Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Photo From The Shoe Box

Alice Wiggins Aleshire at the gas station
     When George Wiggins and Ida Edwards were married Christmas Day in 1895 it must have seemed like an auspicious beginning to the young couple.  The Wiggins' would have only two children, a boy and girl, somewhat unusual for a rural family in the opening years of the 20th century.  Their son Carl was born in 1905, followed in 1907 by Alice Aurilla; named for her paternal grandmother Aurilla Garner wife of William Wiggins.  Aurilla Garner died in 1906 and so was spared witnessing what would become of her son's family.

     George contracted the dreaded disease consumption (TB) and passed away 3 May 1909 at age 35.  Five months later, his four year old son Carl also died. I've not found a cause for his demise, it could have been the disease that took his father or perhaps not.  Regardless, an already grieving Ida now had to bury her only son.  The census taken in 1910 finds Ida and three year old Alice still living in the rented house on Williams Street in Wolcott, New York they had moved to shortly before George's passing.  The census taken by New York State five years later showed that Ida had remarried and she and Alice were living with her new husband, farmer Marion Haner in Sterling, New York close to Wolcott.

     This second marriage would not last long either, in March of 1925 Ida herself died at the age of 47.  Her obituary refers to her as Mrs. Marion Haynor of Camden, New York and states she died following a "very critical operation".  The New York State Death Index gives her place of death as Buffalo, New York, quite distant from Camden, giving the impression the operation was performed in that city.  

     At 18, Alice had now lost both parents but she was determined to make something of her life.  After graduating from Camden High School Alice enrolled at the Albany School of Nursing, landing a job at an Albany hospital after graduation.  Somewhere in the ensuing years Alice made the acquaintance of Theodore Aleshire of Port Gibson, New York, some 250 miles from Albany.  In 1938 they were married at the home of  her mother Ida's brother, her uncle Leroy Edwards.

     Together Alice and Theodore operated a gas station on Route 31 just outside Palmyra, New York.  The same station pictured at the top of this page.  I bet the A on the sign in the right corner was for Aleshire. The couple would have no children.  Theodore died in 1962 and Alice in 1979 in Palmyra.  The station is still there today though it no longer functions as such, instead it is a residence as it also was in Alice and Theodore's time there.  I can vaguely  recall visiting Alice many years ago with my late mother, whose grandmother Mary Wiggins was the sister of Alice's father George Wiggins, and being charmed by Alice's tiny home filled with antiques.  It was in my mother's shoe box of family photos that I found the shot of Alice with her dog outside the service station.  

     While the gas station still remains, no living descendants of George Wiggins or Ida Edwards do.  I still live nearby and occasionally  my route takes me past the old station, every time it does I think of Alice and my mother and that long ago visit.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

It Just Dropped In My Lap


     I've been contemplating placing a marker on the grave of my great-great-grandparents James O'Hora and Maria McGarr.  Both came from the same area in Ireland, right on the Carlow/Kildare border and married in Auburn, New York.  All their children with the exception of the youngest were born there in Auburn, that exception being my great-grandfather Edward who was born at the newly purchased family farm in Littleville, New York.

     Years ago while seeking their graves at St. Agnes in Clifton Springs, New York, (that being the closest Catholic cemetery at the time of James' death), I chanced to cross paths with the cemetery caretaker who fortuitously lived next to the cemetery and showed me the records he had, giving the location of the family plot.  He also showed me a card with a sketch of the graves with the designations, Father, Mother, Daughter, Son, Son -- no names other than James O'Hare being the purchaser.  That didn't deter me much, I've seen the surname spelled so many different ways I would have been surprised if it had said O'Hora and after all, the first name was James.

     Father and Mother were easy, that was James and Maria.  Daughter had to be Sarah McGinty who died at her parent's farm at the age of 42, the other three daughter's final resting places are already known.  The two sons gave me pause, James and Maria had four sons, Edward and Michael were buried in nearby St. Rose's cemetery which left Daniel and James Jr.  But Daniel's obituary said he was buried at St. Rose's like his brothers and James Jr. died at age 27 in 1881 before either cemetery had been established.  He was returned to Auburn's St. Joseph for burial.

