Friday, March 1, 2013

A Graduation Gift

When I graduated from high school, my grandmother promised to take me on a trip to Ireland. Her mother, Mary Ellen Brennan, immigrated from Ireland to the US as a young woman. Her father, Martin Hannigan, was also 100% Irish, as both his parents immigrated here from Ireland. My grandmother had traveled there with her brother many years before, but she wanted to take me to see how beautiful it was.

We spent two weeks touring. I was 18 years old, whiny, and insisted on eating burgers and fries at every juncture because the fancier food the tour was providing was not to my liking. Somehow, she did not kill me before we returned home. In exchange, I didn't kill her when she began insisting she had never been given the claims form she would need to get back through US Customs (which I had seen them give her five minutes before).

These are a few of the snapshots from our trip:
Fake beer in the fake pub. My grandma's in the middle.
Surly teen face
Us with the two great tour guides. For the record, I told her that shirt was see-through!

Thank you, Mommom!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday: Amor Gledhill

Photo used with permission from Dan Dyke

My second great grandfather's brother, Amor Gledhill, and his wife Margaret Durkin. He was quite a dapper dresser, no?
Amor and Margaret (Durkin) Gledill. Photograph, undated; privately held by Dan Dyke.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Black Sheep Sunday: Disowned for Love

As I've been on the hunt for any information on my second great grandparents, George and Mary (Baldwin) Sellers, yesterday I decided to give Genealogy Bank a whirl. The Sellers family was residing in Philadelphia at the turn of the 20th century. The site had The Philadelphia Inquirer available for the years I was most interested in, so I signed up and began my hunting.

As usual when it comes to this particular duo, I came up with bupkis.

Not content to let the night be a total loss, I started searching for the other relatives, including my second great grandfather Frederick Gledhill, and his wife, Elizabeth Gormley. I found an interesting article on a boom of June brides applying for licenses. Among them was Elizabeth. 

The most interesting thing was that Miss Elizabeth, residing at 2045 Annin Street, was marrying her beau--and he resided at the same address1. This must have been unusual for the time they were marrying (1906).

I mentioned this scandalous finding to my mom, who of course mentioned it to my grandfather. As often happens, he chose this moment to dole out a tidbit of interesting information. According to him, Frederick had been disowned by his family when he decided to marry Elizabeth Gormley. Apparently they did not approve because she was Catholic2. Frederick's parents were immigrants from England and were, one presumes, devout Protestants. Elizabeth was also the oldest daughter of Irish immigrant parents3. Anti-Irish sentiment was certainly an issue around this time, and that may have affected Fred's parents' feelings toward his fiancé as well.

By today's standards, inter-faith marriages are hardly uncommon. But back during Fred's time, it seems to have been an offense worthy of disowning. Elizabeth faced several tragedies during her short life, so it is a comfort to know that at least she had a husband who loved her enough to accept being disowned by his parents. On another bright side, not everyone in Fred's family agreed with his parents. His brother, Amor (pronounced Aim-er), remained quite close with Fred. He brought his children to see Fred's family at their farm4. During the last years of his life, Fred was quite ill and rarely left his bedroom in his son's house. Amor came to visit his brother often5. I'm told the pair looked alike--but Fred had more hair!
1"Rush of June Brides," The Philadelphia Inquirer, 05 Jun 1906, p. 16.
2Richard J. Gledhill, Sr. and Barbara Gledhill-Begg. Oral interview, 24 Feb 2013, by Barbara Gledhill-Begg via telephone. Interview synopsis in the possession of Stacy McConnell, Azusa, California.
31900 U.S. census, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Philadelphia, 30th Ward, enumeration district (ED) 764, sheet 9A, dwelling 141, family 169, Mary Gormley household; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm 1241472 roll 1472.
4Dan Dyke, "Re: Amor Gledhill," message to Stacy McConnell, 19 Feb 2013.
5Richard J. Gledhill, Sr. and Stacy McConnell. Oral interview, 21 Feb 2013, by Stacy McConnell via telephone. Interview synopsis in the possession of Stacy McConnell, Azusa, California.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Strange (and Estranged) Family

It seems natural that people interested in family history would be interested in cultivating relationships with their living relatives. After all, some of them are older than us, and they may have interesting information to share. Plus, what we document now for our living relatives could be great to pass on to future historians in our families.

