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Before our regularly scheduled programming, a distant cousin inadvertently helped me break through a brick wall this week. She sent me a link on familysearch.org to the probate records of my great-great-grandparents. This got me thinking I might find the records for my other great-great-grandfather as well. And I did. 30 pages worth, including his hand-signed will. In it he named his legatees, and they included the Smith cousins I despaired of ever finding. As I mentioned here, they were the only descendants of my great-great-grandfather James except for our line. Turns out there were three, not two, and I was able to trace them all up to the present day. Only one had children, and one of her sons (now 91) is still living in New Jersey. Very exciting.

OK, now for today’s real story. It’s in part a story of World War I, a rare war in which virtually nobody in my family served. As I look around my tree, one generation was too young and their parents too old. This week’s subject, my great-grandmother’s cousin, was an exception.

As far as I know, the first of my Irish ancestors to come to America was Matthew Ennis, my 4x-great-grandfather. He arrived in New York, with his aunt, cousins, and siblings, on a ship from Belfast in 1825. He was about 13 at the time and presumably (or at least effectively) orphaned. About ten years later Matthew married Anna Doyle, who also had come from Ireland to New York as a child. They settled in an Irish neighborhood on Manhattan’s East Side (in the 30s), where Matthew was a liquor seller.

Matthew Ennis, the first Irish immigrant in my family, in the 1857 New York City directory
Between 1837 and 1844 they had four children: Joseph, John, Catherine, and James. I am descended from their daughter Catherine, about whom I wrote briefly earlier. She grew up and married a butcher who, like her father, emigrated out of Belfast as a child. Like Catherine, her brothers each remained in New York City all their lives, but they had very separate paths. Joseph never married and lived with his parents. John, about whom I’ll write more in another diary, became a fireman. The youngest brother, James, did pretty well for himself, and this is the story of his grandson.

James Ennis, from what I have seen, graduated from City College of New York in the 1860s. That would almost certainly make him the first college graduate among my Irish families. He also served in the Navy during the Civil War (his brothers served in the Army) and in the late 1860s married a woman, seven years older, named Elizabeth Seferen. Her parents had founded Seffrensville, Nova Scotia, where she was born. It seems her father, William, was English-born. He fought at Waterloo and was then sent to Nova Scotia by the British Army. When he mustered out there, he stayed and established a village.

James and Elizabeth Seferen Ennis bought a brownstone near Gramercy Park, then as now a fashionable neighborhood, and operated it as an upscale boardinghouse. They had two sons, named Matthew and James Seferen Ennis, and a daughter named Elizabeth for her mother, followed by three children who died just after birth. Their older son, named Matthew after James’s father, became a lawyer. He never married but lived to be 75 years old, spending his whole life in Manhattan. They named their second son James Seferen Ennis, the first name presumably being for his father and the middle name for his mother’s family.  

Calvary Cemetery, Queens, NY
The fading gravestone of Matthew and Anna Ennis, erected by their son James, in the old Calvary Cemetery in Long Island City, New York. Their eldest son Joseph, James's brother, also is buried here.
At the age of nineteen James Seferen Ennis graduated from Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. His specialty was laryngology and he would become a professor in that subject at Fordham University. James S., as I’ll call him, married a woman named Katherine Breen, whose parents had come from Ireland in 1863, only a few years before she was born. This young couple were somewhat socially prominent; in 1894 the New York Times reported their arrival at Long Branch, New Jersey in the society pages. Long Branch in those days was a beach resort favored by the well-to-do; only thirteen years earlier President Garfield, who like Grant summered there, had died in Long Branch after being shot in Washington.

James Seferen Ennis and his wife Katherine eventually settled in a brownstone on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, not far from Central Park and on the site of today’s Lincoln Center. There they had four children, three boys and a girl, in a span of just four years (1894-1898). During this time James Seferen Ennis’s mother, the original Elizabeth Seferen, died and James S. signed her death certificate himself. All of the children were given the middle name “Seferen” in her honor. The firstborn son was named James Seferen Ennis Jr., the youngest child, the girl, named Elizabeth Seferen Ennis, which was exactly the same as her grandmother’s married name.

