Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New York State Marriage Records

I follow the New York Public Library's Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy on Facebook.

This past week, on Monday, February 25, 2013, they posted a link to Family Search's database of New York State Marriages from 1908 to 1935. Note that this Family Search collection does not include the New York City marriage records. Those are indexed online and available through the New York City Municipal Archives which I have blogged about in the past.

NYC marriages are indexed online at:
Grooms: ; or

Brides:; or

No, this database from Family Search includes the rest of New York State's marriage records but only for that specific time frame; 1908 - 1935;

Looking at my family tree, that is the time period in which my great grandparents were married. I have 4 sets of great-grandparents - as do you and everyone, unless of course your parents are first cousins which doesn't really happen too much in today's day and age but I digress. I have 4 sets of great-grandparents.

My mother's maternal grandparents, my great-grandparents, James Aloysius Fay (1893-1964) married Mary Prince (1893-1983) in 1919 in the City of New York; so they aren't in this database. I have their marriage certificate already, anyway.

My mother's paternal grandparents, Almond Desjardins (a.k.a. Albert Gardner) (1891-1946) married Mary Elizabeth "Mayme" Sharp (1891 – 1961) in 1922; but again, they also married in the City of New York. Therefore, they too are not going to be in this database. No worries, though, I already have their marriage certificate too. [Hee, hee, hee. Stay with me here. I am trying to make a point.]

My father's maternal grandparents, Charles Aloysius Henry (1896-1949) married Anna Marie Sauer (1899-1986) in 1921. Where? In the City of New York! Do I have their marriage certificate already?? YES!

My father's paternal grandparents, Abram Thomas Earle (1891-1973) married Ethel Mae Losee (1896 - 1960) in 1915. Where? Um. Not in New York City. They married in Freeport. And although I knew their date of marriage from the church register at the Methodist Church in Freeport, Long Island, New York. I do not own a copy of their marriage certificate. That is until now.

A marriage certificate provides information in addition to the date of marriage and names of the couple. It often includes the couple's birth dates; although, now always, sometimes it is just states their ages. It may also list the couple's parents and witnesses.

The witnesses may or may not be relatives to the bride and groom. Regardless, giving these individuals a little bit of research can add some color and character to the lives of your family. These relationships were important; sometimes more important than one's one siblings and parents. Witnesses are worth investigating. They could be distant cousins, neighbors, schoolmates, etc. Check them out.

But why is it that I took the trouble to name all those great-grandparents of mine that would not have their marriages found in this database? Because if their marriage fell into the appropriate time period, then maybe their siblings marriage would be in that same time period of 1908 - 1935. And maybe, just maybe, their siblings didn't marry in the City of New York but rather somewhere else in the state. It was worth a shot. And one of the great things about this database is that if the certificate names the bride's or groom's parents, they are indexed too.

Poke around. Take a tangent. Don't ignore cousins. You might find something really interesting, if not really helpful to your research and the lives of your family.

Friday, February 22, 2013

1880: Captain Leander Losee Ousted from Life-Saving Station No. 31.

This morning as I left for work I groused about being the only one in my household that has a stinkin' job. I say it in jest mostly. My father is recently retired after having worked hard for the past 40 years for the local power authority. It hasn't been quite a month yet that he has been home. My step-mother and step-brother, though, are also unemployed for personal health reasons. So of the four of us, I'm the only one who goes to a job.

I am a cataloger at a local University library. Well, there are some days when my 1 hour+ commute does not seem local at all but in modern day terms it is a local University; but I digress. Yesterday the catalog was down and so I was extremely bored. I spent a majority of the day surfing the web and generally goofing off; a behavior which I will deny encouraging. The experience got me thinking about the learned behavior of having a work ethic and it made me think of Leander and the trouble idleness can cause

Leander Losee was the brother of my 4th great-uncle; the brother of my 3rd great-grandfather, John M. Losee Sr. There was a third brother who gets a lot of press in my blog; Benjamin Franklin Losee, me beloved Civil War Soldier. Leander too, though, served in the Civil War; in the U.S. Navy.

