Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Recycling Names

If you're seasoned at this genealogy game, or if you've watched the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you probably know that various cultures have traditional naming patterns. In that movie all the children are Anita, Diane, and Niko.

The cultural patters are often the first son is named after the father's father and the first daughter after the mother's mother, or perhaps that first daughter is named after the father's mother; depends on the culture, depends on the parents, depends on that name sometimes.

It was news to me though that if a child died sometimes the name would be re-used for another child. No really, it happened a lot; especially among my Irish branches of my family tree. Personally I find it a little creepy but it happened.

Take for example my great-great grandfather, Michael Fay, and his siblings. Michael was the eldest child of Lawrence and Bridget Fay children. Michael had a brother named Lawrence as well. As not to confuse him with his father we will call the brother Lawrence Jr. although I am not sure he ever used Jr.

The first time a Lawrence Fay Jr. appears on the U.S. census is in 1860 at the age of 2 as the youngest child of Lawrence and Bridget Fay four children at the time. In the 1870 census Lawrence appears again but this time he's only a few months old. Hmm.

Did the census taker just record the information wrong?
No, I don't think so.
I do believe that the first Lawrence Fay, Jr. died as a child. 

These are the 8 children of Lawrence and Bridget Fay that I know of:
  1. Michael Fay born 1850
  2. James Fay born about 1855
  3. John Fay born about 1856
  4. Lawrence Fay born about 1858
  5. Martha Fay born about 1860
  6. Joseph Fay born about 1862
  7. Ann Fay born about 1868
  8. Lawrence Fay born about 1869
Those dates of birth were gleaned from various census records (1860, 1870, and 1880); thus, the "about" because the census does not record a date of birth just an age.  

I suspect the first Lawrence Fay Jr. died after the birth of his brother Joseph otherwise I think they would have re-used the name Lawrence then.

No Lawrence Jr. appears with his family in the 1880 census, though. His absence from the 1880 census lead me to believe that the second Lawrence Jr. had perhaps also died young .


In the 1920 census I found a Lawrence Fay born in about 1869 in NY, married to a woman named Dora living in Jackson, Missouri.

Is this Lawrence Fay, Jr. #8?
Could be.
So I contacted a person who linked to the same census record and remarkably, she was able to send me a photo of the man.

This here is Lawrence Fay, Jr., likely my great-great grandfather's youngest brother, standing on the far left with the handsome mustache.

Taken in Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania around 1913.

My quest now is to obtain this man's death certificate or obituary to see if it names his parents. And I hope that perhaps I can locate some information about the death of the first Lawrence, Jr.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Defining an Accomplished Life

I recently read an interesting quote from New York Times columnist, Alina Tugend. The quote was, "We have such limited views of what we consider an accomplished life that we devalue many qualities that are critically of the most important conversations we can have with our children is what we mean by success." 

The ellipsis, the "...", made me curious. That symbol means something was left out. Therefore, I took the time to find the article from which that quote was taken in order to read what was edited out. The quote came from an article Tugend wrote on June 29, 2012 called "Redefining Success and Celebrating the Ordinary" (

The article confronts the reality that just because children are told by their parents that they are amazing and exceptional it does not mean that they are; and in all likelihood, the world will not see them as such. Tugend quotes author and educator, Brené Brown, from Brown's book, "The Gifts of Imperfection." "In this world, an ordinary life has become synonymous with a meaningless life." Making a lot of money, having a fancy job title, making babies, being a star of some realm are all very narrow definitions of success. Brown questions, "What about being compassionate or living a life of integrity?" I ask, What about overcoming struggles?

What does this have to do with genealogy and digging up the "dirt" on my ancestors? Well..................

Genealogy is a way to show youth that the ordinary struggles of ordinary people are worthy of reverence.

The article goes on to discuss another article written in the Toronto Star about a woman, Shelagh Gordon, who had died of a brain aneurysm at the age of 55. The article was titled, "Shelagh was here — an ordinary, magical life." The Toronto Star then ran over 100 interviews with people who had been touched by the life of  Ms.Gordon. Obituaries, as the article points out, read a lot like resumes; list of the concrete actions one took in life. Ms. Gordon, however, did not live an extraordinary life; she was remembered by others for her kindness.

I don't have famous people in my family tree. Maybe a few of them in their days were noteworthy in their own communities; maybe a few had medals pinned upon their chests for valor, bravery, and honor; maybe their names made it into the newspaper for something admirable, although more often then not I find them on the police blotters. For the most part, though, my ancestors lead quiet, ordinary lives. 

Know that you are no less valuable a human for being ordinary; for having talents unrecognized by the masses; for surviving day-to-day without causing harm.

Humanity would suffer a world of good if we encouraged our children to aspire for something more than to impress on another. 