The young Ennis family in the 1900 Census. Two of the four children would not live to see twenty-five.
Tragedy struck this prosperous young family in the first days of 1902.  The children, then aged 3 to 7, were upstairs next to the Christmas tree on the 6th of January, playing with their recently-received presents. According to the New York Daily Tribune of January 11, 1902, their mother called them down for supper and the boys all came but little Elizabeth, the youngest, did not. She stayed behind to play with a new toy locomotive. To make it more like a real locomotive she forced a candle into the engine funnel and lit it with a match. Her dress caught fire and she screamed for help. Her youngest brother, James S. Jr. , was first to hear and ran to extinguish the fire, but not before Elizabeth was burned on her chest, arms and face. Her father treated her and thought the burns were not serious, and Elizabeth’s condition improved. Two days after the fire, however, she suddenly became very nervous and could not be calmed down. She died two days after that, in her father’s view more from the shock than the burns.
The New York Herald covers Elizabeth's tragic death, January 11, 1902
In the face of this tragedy, the James Seferen Ennis family persevered and continued its climb up the ladder. In particular James Seferen Ennis Jr. (“James S. Jr.”), born June 16, 1894, appears to have been an exceptional student. He graduated early from the public DeWitt Clinton High School in New York, then studied at the Clason Point Military Academy in the Bronx, then took preparatory classes at two Jesuit colleges (Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. and Canisius in Buffalo, N.Y.). Finally, James S. Jr. entered Yale in its Class of 1915.

James S. Jr. had plenty of prominent company at Yale. In his class were future Secretary of State Dean Acheson and writer Archibald MacLeish. MacLeish would spend much of the 20s as an expatriate in Paris, and in the late 1930s was named by FDR to run the Library of Congress, with his specific task to spearhead intellectual defense of the New Deal and Roosevelt’s plan to seek a third term in defiance of tradition. Another classmate was Douglas Moore, who won the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for music. The theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who had received a Bachelor of Divinity from Yale in 1914, received a Master’s degree in 1915. James S. Jr. had two fictional 1915 classmates: Tom and Nick from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

Those just ahead of him included C. Montgomery Burns of The Simpsons fame (Class of 1914, pictured below), but also real people like Averell Harriman, the future diplomat and New York governor, and musician Cole Porter (both Class of 1913). Just below the Class of 1915 was future General Richard K. Sutherland (MacArthur’s chief of staff during WWII) (Class of 1916). The Class of 1917 included Charles P. Taft II (future mayor of Cincinnati and son of President William Howard Taft), Prescott Bush (future Senator from Connecticut; father of George H.W. and grandfather of George W. - thanks for ABSOLUTELY NOTHIN'), and Cassius Marcellus Clay. This Cassius Marcellus Clay was one of a long line with that name at Yale. His great-grandfather was a prominent Kentucky abolitionist for whom Louisville natives Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr., and his son Cassius Marcellus, Jr. - later to take the name Muhammed Ali - were named. (The most recent Cassius Marcellus Clay dropped out of Yale in 2010 to be Kanye West’s personal fashion adviser. Times change.)

Perhaps a friend of James Seferen Ennis, Jr., at Yale
This was not the crowd any of my other ancestors were frequenting in 1915. Not even the Sons of the American Revolution ancestors, who were all poor farmers in Vermont. My sense is that Yale in those days had less prejudice against Irish Catholics, while President Kennedy’s father Joseph (Class of 1912) was largely ostracized at Harvard. In any event, James Seferen Ennis Jr. appears to have done well academically at Yale. As a junior he was awarded second prize in Latin, and as a senior he was given honors and an oration appointment.

His passion seems to have been literature. After graduation he returned to his parents’ home in New York, taking courses at Columbia (where his brothers were undergraduates) and teaching a course in the English literature and poetry. He also served as a private tutor in New York City and (during the summer) Southampton, which had replaced Long Branch as the beach resort of choice for well-heeled New Yorkers.