The sea plays a great role in my family's history. The thought of being on the ocean or in it makes me queasy. But I do live on an island and I come from a great line of Long Island baymen, seafaring Newfoundlanders, early-American settlers who arrived by ship, ancestors who died at sea, and grandpas who were WWII Navy men. I feel nausea just thinking about it.

It is Leander who brings together the noble occupation of captaining a life-saving boat station and the less than respectable work ethic of slacking off. 

A search of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle online many years ago revealed an article entitled "Life Saving: Punishing Abuses in the Service on the South Coast of Long Island: Station 31 Investigated"  from February 3, 1880.

Life-saving Stations dotted the coast of Long Island at this period in time. It was quite an honor to be named the captain of a Life-saving Station then; and it was an honor bestowed upon the Civil War Naval veteran, Leander Losee who was a resident of the well known port village of Freeport. Baymen were plentiful in the community and Losees, Raynors, and Smiths, of whom Leander and I are descended, were instrumental in the rescue and recovery of many a noteworthy shipwreck near Freeport Inlet including the sinking of the ships the Bristol and the Mexico which occurred on January 2, 1837. 

The article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reveals that Oliver J. Smith, one of the crew members of which I am pretty certain was a cousin of Leander's, accused Leander of permitting gambling on the job as well as drinking and a general neglect of duties. Another man, William Raynor testified as well as to having participated in gambling activities at the Station as did Leander's own brother-in-law; Alexander Padgett. Leander plead not guilty but when questioned under oath he admitted that there was gambling and the consumption of alcohol at the Station; but he denied that the crew was ever "too drunk for duty." 

"Too drunk for duty." I am rolling my eyes and shaking my head.

Poor ole Leander was ultimately removed from the keepership of the Life-saving Station Number 31 in Freeport.  The article states it was likely that the new Captain would weed out the old crew with the hope of strengthening the service. Due to this incident, other Long Island Life-saving Stations would also undergo investigations.

The articles never revealed if any lives were ever lost due to the dereliction of duties which would have been an absolute shame and horror. I am certain that much like volunteer firefighters today, the crews of these Life-saving Stations were comprised of good-hearted men with the best of intentions to save, to rescue, those in danger. In a position, though, that is much like manning a reference desk, a lot of time is spent sitting around waiting for something to happen; waiting to be needed. And what is that saying? Idle hands are the Devil's play things. Vices take hold when waiting is your workshop.

I like to imagine, though, that Leander Losee was just that, a good-hearted, well-intentioned man who suffered from too much time on his hands and a weakness for "the drink." Through his Civil War pension records I know that alcoholism played a role in the decline of his health. 

He may have brought a shame upon his family back in 1880 but I find no shame in his admittedly human-nature now. He tried, he failed, he struggled, he suffered from himself, he soldiered on, and ultimately, like all of us will, he passed from this life. He left a legacy of service really. My relatives are helpers, ready always to lend a hand to those in need. I see volunteering and good-heartedness in the blood of my family as well as my own. And maybe there too is still a drop of the drink.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Get Out of Town you Smiths and Raynors

I recently was searching for articles about my Raynor relatives using the website, Old Fulton NY Post Cards. The site is the largest online data base of old newspapers centering on New York State. If you have ancestors who ever lived in New York, it is a site worth checking out.

I came across this small blurb about the residents of Freeport published in the morning edition of the December 12, 1880 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Predominent Names
The names Smith and Raynor predominate in the village of Freeport. Of the 198 members of the Methodist church, 55 are Smiths and 53 are Raynors. In the Sunday School there are 43 Smiths and 37 Raynors. More than two-thirds of the firemen bear those names. In the public school there are 26 Raynors and 22 Smiths. In the Presbyterian church, with a membership of 175, there are 25 Smiths and 16 Raynors. In the Presbyterian Sunday School there are 32 Smiths and 16 Raynors in a membership of 174. In fact the possessors of these two names are equal to a little more than half of the whole population.
Can you say inbred? No seriously I hear a Jeff Foxworthy-like You-might-be-a-Freeporter joke brewing in my head. It is no wonder to me that Freeport was once called Raynortown and that the nearby town of Bellmore was once referred to as Smithville. 

