31 May 2010

Letter home from the siege of Atlanta

During the Civil War my great-great-grandfather James Lindsey and his brother Solomon served in the Civil War as privates in Company A, 73 Ohio Regt (Union). Their company took part in the siege of Atlanta. Here is a letter that Solomon wrote home:

Camp near Atlanta
August 13th 164 [1864, presumably]

I just read the letter I got from you. I was glad
to hear from you. The boys is as well As Could be
expected from the hardships we have indured. It
is the same old story Still Hamering Armery At the
City. We have laid A seage on it. And we have
got so Close to their works that we Can shoot from
our works to theirs. We Keep up A regular
Canonaiderr All the while. I was on picket the
other day or on the skirmish line rather. We Are
Close [to] each other And I got A good Shot At A
Johnie. I dont no wether I hit him or not, But I
no that he disipearded from site very soon. I
regret to say that we have lost two of our best
generals we had in this Army you no that generl
McFerson was killed And generl Hooker has gon to
the Army of the Potomack. We regret his loss to
us but he will do good wherever he goes. Well
About that money if you stay At home just keep it
for me And if you have to go to the Army Again
leave it with mother So if I want Any She Can send
it to me for I don't no wether we will get paid
off or not. Well I must Close And get in my
breastworks for they Are shelling is prety smart.

Nomore At Preasant
Solomon Lindsey


On this memorial day my thoughts are with Max who served in WW II; Art who served in WW I; James, Solomon, and Jesse who served in the Civil War; Jacob and David who served in the War of 1812; and George who served in the Revolutionary War.

30 May 2010

Fractured Family

Frederick William Ford was born in Boston to Timothy and Ann (Cowan) Ford just a month after the Great Boston Fire of 1872. He would have thought of himself as the oldest child in the family although that was technically not the case: before he was born both his older sisters died within 10 days of each other of diphtheria.

While a young child Fred's family moved to Chelsea where he grew up, and before age 20 he was employed as a bookkeeper. He met Ellen “Nellie” J. Mahoney, a native of Chelsea, and on 30 December 1894 they were married. Both the bride's and the groom's parents were native Irish. They eventually had 7 children: Alfred Joseph, b 5 Mar 1896; Arthur Stewart, b 3 Feb 1897; George Francis, b 15 Sep 1898; Marie A., b. 14 Nov 1900; Ethel, b 30 Apr 1902; Gertrude Elizabeth, b 14 Aug 1904; and Helen, b about 1906.

Tragedy struck the family within a year of the birth of their seventh child. Marie died 27 Aug 1906 after 3 days of convulsions caused by diphtheria, just 5 years old. Then, 7 Feb 1907, Fred's wife Nellie died of septicemia (possibly a complication of her daughter Helen's birth). Fred was now a single dad with 6 kids, sons age 11, 10, 9, and daughters age 5, 3, and 1.

Fred hired a live-in housekeeper to help. Still, I imagine things were difficult. Three years after Nellie's death the family was living in Revere, Massachusetts. One would also expect to find the family in the 1920 census -- quite possibly without the older boys still living at home, but the younger girls would typically not yet have left home. But there is no such family a decade later. I found just one of the girls, 15 year old Gertrude, living with three “cousins”: Mary, Sarah, and Edward, all of whom are between the ages of 50 and 62. How did Gertrude end up with these cousins, and where are her sisters?

I found (eventually!) that Gertrude Ford had married Gordon Belbin about 1924. The 1984 obituary for Gertrude Belbin listed various surviving descendants, one of whom was her daughter Helen, granddaughter of Fred Ford and cousin of my father. I connected up with Helen via email. Here is what Gertrude's daughter told me:

Subject: Re: Genealogical Research-Ford
From: Helen Belbin

Hi Dan,

There is quite a story with my mother and her sister Helen. My middle initial is G. for Gertrude after my mother. After a while her father could not keep the girls at home and put them in the New England Home for Little Wanderers. He kept the boys with him. He allowed them to be put up for adoption and my mothers sister Helen was adopted. My mother was not. She was still there as a teenager. she was a handful. She said they would dress them up ever Sunday and have people come and look at them. After her father got married again he came to take her home but my mother would not go with them. He then got two old maid aunts (Sarah Collins was one) to take my mother in to help them. She went to school, worked in a shirt factory sewing and took care of the Aunts. She loved the aunts and took care of them until they died. Sarah had to be put in a Catholic home as she had Alzheimer.'s She said she only saw her father a few times after that. She did not see her brothers that I know of. She kept in close contact with her sister all her life until her sister died of a stroke in her fifties. ...


Family found! :)

How you can find info like this:

To find girls later in life, assume they got married and changed their surname. However, they don't change their first name or their birthdate (usually, anyway) and I knew both for Gertrude. By looking up in the social security death index all the women named Gertrude with her exact birth date, I came up with a list of potential women who might have been the married Gertrude. Then I researched each candidate until I proved or disproved them as the Gertrude for whom I was searching. It took a couple months, but it proved to be worth it.

Although retold moving from the past closer to the present, researching ancestral lines is done working from the present further into the past.