Sometimes though, it doesn't work out that way.

In my strange little family, there are a lot of off limits family members, for various reasons. My grandfather has been estranged from his brother for about 15 years now. He is the second oldest person in my maternal family, and theoretically could be a source of info for me. However, my grandfather is the oldest, and he was definitely the closest with his mother, whom I am very interested in. I don't think he would mind necessarily if I contacted his brother, but knowing the details of their falling out, I am definitely 'Team Gramps' and cannot bring myself to do it. For now, I've filled in what I know about my grand uncle and his family, and I get plenty of information from my grandfather. Don't ask him about his love life though. The response is: "Some things a granddaughter doesn't need to know." To be clear, I was not asking for sordid details. My actual question was, "What was the name of the woman you were in love with before you met my grandmother?" Apparently, it was too personal.

Here's the heartthrob himself, with another woman he refuses to name!
In my paternal line, some of my questions could be very easily answered by living relatives. For instance, the post from yesterday (Who was Grandma Alice?), I'm sure could be answered quite easily by either my biological father or any of his siblings. For personal reasons, I have not had contact with any of my paternal family as an adult. And yet, I am very interested in their/my lines. My grandparents and great grandparents are very interesting to me. I wonder if any one else feels similarly to me on this.

It does make for very interesting research. On my mother's side I have both grandparents and a mom who loves family history, and I can share my findings with them, ask questions to my heart's delight, etc. On the other side I am flying blind, other than what my mother remembers learning about them in the early 80s (not to diminish that--she has an excellent memory!).

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mystery Monday: Who was Grandma Alice?

Last October, my mom and I spent several hours scanning old family photos. I was home visiting as I do every year and since I started getting in to our family history over the summer, my mom agreed to indulge me. While looking at pictures from the early 80s, we came across this photo from my mom's baby shower:

I recognized my mom, her mother, and of course my Great Grandmom, but I didn't know who the woman to my mom's left was. She wasn't sure either. After thinking about if for a while, she finally came up with a name: Grandma Alice.

Apparently this woman was called Grandma Alice by my biological father and his siblings. However, she wasn't someone I had discovered on the family tree yet. My paternal grandmother's mother was Sadie Davis. My paternal grandfather's mother was Myrtle Park. She also wasn't one of my father's great grandmothers.

My mom suggested that perhaps this was a second wife of my father's grandfather, Charles McConnell. Good theory. I checked for any marriage records for Charles, and came up empty. The Delaware County Archives has searchable indexes to several records collections, including marriage records up to 1940, but I didn't find a record for Charles McConnell there either. Charles was born in 19001, so I would think he would have married before 1940, but it's always possible he found a wife later.

While looking for definitive death information for Charles, I came across an entry in the SSDI which seems probable. This entry put his death in 19802. Using that date, I searched Find a Grave and came up with this memorial, located in Chester Rural Cemetery:

Photo by: Bill Bloom
If this is in fact the right Charles, this would be confirmation that Alice was his wife. I have no idea who Joseph McAldon was. A search through the Delaware County Newspaper Archives gave me a story about his death3, but no information that really connected him to Charles. I thought perhaps Alice was a McAldon, but I haven't found any connection there either. I did find an article about Helen, Charles's sister's, wedding. Joseph McAldon was in attendance4. Perhaps he was a close friend to their family. Or a cousin. More digging will hopefully illuminate it.

