Monday, June 6, 2016

REALLY Related to Aunt Jeannette

It is with heavy heart and teary eyes that I share with you the news that my great aunt, Jeannette, passed away on Friday, June 3, 2016 at the age of 83.

My Aunt Jeannette is the reason I got started in genealogy research. Not that she was into family history, she really wasn't. It was her connection to me piqued my interest. Aunt Jeannette was both my great aunt AND my second cousin twice removed.

Oh you know when that removed word get thrown out there that things are complicated. Stay with me...

When I was about 16 I went to a family reunion for my paternal grandfather's mother's side of the family; the Losee Family. My father's side has always been very close. I know most of my father's first cousins (who would be my first cousins once removed because we are one generation apart thus, once removed. Follow?). My father grew up across the street from his mother's sister and her 8 children. He attended grade school with them as well as with other cousins from his mother's side; the Cramers. The Henry sisters, Clare Henry-Earle (my grandma), Great Aunt Jean Henry-Drew, and Aunt Ann Henry-Cramer, were tight.

But if you asked my Grandpa Earle about his family, he would've told you he didn't have any. None. His parents were both dead and his older brother, Allen, died of a heart attack at age 40 and left no children. We were it. His wife, five kids, and 10 grandchildren were Poppy Earle's whole family.

So here we are at the Losee Family Reunion and in walks Grandma Earle's brother Uncle Richie and his wife, Aunt Jeannette. I didn't think it odd at first to see grandma's side of the family at grandpa's family reunion. Earles are pretty infamous for extending the family to friends and distant relations. Every census record I find for this branch of the family has someone else living with them; a cousin, a friend, an in-law, a boarder, what have you.

So in walk Uncle Richie and Aunt Jeannette. At some point I utter something to my grandmother like, "It's nice that your side of the family made it to this."

"Oh no," grandma said. "Aunt Jeannette is grandpa's cousin."

"WHAT!!?!?! I thought she is married to your brother. And hey, grandpa doesn't have any family!" Yet, here we are with close to 100 people gathered around from Poppy's side and yet, he has no family? Confusion and the recognition of misinformation starts to set in. "WAIT, Poppy sure as heck has family. Who are these people? And how is Aunt Jeannette his cousin?"

Grandma tried her best to explain. "Jeannette is his second cousin." At this point I had no idea what the hell a second cousin was. I just had cousins, period.

After a few minutes of coming to terms with the fact that I didn't know what the heck was going on around me, I made the assumption that Grandpa must have introduced his brother-in-law, Richie, to Jeannette.

"Oh no," grandma said, "They didn't figure out that they were related until after Richie and Jeanette were engaged." This was getting more and more confusing by the minute. Grandpa didn't know Jeannette was his cousin. It was then that I had then decided I needed to figure out for myself how Aunt Jeannette was related to my grandpa.

I also learned at this reunion that the Losee Family had long standing roots in Freeport, NY, and so this gathering was followed by a trip to the Freeport Memorial Library with grandma. This was a time before the Internet existed and so the library was the only "go-to." 

Freeport Memorial Library is a public library that was built as a memorial to the 13 men from Freeport, Long Island, NY who died in the Civil War. The original library building is still part of the current, greatly expanded FML. The Memorial Room, as the original library has come to be known is a small yet impressive room covered in plaques commemorating the individuals who have served the community through military and public service. 

Standing beneath one particular plaque, my tiny little grandma pointed upward saying, "Would you look at that!" Among those 13 Civil War soldiers names was a Benjamin F. Losee. And from that point on it has all been one long mission to unpuzzle my family's history. 

Thanks, Aunt Jeannette. 
Although, I did not get to see her much, I already miss her.

By the way, I did ultimately figure out how Jeannette and my grandpa were related. And they were actually double second cousins. :) They had more than one set of great-grandparents in common. Two Losee brothers married two Smith sisters. Grandpa was the grandson of John Losee and Flora Smith-Losee. Jeannette was the granddaughter of Oliver Combs Losee and Melinda Smith-Losee. Their great grandparents were [John Losee (Sr.) and Susan Amelia Combs-Losee] AND [Gersham Smith and Sarah Garvey-Smith].

Plus, she married my grandma's brother.

We were REALLY related, Aunt Jeannette, REALLY related.