This actually makes researching in this community very difficult. It is a challenge to distinguish my particular Jacob Raynor from the multiple contemporaries he had of the same name. Were all the Jacob Raynors cousins? I am sure they were of some degree but sorting out this Jacob from that Jacob and tracking who their poppas were can be  - -  well, it has been frustrating to say the least.

Some people have commented to me that it must be so much easier for me to do my research since I live so close to where my family has lived for the last near 400 years. Um, not really. And yes, I also know that it can be tricky to track your family when they moved around a lot but seriously, Smiths and Raynors, you people needed to go see America! It's a beautiful country.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Nachas: And More on the Joy of Cousins...

Nachas is a Yiddish word which means an extreme joy or blessing; a pride in one's accomplishments especially in ones children and grandchildren.

Yesterday I attended the funeral service of a dear friend's father. He was a Holocaust survivor. At a very young age he had lost his entire immediate family; both parents and four siblings. When the Rabbi spoke about his man's life he stressed how important family was to him; his wife, 4 children, 3 son-in-laws, a daughter-in-law, and 7 grandchildren...and cousins, be it first, second, or third cousins. The Rabbi spoke about how significant a role cousins play when your entire immediate family is lost in such a traumatic and devastating way.

Perhaps the importance of family, and specifically extended family, is lost on some. It is not, however, lost on me. I prattle on, excessively I am sure, about the magnificence of cousins. I love my cousins. All of them. There are the ones I grew-up with, the ones I watched grow up, and the ones I reached through research. 

Cousins aren't like siblings who rivaling for our parents' attention. They aren't like aunts and uncles who are typically older than us and can exert some authority. Cousins aren't like friends that come and go throughout our lives. Cousins are constants. Even if they have long stretches of absences, you know they are out there somewhere. They have a shared understanding about your family and provide an almost immediate acceptance. They are also the greatest genealogical resource you can ever find. Fellow genealogist cousins will provide you with insight into your common ancestor as well as help you unpuzzle how generations drifted apart.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of spending a day with my 3rd cousin's wife. I have not met my 3rd cousin, Chris, in person; I found him through genealogy research. His wife asked both him and I how we are related. He didn't know; but I know. His great grandmother was the sister of my great grandfather. And those siblings had to have been close because when my great grandfather died, my great grandmother went to live with Chris's great grandparents. In fact, my great grandmother is buried with then and not with my great grandfather. At one time there was a closeness.

At the end of the funeral service I hastened over to see my friends' kids; specifically their middle child who I am very close to. She was in tears; devastated by the loss of her grandfather. Initially I held her close. That was until her cousin approached. After a brief group hug, I stood and watch the two young girls hold each other and sob. Extended family really is the greatest gift you'll ever get and to that you can thank your grandparents; they gave you the potential for cousins - - and if they did not your great-grandparents, or great-great-grandparents did. Trust me, you have some degree of cousins out there somewhere.

When next you venture out into your family tree research, take a tangent. Research that 4th great uncle's kids, or that great-grandfather's niece. You'll never know the relationship you'll uncover.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Top 5 Favorite Dead People

It may seem strange to say this but I really have bonded with some of my dead people. I never knew them and yet I feel them close to me; not in a spooky, I-see-dead-people kind of way but close to me. While researching some of their lives, they have lead me to some amazing discoveries; while others have plagued me with a lack of documentation.

