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.


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.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

An Answer, But A Sad One

     What happened to the children of William and Catherine McGarr?  Is it because I'm a mother that I just couldn't let this go or was it curiosity?  Three children and then within the span of a month, no children.  It boggles the mind.  The unimaginable loss, and yet this same tale played out in numerous households in the 19th century.

     An earlier blog tells of the tragedy, but it's not overstating to say it haunts me.  What could have happened to those dear little ones, all under the age of four?  It must have been an illness of some sort but would I ever know exactly what occurred?  All I was certain of, is that within twenty days William and Catherine lost their entire family that horrible April of 1871. Twenty six year old Catherine would bear no more children once William Jr., Robert, and Mary were gone.

     A few days ago I sent an email to the archivist of the Diocese of Mobile, Alabama in the hopes the horrific event of three little lives lost might have merited an explanation of some sort in their burial records.  However, there are no burial records.  When these sad events occurred, Shelby Springs where they lived after leaving Auburn, New York, had no priest, nearby Montavallo was a mission of  the Catholic Church at Selma.  Being a mission, clergy visited Montevallo only several times a year as the archivist informed me.  Residents timed their sacraments such as marriages and baptisms to coincide with the expected arrival of the priest, but of course deaths were not something that could be planned for in advance.  And so, I was told, it was unlikely a priest had attended the burials of the McGarr children and there was no mention of their burials in Selma records.

     It seemed like another wall, no death certificates, no burial records, but then Karen at the archives did a very wonderful thing, she sent me copies of the two baptisms of the McGarr children in her possession, William and Mary's.

William Marion McGarr's baptism. Catherine used her mother's maiden name of Kelly in the record.  Her name was in fact McGarr, the same as William's.
Mary McGarr's baptism

     Robert was the middle child but his baptism was not to be found, probably due to Montavallo's status as a mission without a priest of it's own and poor record keeping.  William was born in 1867 and Mary in 1870.  Robert was the middle child, his grave stone gives his birth year as 1868.  William was baptized in Selma, and Mary in Montavallo.  Her baptism gave her birth-date as September 12, 1870 and she was baptized April 19th.  A long time between birth and baptism to be sure, but with no priest nearby they were probably awaiting a visit from one.  But wait, if she was born in September of 1870 she would have been baptized in April of 1871.  Her brother Robert died April 5th and William April 8th.  And here was Mary being baptized on the 19th in Montavallo!

     That was a bit of a surprise.  Mary too would pass away on the 25th, six days after receiving the sacrament, perhaps she was already ill by the 19th.  Back in 1871 the Church still taught that unbaptized babies went to limbo, did the frantic McGarrs send for a priest to insure Mary's baptism?  It's possible, William was a railroad official and was quite well to do.  The last clue I found was a newspaper article dated April 20, 1871:

     And there it was, the disease that took the children was scarlet fever.  I have to wonder if the newspaper got it wrong and it was little Mary who was ill and not William. I've seen such mistakes in newspapers. Scarlet Fever is rare in adults, but regardless I had found the cause.  It must have been a dreaded disease, in 1874 a two year old relative of mine in San Francisco died from it and in 1907 my grandfather's brother at age four in New York.  I wish I was able to visit their graves, I left flowers at Find a Grave, but it's just not the same...

Monday, February 26, 2018

Declined! In Which Rep. Blackmar's Cause Of Death Is Swept Under The Rug

Esbon Blackmar
     A while ago, while looking for more information about Milo Galloway, I stumbled upon this photo of Esbon Blackmar.  Esbon was a business associate of Milo's and for a short time a United States Representative.  The site where I found the picture was Find A Grave and along with the picture it had a short biography of Esbon which I was surprised to find attributed his death to an accident.  

     Newspapers of the period in which he died all described his passing in November of 1857 as a suicide due to financial setbacks.  The same fate that I believe befell Milo, who died five months before Esbon.  Both were quite well to do men who suddenly lost their fortunes, though the newspaper is strangely quiet about Milo's death.  Other records tell the story however, of lawsuits and defaults.