Tugend shares a great quote from David McCullough, Jr., "Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you."

But I will end my writing as Tugend ended hers, with a quote from George Eliot’s novel “Middlemarch;” which I have not read. "...that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs." 

Visit them.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Who Do You Think You Are? Reviews: 1st half of Season 4

This morning Cousin Mary over at Threading Needles in a Haystack posted her reviews of the recent episodes of Who Do You Think You Are?;

Back in May the television network, TLC, announced that it was bring back the show, Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA) which originally ran in the U.S. on NBC. For those of you unfamiliar with the television show, each one-hour episode is really a documentary of a celebrity's research into their own family history. Well, I say the celebrity's research but as Cousin Mary so correctly points out in her post we are really watching the celebrity being handed research already done for them. Ah, the perks of fame. Seriously, I'd be willing to put up with some paparazzi in exchange for someone breaking through my genealogical brick walls; but I digress...

So far this season on WDYTYA there has been 4 episodes; Kelly Clarkson, Christina Applegate, Chelsea Handler, and Zooey Deschanel.

Episode 1. Kelly Clarkson's episode focused on her Civil War ancestor, Isaiah Rose. I myself have spent a great deal of time on this period in history in my own family history. I feel very close, research-wise, to many of my ancestors who served in this horrific war. I could relate to how very moved Kelly was by the stories she discovered about Isaiah. However, she made this one comment that really made me roll my eyes. She commented that she had sung at the inauguration of a man who got to be president because of the cause her ancestor fought for. Well, Kelly, your 3rd great-grandpa didn't exactly put Obama in the White House. I understand what she was saying but truthfully, a majority of those who fought in the Civil War weren't there for the cause of racial equality, many were poor farmers there for the paycheck. The cause they fought for was preserving the Union. My advice, Ms. Clarkson, is that she you should watch Lincoln; maybe twice. But my own heart resonnates with Kelly hope that those who fought to save the Union somehow know that what they did mattered; still matters.

Episode 2. I wholeheartedly agree with Cousin Mary when she states that "Christina Applegate's episode was possibly one of the best episodes and stories I've ever seen on this show." Christina's father came from a "broken home." He had very little information about his mother and very inaccurate stories about the circumstances surrounding his parents' divorce and his upbringing. Like Cousin Mary I enjoyed this episode because it wasn't about heroes. It was about normal people struggling with their own demons and the effects that has on the lives around them - - for generations to come.

This episode underscored for me that genealogy has the power to heal. Uncovering the truth, however painful it may be, most definitely brings about a understanding and compassion for others around us and who have come before us. That is mostly what my research and my blog are about. I believe that my behavior, reactions, and personality have a lot to do with how I was raised; or in some instances how I have unlearned what my parents taught me. For example, my mother's side suffers a lot of estrangement. I've always wondered why they treat one another like that - - not speaking to sister and/or brothers for decades at a time. My research into her line revealed that it really was a learned behavior that was perpetuated for generations. Whereas on my father's side there is a history of taking in these "cousins," "aunts," and "uncles" that really aren't related at all. Christina's research was able to provide her father with some much needed personal closure and a clearer understanding of who his parents were.

Episode 3. Chelsea Handler's episode focused on the life of her German grandfather through WWII.  Despite my statements regarding episode 1, all my research into the Civil War, and my love of my soldier/sailor ancestors, I hate war. And I feel like I had just watched the Clarkson-Civil War one. Chelsea who is a Jewish, was very concerned about her German grandfather being a Nazi sympathizer. She knew her grandfather though and recounted how he was very loving towards her even though he himself was not Jewish. I wonder if she had found out that he was a Nazi what it would have really changed for her. Would she have turned to hating the man? I think what the experience did for Chelsea, and for all those watching it, was to clarify the fact that most German soldiers were not Nazis; they fought in that war out of necessity, they had to, their government made them, and they were trying to protect their families.

Episode 4. Zooey Deschanel's episode focused on her Quaker roots. I did not have a strong religious upbringing really. I was raised Catholic and identify myself as one though. However, I have always found religions to be intriguing. After reading about Quakerism in my high school, I thought, hmm, maybe I could be a Quaker. They were very progressive in their support of gender equality, racial freedom, and liberal education. I like them for that, and I do love oatmeal. (It was through Quaker brand oatmeal that I first learned about Quakerism from my mom, really.) But I don't know if I could cut it as a Quaker, they conservatively refrain from alcohol, dancing, and swearing. Eh. "F that in the A," she says as she swigs her whiskey and dances a jig. And it also doesn't bode well for them in my book that Richard Nixon was a Quaker.

Zooey learned, though that her ancestor, Sarah Henderson Pownall was indeed a strong Quaker woman at a time when abolitionism was extremely unpopular and most women were stifled from expressing strong convictions. Her family's connection to pivotal events in the history of the Underground Railroad was really quite moving. The recorded personal recollection of Sarah Pownall's son-in-law was an amazing family history find; that resource made me jealous.