Today I share with you my top 5 fav dead people, in no particular order. Most of them I have written about before in this blog. I will link to more detailed stories about them when possible. In this post, though, I will, to the best of my ability, explain how they came to be my favorite:

5. Jacob Raynor (born ??? - died 1829. Long Island, NY)
I grouse about this guy extensively. He is not just my genealogical nemesis, he is also my 6th great-grandfather; the stonewall of my Raynor line. My inability to find anything definitive about his parentage drives me nuts. I am constantly trying to chip away at this Teflon-Don to no avail. BUT, he is how I met so many of my researching cousins include the often mentioned, Cousin Mary whom I just adore. I talk shit about Jacob but secretly, shhhhhh, I love him.
4. Damase Desjardins (born October 1850, Montreal, Quebec, Canada - died October 9, 1911, Patchoque, Long Island, NY)
Oh Damase, you excessive procreater you! Damase is my great-great grandfather on my mother's paternal line. He fathered 11 children; 1 with his first wife Victorine Desjardins-Desjardins and 10 with his second wife, Malvina Ethier-Desjardins.

I love Malvina too. She lived through such trying circumstances; losing her husband, a child, and a grandchild all in the same year. It was her naturalization papers which startled me by providing me a photograph of her; my grandpa looked so much like her.

But it was researching Damase's life that first required me to learn a little French, encouraged me to visit Montreal and the outlying town of Mascouche, Quebec, and helped me to understand the persistent experience of estrangement that remains within this family line. Damase also had a great obituary that explained the family name change from Desjardins to Gardner.
3. Isabelle Nancy McLean-Williams-Evans (born 1871 - died May 24, 1922, Lowell, Massachusetts)
Aunt Belle. It was a medium who told me I'd research this woman which is probably the strangest of all my genealogy research stories.Aunt Belle was my great-great grandmother's younger sister. She moved from Canada to Lowell, Massachusetts prior to WWI. When her niece, my great grandmother Mary Elizabeth "Mayme" Sharp-Gardner, moved to the U.S. with her brother Daniel Sharp, it was Aunt Belle whom they went to live with.
As I tell many a researching-cousin, some relatives want to be found and other do not. Unlike Jacob Raynor above I believe Aunt Belle just wanted to be found and so I celebrate her.
2. Ambrose Weeks (born June, 1819 - died May 3, 1900, Hempstead, Long Island, NY)
I just recently wrote about Ambrose. First off I just love his name, Ambrose. He was the brother-in-law of my 4th great-grandmother, Lydia Smith-Losee. He was married to Lydia's sister, Elizabeth Smith-Weeks. Lydia and Elizabeth were daughters of Jacob Raynor mentioned above. Ambrose is a distant relationship to me but still one of great interest. He is a sad, tragic figure who breaks my heart every time I read about him in the various newspaper articles I have found about his life. 
1. Benjamin Franklin Losee (about 1844, Freeport, Long Island, NY - died Fall or Winter, 1865, Point of Rocks, VA)
My beloved Civil War soldier, Ben. Oh how I cherish this man. His story is one so steeped in American history; just a poor, young boy who went off to fight for his country but really to financially support his family. He died in the hospital tents of typhus at much too young an age.

He was one of the very first names I stumbled across and his existence is what really pushed me into research my family history. I have used his story and pension file to speak to classrooms of children about the Civil War, family history, and primary resources. At times I have felt his spirit soldiering me on (pardon the pun) to continue my research. And for this, the greatest genealogical kindness I have ever given to my ancestors was to Ben; I had his military issued tombstone replaced with one bearing a correct spelling of his last name.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Stumbling Upon Some Smiths: MY Smiths

Last year for my birthday my friend Toni and I went out to the East End of Long Island just to drive around really. I do love a drive. While on the road we happened through the town of Center Moriches. I said, "Hey, I have some relatives supposedly buried out here. I think the cemetery is called Mount Pleasant." And sure enough as we turned the corner there was the cemetery; serendipity if ever it existed. 

Now Mount Pleasant Cemetery is not a large cemetery really but in terms of small town cemeteries it is pretty big. I had no information with me. All I could recall was that this was where Smith cousins were buried during the mid- to late1800s. 