     I sent a copy of the newspaper article from 1857 to Find A Grave and finally heard back from the individual who maintains Esbon's page-- Declined. General reason: Content submitted does not belong in this data field.  What does that even mean?  Why doesn't a story from a contemporary, local newspaper belong?

     Personally, I believe it's wrong to whitewash history, even if it is that of a relatively unknown person.  Part of genealogy today is about context and the everyday details of ancestor's lives.  Trying to  understand them and their motivations as best we can through our 21st century lens.  Besides which, this sad event occurred over 160 years ago.  For researchers who might be interested, I'm posting the obituary as it appeared in 1857--

SUICIDE OF HON. ESBON BLACKMAR --The  citizens of Newark, Wayne County were thrown into great excitement this morning in consequence of the announcement of the suicide of Hon. Esbon Blackmar, not only a prominent citizen of Wayne County, but well known throughout western New York.  On Monday last, Mr. Blackmar was compelled to yield to the pressure of the times and make an assignment.  It is supposed that his financial embarrassment so depressed his spirits as to cause him to commit self-destruction.  The lifeless body of Mr. Blackmar was found in a spring or shallow well in the cellar of his house.  His head was downward and the feet projecting just above the tile surface of the water.  He represented his district in congress some ten years since and was widely known and esteemed as a man of ability and integrity.  He was largely involved in banking and in produce dealing. -- Rochester Union
     Another news article claimed he was "harassed by creditors" the day before his death and the site WikiVisually notes, "according to published accounts his business failed in the Panic of 1857 and he was in debt for more than $150,000, (about $3.7 million in 2014)."  I understand that suicide is an unpleasant topic, but I would certainly want to know what had happened were it an ancestor of mine.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

So They Hung Patrick After All

     April will be here before I know it and with it, Patrick Hore Day.  I've spent a lot of time thinking about Patrick's short life and hoping that by some miracle his death sentence wasn't carried out.  Perhaps a jailbreak or sentence commuted to transportation.  Alas, last night I found a newspaper article that confirmed Patrick had been hanged as scheduled on April 5th in 1798.

     The second sentence in the above article reports the craven execution of Patrick and three of his fellow patriots.  I first learned of Patrick when several boxes of papers of the Browne-Clayton family were discovered by the National Library.  The following is from those papers:

     United Irishmen Patrick Hore and his gang, namely Christopher Beaghan, Oliver Carey, John Currin, John Howlett and James Muldoon were arrested on 14th March 1798.  They were charged with ‘being evil disposed and Designing persons’ who, on 10th March, had gathered at Mount Neal, Carlow, and ‘wickedly’ conspired 'with certain other persons' to ‘Willfully and of Malice prepare to Kill and Murder the Honorable and Reverend Francis Paul Stratford [brother of the Earl of Aldborough] against the peace of the King. That they on the 10th of March in the 38th year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the third King did at Mount Neal, Carlow between Sunset of said day and Sunrise on the Day next following did Cut down take and Carry Away one Deal Tree, Value 5 shillings, One Ash Tree, Value 3 shillings and one Oak Tree, Value 10 shillings the goods of Francis Paul Stratford, Esquire without his consent, he being the Owner thereof.”
     On 26th March, they appeared before the General Assizes held at Carlow, where upon Information taken by Benjamin Bunbury, revealed that these six men had met earlier in the year at Garristown where they ‘contemptuously maliciously and feloniousy did Administer an Unlawful Oath and Solemn Engagement upon a Book to Mathew Brennan of the import following that is to say "Damnation to the King and All the Royal Family and all his heirs and forces by Sea and Land " and that he [Mathew]should be United with them’. It was further alleged that the day after they met at Mount Neale they were planning ‘Wickedly Unlawfully Maliciously and feloniousy did Compere Confederate and agree together and to and with each other … to Kill and Murder Luke Lyons against the peace’.
     The six men were found guilty and sentenced to be ‘hanged by the neck till dead, execution to be done on Monday the fifth day of April next’.

     When the news article mentions the charge of digging graves it must be in connection to the supposed plots to murder Francis Stratford and Luke Lyons.  It does go on to say that two of the convicted were transported, but if the papers were referring to them as the "Patrick Hore Gang" I don't hold out much hope for Pat.