For now, the working hypothesis is that 'Grandma Alice' was my grandfather William's stepmother. We will have to see if further sleuthing proves or disproves that.
11900 U.S. census, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Chester City, 3rd Ward, enumeration district (ED) 147, sheet 13A, dwelling 224, family 252, John Keenan household; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm 1241404 roll 1404.
2"United States Social Security Death Index," index, ( : accessed 17 Feb 2013), Charles McConnell, Dec 1980; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).
3"Joseph McAldon," Chester Times, 21 Apr 1947, p. 2.
4"Melody-McConnell," Chester Times, 28 Oct 1935, p. 8.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Travel Tuesday: A Trip for Good Health

When I first received my paternal grandfather's birth certificate, I was a bit disappointed that it didn't seem to point me in any new directions. The only new information it provided me were the ages of his parents at the time of his birth. This information has actually proven to be quite valuable. I wrote about some of the more unsavory information I discovered on my great grandfather. Fortunately, my great grandmother does have some appearances in the paper that are not for arrests!

Myrtle Park was born 12/16/1906, to parents Fredrick Park and Fannie (Nethery) Park1. Her mother's maiden name helped me pinpoint the family further, as Myrtle had a younger brother named Nethery (Ned). As soon as I found the basic info on the family, I headed for one of my favorite resources, the Delco Newspaper Archives, and started plugging in some names. As usual, the Chester Times has not let me down.

May 29, 19132
On May 28, 1913, Mrs. Fannie Park left Chester with her oldest daughter, Myrtle. The pair were bound for Colorado, planning to stay several months with family who owned a ranch near Denver. The article mentions Mrs. Park's poor health, and states that the trip is planned in hopes of improving her health2. Although cars were being mass produced by this time, many women of the era did not learn how to drive. It's likely that the mother and daughter traveled by passenger train.

June 16, 19133
Unfortunately, the trip did not do much to improve Fannie's health. Just a little over two weeks later, on June 16, 1913, the Chester Times reported that Fannie's husband Fred, had been informed of her passing3. I'm sure this 'woman of genial disposition' was greatly mourned, but my first thought when reading this was for her daughter. Myrtle was just six years old at the time of her mother's passing. Left with an aunt and uncle she'd probably never met before, so far from her own family, how did she cope? I wonder how Myrtle made it back to Pennsylvania. Perhaps her aunt was able to accompany her. Her father could also have gone to retrieve her, as his own mother was still alive and well, and she could have stayed with the family's other children. In either case, how terrible it must have been for her.

On a brighter note, did you know that there are official rail guides that you can check out, if you want to map the exact route your ancestors may have taken? I spent a little time looking at the 1910 guide. Very cool.
1Myrtle Park, Birth Registration 139176 (16 Dec 1906); “Pennsylvania Birth Index, 1906,” digital image, Pennsylvania Department of Health ( : accessed 03 Feb 2013).
2"Personal Mention," Chester Times, 29 May 1913, p. 8.
3"Died In The West," Chester Times, 16 Jun 1913, p. 1.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wednesday's Child: George Sellers

George Sellers, born October 27, 19061, was the older brother that my great grandmother never knew. He was one of at least 13 children born to Mary (Baldwin) Sellers. From the documents I've been able to find so far, it looks like only four of these children lived to adulthood. George was not one of them.

George's father was also named George. And in fact the George of this post was the second baby George to be born in this family. The first baby George died in infancy2. George lived to see his fifth birthday, but it was not without a struggle. Records indicate that he was baptized in extremis (near death) shortly past his second birthday1. I don't know what illness he was suffering from at this time, but he must have pulled through. Unfortunately, shortly after his fifth birthday, little George passed away.

The circumstances of his death are a little curious. The death certificate I have been able to find is a corrected copy after a coroner's inquest. Given that cause of death is listed as "general burns3," I assume this inquest was held because it was a seemingly accidental death. I can see that there has been some kind of verdict noted there, but what is that word beginning with 'Of'? I can't tell.

