Monday, January 22, 2018

Is This Them in the 1920 Census?

When introducing newcomers to genealogical research I first stress the importance of family history interviewing. The first record type I direct them to, though, is the census.

Census taking is not unique to the United States by any means. If you are familiar with the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, Mary and Joseph were on the way to Nazareth to be counted in a census. A lot of countries have taken censuses for far longer that the United States.

The U.S. started creating census records in 1790 and we have taken it every ten years since; on the years ending in "0." The most recently released U.S. census is the 1940 census. These records are only released to the public when they are 72 years old. The aggregate data is released rather quickly. That is to say one can find out the statistics about the demographics of their towns, states, or the country as a whole not long after the census is complete but to look at the actual records you must wait 72 years.

That retention schedule, as it is called in archives land, is based on life expectancy. It is assumed that in 72 years most of the people recorded in that census will have passed away and if not they will certainly be living with different family groups. This schedule is set to protect individuals' identities and personal histories. That is not to say that I have not had many clients who can find themselves in the 1940 census; I have. Many people come to genealogy later in life. It is kind of exciting to see someone see themselves listed on a census.

It is however rare to find a family group that extend back through the censuses without some finagling of search terms. Sometimes you have to use variant spellings or remove the dates of birth from your search criteria. Something.

You should start looking for your relatives in the most recent census, the 1940, and move back one decade at a time to the 1930, then 1920, and so on. Keeping in mind that the 1890 census no longer exists as it was destroyed after the Commerce Department Building in Washington D.C. caught fire in January 1921 and that the 1850 census is the first to list every member of the household, there are really 9 censuses I'm always looking for. Census records before 1850 are there but not terribly easy to use.

That is my dream though; to find a family group evolve from 1940 to 1850 in each and every available census. In my experience that is a rarity. There is always at least 1 of those 9 censuses which proves to be challenging to find "the family" in. 

For example, I could not find my great grandparents in the 1930 for a really long time. That was because the penmanship of the original census taker made the name Earle look like Carle and so the indexer who ultimately put it online listed it as Carle. It took me years to find the record. It didn't happen  until I searched by a combination of the first names of the household member and left out the last name entirely.

But the dream, oh the dream, to collect them all brings great satisfaction when it happens. Today it happened for me, I think. 

I was looking more closely at census records for my great grandfather's sibling's family; Marion Fay-Leechin. Specifically I was looking for her eldest son, John Michael Fay. 

  • 1940: I saw Marion listed as Mary in the 1940 census at age 42 married to Thomas Leechin with 5 children including her son John Fay, age 20.
  • 1930: She is listed as Marion Lee, age 32, living with her mother Agnes Fay, 2 children and 2 boarders. One of those two children is John Fay, age 10.
  • 1920: I couldn't find her, or her mother, or John in 1920. More to come on this below.
  • 1910: Marion was listed as Mary, age 12, living with her parents, Michael and Agnes Fay, 4 siblings (including my great grandfather James Fay), and her mother's aunt.
  • 1900: Marion is just 2 living with her parents and 5 siblings. One of her siblings does not survive to the 1920 census.
  • 1880: Marion is not yet born and thus not recorded in the 1880 census. Her parents are not yet even married. Michael Fay is 26 years old, living with his widowed mother and several siblings in Manhattan. Her mother, then known as Agnes Joyce, is 15 living with her parents and siblings in Manhattan.
  • 1870: I find Michael Fay again living with his parents.
  • 1860: Again I see Michael Fay with his parents.
  • 1850: Michael Fay was not born until 1851 but in 1850 his parents are living together in some sort of boarding house or with friends or family in Saugerties, NY.
The dream. The Fay Family in every census. OH. Except that 1920 census. Where is Marion Fay? 

Was she married? Is that why I can't find her? Does she have a different last name? 

But what about her son who had his mother's maiden name later in his life - John Fay, did he have a different name at birth? He would have been about 7 months old at the time the 1920 census was taken. 

Maybe Marion is listed as Mary again? Am I looking for Mary Fay? Mary something else? She would have been about 22 years old. 

Marion/Mary may have been living with her widowed mother, Agnes Fay, who would have been about 54 years-old. Would she have had a different name too?

So I did a search specifically in the 1920 census for a John Fay born in 1919. And I finally came across this:



Could this be them? Agnes Fay listed as Fay, Tillie , age 54, widow; Marion listed as F. Manny, daughter, age 22, single; and John Fay, son, age 7/12 meaning 7 months old. If so, does it seem to you that Agnes was the head of a Shelter for Mothers with Children?