Sunday, May 29, 2016

Mental Illness in the Census

Laying around in the air conditioning on this hot and sticky Memorial Day weekend, I began to participate in my favorite sport; channel surfing. I landed on a show called Ghost Asylum. It is one of the many television reality shows in which teams of people investigate paranormal activity. I don't know if I believe flashing lights and beeping tones on electromagnetic meters mean there really is a presence of a human spirit, genealogy research stirs up the dead in a different way then ghost hunting does, but what drew me to the show was their investigation of the Peoria State Hospital. 

It took me a minute to remember where I had come across this hospital in my research. Yes, I came across this particular hospital while conducting some genealogy research during this past year of my graduate studies. My capstone project was on a scrapbook created by a man named Claude Villette Boller. In my effort to determine how my library might have acquired his scrapbook I created a family tree on Ancestry.com for Mr. Boller. I hoped it would help me to connect with some descendant of Mr. Boller or descendants of his siblings who might be able to provide some provenance for the scrapbook. Provenance is a fancy academic term for the origin or earliest known history of ownership on an object. 

Most family history researchers are interested in extending their own trees back as far as they can but when you are chasing family lore you really should spread out and trace more than just your direct line. You should trace the lines of siblings. Think about it. If you have siblings you know some of them may be interested in family history and heirlooms but some of them aren't. When family stories are passed down, some siblings retain them better than others. Right? 

So I went looking for records about Mr. Boller's siblings. He was the youngest of 10. Some of his siblings died young but most of them lived out their lives in locations far from their hometown of Lexington, IL. Mr. Boller wound up in Freeport, Long Island, NY. His brother Jacob lived in California. There was even a niece who died in El Salvador. There was one sister though who showed up in the 1910 U.S. Census listed as a patient at Peoria State Hospital. 

I didn't think much of it really but in a recent reference interview with a client at my part-time gig as a genealogy librarian, the patron mentioned that she had a great aunt who lived in a "mental hospital." The patron then said, "so there won't be any record of her in the census." "Oh no," I said, "Everyone is recorded in the census." 

Well, in theory, EVERYONE, is recorded in the census. I have some ancestors I can't find in census records. I'm sure there are people who were on vacation when the census taker came. There were others who probably just didn't answer the door but if they were a patient in a hospital, an orphan in a state home, or prisoner in the clink you can be sure they were recorded in the census. 

So there she was Elizabeth Boller, age 61, living in the Peoria State Hospital in 1910. Moving back in time, in 1900 she was living in The Illinois Central Hospital for the "blank." Blank? Yes. The name of the hospital is cut off. If you do not scroll to the next page of the record you wouldn't know the full name of the location is The Illinois Central Hospital for the Insane. In the 1880 census, at the age of 30, Elizabeth was living with her parents in Lexington, IL. If one reads that very faded census record carefully, though, in a far left columns there is a mark in Elizabeth's row; an aggressively stroked "1" under the heading "insane." 

Life inside Peoria State Hospital did not seem pretty according to this television show and despite the lovely architecture and gatherings of employees I can find in photos online. It opened in 1902 it closed in 1973. I don't know when Elizabeth Boller arrived there or if she lived out the remainder of days in that particular institution; medical records are often restricted and off-limits to genealogists. What I do know, though, is that thousands of patients went in and out of their doors and more than a few died there. In 1903 a patient was beaten to death by two attendants. Those two employees were charged with murder but never tried. 

Nowadays we fight to remove the stigma of mental illness but back then many of the mentally ill were locked away, abused, neglected, and forgotten. Elizabeth, though, is not buried in the infamous Peoria State Hospital cemetery known for its full-bodied apparitions. When Elizabeth died in 1919, she was brought home and buried in the Boller family grave. Now really, I don't know what her life was like, but I pray that her burial location is an indication that she was close to her family and that they cared for her as best they could.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Learning of Lost Children

U.S. Census records present a wide variety of data. The first U.S. Federal Census, conducted in 1790, just listed the heads of household with other household members categorized by sex and age group. That was how census data was recorded until the 1850 census when they started to list each household member by name. It wasn't until the 1880 census takers were instructed to identify the relationship of each person to the head of household. The 1870 census is very important if you're researching African American ancestors because prior to 1870 slaves were not reported by name, only by age and sex under their owner's name on separate records called slave schedules. The 1890 census, as most genealogy researches are sadly aware, was destroyed by a fire with only 1% of its records surviving. The 1900 census is the only census to report the month and year of birth for each person, as well as the first census to report a person's the year of immigration. Come 1920 the census also records the year in which a person was naturalized. As time goes on each census collected more and more data. 