This information fits with what my grandfather (the son of George's sister) told me. His mother mentioned she had a brother who died in a fire4. I am very curious if the coroner's records from this time are still out there. It seems a call to the Philadelphia Archives is in order.
1Baptismal Record for George Sellers, Jr., Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, 1904 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Register of baptisms; Pennsylvania, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985, digital image, ( : accessed 28 Sep 2012); citing Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 773.
2George Sellers, Death (10 Aug 1896); “Delaware Death Records, 1811-1933,” digital image, ( : accessed 20 Nov 2012), citing Delaware Vital Records. Microfilm. Delaware Public Archives, Dover.
3City of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), death certificate 30201 (1911), George Sellers.
4Richard J. Gledhill, Sr., Barbara Gledhill-Begg, and Stacy McConnell. Oral interview, 12 October 2012, by Stacy McConnell at Richard's home in Secane, Pennsylvania. DVD recording in the possession of Stacy McConnell, Azusa, California.

Monday, February 4, 2013

New Year; New Birth Records to Search!

The Pennsylvania birth index for 1907 is open for searching. I don't have anyone in particular from this year that I desperately want a record on, but I'm excited to see more records becoming readily available!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sentimental Sunday: Sundays at Great Grandmom's House

Gramps and I, around 1988
When I was a young child, my mom and I lived with her father and brother in her father's house. My mom was a single parent, and thankfully my grandfather was there for her, watching me while she worked and sharing his home with us. My grandfather's commitment to family was not limited to his children and grandchildren. His mother, my great grandmother, lived to be 95 years old, and she lived independently until her late 80s. Every Sunday, Gramps would drive to her home in Philadelphia for the afternoon. He brought her groceries, helped her with bills and appointments, and just spent time talking to her and helping her around the house. Often he took me with him.

Great Grandmom
 I remember my grandmother's big old house was filled with clown and doll figurines that she allowed me to play with. She had a very mean cat who I was desperate to pet, but who always managed to keep away from my grasp (probably a good thing in hindsight--that cat would have clawed the hell out of me!). My grandmother would cook me grilled cheese if I got hungry while we were there. When I wasn't rearranging her figurines to my heart's content, Gramps and I would play Rummy, and I would read the comics from the newspapers he brought for my grandmother.

My great grandmother passed away in 2006. She had had a stroke several years before, and suffered from dementia until her death. I don't recall a single conversation I had with her as an adult. When I think of her, I remember the curls of her hair, that remained light brown with only a bit of white until her death. I remember her soft, gravely voice as she talked to "Richie," my grandfather. I remember the Sundays at her house, and her warm, soft hugs.

Monday, January 28, 2013

When genealogy leads you to the dark side...

Tonight, as I finished writing a letter to an old friend turned pen pal, I stopped and looked at my handwriting. I thought of my mother's handwriting, which I have always loved. Her writing is a mix between print and penmanship. For a while in high school, I perfected the art of forging it to skip school. Thinking of this, and of my grandparents' writing, I thought... if I have children, I wonder if they will look at my writing someday and think about how beautiful it is, and how it reminds them of all the little notes in their lunch boxes, the 'I miss you!' cards when they're away, the letters on special occasions.

I shared this with my partner, who naturally then asked, "Is genealogy making you want kids more?"

My grandmother holding my mother, approx. Dec 1961

Good question.

I have had a staunchly anti-parenting plan for my entire adult life. I did not want children. Now, puppies and kittens, I could get on board with. But kids? Money-siphoning, back talking, germ spreading kids? No thank you. At 28 years old, I find that my uterus has turned against me. I'm questioning my life plans. I know it's hormones, but my God, they are powerful.

Thinking about the bonds between families, spending time talking to mine, looking at the records of people long since past... none of this is helping in my battle against the biological clock. I think my girlfriend is right. Gulp.

I need to adopt a kitten. Stat. 

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