Is this them?

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Uncle Frank's First Family : Part 2

Back on January 2 I wrote a post about my Great Aunt Ann and her husband Frank. Ancestry.com had suggested some records for Uncle Frank that indicated that he had been married before Ann. It made me curious enough that I ordered Frank and Ann's marriage records from the New York City Municipal Archives right away. The record arrived yesterday.

The three pages of documentation include an Affidavit for License to Marry, a form filled out by hand; a Marriage License, which is typed but identical in content to the previous document; and a Marriage Certificate for Anna Josephine Fay and Francis Thomas McGarry from June 1943.

The details included were pretty much as I expected; their names as I knew them to be, their dates of birth, and everything about Anna - her address in Elmhurst, place of birth, parents' names. The details include about Frank were new to me but not surprising. He was in the army, born in Pennsylvania but there it was - confirmation of his parents names. They were indeed who I thought they were; Thomas Joseph McGarry and Mary Agnes Carroll. 

The documentation states that Frank was never married before but the confirmation of his parents names affirms that the marriage record for Francis McGarry to Ruth Gifford in Dunmore, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania from 1931 is indeed my great uncle Frank as I thought.

That means those young boys for whom I found death records for are also all Frank's sons; Donald McGarry (1933-1933), Francis McGarry (1935-1935), John McGarry (1937-1937), and Baby Boy McGarry (1939-1939). When next I am in PA I plan to visit their graves at Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Dunmore.

What happened to his marriage to Ruth? Did they divorce? Did he just take off? Did Ann know he was married before?

I don't have any documentation to answer those questions but I suspect the loss of all those children was too much of a strain on Frank and Ruth to sustain their marriage. I bet they did divorce. If I had to guess I am sure my Aunt Ann knew all about Frank's previous marriage and it's demise. She didn't share it with me though.

While looking at the actual marriage certificate for Frank and Ann, I see the names of their witnesses. The maid-of-honor was Gladys McGarry; Frank's sister who I have found plenty of records for. The best man was John Michael Fay. 

Who is John Michael Fay? 

Ann only has sisters. Two of which lived to adulthood. Her older sister Margaret died as a child. Her other two sisters, Viola and my grandmother Marilyn were younger than Ann. 

Who is John Michael Fay?

...The saga continues...



Tuesday, January 16, 2018

This Removed Business

A client recently asked me to explain what "removed" means when speaking about family relationships. The best explanation I ever received was to replace "removed" with "a generation away." 

I think the charts provided by AncestryDNA when you have a match with someone who also has a common ancestor listed in their tree are a great way to see this "removed" business at work.

If you look at your DNA matches and you see a little leaf it means you and that match have someone in common listed in your tree resulting in a "shared ancestor hint."

Here is an example of someone and I having my forth great grandparents in common; Leonard L. Losee and Lydia Ann Smith-Losee.


Moving down the tree:

  • John M. Losee Sr. and Sarah Elizabeth Losee-Combs were siblings.
  • John M. Losee Jr. and Stella Combs were first cousins.
  • Ethel Mae Losee-Earle and the first male listed as Private on the right would have been second cousins.
  • My Grandpa Earle (the first male listed as Private on the left) would have been third cousins with the male directly across from him on the right.
  • My father and the male directly across from him would be 4th cousins.
  • If there were anyone across from my that person would be my 5th cousin.


This chart indicates my relationship to each person presented. See that (1x removed). That man is my father's 4th cousin; he is my 4th cousin once removed because I am one generation away from him. The man who was my grandfather's third cousin would be my third cousin too just twice removed or the two generations i am distant from him; my father being one generation away, my grandpa two generations away. 

So NO my father's cousin is not my second cousin. My father's first cousin is my first cousin...once removed.

My father's first cousins' children are my second cousins. Their kids are my second cousins once removed.

Got it?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

You Are Not Them

How many jackasses do you know? 

No, I am serious. 

I encounter nearly and endless stream of them on my way to work every day. Jackasses who cut me off on the highway; unfriendly baristas who serve me up cups of annoyance; rude, inconsiderate, just generally nasty, disgruntled human beings who I could just do without. 

I can also rattle off at least half a dozen people who hate my stinkin' guts for whatever ill-conceived notion they have of me.