Smiths...don't get me started on Smiths. Researching Smiths is some sort of genealogical ring of hell. If you have Smiths in your tree (and who doesn't), God bless you!

Toni and I drove around the oldest section we could find looking for Smith headstones, knowing full well that my ancestors rarely had headstones. When just as we turned the corner, there they were.

Elijah Allen Smith actually appears on  many wills and inventories of estate for my Raynor ancestors in Hempstead from the 1820s through the 1850s. He married the sister of my 4th great grandfather, Leonard Losee.

Susan is Leonard Losee's older sister and, as her headstone indicates, the wife of Elijah Allen Smith. I know of her relationship to Leonard through an entry in a family bible listing her birth as well as those of all her siblings; the children of Cornelius and Jane Losee.
Samuel R. Losee born 12 October 1800
Mary Ann Losee born 5 August 1803
Sarah Losee born 16 January 1806
Pheobe Losee born 15 April 1809
Cornelius Losee born 15 July 1813
Susan Losee born 22 February 1815
Leonard L. Losee born 21 January 1817

And there is Jane's headstone. My 5th great grandmother; Jane wife of Cornelius Losee, no maiden name known. From the dates indicated on her headstone she was born in about 1774 and died on April 14, 1856. I know little of her husband, Cornelius, except for his date of death which was also written in the family bible; May 1, 1818, a little more than a year after their youngest child, Leonard (my 4th great-grandfather), was born.

To roam around a cemetery you have never been to before and make a find quite like this is rare. I knew I had family buried there but again, I had no information with me and knowledge that my ancestors rarely had headstones. I am grateful that I had my camera with me.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Translating and Transcribing Foreign Language Records

My mother's paternal line has early roots in the city of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. has a wonderful resource for Canadian research called the Drouin Collection which contains over 25 million, yes MILLION, records from Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Quebec. This collection has been a blessing to my research. The downside of this brilliant collection, though, is that a majority of the records are handwritten. And of course a majority of the records from Quebec are in French.

I don't speak French. I understand a few words but only enough to nod my head to and smile; who knows what I'm agreeing to really. I wouldn't be surprised that if on my last trip to Montreal I agreed to marry a few handsome Canadians.

When it comes to reading these Drouin records from French-Canadian churches it's quite a headache for me to read them. Not knowing the language is bad enough but that is a huddle that modern technology has helped me overcome; there are many free, online-based translators available such as Google Translate. When you can't make out the words due to lousy penmanship, though, it adds another layer of struggle to the research. And let's not get into the indexing. If someone who can read the language can't read the name to properly index the records who thinks there is any hope for someone who doesn't know the language.

I come from a big gene-pool of blue-collared networkers. Aww, yay! We were networking before networking was hip. I think it stems in-part from the fact that we are not wealthy people. See we don't pay anyone to do anything around our homes. If we don't know how to do the job ourselves then we find a cousin who knows how to fix that. And once we have tapped out the family resources, we look to friends and friends of family. You need your roof patched, call Cousin So-and-so. You need a faucet fixed, call Cousin What-his-names friend. Oh, Cousin Whosey-whats-it, you say you need an electrician, call my friend!

So when it comes to getting help translating these French-Canadian church records, I network. First I translate what I can. And once you translate a few you begin to recognize phrases that are used repeatedly in these types of records like "the undersigned priest of this parish" and "buried the body of." Once I translate what I can, I give the original and my spotty translation to a friend or fellow researching cousin.

It's worked out quite well. So my advice when researching in an area outside of your language....

...Network, people, network!

The translation of the image above provided by my friend, Rally:


Olivina Pagé
April 15, 1834, the undersigned priest baptized Olivina born on the same day to Pierre Pagé farmer and Desange Brunet of this parish. Godfather Augustin Gratens and godmother Angélique Desjardins who, just like the father, were illiterate.
Signed by Descharmen

Friday, February 8, 2013

Writing Church Correspondence

Yesterday I posted about being leery of the information given on a headstone. My advice is to always seek documentation. Use the headstone as a hint and seek out death certificates, obituaries, and church records.