  • In this case I started with my grandfather, AJ Sr., and found him in the 1930 census. (US census, Census 1930 Northborough, Worcester, Massachusetts; Roll: 965; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 243; Image: 132.0; Family 124, Lines 46-50). The family shows AJ Sr. as head of family and an electrician, wife Beatrice (Bridget's Americanized name), children Maxwell and Beatrice (born in Rhode Island) and AJ Jr. (born in Mass.).

  • Next stop is the 1920 census (US census, Census 1920 Chelsea Ward 3, Suffolk, Massachusetts; Roll: T625_743; Page: 36A; Enumeration District: 630;Image: 534; Family 742) where AJ Sr., a building electrician, is a lodger. He is single at this time.

  • Next stop is the 1910 census (Year: 1910; Census Place: Revere, Suffolk, Massachusetts; Roll T624_626; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 1683; Image: 1231; Family 161) where for the first time AJ Sr. is a child in the family and we see Fred Ford, widow, as head.

  • Finally, in the 1900 census (US census, Census 1900 Boston Ward 15, Suffolk, Massachusetts; Roll: T623 683; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 1383; Family 29, lines 79-85) we see Fred and Nellie married. So far only their 3 sons have been born.

Supporting Helen Belbin's story above, we also see in the 1920 census (US census, Census 1920 Billerica, Middlesex, Massachusetts; Roll: T625_706; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 20; Image: 879; Family 249) that Gertrude, daughter of Fred andNellie , is living with sisters Mary and Sarah Collins and described as their cousin. The term “cousin” may have been used in less than the strict technical sense because Gertrude is 15 years old but Mary and Sarah are 62 and 50 respectively.

What might be next steps?

After finding new information you always want to ask yourself what new research is suggested. Even given the above information about the daughters of Fred and Nellie (Mahoney) Ford, there is lots still to be discovered. Who adopted Helen, and where did her family line go? Nor do I have information on Ether Ford past when she was 8 years old in 1910.

Helen said “After her father got married again” which is the only evidence I have that Fred remarried. The last record I have of Fred is the 1916 WW I draft registration card for his son George where Fred is listed as closest family member. Perhaps he did remarry but I don't have solid evidence of that.

Occasionally you get lucky: looking closely at the 1900 census you see that living with Ford family are two other relatives, Charles and Letitia Hilton, listed as the brother- and sister-in-law of Fred. Letitia is Nellie's sister, and that opens up another line of research.

Perhaps the most obvious avenue to pursue is to find out just what the actual relation was between the Collins sisters and their “cousin” Gertrude. I have done that, and in so doing uncovered a whole new immigrant branch of the Mahoney (Fred's wife's) family from Ireland to the US. That's another story.

22 May 2010

Bridget (Mulvanerty) Stadler

Following her arrival in New York in 1913, Bridget Mulvanerty married Maxwell Stadler. The marriage apparently occurred after 12 Sep 1918 (when Maxwell listed his father as his nearest living relative on his registration for the WW I draft), and before 1 Jan 1920 (the date for the 1920 census where Maxwell and Bridget were listed as married).

Sometimes there are romantic stories about where couples met or courted. This isn't one of them. The earliest I've found Maxwell and Bridget together is at the State Hospital for the Insane, Norristown, Pennsylvania. On the plus side, they were not patients -- Maxwell was an attendant and Bridget was a nurse (see the census, lines 38-39). By this time Bridget had changed her first name and was going by Beatrice, too. Maxwell and Beatrice probably left Pennsylvania soon after the 1920 census because their first child, Maxwell Jr., was born in Rhode Island about 1920 and their daughter Beatrice was born about a couple of years later.

Eventually Beatrice married Alfred Joseph Ford, Sr. in Worcester Massachusetts. Beatrice and Maxwell had divorced (her ex-husband continued to be listed in city directories as living in Providence, Rhode Island, from 1923 through at least 1932). I don't know what became of him after 1932.

Maxwell Sr. identified his father as John Stadler in his draft registration. The family can be seen here in the 1910 census (lines 5-9). John's wife in the census is not Maxwell's mother: the marriage is listed as John's second and they've been married 7 years, but Maxwell is 12 years old. Maxwell's biological mother is identified on his birth registration record from 29 Mar 1898 in East Freetown, Massachusetts as Mina.

On all his census records John Stadler is listed as having been born in Germany, and the 1920 census says Baden specifically. One census says he immigrated in 1879, another 1880, and that he was naturalized in 1904. Although I haven't found his initial immigration, I have found a record of what apparently is the family returning from Bremen, Germany 1 April 1902 to the US. This ships passenger list shows Johann Stadler with two kids, Adolf and Max. Johann is the right age to be John Stadler, and also the right occupation (farmer). Max is the right age to be Maxwell, and is noted as a US citizen. They are listed as returning home, so perhaps they had been on a trip to visit relatives in Germany. Alternatively, perhaps the reason I haven't been able to find the family in the 1900 census is because they were in Germany from 1900 until this return: maybe after Mina died Johann returned to Germany with his young sons and only came back to the US in 1902 when Maxwell was no longer an infant. Below is a picture of the ship the family took when returning to the US, the Batavia.