In the 1900 census women were asked how many children they had given birth to and how many were living. In an effort to learn about the rate of infant mortality, this information can also help you discover children in your family history who died between the censuses.

In the case of Annette Henry-Hinch, my great-great grandmother, the 1900 census indicates that she had 3 children, 2 of which were alive at the time; Charles and Jane. Both Charles and Jane lived into adulthood, married, and had children of their own. One child had died though.

In the 1910 census this type of information is recorded again. This time Annette states she has had given birth 5 times and 3 of her children were living. That third child I know to be Victor Henry, named after his father. He too lived to be an adult. So, here I learned one more child had died.

So now I was curious if I could find at least the names of those children she lost, if not also the causes of their deaths and places of burial.

I went straight to FamilySearch.org and specifically searched their database for New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949 because their index shows the most data. Instead of just the name of deceased and the date of the death, this FamilySearch index often provides the names of the deceased person's parents, estimated date of birth, location of death, occupation, and place of burial.

I put in the last name Henry, and then in the section on parents I listed the father's name as Victor and the mother as Anna, the variation on Annette's name that she most commonly went by. Keeping in mind that Annette's husband, Victor, died in 1908 and she never remarried, I also included the date ranges of when those lost children could have been born, 1880 - 1909,



This search pulled up not just the two dead children that Anna had accounted for in the 1900 & 1910 census records but three. 
  1. Mary Henry, who was born in 1898, between Charles and Jane, and died on 6 April 1899 in Brooklyn, before Jane Henry was born in November of that same year. The index indicates that Mary is interred in St. Monica's Cemetery in Queens where I know other members of the Hinch family are buried.
  2. James Henry, was born in 1904, after Victor Jr. was born, and died on 16 July 1905. The index on FamilySearch.org does not indicate the cemetery he was buried in but I assume St. Monica's because the next child in the database is also buried there.
  3. A son, no given name, was born in 1906 and died on 10 February 1906. 
I then wanted to cross reference those death records with the "New York City Municipal Births, 1846-1909" which is also available through FamilySearch.org. There I found records for 5 or Annette's 6 children.
  1. Annie Henry, who must have been Mary Henry listed above, born 8 December 1897. 
  2. Annie Henry, who is actually Jane Henry who lived to adulthood and whose birthday was 14 November 1899.
  3. Victor Henry was born 10 July 1902.
  4. James Henry, listed above, was born 24 June 1904.
  5. Robert Henry, listed above as an unnamed son, was born on 7 February 1906. 
So now I have a complete list of the children of Victor and Annette Henry:
  1. Charles Henry (26 March 1896 - 14 June 1949), my great-grandfather.
  2. Mary / Annie #1 Henry (8 December 1897 - 6 April 1899)
  3. Jane / Annie #2 Henry (14 November 1899 - 19 May 1982) 
  4. Victor Henry (10 July 1902 - 15 September 1940)
  5. James Henry (24 June 1904 - 16 July 1905)
  6. Robert Henry (7 February 1906 - 10 February 1906)
To learn the causes of death for Mary (Annie #1), James, and Robert, I would need to see their death certificates. Causes of death are not visible on the FamilySearch index. I will either have to order their death records from the NY City Municipal Archives (https://www1.nyc.gov/dorforms/deathcert.htm) or make a trip there some day soon. 

Til then, rest in peace, little ones.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

New Irish Records Online Provide a Birthday

If you are tracing your Irish ancestors, you know that you need to know the parish they came from, or at the very least, the county in Ireland. In most cases, I do NOT know where in Ireland my ancestors came from. I do, however, know where the Hinch family was from; Wicklow County.

All my recent poking around through my records on Ancestry.com that are linked to my great-great grandmother, Annette Hinch-Henry, has resulted in a bunch of new hints. Many of those hints are from Irish resources; specifically the "Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655-1915" and the "Ireland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1620-1911" databases on Ancestry.com.

For the longest time all I had for Annette's date of birth was the year; 1868. But the "Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655-1915" revealed that she was baptized on 7 March 1868 which means she was born before that date but probably not much more before. It is traditional for Catholic children to be baptized as infants. This database allowed me to look at a digital image of the actual book in which Annette's birth is recorded



It shows under the year 1868, "March 7th Anne Jas. Hinch & Jane Kavanagh Jas. Sheridan & Eliz. B - - ? Barnamelia." To interpret that for you it says that Anne the child of James Hinch and Jane Kavanagh was baptized on March 7, 1868. Her godparents or sponsors were James Sheridan and Elizabeth B--something illegible, perhpas Browning. This took place in the area known as Barnamelia, Ireland.