And thus I am always stunned by people who have this sort of admiration for they ancestors who they known nothing about except perhaps dates of birth and death. They ought to do some math. 

You have 2 parents, right? 

Four grandparents...
Eight great grandparents...
Sixteen great-greats, and so on. 

By the time you get up to your 10th great grandparents there are 4,096 of them. Add all those generations up and by your 10th great grandparents there are 8,190 people directly responsible for your existence. 

Ya think one of them might have done something awful?

Recently I had a client who I lead back to a rather famous 10th great grandparent. While reading though that individual's biography the client exclaimed, "Ugh, we were involved in wars with the natives?! Ugh. I don't like that."

I quickly stated that NO, you weren't fighting native peoples, this guy was. Some of your ancestors were not good people because, well, they were people. They made bad decisions some of which hurt others. They did this because they were, um, human.

I believe it is very important for people to learn their history for this very reason. You are not them but yet, you kind of need to own their history to some degree; in the sense that you should learn from their errors.

I'll tell you, nothing was so disturbing to me as discovering slave owners in my own direct ancestry. At 16 I saw a will of my 7th great grandfather which contained the names of two people in there among the linens and furniture. I was deeply upset and disgusted really. No one really thinks of slavery here on Long Island certainly not in the household of a prominent religious figure of the time. There was something very humbling and almost humiliating about the experience. 

But ya know what? 
I don't own slaves but I do own that history. I make it my business to treat people of all races with respect and I do all I can to make others aware of the history of their ancestors and community. 

So for those of you who can trace their ancestry back 300 or 400 years or more and enjoy boasting about your forefather (and mothers), you might want to take a breath and examine those ancestors lives. Ask yourself why you are so eager to own those individuals who chartered their way to this continent but not the bank robbers, bigamists, and generally bad people you might find...because guess what, you aren't any of them. And yet, you are all of them. The sins of the father are not the sins of the son. Those sins are the lessons you get to learn without any of the guilt and none of the glory.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Substitute Soldier

When the U.S. Civil War began in April of 1861 able bodied men came out in droves to volunteer for both the Union and Confederate forces. By late 1862 though the patriotic fervor which fueled the volunteerism began to grind to a halt as the battles began to claim more and more lives and the end seemed nowhere in sight. 

Drafts were instituted by both the North and South. Shortly there after the hiring of substitutes to serve in one's stead became a common and acceptable practice; first in the South and then in the North. 

The Enrollment Act, which you can read all about on Wikipedia and through their referenced resources, was enacted on March 3, 1863 and it allowed for 2 methods of avoiding service once drafted; commutation or substitution. 

Commutation was a $300 fee a draftee could pay to the government to get out of service for that draft. Those fees helped to fund the war effort but it didn't raise troops. However, if another draft was run that man could be called up again despite payment of the fee in the first round draft. Hiring a substitute to go in your place could was not necessarily cheaper than paying the commutation but by finding a substitute one was exempted from service throughout the duration of the war. Hiring a substitute gave the government a soldier and the soldier a cash incentive. Basically, men chosen for service via the draft lotteries could pay their way out of serving. If you had money you could get out of duty. That reality lead to the Civil War being called a rich man's war and a poor man's fight. 

Don't kid yourself into believing that your Civil War soldier was strictly out there sacrificing himself for cause. Often there was the incentive of money to serve. 

 Why do I know about this aspect of the war? Well this history lesson was sponsored in part by E.D. Childs of Catskill, New York who paid my 3rd great-grandfather, Lawrence Fay of Saugerties, New York to serve in his place. 

This here is a snippet taken from the New York, Town Clerks' Registers of Men Who Served in the Civil War, 1861-1865 for the County of Greene, New York.


I know this is my Lawrence Fay not only because of his hometown of Saugerties and place of birth as Ireland but also because of his occupation as a blacksmith. You can see under his name the name E. D. Childs Catskills. That would be the man for whom Lawrence served as a substitute.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Uncle Frank's First Family???

My mother's side of the family is not very close knit. I think that is due in part to the fact that my grandmother passed away very young. I have observed that it is typically the mother that holds extended family relationships together. I did, however, know my grandmother's sister, Ann.

When I was in my teens I would spend my summers in Florida; one month with my with my father's sister's family and one month with my maternal grandfather. Grandpa always made sure that I got to spend a day with his sister-in-law, my Aunt Ann.

I didn't get the sense that Grandpa and Ann were close. They simply lived near each other in Florida. He never stayed for the visits I had with Aunt Ann. He would just drop me off there at her condo for the day.