     I almost began to wonder if it was indeed my family in the O'Hare plot.  I wrote to the secretary at St. Agnes asking for information such as when the cemetery was founded and when the plot was purchased but there was nothing more.  She went the extra mile however, reading through the minutes of old church trustee meetings until she found a reference in 1883 of the trustees asking the diocese for funding for a cemetery.  Not only that, she wrote to tell me one of the trustees who signed the minutes just happened to be James "O'Hore"!  That made me think, James was likely one of the first to buy a plot in the new cemetery, what if he had his son James Jr. re-interred at St. Agnes?  There was only one way to find out--call St. Joseph Cemetery.  I explained to the lady who answered the phone what I was looking for, gave a name and a date and in seconds I had my answer-- "James O'Hore, moved to Clifton Springs".  Yes!

     That left one more son.  There is no cemetery record of Daniel ever being buried at St. Rose, I believe the newspaper was mistaken about that, though there is nothing other than "Son" in St. Agnes records.  But it makes sense he would have been buried with his parents, he had no close relatives at the time of his death and the remaining graves in his brother's plot were reserved for his brother's wife and children.  I believe I have the right spot for James and Maria and thanks to a couple of very helpful secretaries, more details to add to the family story besides.  All because I wanted a marker for Grandma and Grandpa.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Those Land Records Again


     Almost exactly four years ago I wrote a blog titled, "The Things You Come Across In Land Records" .  That piece was about my Galloway family, in particular my fourth-great-grandmother Armina, wife of George Galloway.  I have yet to find her maiden name though it may be Russell, the name she chose for her second son.  In the blog, I share the deed I came across which granted Armina the use of part of her wealthy employer's property for the rent of one kernel of grain per year.  A really great deal.

     Today I noticed I had never checked the New York land records at Family Search for Galloway real estate transactions in Ontario County, New York.  I don't know how I missed doing that. I knew that my third-great-grandfather the above mentioned Russell lived in Phelps, Ontario County for a time, but miss it I did.  I should mention I'm always looking for proof of Russell being the brother of Milo Galloway since New York records for the early 1800's are rather scarce, and while I've amassed quite a bit of circumstantial evidence of a relationship between the two men, more never hurts.

     As I perused the land records today I came across a deed dated 14 May 1853 that noted Russell selling five acres in Phelps to Stephen Aldrich for $2,300.  Nothing too exciting there though it did give Russell's address as Arcadia, New York indicating he had left Phelps by that time.  No, the really interesting part was when I got to where the sellers, Russell Galloway and his wife Harriet B. [Moore], promised to warrant and defend against any claims on the property EXCEPT for a mortgage of $1,700 with $365 remaining unpaid, executed by Russell and Harriet to...Milo!  That was a jaw dropper, and another bit of evidence of a relationship.

     So to reiterate, even though slogging through the sometimes often boring, damaged or hard to read old deed books may seem of not much use I can honestly say I've made some wonderful discoveries within.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Missing Nun

Mother Mary Camillus AKA Elizabeth McGarr 1842-1911

     I continue to study the lives of all the McGarrs who came to Auburn, New York in the 1800's, and as usually happens when enough attention to detail is paid, events and names collected over time take on new significance as it becomes clearer how all the pieces fit together.  Which of course is the point of researching friends and relatives of our ancestors in the first place. 

     Today I stumbled upon the story of Elizabeth McGarr, daughter of Daniel McGarr and Anastasia Lyons, and my second cousin 4 times removed.  I believe her father and my 3rd great-grandfather, who was also named Daniel McGarr, were cousins, their fathers being brothers.