Today I want to address church records and the deep gratitude I have to religious institutions that share their records in whatever format. 

Yesterday I mentioned that as soon as I learned that my 3rd great grandparents, Lawrence and Bridget Fay were interned in the cemetery at St. Mary of the Snow in Saugerties, New York, I contacted the church. I found their phone number online and placed a call to their church office. The phone call allowed me to confirm the church's mailing address, obtain the name of a contact person, inquire as to if they had records, how far back their records dated, and if their was a required fee or recommended donation associated with making a search request.

In my experience, churches are often happy to share the information they have and more often then not they have information.  Sometimes you get a church that is unresponsive, usually due to a lack of staffing or an absence of records. Some churches will tell you outright that records do not exist; often because of fires in the past.  

Typically there is a fee required. Sometimes the fees are exorbitant as has been my experience with Catholic cemeteries but churches usually only suggest or request a nominal fee; say $10.

If there is not a fee, I strongly recommend you make a donation when you request that the church staff search their registers. Often institutions charge a fee because searching requires time and energy from an often limited staff. Just because one institution is not charging a fee does not mean they aren't in need of a little financial support to help them maintain their resources and staff.It is also very likely that you will have to deal with the same institution in the future as you discover more information about relatives who may have also been members of the same congregation. Make friends.

Usually a church will require the request be made in writing. Constructing the request letter is the hardest part. You want to be as specific as possible about what you know already know and what you want to find out. However, you also want to know every hint the church records might hold for you and your research if the church is willing to share extra info. State that! a nice concise note.

If you have the name of a contact, use it formally or use "To Whom It May Concern:"
Dear Ms. Smith,
State your business in detail. Start by mentioning if you have had previous contact.

As per our conversation on Tuesday, May 7, 2013, I am writing to request a marriage record.
Include full names, exact dates or as best estimated dates.

I believe my great grandparents were married at St. Monica’s Church in June of 1918. Their names were James Aloysius Fay and Mary Prince.
Acknowledge any uncertainties that you may have regarding your information.

The exact day of their marriage was either June 2 or June 7 in 1918.
Because you are not looking at the registers yourself, kindly request a desire to know any additional information the researcher might find, and your willingness pay additional fees if necessary.
I believe my family was active members of your church from 1900 to about 1925. I would be very interested to know if you come across any other individuals with the last name Fay, Faye, Prinz, or Prince during the course of your research. I would be delighted to pay  additional fees for the extra information you find.
Sometimes the research will find something and let you know. 
Acknowledge any donation of fee you are including in the envelope.

 Enclosed you will find a check for $10 made payable to the Church of Saint Monica.
And close kindly.
 Thank you so much for your time and attention to my inquiry,
Within days of the request I made to The Church of St. Mary of the Snow in Saugerties, I received a two page letter back disclosing several family internments and baptisms. The secretary there, Sandra, shared with me information she found that she thought my be pertinent to my research. For example she wrote:
"There was a notation of the following: Elizabeth born July 10, 1852.
"Parents: Michael Fay and Fanny Butler.
"Sponsors: James Byrne and Bridget Fay.

"Perhaps this was a brother to Lawrence?"
This was not information I requested. It was not information she needed to share with me. I have, however, stumbled across other mentions of a Michael Fay in the area who I suspect may have been Lawrence's older brother. Here we see a Bridget Fay serving as a godmother to the daughter of a Michael Fay. Hmm. Sandra has put me on the case to learn more about the family of Michael Fay and Fanny Butler-Fay.

Thanks, Sandra!

Don't you hesitate to contact religious institutions for their assistance in your research. Regardless of your religious beliefs or affiliations such organizations hold records about your ancestors. Don't ignore these repositories, be grateful for what they are able to share.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

On Headstones and Being Skeptical of What is Written in Stone

The idiom, or figure of speech, "written in stone" means that the information one is providing is permanent and not subject to change like that of a headstone. That which is written, or more accurately, that which is chiseled into stone is not always accurate though. No, really, it's not.