In late 1916 James S. Jr., who spoke French and loved France (we have that in common), enrolled in a Master’s program at the Université de Toulouse. The north of France was embroiled in bitter trench warfare, killing millions, but this sunny southern city was far from the front. James S. Jr. did, however, have a young French friend who was fighting for his country. That friend wrote him, “Oui, sans doute, je sens profondément que je porte une mission dans la vie. Mais il faut agir à chaque instant comme si cette mission se remplissait immédiatement.” (“Yes, without a doubt, I feel deeply that I have a mission in life. But I must act at each instant as if that mission were being carried out immediately.”).

Universite de Toulouse (Capitole), France
The Université de Toulouse, where James S., Jr., studied French literature in 1916 and 1917
On April 2, 1917, the United States entered the Great War on the side of France and Britain. James S. Jr. immediately presented himself at the American embassy in Paris, wanting to join the U.S. Army. He was told he could only do so by returning to the United States. Soon James S. Jr. was on a ship home, and in June 1917 he enlisted.

James S. Jr’s choice of service was unique: he enlisted as a private in the aviation brigade of the signal corps.  Remember, this was only thirteen and a half years after the Wright Brothers’ first flight in Kitty Hawk. Nobody had yet flown nonstop across the Atlantic, and Lindbergh would not fly solo across the Atlantic for another decade. The first use of airplanes in war had taken place only six years earlier, in the Italian-Turkish war fought in Libya. The planes used in World War I were very flimsy compared to today’s fighter planes, and most technological improvements in aviation had taken place only in the previous five years or so.

Perhaps the poetic James S. Jr. was inspired by flying aces like the Red Baron, who were viewed almost as modern-day knights. Perhaps he knew as a child the first American flying ace, Francis Peabody Magoun. Magoun was a fellow New York City native, born seven months after James S. Jr. He graduated from Harvard the year after James S. Jr. graduated from Yale, and talked his way into the British Royal Flying Corps, where his exploits became legendary. He managed to get in by saying he was Canadian but the records had been lost in a fire.

In any event, from August to October 1917, as the Bolsheviks were seizing control in Russia, James S. Jr. attended the School of Military Aeronautics at MIT. He graduated near the top of his class and was sent to Nova Scotia, his grandmother’s birthplace, to train with the Royal Flying Corps.  In early 1918, he was sent to complete his pilot’s training at Camp Hicks in Fort Worth, Texas. There, in late April 1918, James S. Jr. was commissioned as a Lieutenant. He longed for an assignment to France, where his younger brother Frank already was serving as a flight commander, but it was not to be. He was named a flight instructor instead and remained in Fort Worth.

On May 2, 1918, only one week after receiving his lieutenant’s commission, Lieutenant James Seferen Ennis, Jr. died at Camp Hicks when his plane went into a nose dive from 150 feet in the air while he was coming in for a landing during a training exercise before visiting military dignitaries. He was six weeks shy of 24 years old. His student, 32-year-old Cadet Paul Herriott of Oakland, California, also was killed. Herriott, who had played football at Cal Berkeley, was a well-known former assistant to the Progressive Republican U.S. Senator Hiram Johnson. He had only been at flight school two weeks.