     While reading through the McGarr notes compiled by Evelyn Twining of Auburn, New York back in 1979, I was reminded that Elizabeth, like her sisters Mary Ann and Bridget, belonged to the Order of the Sisters of Mercy.  Even more interesting, after several Google searches I found a book online containing a photograph of Elizabeth and some unknown, (to me), details of her life.  Elizabeth, known in religious life as Mother Mary Camillus, was head of a boarding school for girls in far away Rio Vista, California, nearly 3,000 miles from Auburn!  The book read in part--
It was Archbishop Patrick Riordon who invited Mercy Sisters Mother Mary Camillus McGarr to send three sisters to Rio Vista to operate the recently constructed St. Gertrude Academy.  The sisters arrived in Rio Vista in 1876 and started preparations for the first term.  Mother Camillus filled the position of mother superior until her death in 1911 and was buried in the convent cemetery.
     By 1880 the school had grown to sixty students from all over California and some from out of state.  It's thirty five acres sat atop a small hill surrounded by beautiful landscaping.  What a perfectly lovely story of my cousin's life's work.

     But... trying a few different search terms brought up this disturbing news article that appeared in the Daily Republic in March of 2010--
   When St. Gertrude's Academy for Girls was torn down, it left behind a mystery.  What happened to the bodies buried at the sister's cemetery? Gertrude and Joseph Brunning who started the academy were buried there...a sixteen year old named Jennie McLaughlin who came to live with the sisters when she was one was buried there in 1921; and the final resting place of Sister Mary Camillus McGarr, the founding sister of St. Gertrude's, is said to be located in the cemetery as well.
   But where is the cemetery?  Where are the bodies?  There are now houses where the cemetery used to be.  The mortuary has records of  them being buried at St. Gertrude's, but there is no record of them being exhumed.
     Unexpectedly, the uplifting story had taken a sinister turn.  The academy closed in 1930 and the sisters were sent to different posts. What happened then?  In 1932 the headstones were removed, though years later a resident found marble corner markers in his backyard, in a spot not shown on any cemetery map.  I would imagine the developers and their bulldozers soon arrived and building commenced.  

     It's quite sad that no one knows what became of the remains. Surely if they had been moved they would have been re-interred in a nearby Catholic cemetery.  And surely there would have been a record of that?  It's hard to believe they could still be there under the homes, unnoticed even as construction progressed, but then again perhaps not.  Out of curiosity I checked on the prevalence of basements in California.  Here in the northeast where I live we have basements due to the cold winters.  A home's footings need to be below the frost line which could be three or four feet down.  California's bay area where Rio Vista is located doesn't have that problem so there was no need to dig down very far at all.

      Unfortunately this disturbing tale doesn't have an ending.  I hope my cousin and the others rest in another Catholic cemetery and not under some bungalow, but who knows?  It was the 1930's and there was money to be made...

Friday, April 6, 2018

More Adventures With The McGarr Clan

     Two days of snow.  In April.  While annoying, it does give me the perfect excuse to hibernate some more and continue my study of the McGarr family.  As time goes by I become more convinced that I've correctly identified the parents of my 3rd great-grandfather Daniel McGarr, who raised his family in Ballyraggan, County Kildare, as John McGarr and Catherine Murphy.  I've spent these two days concentrating on proving it.

     The first clue was the marriage of a John McGarr in Auburn, New York, the record of which named his parents as John McGarr and Catherine Murphy.  His burial record names those same parents.  John Jr. of the marriage record is exactly the right age to be my Daniel's brother but unfortunately the baptismal registers for their home parish of Rathvilly, while they exist for the late 1700's, are illegible so I was unable to find a baptism for Daniel or John Jr.  However, several other children of John and Catherine, namely Richard and Elizabeth, can be seen in the registers from the very early 1800's.  The family address was Garretstown in County Carlow.

     Looking at my Daniel's children we see his first child, a daughter, was named Catherine and the second of two sons was named John.  We're all familiar with the naming pattern, this choice of names is significant.  One of the other children born to John Sr. and Catherine Murphy, the above mentioned Elizabeth, immigrated to Auburn, New York, (like her brother John Jr.), with her husband Lawrence Burns and their children, who were all born at Raheen, County Carlow.  I was disappointed to find no child named John in Elizabeth's family in Auburn censuses but then I noticed a four year gap between her first two children.  I took a look at the Irish Parish Registers on Ancestry and found John "Byrnes" baptized 2 September 1832, parents Lawrence and Elizabeth McGa-- the address was Raheen.  So Elizabeth's second child was named John and her only daughter was Catherine.