I don't often have this problem with trusting headstone information because, well, most of my relatives don't have headstones. A good 90% of the time when I go looking for a relative's grave I get there to find there is no stone. I think that is because, in general, my family has been historically working-class poor. I often say that if I came into an absurd amount of money I would invest in giving these souls a marker of some sort. And when discussions of my own mortality and final wishes arise I can often be quoted as stating, "Just promise to get me a headstone, you cheap bastards." I call them bastards in jest of course.

Case in point, though, the Fay Family headstone located at St. Mary of the Snow's Cemetery in Saugerties, NY.

For several years I put a great deal of time trying to find the burial location of my great-great grandfather, Michael Fay. You can read about that search and discovery an earlier post; called Finding my Michael Fay. After I found Mikey, I set about to find out as much as I could about his parents; Bridget and Lawrence Fay.

By gleaning through census records and the New York City Death Index I learned that both Bridget and Lawrence Fay had died in the City of New York. It was not until I observed their death certificate though that I came to learn that they were both interned in a small Catholic cemetery in Saugerties, NY which is located approximately 2 hours north of Manhattan on the great Hudson River.

Saugerties? Yes, Saugerties. It's a lovely little city. Presently, I have cousins from a different line who lives there. It's quite nice. But all I really knew about Saugerties at the time of my discovery of the Fay Family plot was that Jimmy Fallon of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon grew up in Saugerties and that there is a huge Garlic Festival there every September. And really, if you ask me, that's quite a bit to know about you've never been before.

Once I had obtained this family plot information though, my first step was to contact the church to see what records they had on the Fay family. I received a lovely letter back from a woman at St. Mary of the Snow sharing the information she had found in the church registers.

Aside from the fact that Lawrence and Bridget Fay are interned in this plot, the information presented here is incomplete and worse, incorrect.

Lawrence Fay, whose date of birth is unknown to me, died on December 23, 1879. Bridget Fay, who again I do not have a date of birth for, died on March 3, 1892. Without a date of birth I can not attest to their ages at the time of their deaths. 

Additionally, this couple is buried with 3 of their children. The plot was opened initially for their son Carroll Fay who died at the age of 2 on April 30, 1886. The second to be interned in the plot was their daughter, Annie, who died at the age of 18 on July 27, 1887 due to consumption. The last to be buried in this plot was Joseph Fay, age 40 who died on May 19, 1906.

I do not know when the headstone was erected or who purchased it. I do know that they had the very best of intentions and wanted their loved ones to be remembered; for that I have much respect and deep appreciation.

How did these mistakes get made though, you ask. Well, maybe you didn't ask but I'm going to give you my hypothesis. 

I suspect that several years after Bridget died some relative, perhaps a child or grandchild, thought it only right the couple get a proper headstone.  He or she obviously didn't know the dates of birth and death for Lawrence and Bridget. Maybe they didn't know others were buried in the plot. And even he/she did know others were in the plot, headstones are expensive. The less you chose to have engraved on the stone, the more affordable it is. And so, I gather, that this unknown relative just wanted their family marked and used what ever "information" they thought they knew to have this stone made.

The moral of the story, don't take the information on a headstone as absolutely correct. Document, document, document.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Losee Place 1912: When Research and Possession Come Together

I love it when I find a document that relates directly to a family heirloom. The first time had this experience was looking at the Inventory of Estate for my 4th great grandfather, Leonard Losee. The first line of the list of his possessions was "bible." Now I did not own the bible but I had seen it. It belonged to a distant cousin who has since passed away. Sadly, I do not know who owns it now or if it is even still in existence but to see an object I had seen and touched listed on a document from 1886 made my heart flutter.

I had a similar experience while doing some newspaper research. Several years ago I found an article on page 5 of the Brooklyn Eagle from December 2, 1912 entitled "Find Mass of Honey in Freeport Relic." The article is about the property once owned by Leonard Losee. In 1912 the property was sold by Leonard's son, John Losee, Sr. to Mr. Albin N. Johnson, a prominent real estate developer in Freeport, New York.