The New York Times reports James's death, May 3, 1918
James's write-up in the Obituary Record of the Graduates of Yale University, 1917-18. The University held a service to commemorate its war dead on June 15, 1919. James would have turned 25 the next day.
James Seferen Ennis Jr. was buried with his Ennis grandparents and young sister at the Catholic Calvary Cemetery (“New Calvary” or “Calvary II”) in Queens, New York. In time his parents and uncle Matthew would be laid to rest there beside him. Shortly after he died, his commanding officer wrote his parents: “Your son was considered one of our best instructors and always had great success with his pupils. He was well liked by all who knew him, and his sudden death is deeply felt by all his comrades.” Saddest of all is that he might have died because he was too good a pilot: had he not been chosen to serve as a flight instructor, he might have survived the war in Europe, which ended only six months after his death.
Calvary Cemetery, Queens, NY
James is buried in Calvary Cemetery (II) in Woodside, New York, with his sister, parents, paternal grandparents, and aunts and uncles who died young.
Perhaps not, though. It was not the first time James S. Jr. had been involved in flight-related danger. Two months before he died, during his second week in Texas, James S. Jr. had been involved in a five-thousand foot freefall that broke his plane into splinters. Miraculously, he survived intact with no memory of the landing, and wrote his parents:
I am consoled in many ways, but principally in discovering that aviation affords one of the most painless as well as satisfactory means of exodus that there are. There is nothing fearful about it—no horror, no nastiness, no “long-drawnoutedness.” It is as splendid as the fall of Icarus, as golden as the wildly careening chariot of Phaeton, as gentle as the death of a swan. In it “the great gift, sleep” has no harrowing prelude.
Perhaps, as his plane fell from the sky, he recalled and believed the words he had written after his earlier crash. But the thought brings me little solace. Today there is little trace of James S. Jr.: a granite grave marker, a few newspaper articles, an obituary or two in books about Yale men in the Great War, and a collection of his letters to his parents and brothers held in Yale’s Sterling library.  
Yale University Memorial to those of Yale who died in World War I
Yale's memorial to its World War I dead. I used to work just down the street from this memorial, which is in front of the Commons, one of the world's most architecturally appealing cafeterias. The names of the Great War's major battles are carved into the facade.
Names of Yale war veterans inscribed where Commons and Harkness Hall meet.
Where the Commons meet Harkness Hall, near the monument, the names of Yale's war dead are carved on these walls. James's name is here somewhere but at the time I worked there I never had heard of James Seferen Ennis, Jr.
Both of James S. Jr.’s brothers survived the war and lived long, prosperous lives. They married and had children. But it is his fellow World War I aviator, the Harvard grad Francis Peabody Magoun, who reminds me most of what might have been. Magoun, like James S. Jr., loved literature. Shortly after the war he was named a professor at Harvard, where he stayed for more than four decades. Magoun married, had four children, and became a prominent scholar in English and medieval literature, as well as other topics like Finnish naming traditions (somebody here may be an expert as well!). He lived to be 84.

James Seferen Ennis Jr. too might have become a great scholar and a father, but he never had the chance. Like that of his sister Elizabeth, his was a promising young life cut down far too soon in a freak accident.

Originally posted to Genealogy and Family History Community on Fri May 10, 2013 at 09:33 AM PDT.

Also republished by History for Kossacks and Shamrock American Kossacks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (15+ / 0-)

    Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

    by fenway49 on Fri May 10, 2013 at 09:33:01 AM PDT

  •  Looks like a typically great diary, fenway. (9+ / 0-)

    I've got someplace I must go so BBL.  (or burble as I hear it in my brain....)

    Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

    by figbash on Fri May 10, 2013 at 09:41:55 AM PDT

  •  looks like a great one, yet again (9+ / 0-)

    Will be back later...my nook tends to hang up on diaries with photos :(

    "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

    by klompendanser on Fri May 10, 2013 at 09:48:31 AM PDT

    •  Sorry (7+ / 0-)

      Technical glitches not intended!

      Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Fri May 10, 2013 at 10:23:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  nah, I blame the paranoid IT crew (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jim H

        at work that has blocked access to the GOS, and also my own cheapness in only buying a nook color and not the whizbang nook HD tablet for clandestine trips to the coffee shop to check GFHC open threads. But I digress.

        The thing I really appreciate about your diaries is the tying in of the personal detail with all the social stuff going on. And to bring in a Gatsby reference ... :)

        The other thing to notice is the details in the newspaper articles ... it must have been very painful for the family at the time, but for the modern researcher what a wealth of detail. (Although such stories can still be painful...my grandmother died in a horrible accident in 1925--a few years ago I found a newspaper account that went into every gory detail. To my aunts and uncle that are still alive, I just can't bear to share it with them.)

        "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

        by klompendanser on Fri May 10, 2013 at 08:24:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  There was a high casualty rate (9+ / 0-)

    ... amongst those early military aviators. Amongst non-military aviators too, for that matter. I came across clippings similar to the ones you've included in my recent story about a different early aviator.  Here's a picture of an early plane, recycled from that very diary:

    Mark Twain: It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

    by Land of Enchantment on Fri May 10, 2013 at 09:51:34 AM PDT

    •  Yes (7+ / 0-)

      When I first learned of this story, I thought of Yeats's poem "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death." But its melancholy tone doesn't seem to fit James, who loved life from what I can tell. He was so eager to get involved in flying.