19 May 2010

Date announced for 1901 Irish Census release

Posted today by the National Archives of Ireland:

1901 Census material, with all data transcribed, will be launched before on [sic] 3 June 2010. The data for every county will be launched all at once rather than in tranches as with 1911.

Please, don't bother me that day.

17 May 2010

What I have in common with Ronnie James Dio

Yesterday a great singer died: Ronnie James Dio – just Dio to fans like me. Ronnie James Dio was born Ronald James Padavona 10 July, 1942 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, an only child in an Italian family. They lived in Portsmouth until the family moved to Cortland, New York early in his life. With his first wife, Loretta Berardi, Dio adopted a son, Dan. His second marriage was to Wendy Galaxiola. Dio's father Pat, Wendy and Dan, and two grandchildren survive him. All this is from Dio's obituaries today. I found myself wondering what his family's story was. Here's what I found today.

I guessed his father Pat might have been born 25 years (+/-) prior to 1942. I searched for Pat* Padavano in New York with that approximate age and came up with just one good candidate in the 1930 census: Patrick Padavano, age 11 (born abt 1919), with older brothers John and Peter, living in Cortland, New York. The head of the house, presumably Dio’s grandfather, was Anthony Padavano, a steel worker in a wire mill. Anthony and his wife were born in Italy, and in 1930 they owned their own home worth about $5000. Anthony Padavano does not appear ten years earlier in the 1920 census. On the other hand, Antonio Padavano is in Cortland in the 1920 census along with the rest of the family to confirm this is the same fellow. When researching immigrants expect name changes. Patrick’s older siblings are John and Piero – not Peter, another name change. Neither Antonio nor his wife could read or write English. Finally, the earliest record I found today for Antonio in this country is his 1917 WW I draft registration record. Back then he's married with only his two oldest sons.

Back to my original question: what do I have in common with Dio? He and I are both grandchildren of immigrants who came to New York. I look forward to contributions to come from the grandchildren of today's immigrants arriving in New York and San Francisco and maybe even Arizona somehow. But I'm not sure any of them will sing as well as Dio.

03 May 2010

Let's start with our mothers

After all, it is just about Mother's Day. I'm thinking of my most recent immigrant ancestor, my paternal grandmother Bridget Mulvanerty. We of course only know our grandmothers as, well, grandmothers, so what they were like when young is not the first thing that comes to mind when we think of them.

We realized a while ago that Bridget had shaved a couple of years off her age when coming to the US. Her actual birth year was 1894, supported by 1901 and 1911 census records and by parish records. However, 2 weeks after her 19th birthday she left for Ellis Island and apparently traveled faster than light arriving just a wee bit younger than when she had departed. But what can be said about her time growing up in Ireland?

Bridget grew up on a typical small Drumshanbo house. The family house had a roof of thatch or wood with just 3 rooms and 3 windows in front. There were 8 homes in her neighborhood (Largan) at that time, and all fit this description exactly. The property also had a cow house, a piggery, and a barn. 8 kids plus the parents meant 10 people shared the 3 rooms.

Two weeks before Bridget's 14th birthday her mother died. By age 16 she had moved away from home -- literally the only Mulvanerty in all of Ireland living outside of Co. Leitrim -- to be a servant for a rich widow. The widow's home was significantly larger than the home in which Bridget had grown up: both the walls and roof were solid (slate, iron, or tile roof) and there were 9 rooms, with 6 windows in front. There were numerous outbuildings, including stable, coach house, cow house, calf house, dairy, piggery, fowl house, barn, turn house, potato house, shed, and store.

Two years later she boarded the SS Cedric for an 8-day voyage to a new country with just $15 in her pockets. She arrived in New York City the year Grand Central opened having grown up in a town with a population of a few hundred tops.
Fortunately she was not all on her own once she arrived: her cousin Katie was on the ship with her. Both girls listed their immediate US destination as 619 E. 134th St., New York, the home of Katie's brother Patrick Mulvey. This is a piece of a larger chain migration pattern involving the Mulvanerty and Mulvey families.

How you can find info like this:
  • The National Archives of Ireland recently release the 1911 census records, so you can easily look people up there. Searching for Bridget Mulvanerty yields three entries, only one of which is the right age. Clicking on her will get you to a page that links to eight separate pages. One page provides info on the home (number of windows, etc.), another on outbuildings (like piggery, I just love that word). The first page page has the head of the household's signature, something I'm hoping may prove to be useful downstream.
  • You can find Bridget's 1913 immigration record at the free Ellis Island site. If you search for her and click on her name, the first page you get is a cute certificate-like thingy. To get what you really want, click on "View Original Ship Manifest" and then on "Click to Enlarge Manifest". Bridget's manifest is two separate pages, so be sure to check adjacent pages. Her cousin Katie is the passenger listed immediately before Bridget. Always check immigration forms for people listed as coming from the same town/village.
  • The 1901 Co. Leitrim census is searchable (without images) at the Leitrim-Roscommon web site. Volunteers transcribed the originals to create the searchable database. The National Archives of Ireland have announced that the 1901 census images will be available very soon (June?) so I'm hopeful that even more information will be available to us then.