The article is focused on a specific building on the Losee Place property; the old Methodist Church that Leonard Losee had moved to his property in 1860.

Funny enough is that I own the photos taken in October 1912 of the property. They were passed down to me from my paternal grandmother. She inherited them from her mother-in-law, Ethel Losee-Earle. The front of the photos are labeled "Property of G. Losee." G. Losee must be Georgianna Losee, the daughter of John M. Losee, Sr; Ethel's aunt. 

The scans are not very clear but here is a picture of John Losee, Sr. standing by the old Methodist Church in October 1912. 

I believe the author of the caption to be Amy Johnson, the wife of Albin Johnson. The caption on the reverse reads as follows: 

Picture taken October 1912, of houses on Losee Place, Freeport, prior to making any changes on said tract.
The smaller building was moved there about 1860 and before that time was used as a M. E. Church near the corner of Babylon Turnpike and Seaman Ave., being the oldest church in the vicinity. The old barn was made of timbers taken from the wreck of Nestor or Mexico about 1860.
John M. Losee, Sr. in foreground

To own a photo of the subject of a newspaper article like this solidifies for me the feeling that I am holding a piece of family history and in this case community history. I cherish the photos like no other possessions I own.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Follow-up: Olivine's Death Certificate

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit the New York City Municipal Archives at 31 Chambers St. in Manhattan. I went there after having received a death certificate number from a gentleman named Donald at the German Genealogy Group (GGG); a member of the organization that helped to index the New York City vital records. 

Donald had thorough access to the GGG's database allowing him to search by date for the death certificate of my 3rd great-grandmother, Olivine Ethier. I had a date of death for her from a plot record I purchased from Calvary Cemetery; the largest and oldest cemetery in New York City. I knew her date of burial to be December 14, 1906 but for the life of me could not find her in the New York City Death Index. I knew it had to be a spelling issue; I knew her last name must have been incorrectly spelled on the certificate or in the index. Donald sent me the following information:

Olevene Eltrier,  Age 70y,  Died 11-Dec-1906, Queens County, Certificate # 3434.

With this information I went to the New York City Municipal Archives. There I retrieved on my own the appropriate roll of microfilm from the cabinet and set myself up on a microfilm reader. 

I found certificate #3434 and sure enough the name was spelled wrong on the certificate; Olevene Eltrier. I am sure, however, that this is indeed the death certificate for my 3rd great-grandmother, Olivine Ethier, based on a few facts on the certificate.
  1. Place of Death: 92 Lanford St. L.I.City. I know this line of my family was living in the Long Island City and Astoria area of Queens County based on other documents I have collected including census records.
  2. Place of Birth: Canada. Yes, I know Olivine as well as her children were all born in Quebec Canada based on church records and, again, census records.
  3. Place and Date of Burial: Calvary Cemetery, December 14, 1906. This is exactly the same information I have on the plot record I obtained from Calvary Cemetery. This woman is buried in the same plot as my great grandfather, Albert Gardner. This is his maternal grandmother!
Additionally, this document confirmed for me that Olivine's maiden name was Page. This is confirmed by the information provided on the form in the section "Father's name." The data supplied there is the name Palo Page. Based on a baptismal record I found for who I believe to be my Olivine, I think her father's name was Pierre Page and that her mother was Disange Brunet. This death certificate, though, does not confirm those details, in fact, it does not even state Olivine's mother's name. A death certificate is not a primary resource for those details. The document is a primary resources for the date and cause of death. I learned that Olivine died of bronchial pneumonia and pulmonary edema on December 11, 1906 at 7:30 p.m. The names of her parents, though, is information reported second-hand by an informant who may or may not have ever known such facts. 

Thus, my research on Olivine will continue. Each newly found document is like a drug; just a small fix to push me on to search for more records.