      I wouldn't have wanted to sign up for that kind of risk in those days. Not that the trenches were any picnic. I suppose there was glamour aplenty as a pilot if you didn't die. His letter to his parents seems to indicate a much more fatalistic, accepting view of death than I would have had at that age.

      Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Fri May 10, 2013 at 10:27:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Impressive, fenway! (9+ / 0-)

    Republished to History for Kossacks.

    This is a great example of what archival research can produce, and it's also exactly why the "new" social history is important. It's easy (once you know where to look) to find out about people in the upper echelons of society. For working people, it's more difficult, thus the variety of sources used.

    -7.75, -8.10; . . . Columbine, Tucson, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Boston (h/t Charles Pierce)

    by Dave in Northridge on Fri May 10, 2013 at 10:32:59 AM PDT

    •  Thank you (8+ / 0-)

      What you say is very true. There's not a ton on this guy, but a lot more on him (as a well-off kid who went to Yale) than on the comparatively poor relations from whom I descend. Especially if they were in the city and just lost in the big mass of humanity.

      A cousin-by-marriage's sister moved to Nebraska some years back. In that town a notice for her birthday party is published in the local paper each year. In New York, with 20 million people in the metro area, it's hard to get even your death in the paper. For a lot of people I could barely find anything.

      Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Fri May 10, 2013 at 10:57:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  30 pages worth? (8+ / 0-)

    envy.

    Great diary as usual.

    Live your life. Take chances. Be crazy. Don't wait. Because right now is the oldest you've ever been and the youngest you'll be ever again.-- some wise person on the Internets.

    by raina on Fri May 10, 2013 at 10:34:14 AM PDT

  •  Went to a FHC Tuesday (7+ / 0-)

    and....grrr...their computers were down. Have to try again another day.

    Been going through my great grandma's birthday book. It's just a book to remember people's birthdays and I'm trying to figure out who some of the people she listed were. By searching the names on family search, I figured out  a few were cousins, and I'm discovering a lot more Swiss relatives immigrated  here than I thought.

    Live your life. Take chances. Be crazy. Don't wait. Because right now is the oldest you've ever been and the youngest you'll be ever again.-- some wise person on the Internets.

    by raina on Fri May 10, 2013 at 10:40:03 AM PDT

    •  My turn to be jealous (7+ / 0-)

      We don't have much in the way of a birthday book. There are a lot of people for whom I have approximate or exact birth years, but not dates.

      Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Fri May 10, 2013 at 10:52:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  How exactly did (8+ / 0-)

        you get that batch of such important records at Familysearch.org. I cannot seem to find my way navigating that search engine to find anything about my grandmother who I am told died in the early 1900`s.

        I wanted to first ask you maybe you can give me a clue on how to requests any records on my late grandmother.

        Old men tell same old stories

        by Ole Texan on Fri May 10, 2013 at 10:56:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I do find names like the one (9+ / 0-)

          my grandmother had, but like you, I see all those names and how can one be sure if that is the I am looking for/

          Old men tell same old stories

          by Ole Texan on Fri May 10, 2013 at 10:58:17 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  They have some things (8+ / 0-)

          and they don't have others. My ancestors had common names for New York at the time (Michael and Elizabeth Murphy) but my cousin did the search and found one where the person who filed the court case was their daughter, whose name we already knew. She opened it and found more names we already knew. So that's how that worked out.

          I found my other ancestor's file because I knew when he died and where he lived (looked him up in NYC vital records). There were a lot of people with the same name but only one in that year. So I started out with an advantage there as well. Other people I tried to look up and couldn't find anything.

          I took a look for your grandmother with the name from last week's diary and I thought I found something, but it was your mother's certificate listing her parents.

          The Find a Grave link I posted last week showed someone with that name who died May 14, 1914. She was born (according to the stone) Feb. 2, 1891 (and Feb. 1890) according to the 1900 census. You could see if San Antonio has a death certificate for her under May 14, 1914, or do searches trying the date of birth.