     Another McGarr of John Jr., Daniel and Elizabeth's generation who appears in Auburn is Michael McGarr.  He was a sponsor at several baptisms in the 1840's, most interestingly, including the 1844 baptism of John Jr.'s son Daniel. Michael can be seen in the 1850 census of Auburn, New York with his wife Mary and children Margaret age 10 and Richard age 6, all born in Ireland.  I was unable to find Michael's baptism or any for his children, nor a marriage record.  A partial entry for Michael, son of John appears in the records of Rathvilly Parish in 1801 but it's impossible to read more of the record.  The address appears to be Ricketstown, a short distance from Garretstown but there's no way to tell if this is a McGarr baptism or not.

     I'm including a map of the area my McGarr ancestors called home with the pertinent townlands marked by a red X.  Keep in mind, while the map makes it look otherwise, these places are only a few miles apart.  Some even closer.

     And what of John Jr. with whom all this speculation began?  His first child, a daughter, was named Catherine and his last son was John.  Also worth noting, John McGarr Sr. and Catherine Murphy named a son Richard as did all of their children mentioned here including the possible child of theirs Michael McGarr.  Perhaps Richard was the name of John Sr.'s father and his children passed the name down to their children?  And just maybe, that name ties them all together.

     One last but important clue was the DNA match on Ancestry between my father and a descendant of Elizabeth McGarr Burns, daughter of John and Catherine Murphy.  None of this proves beyond doubt that my theory is right but it seems to point in that direction and sometimes, when the needed records don't exist a preponderance of evidence will have to do.  Along with that naming pattern.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Tuesday's Tip/If You Don't Have An Ancestry World Subscrition

     For a time I had Ancestry's world subscription, but got very little out of it and chose to cancel.  Recently some church records for my Warner line began showing up in my tree's hints.  This family was from Warwickshire, England so clicking the hints sent me to Ancestry's annoying pitch to re-subscribe rather than to the record itself.  

     There is a way around this I found.  If there is another user's family tree among the hints, clicking on that will show their tree and the records attached to it.  You still can't view the record, but "going in the back door" allows you to view the abstracted facts the record contained instead of being sent to the photo of the world traveler in the enormous hat.  Most of them anyway.  

    At this point, Family Search is putting so many of the same records on their site for free you may find it there also.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

One Last Word On The McGarr Children


      I finally got around to trying to track down the baptismal sponsors of William and Mary McGarr,  the children of William Sr. and Catherine of whom I wrote about in my last blog.  William's sponsor was Michael J. Farrell and I found several possibilities for that individual.  Mary's sponsor was another story.

     I speculated that Mary was already ill at the time of her baptism in April of 1871, probably with the scarlet fever that had recently taken the lives of  her two older brothers, and that her baptism was hastily arranged due to that illness.  When I searched for Mary's sponsor, C. McCallion, in the1870 census of Alabama the only match was Charles McCallion of Huntsville, Alabama.  A member of the clergy.  I wrote again to the archives in Mobile who confirmed that Charles McCallion was indeed a member of the Catholic clergy and he was in Alabama at the time of Mary's baptism.  It seems to me, it was likely he who performed the baptism, and on such short notice that he himself took on the role of sponsor.  The already deeply bereaved parents may not have been emotionally up to the task of seeking out an acquaintance to act as Mary's sponsor and with their families being in New York, Father McCallion  stepped in to fill the roll.

     At least that's how I read the clues left to me.  It's amazing how an event in the lives of ordinary people can be reconstructed after the passage of nearly one hundred and fifty years by use of databases, news archives and email.  Twenty years ago I'd have found none of this.  Internet genealogy is truly amazing.