This was in the late 1980s, early 1990s. Thus it was after Ann's husband, Frank had passed away. I do however, vaguely remember my great uncle, Francis Thomas McGarry. My spotty memory clearly recalls his spotty memory. Uncle Frank suffered from Alzheimer's disease at the end of his life. I recall Ann and Frank coming for a visit to NY and stopping by our house with my great grandmother in tow. I was little. It was around the time of my parents' divorce; maybe 1982 or so. I recall Frank as tall and lanky and that Aunt Ann repeatedly told him that they were at Carol's house.

My mother, the aforementioned Carol, repeatedly told me that she loved her Uncle Frank dearly. Ann and Frank were childless and doted on their nieces and nephews as far as I could tell. I knew from my mother's stories that Frank was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania and was significantly older than Ann; 15 years older. Apparently Ann's parents were not happy about the age difference. However, Frank was warm, loving, and very generous so ultimately I suppose they accepted him. So when a hint popped up for Uncle Frank on my Ancestry tree today I explored it.

If this hint is correct Uncle Frank may have been married before. And if that is the case, he and his first wife appear to have had several children all of whom died very young; all boys Donald age 4 months died in 1933, Francis age 1 day died in 1935, John age 3 days died in 1937, and Baby Boy McGarry was just a few hours old when he died in 1939.

Is this my Uncle Frank's first family? If I had any relationship with my mother I would ask her if she knew if Frank was married before Aunt Ann. Would my mother even know? Did Ann know? I can't figure out what happened to the first wife, if this indeed is a first wife.

I see a Frank McGarry and wife Ruth in the Scranton City Directory for 1937 living at 407 Madison Avenue in Scranton. And then I see Ruth in the Scranton City Directory for 1940 living at 641 Madison Avenue, no mention of Frank. Hmm...

Then I came across the marriage license number for Ann and Frank in Manhattan in 1943. Today I am going to order that document from the New York City Municipal Archives to see if there is any indication as to Frank being married once before. To some extent it is cheaper to go into the Archives to get the record but its 11 degrees out this morning and the cost of the train ticket...eh, I'll just order it.

Stay tuned...

Monday, January 1, 2018

Because That Is What We Do

I was recently ask how far can I trace my family tree back. The answer is to the birth of my 13th great grandfather Robert Reynere in about 1525 in Wickham Market, England.

What does that really me to me?

Well, it says I descend from some white people who lit out from their homeland for a new start in a new world because of religious persecution; because they believed in something else. It means that my 10th great grandfather, Edward Raynor, obtained some notoriety on this continent such that someone thought it important to write down the name of his great grandfather. Really, it's interesting but what does it mean to me?

Shrug.

Edward Raynor was orphaned when he was about 8 years old. His parents Samuel and Mary died in about 1632. His paternal uncle, Thurston Raynor, brought Edward with him to the New World when he migrated across the ocean with his own family in 1634.

Edward was an orphan. His paternal uncle took him in. For a long time it was assumed by later generations of historians that Thurston was Edward's father until some wills were uncovered.

His uncle took him in.

Now that has meaning to me there. That act of caring for family members is something I see as a common thread through my family history.

My parents divorced when I was about 10. My mother's niece ran away from home in her late teens. When she came to New York, my father, her former uncle by marriage, took her in. He was under no obligation to do this but this is what we do. Her uncle took her in.

I have heard stories about when my father was younger how his parents took in cousins for short, and sometimes long, stints of time while they could get on their feet.

In fact, after my parents divorced, my father went back home to his parents' house because...he could. That is what they do. You can just come home.

I struggled to find my Earle great grandparents in the 1930 census. In correctly transcribed as Carle, I eventually found them and when I did, great grandpa had his brother-in-law living with them because, well, again, that is what we do. Whether it's your brother or her brother or a niece of nephew of some ilk, you take them in.

When great grandpa Earle left New Foundland after the death of his mother, he and his older sister went to Boston. It took me a long time to find them then but when I found his eldest sister Susan I was not surprised to see she was living with her maternal aunt because... that is what we do. Her uncle (by marriage) took her in.

I have at least a dozen more example but when asked what it means to me to be able to trace my family history back to a birth in 1525 it means I can point to nearly 400 years of real family. Real family being relatives, sometimes distant, who take in those struggling members of the gene pool to give them support to get up on their own two feet. They do this not because they have to but simply because that is what we do.