Sunday, December 15, 2013

Church Record Sunday/In Which I Find Father York and Teddy Roosevelt

    In a previous blog I described a 1927 First Communion certificate I found in a thrift store for a ridiculously low price.  I've always been enchanted by Catholic lithography with it's soft beautiful colors and gilded edges.  I still have the holy cards the sisters handed out as rewards in the classroom, along with the plastic rosaries.  Any alumnus of parochial school will remember those pale green rosaries.  So when I spotted another Communion certificate on Ebay last week I bid on it.  Actually I made an offer and it was accepted, you can do that sometimes.  

     I have three now, all of Irish children--I had to find some way to narrow the scope of the collection lest I go broke or run out of wall space.  This new one pictured above, is the certificate of little Ellen McNamara who made her First Communion at St. Brigid's in the spring of 1926 and it's signed by the Rev. John C. York.


       Naturally I wanted to test my sleuthing skills and track down Ellen McNamara -- it's what I do.  I began by typing in "Rev. John C. York" and St. Brigid as search terms on Google, hoping to find the location of the Church.  Immediately, Brooklyn, NY came up. I'm sure it's the right St Brigid's, the site also says Father John C. York was there in the 1920's.  I hoped this would narrow my search for Ellen and it did.  The 1925 New York census lists one Ellen and two Helen's of roughly the right age in Brooklyn.  

     The article I found on Google about St. Brigid's mentioned it served the Irish neighborhoods of Ridgewood and Bushwick. I found Ellen McNamara in the 1925 census living in Ridgewood.  The only problem is she was born in 1920 meaning she would have been six years old in 1926.  Six seems young to be making one's First Communion.  But after looking around the internet, I found it's definitely not unheard of.  And you know censuses and ages...

      I believe Ellen of Ridgewood is my girl, but another slight possibility is a Helen McNamara living on Lincoln Place in Brooklyn, about four miles from the Church and yet another one living on Park Place, about five miles from the Church.  Both these girls are several years older than Ellen in Ridgewood, and I really think there were closer churches than St. Brigid's they would have attended.  

     I haven't found much about Ellen's life, her father was Thomas an electrician, her mother was named Mary, and she had a younger brother James--that's about it so far.  I did find an amazing photo of Father York however, taken in 1912.  He's the one standing in front of the window, that man on the left in spectacles?  His good friend Teddy Roosevelt.


  1. I'm beginning to have a larger collection of "other people's genealogy treasures" than of my own! Just recently I was able to reunite a box of old photos & mid1800s paperwork with a descendant! That was exciting... for us both!

    Wish someone would contact me with a giant steamer trunk of my own family ephemera & other treasures!

    1. You and me both! I hope you get your steamer trunk soon, I'd like to order one up too. That's great that you could find the descendant who belonged to the photos.