Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Finding my Michael Fay

Anyone who invests themselves in genealogy research comes to learn that there are those ancestors who want to be known and those who just want to be left alone. As a researcher though, one can be a bit thick when it comes to accepting that last truth. For years and years I tried to find my Michael Fay, my great-great grandfather. It was such a long arduous process that I know I can not accurately detail for you all the steps I took to finally find his resting place; but I did, I found it.

I do recall trusting my hunch that he would be found interned in Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens. This hunch was based on the fact that I had found his wife and three of his children interned there; not all in the same plot mind you but in Calvary Cemetery.

This burial location hunch also came with the strong suspicion that Michael died in the great City of New York. Using the German Genealogy Group's New York City Death Index, searching for Michael Fay with no known date of birth (just an approximation taken from census records) and no known date of death resulted in far more many Michael Fays that I wanted to believe existed; 44 to be exact. Michael Fay is not quite the genealogical purgatory of say searching for a John Smith but still it was rough.

After applying what processes of elimination that I could, I narrowed the list of results. I knew he was listed in the 1910 census and that by the 1930 census his wife, Agnes Joyce-Fay, was living with her daughter, listed as a widow. I couldn't find either of them in the 1920 census. That alone reduced the results from the New York City Death Index list down to 10. Then by estimating those Michael Fay's birth years I limited the list further to 6 possibilities.

If you know a name and date of death for an individual interned in Calvary they are happy to provide a plot location over the phone; however, if you don't have a date of death then they charge a great deal to do the research for you. I don't recall the exact fee but it was enough for me to arrive at a different course of action.

Every week I would call Calvary and ask for a plot location for one of the 6 possible Michael Fays. Some weeks they would say, "Sorry, no Michael Fay buried here in that month." To which i would reply thank you and simply cross that man off my list of possibilities. Some weeks I would call and they would give me a plot location; that happened for 3 of those possibilities. On my 6th call, the woman who answered my call with a reply I recognized as a family plot. 

"Yes, Michael Fay who died on January 13, 1915 is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Cemetery #3, Section #17, Range #22, Plot EE, Grave #12."

That was the plot location I had for his two children, Leo Joseph Fay and Anna Fay who both died in 1918 with in days of each other.

The woman on the phone informed me that there were 4 internments in the plot. And so still there is the lingering question as to who the 4th interment is but at least I know great-great grandpa is there...without a headstone but there..........in the unmarked grave directly in front of this headstone erected for my 3rd great grandparents, John and Mary Ann Joyce; Michael Fay's in-laws.

Again, some ancestors would rather be left alone and others, others are begging to be found.

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