The "Ireland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1620-1911" doesn't show a digital image of any record. It just provides indexed data. However, the images can be seen on microfilm through any family History Library; those are the genealogy research room run by the Mormon churches. You'll see the indexed information below provides the FHL Film # 101161. This data also states Annette's birth date as 22 February 1868. So although I want to see the image of the record book, I now have a birth date I will use for her.



Not only did these Irish databases provide me with birth and baptismal dates for Annette, they included 4 of her 5 siblings.
  1. Hannah Hinch, baptized 13 May 1855.
  2. Mary Hinch, baptized 10 May 1864.
  3. James Hinch, born 1 July 1870.
  4. Sarah Hinch, born 25 July 1873.
If you are tracing your Irish ancestry and have not poked around in the newly available Irish databases on Ancestry perhaps it is time you revisit your records too.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Mrs. Henry Takes in Foundlings

In recent email exchanges with Cousin Timmy, he expressed an interest in learning more about his great grandmother, my great-great grandma, Annette Hinch-Henry. I have been posting a lot about her lately; well, mostly about her husband, Victor Henry, and the murder-suicide he committed. But I have quite a bit I have learned about her through my research as well.

In a recent post I stated that my paternal lineage shows a history of generation after generation taking in wayward cousins, down trodden in-law, and/or generally lost souls. One of these caretakers was Annette, or as she is more often called, Anna.

After her husband's death in 1908, Anna had to find someway to financially support herself and her three children; Charles (my great-grandfather), Jane, and Victor. When I met with some Hinch family cousins last summer they shared with me and my grandmother a story I had never heard about how Anna had to put her children into an orphanage for a brief time. Where ever this home for children was, it was located near a beach. They told me that Charles, being the oldest, saw that his siblings weren't getting enough food to eat in this facility and so he would hid the fruit from his lunch in his pockets, take it out to bury on the beach, and later on his siblings would retrieve the food so they would have something to eat. Anna learned of this and immediately brought her children home. She took on odd jobs, mostly cleaning for people. At one point she worked at Aquaduct Raceway in Queens cleaning at what is a pretty well know horse racing track. She also took in foster children which I am sure came with some money from the state as it still does today.

In several census records I saw children other than her own living with Anna.

In the 1915 NY State Census, Anna has 6 children living with her; the three that we know are her biological children and Joseph (age 3), Frank (age 1), and Antonio (age 1) all listed as with the surname Henry.




In the 1920 U.S. Census she had three "foundlings" in her care; George Hula age 4, and twin girls age 2, Marah and Mary Gericie.



In 1930, Victor is the only one of Anna's children still living with her but they also had an 8 year-old "boarder" named Edward Reed.



One time I asked my Great Uncle Bobby, Cousin Timmy's dad, if he had any recollection of Edward. He told me Edward died of appendicitis while in Anna's care. Great Uncle Bobby said his grandma took Eddie to the doctor's office with terrible stomach pain and the doctor dismissed his ailment as an act on Eddie's part in order to get out of going to school. Bobby said he recalled that Anna was devastated with grief at Eddie's death.

I was able to find that Edward Reed died on December 7, 1937 at the age of 16. According to his death certificate which I observed on microfilm at the New York City Municipal Archives back in November of 2011, Edward died at Jamaica Hospital and is buried at St. John's Cemetery in Queens, NY. The cause of death is listed as gangrene following an appendectomy conducted on November 19, 1937. Anna signed his death certificate as his guardian.

Edward, George, Marah, Mary, Joseph, Frank, and Antonio are just the 7 foster children I know of but I image there were many others.

Although I did not know my Great-Great Grandmother, I know she must have been a strong woman with a gentle heart who shared and showered her kindness on the unfortunate. That's a nice legacy to leave behind, don't ya think? 

Poking through her census records that I she is linked to on Ancestry.com yesterday revealed some new Irish records about the Hinch family which I will blog about soon. Stay tuned...

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day: Blah

I am now older than my maternal grandmother was when she passed away. 

Yeah, it's Monday, people. It takes some effort for me to get into a good mood on Mondays. And Mother's Day is rough for me. Anyway...I'm semi-recycling a post that I think demonstrates an abundance of love that existed on my mother's side of the family.

