiggins buried there was my third-great-grandfather or not since his widow Susan and daughter Clarissa were in Michigan just a few years later, but new evidence makes it seem more likely.  Richard was in Michigan in 1848 when his daughter with Hannah Ostrander was born and Hannah died, but he appears in both the Michigan and Wolcott, New York censuses in 1850.  The Wolcott census lists him widowed and with his children at the home of his parents.

     There is some conflicting evidence about Clarissa's birth place, her death record says Michigan but all censuses say she was born in New York, the 1900 census says she was born in February of 1855 which matches the date her son gave on her death record.  Since the information in the censuses was probably provided by Clarissa herself, I'm going with New York as the place of her birth.



     Now for the new evidence; taking a closer look at Clarissa's mother Susan Gray, I discovered Susan living with her parents in 1850 Wolcott, only five households from the Wiggins clan.  Clearly, Clarissa's parents met and married in Wolcott and in all likelihood she was born there.  Susan must have felt she was making a good marriage, Richard being an older man and a doctor to boot even if he came with five children.  It seems the couple were still there in New York in 1857 when Richard died, (yes I now believe that is him in Westbury Cemetery), and afterwards Susan and Clarissa went west to Michigan either with her parents who appear there in the 1860 census or to join them in their new home.  That same census shows Susan remarried and living with her second husband Abel Aldrich and her daughter Clarissa Wiggins.  As noted in the first blog, Susan died from consumption when Clarissa was 15 and the young girl was compelled to become a servant.

     Also new, while researching Clarissa years ago I found she had married a David Owen in Michigan around 1879.  Her father, my Grandpa Richard, had a sister, Elizabeth, who also moved to Michigan along with with her husband Charles Owen.  Their child David M. was born there in 1842.  Somehow I never put two and two together.  After finding the second family of Grandpa Richard I left off studying them, I was after all descended from his first marriage.  And I went no further with his sister Elizabeth Wiggins Owen's children other than noting their names and birth dates and places.  Today while looking through my family trees it hit me, DAVID OWEN!  Could it be the same David Owen?  Turns out it was, Clarissa married her first cousin.

     So what did I learn from this?  That I have an annoying tendency to miss evidence right under my nose for one thing, but also how very interesting and satisfying it is to put all the little clues together and watch the big picture slowly take form.  It's a process that can't be hurried lest you miss one of those clues and it's full meaning -- witness it took me four years to pull it all together though in my defense, I was working on other lines at the same time.  Since Clarissa was born in early1855 she should appear with her parents in that census, but that old familiar roadblock rears it's ugly head here, the Wayne County New York census of 1855 is not online.  Which means I will have to drive to Lyons at some point and view it in the historian's office.  I will keep you posted...

Saturday, June 2, 2018

My Latest Ebay Purchase/ Or How Patience Won The Day

   

     I've been spending most of my research time on the McGarr family originally from Ballyraggan, County Kildare of late.  My working theory is that my 3rd great-grandfather Daniel McGarr was the cousin of another Daniel McGarr who left the same area in Ireland for upstate New York.  Daniel in New York was the proud father of three nuns, Sisters of Mercy all.  I wrote about one of them here.

     Shortly after writing that blog, I came across a reference to two books written by Sister Mary Frances McGarr, another of Daniel's daughters.  Naturally, finding one or both of those books suddenly became the most important task on my to-do list.  I searched all the antique and used book sites and finally located a copy of one of them, "May Devotions For Children", on Ebay.  Sadly for me, the offer had ended.  I sent a note to the seller asking if the book had been sold and was informed he still had it and would be relisting in a week or so.  I had been hoping he'd just let me purchase it then and there, but that was not to be and I soon found out why.  When it was again put online, the price had strangely increased.  

     I hate to sound cynical, but it was clear the book had been on the market for awhile with no takers, but when I expressed interest in it the value had somehow risen.  This was so irritating I decided to just keep my eyes open for another copy.  Three or four weeks had passed when a notice appeared in my mailbox from Ebay informing me an item I'd been looking at had been reduced in price.  Yes, it was the book.  I really didn't want to patronize that seller, but I'd had no luck at all finding it elsewhere so I ordered it and in the end I'm glad I did.

     It's a sweet little book, about 3 1/2 by 5 inches, filled with advice on how to keep May, the month of the Blessed Virgin, holy.  For each day of the month there are suggestions and reflections, written by teacher Sister Mary Frances at a child's level.   May 23rd's entry for example--
Dear Children-- While thinking of the beautiful devotions which so greatly help us to be good, we must not forget the Sign of the Cross.  Every time we make this sign devoutly, using holy water, we get 100 days Indulgence.  There is one thing, dear children, that you must remember in using the Sign of the Cross, it must be made devoutly.  It will not do to make it all in a rush, without a thought of what we do.
     You don't hear much about indulgences these days.  I hope someday my grandchildren will find this book written by their cousin useful, now I need to find more copies so they can all have one.