          Like I said last week, until you find something that connects her to people you already know about it's hard to know if it's the right person.

          Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

          by fenway49 on Fri May 10, 2013 at 11:10:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  fenway49 thank you (9+ / 0-)

            for this information. I went back to my diary of last week to read your comments there. I need to refresh my memory a bit on the dates you mention.

            I might have seen that grave you mention here and could do nothing with that information alone, so I am going to follow your lead and try to see if San Antonio has a death certificate on her on the date you wrote here.

            Fenway49 you are so lucky to be able to go back in time with only expertise in this stuff. I am learning one thing at a time as they say. Today I learned it can be done.

            Thanks, and marvelous diary, great story really.

            Old men tell same old stories

            by Ole Texan on Fri May 10, 2013 at 11:50:44 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Don't give up (8+ / 0-)

              I've looked up plenty of things that didn't match, and it's discouraging to lose your time and think you'll never find it.

              I could not find a death record for my grandfather's grandmother. Her name was Elizabeth Murphy. There were dozens of them who died in the NYC area around the same time and I looked at all of them. None of them were right. Finally I did a search with a wild card (liz) instead of "Elizabeth" or "Eliza," as the family called her. And there it was, under "Liza."

              Try different searches, try without the last name if the first name is unique (like Candelaria), and just look at records until something matches up. It can be tedious but then, then, you find the paper you've been waiting for and it's wonderful.

              Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

              by fenway49 on Fri May 10, 2013 at 12:01:31 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Volunteer List (7+ / 0-)

    Sorry so late.  I'm swamped at work today (remind me not to let anyone take their vacations for the the rest of the year!).

    Current schedule

    May 17  Land of Enchantment
    May 24  DrLori
    May 31  figbash
    June 7   open for adoption
    June 14 open for adoption

    Any takers?

  •  That's a very interesting family (8+ / 0-)

    you have there.  I'll bet you'll never run out of material :-)

    Poor little Elizabeth, she was a sweet-looking little girl. Her parents must have been devastated.  And how bittersweet is it that so many of the family members are buried together, so many having died prematurely.

    Another terrific diary.

    •  What bothers me (7+ / 0-)

      about Elizabeth is how much she looks like my own sister, also named Elizabeth, at that age. Though she looks a bit more like my mom as a child.

      The irony is that the immigrants, born in Ireland about 1810, lived into their mid-70s and so many of the descendants, born in comparative comfort here, didn't reach 30 (or in some cases 5).

      Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Fri May 10, 2013 at 11:34:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This one might take the prize (6+ / 0-)

      Six children from one family, all buried together with one big headstone. From time to time, I find a bunch of deaths in a cluster. Usually, I figure it's disease of some sort.

      The other day, I noticed an "infant child" who died, unnamed, at a month of age. Nowadays, no one would go so long without naming a child. And, really, one does want them baptized before death, one would think.

      Mark Twain: It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

      by Land of Enchantment on Fri May 10, 2013 at 12:35:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great stories, as expected, fenway. (7+ / 0-)

    So much difference between all our stories, but so much the same.

    I really enjoyed this. You have a gift for story-telling and it's fun to read about urban relations rather than all the farmers and jacks-of-all-trades in my family. ;-)

    Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

    by figbash on Fri May 10, 2013 at 12:59:03 PM PDT

    •  Happy to oblige (7+ / 0-)

      Except for these colonial farmers, all of my ancestors for the past 150-200 years have been urban folk. I'm sure I could come up with a bunch more. Next diary is probably going to be about people in small colonial villages again.

      Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Fri May 10, 2013 at 01:29:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  hahaha... (7+ / 0-)

        That reminds me... of the snooty reply I got from one historical society 'grande dame' informing me that the family farm was "far too small to be qualified as a farm".

        For the children of someone who grew up in the tenements of the Bronx, it sure as he__ was big enough.

        "You're barking up the wrong tree. There's no cat up there." -Stella Adler via Holland Taylor

        by brook on Fri May 10, 2013 at 02:17:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  As a kid (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Jim H, brook, RiveroftheWest

          I thought any yard big enough to hit a wiffle ball in was mighty big indeed.