I am 41 years, 10 months, and 19 days, but if you tell anyone this I will adamantly deny it. I AM 28! Grandma Marilyn was just 41 years, 9 months, and 7 days when she passed away leaving her husband of 21 years with six children ranging in age from 20 to 2. My mother is the eldest.

Several years ago, when applying for my membership to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). I needed to track down my maternal grandparents' marriage certificate. No one in the family really knew their anniversary which didn't surprise me. 

A few years earlier though, I received a photocopy of a newspaper clipping from my aunt that announced their engagement. So here grandma is at age 19.  



The DAR genealogist discovered that the clipping came from the January 22, 1951 issue of the Long Island Star. There was also an earlier announcement in the January 5, 1951 issue of the same newspaper. Based on this, I think my grandparents got engaged at Christmas or New Years. However, I still didn't know when they were married. I assumed it had to be in at some church in Queens. For my application to the DAR I need to know this information and so I ordered their marriage record from the Office of the City Clerk.

Well, they were married in Greenwood Lake, NY, a resort community about an hour and a half northwest of Elmhurst, Queens, NY on March 25, 1951.  


The end of March? 
Wait! 
My mother was born in late November.

Some quick math and I realized that my mom was born only 34 weeks after the marriage and to my knowledge she was not pre-mature.


Scandal, scandal. 


Grandma would have been 6 weeks pregnant when they married. She probably knew she was pregnant; although, maybe not. Have you ever seen these stories where the woman goes into labor and she didn't even know she was pregnant?? 


I mean, it's not scandalous now. In fact, it is very common but I can imagine that back in 1951 it would have horrified grandma's good Catholic family. It doesn't matter to me though. There is no doubt in my mind that they were very, very much in love then and until the end. So what does it matter?? It doesn't.

My maternal grandfather was widowed at 46 and he never remarried. I am not sure if that is a testament to his undying love for my grandmother or evidence that not many women are open to the opportunity to acquire a ready-made family of six children. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Do I Have Murderous DNA?

I recently had a conversation with a friend regarding Who Do You Think You Are? and how so many guests wind up saying things like they inherited their bravery from their great-great grandmother. Is that really genetics or is that more of a behavior learned from the environment in which you are raised? In other words, is your personality and/or temperament a matter of nature of nurture?

Then a few days later my writer brother-in-law asked me, "So what is the goal of all this family history research? Like, when does it end?"

These questions have been looming large in my mind lately as from time to time I like to re-examine my personal philosophies on life, art, love, friendship, education, family history research, what have you... I'm graduating. I've been through some recent dramatic endings. My job is presently looking for new faculty. Its time to contemplate meaning.

So, today I attended the Long Island Library Conference where I had the privilege of listening to Newberry Award winning author, Rebecca Stead, speak about her writings and her process. When speaking about one of her works she said she was really inspired to develop in her writing a sense of place.

Which added to my ponderings...

What is the inspiration behind my writing this blog? ...writing anything?  I'm inspired to develop a sense of - - - what? What do I want to inspire in my readers? I gather that they are family history researchers like myself. Am I teaching them how to research? Am I entertaining them with tales?

SO...

I want to develop a sense of nurture... or nurturing? ...or even a lack there of.

Genealogy research instilled in me a deep understanding of the fact that I am the culmination of the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of a lot of people. A lot of people! Not just my parents or grandparents but generations and generations of people scattered around the globe conspired to get me here, where I am, to who I am. Well, in my case, "not around the globe" so much as across Europe...but you get what I mean. In that way my family history research has given me a sense of self and my place in history.

I also keenly realize though, that I am also the result of their secrets, their struggles, their shame, their pain. Like myself they were not perfect people. Which may explain why I am always a little put off by family researchers who boast about their lineage from kings and conquerors. "Eh, so what?" I'm descended from Charlemagne too. I still get pulled over for having a tail light out. Imperfection, if you ask me, makes for a much better story than some great coat of arms.

Now that I have sort of reached that point in my family history research where records are running dry and I have more brick walls than leads, I really enjoy helping others discover the stories connected to their genetic lines...as dark and devious as they maybe.

So whether you're descended from a family like my mother's in which every generation there is a story of some sibling being excommunicated from the family, or one like my father's where every census shows the fostering (or harboring as it were) of some wayward cousin, down trodden in-law, or lost soul, your family history AND your gene pool contributes to your sense of self.

Find the stories. And leave a good one.

You know what else makes for a great story? Love affairs. Woo hoo. And really, what is genealogy if not a study of who was getting it on with who?

Have fun!