All in all I think it is shaping up to be a wonderful season of WDYTYA and I am eagerly looking forward to seeing the second half of season 4 with episodes on Chris O'Donnell, Cindy Crawford, Trisha Yearwood, and Jim Parsons. Tuesday night at 9pm Eastern (repeated at 11pm Tuesdays) on TLC.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Inherited Artistic Talent??

Both my sister and I are very artistic. While I studied to be an art teacher, my sister actually became one. 

A common discussion among many families is where one derives their talents from. I don't know if I put much stock in talents being inherited. Neither of my parents are artistic in a conventional sense; my father is a mechanic and talented at putting things together and thinking spatially where as my mother, who can not draw to save her life, does indeed have wonderful taste in terms of dress and decor. Maybe those characteristics contribute to my and my sister's talents - - maybe.

In digging around on my mother's side I discovered that her mother's grandfather, Johann Prinz (a.k.a. John Prince) was a wood carver. Now to me that sounds as though it requires artistic talents. He does not list himself as an artist or a sculptor or a carpenter; always as a wood carver. This leads me to believe he was more of an artisan. I don't know what he carved but I like to imagine religious icons, ornate wooden cabinet doors, and things of that nature. Again, though, I do not know for sure what works he created.

I would love to connect with other Prinz/Prince family researchers and find out how artistically talented their clan is.

My great-great grandfather, John Prinz Jr. married Sabina Krantzel on January 16, 1881 in New York City. They had 6 children that I know of: 
  1. John Antonio (born on October 27, 1881 – died December 14, 1975, age 94) 
  2. Frank (born on December 4, 1883 – date of death unknown)
  3. Margaret (born on October 26, 1886 – died December 15, 1915, age 29)
  4. Charles (born in about May of 1889 - died on July 16, 1890, age 91)
  5. Mary - my great grandmother -  (born October 15, 1893 -  died July 17, 1983, age 89)
  6. Edward (born in about 1892 – date of death unknown).
Great-great grandpa John died on April 21, 1929 at the age of 75 due to a heart attack. He is interned in St. Michael’s Cemetery in Queens, NY. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Brief Lives

A few years ago I wrote a family history. Basically a series of very brief biographies on my direct ancestors. I've decided to update and expand on these biographies when at a loss for a blog topic. I hope this will be a way to connect with others researching the same family names.

Recently, my father's friend's infant son died. The loss of such a young life can cause irrecoverable damage to a family. It has become important to me to record the existence of these short lives in my family's history. Although they had no heirs, they are a member of the family all the same.

My great-great grandfather, John Prince Jr., was born Johann Prinz on May 2, 1853. I was always told by my mother that the Prince Family was Polish but from all accounts, Johann was born in in Jungwozic, Bohemia which was part of Austria and is now known as Mladé Vožici in the Czech Republic

I will now refer to him as John Jr. to distinguish him from his father, also named Johann Prinz. John Jr. was the oldest child of Johann Prinz and Franzisca “Frances” Preuss-Prinz. I believe it was Johann Prinz Senior who first anglicized the family name to Prince and used John rather than Johann. 

John Jr. was the oldest of 9 children. He outlived all but 2 of his siblings. For the longest time it was believed that there were 8 children until a researching cousin of mine, Cousin Carol, came across a database of Czech records: There I discovered that John had a brother Joseph who was born on March 2, 1857 in Mladá Vožice and died there on April 9, 1858 at just 13 months old. So sad. Although I do not read Czech, the cause of death is listed in the register as angina. That, I know, is a defect of the heart.

Johann and Franzisca's children were as follows:

  1. John Jr. - my great-great grandfather - (born May 2, 1853, in Bohemia -  died April 21, 1929, in New York City, age 75)
  2. Charles (or Karel, or Carl) (born December 24, 1854, in Bohemia – died May 4, 1891, in New York City, age 36). 
  3. Joseph (born March 2, 1857, in Bohemia - died April 9, 1858, in Bohemia, age 1).
  4. Barbara (born February 28, 1858, in Bohemia – died September 7, 1946 age 88).
  5. Anton (or Antonio or Anthoni) (born April 28, 1861, in Bohemia – died January 17, 1892, in New York City, age 30).
  6. Frances “Fannie” (born July 28, 1863 in Bohemia - died February 21, 1950, in New York City, age 86).
  7. August (born August 25, 1865, in Bohemia – died July 17, 1896, in New York City, age 30).
  8. Annie (born July 19, 1868 in New York City – died before 1895).
  9. Mary (born February 16, 1871 in New York – died April 6, 1881 in New York City, age 10).