          Reminds me of the scene in the movie 29th Street, when the family finally moves from Manhattan to a row house in Queens. They have a front yard about 10 feet by 10 feet, which the father (Danny Aiello) sods with Kentucky bluegrass. He then stands guard all day to keep anyone from ruining his long-sought-after "lawn."

          Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

          by fenway49 on Fri May 10, 2013 at 08:21:41 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'll have to look for that movie. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RiveroftheWest

            Some mysterious thing that lurks in my genes impels me to dig & plant even when all I had was a couple of sq. ft. outside my studio apt. Some landlords frown. I let them.

            "You're barking up the wrong tree. There's no cat up there." -Stella Adler via Holland Taylor

            by brook on Sat May 11, 2013 at 12:18:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Oh, don't underestimate (6+ / 0-)

      how interesting we find the farmers and jacks of all trades!

      With such a paucity of results in my own searches, I'm delighted to see progress anywhere.

      Okay...maybe a leetle envious too.

      "You're barking up the wrong tree. There's no cat up there." -Stella Adler via Holland Taylor

      by brook on Fri May 10, 2013 at 02:13:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Another well-done diary, my friend. (7+ / 0-)

    As someone with the Irish in NY around the same time, I know how scarce the information can be and am happy to see how much this has added to your story.

    As difficult as it is to witness the sadness that a child's death visited on the family -knowing their story, however brief, is an important thread in the fabric of your own history.

    I am struck by James S. Jr.'s note to his family so shortly before his death. He seems to have a simular wondrous gift of words as one of his descendants.

    "You're barking up the wrong tree. There's no cat up there." -Stella Adler via Holland Taylor

    by brook on Fri May 10, 2013 at 02:39:43 PM PDT

    •  Again, if you want (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jim H, brook, RiveroftheWest

      to send me some names and info, I can take a look around NYC. Don't hesitate. I've gotten halfway decent at dealing with NYC and its roadblocks.

      Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Fri May 10, 2013 at 08:22:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you, I'll do that. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest, fenway49

        I forget now who, but there's at least one ancestor in the old
        Calvary cemetery - and I can't imagine there's only the one - though I've yet to dig another up.

        Ooooo -did I just really say that?

        "You're barking up the wrong tree. There's no cat up there." -Stella Adler via Holland Taylor

        by brook on Sat May 11, 2013 at 12:23:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  If you dug (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest

          the first ancestor up, the ancestor is no longer there. Unless you put him/her back!

          Calvary (they now have four different cemeteries) was the go-to place for Catholics in the NY Archdiocese (Manhattan, Bronx, Staten Island, points north). Others (like St. Raymond i the Bronx and Gate of Heaven in Westchester, where Babe Ruth is buried) came later. In the Brooklyn diocese Holy Cross in Flatbush was the major Catholic cemetery, and today it's St. Charles/Resurrection on Long Island.

          Unfortunately, Calvary will be of no help unless you already have the exact date of death. The city records will be the best place to look.

          Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

          by fenway49 on Sun May 12, 2013 at 06:13:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  great stories (6+ / 0-)

    These ones with children or childless young adults dying are tragic. You're right about what might have been. You look at the descendant tree of one of their contemporaries who lived a long life and you can't help but think about all the lives that will never be.

    •  Wow (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, brook

      That's so true.

      It's true even if they didn't die young. My grandparents had a combined 11 siblings. One had seven sons, but they moved to Ohio in the 1950s and have hardly been seen since. Of the remaining 10, 6 had no children at all and the other 4 had a grand total of 6 children.

      Come to think of it, 3 of those 6 children have no living descendants (2 never had children, 1 had a son who died young and childless). The other 3 had a combined 7 kids.

      So right now it's:

      Generation born 1900-1920: 11 (all gone now)
      Generation born 1940-1960: 6 (all living)
      Generation born 1970-1990: 8 (all living but one)

      Growing up my dad had the 7 Ohio cousins he never really knew and two on his father's side who lived all over since their dad was career army. The "family" he knew was all these childless aunts and uncles.

      Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Sat May 11, 2013 at 05:17:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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